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RH925 - 1870s-1900s Norfolk Jacket

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Make yourself what the well-dressed gentleman wears to play with our comprehensive pattern.

In the days when a suit was casual wear, what did men wear when engaged in sport.  Surely there were no T-shirts and basketball shorts!  They were not.  But there was the Norfolk Jacket.  Invented by the sportif Edward VII while still Prince of Wales under Mummy Victoria, the Norfolk Jacket's pleats allowed a man freedom of movement while still preserving a dignified appearance.

Our pattern is based on an original tailor's draft from the period and fits chests 38"-54" with instructions for making the pattern fit larger sizes. Banded and pleated versions both included.  (If the yoked version is desired, please see RH1080, the 1910s Golf Jacket).  All sizes are included in one envelope. Embellishment suggestions, historical notes and period tailoring techniques are also included.

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Suggested Fabrics:
tweed wools, country plaids

Yardage Requirements: 
4 yds at least 45" wide or 3 yds 60" wide

buttons for front closure 
buttonhole floss

Let us help you! At Reconstructing History, we want to see you wearing the best garments you are capable of making. Call us Monday through Friday from 9am until 4pm Eastern Time (or email us at info@reconstructinghistory.com) and we will answer any questions you might have.


Below is an excerpt from the historical notes you will receive as part of this pattern:

The History of the Sporting Dress


We know that the Lounge Suit of the 1870s is the outfit from which the modern man’s suit derived.  But in a world of frock coats and morning coats and cutaways, just exactly how did this simple jacket come into being? 


In the 1830s a casual topcoat emerged on the sartorial scene.  Called a pilot coat and later paletot, it was distinguished by a complete lack of a waist seam.  Early paletots were shape-less but soon tailors were cutting them in inventive ways to give the garment more shape.  Quite close-fitting paletots can be seen in fashion plates of the 1850s.  This shaping was accomplished entirely in the side seams as the defining characteristic of the paletot throughout the 19th century remained the lack of waist seam.  And the jacket was born.

Many 19th century jackets can trace their origins to the paletot:  the Tweedside, the sac, the reefer, the blazer, the Norfolk, the tuxedo.  But the one that has survived until today is the lounge jacket.  Formed by taking a vertical dart from the underarm to the waistline, the lounge jacket presented a handsome and put-together appearance without the formality of the frock or morning coat.  The first lounge jackets were part of suites or suits -- jacket, vest and trousers made from the same fabric, typically a patterned wool like a tweed.  The lounge suit was strictly for casual wear and sport.  Office wear was still more formal than this.

As the century ended, the frock coat fell out of favour entirely and the morning coat became formal wear.  This allowed the lounge suit to become acceptable day dress as it continues to be today.

A variation of the lounge suit that was deemed “suitable for any kind of outdoor exercise” was the Norfolk Jacket.  Whether it was named for the Duke of Norfolk or for the county of Norfolk where Edward VII had his country estate is not clear.  However it was undoubtedly Edward VII while prince who brought this style to prominence.  The story goes that during the 1870s Prince Edward was looking for a more comfortable outfit to wear while pursuing sport in the country and asked his tailors to make him a garment that would not restrict his movement.  They complied with an easy-fitting jacket that expanded through the inclusion of box pleats on the front and back.  Truly the beginning of sportswear, variations on the Norfolk would crop up quite quickly:  some with more pleats, some with yokes in front or back or both.  Some had wide backs gathered into a yoke and no pleats at all.  And some just had applied bands that looked like pleats.  

The Norfolk Jacket could be worn with matching casual trousers, but the more usual Norfolk suit includes Knickerbockers -- knee-length pants either buttons over or tucked into knee-high socks.

Always in a country tweed and typically in a subdued plaid, echoes of the Norfolk Jacket can still be seen in hunting and fishing attire today.


Davis, R.I.  Men’s Garments 1830-1900.  1994: Players Press, Studio City, CA.

Payne, Blanche.  History of Costume.  1965:  Harper Collins, New York.

Shep, R.L.  The Great War:  Styles and Patterns of the 1910s.  1998: R.L Shep Publications, Fort Bragg, CA.

Thornton, J.P.  The Sectional System of Gentleman’s Garment Cutting.  1896:  Minister & Co., London.

Waugh, Norah.  Cut of Men’s Clothes 1600-1900.  1964:  Routledge, New York.




For more, purchase this pattern.

This information © 2011 Kass McGann and Reconstructing History


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