Monday, September 26, 2016

A Robe for Reading: Drafting Mid 18th Century Banyan, Part I

For some time now, I have been planning to make a banyan from a grosgrain brocade woven of dead dinosaur (i.e. synthetics, if you aren't familiar with the euphemism) I have had in my stash for years.  Not the loose, kimono style of banyan, but the variety more closely related to the contemporary frock coat.  I love those things.

 For reference, banyans are the casual wear of the 18th and 19th century: what a man (usually a wealthier one) would wear in the privacy of his home for warmth, and maybe for casual guests--similar to the dressing gowns (which they could also count as) and smoking jackets of the late 19th and 20th century.  They appear in two styles; the loose kimono type, made of rectangles and trapazoids; and this more fitted variety.  As a general rule, it appears that the fitted type shows up in the mid 18th century; the two styles continuing side by side for around half a century, with the loose variety slowly being phased out in the Regency era. They were almost always made of a fancy patterned fabric--often a silk or chintz imported from India, if not a domestic variety of the same--and it wasn't unusual for them to be lined in another contrasting patterned fabric.

For this project, I chose to base it on the 1760s banyan that the LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) kindly patterned for those curious.  While not quite what I want, it is extremely close stylistically, and is a fairly typically example of a double breasted banyan.  Essentially, I took the pattern they provided, and figured out some of the more important proportions--namely the widths.

Measurements needed:
  • Bust (1/2)
  • Waist (1/2)
  • Front Chest (1/2), measured over the chest from the hollow of the shoulder
  • Back Shoulder (1/2), measured horizontally from the outside edge of the scapula.  Ensure you are in your usual posture when measuring this--if your shoulder round when sitting, you will need to measure that way.
  • Shoulder (1/2), from point to point of the shoulder
  • Neck
  • Vertical to the armscye, bust, waist, and hem (ideally somewhere around the ankle)

To start with, I took measurements (in mm) of the provided pattern, directly from my computer screen and marked them down on paper; the actual measurements of the original are not actually important, just the proportions of them to one another.

You can see the proportions and rough shape here.  I took the chest, waist, front shoulder and back, vertical armscye measures, and hem width.

To find the proportions, add the front and back measures together, then divide by that of the back.  Note that the overlap on the front was not counted in the measures, but done separately.  Likewise for the armscye, adding the front and back, and dividing by the back. In the images, I drafted the front first for some reason (fabric conservation, I think), and the noted proportions reflect that--they are of the front's proportion, not the back. 

So, the way you do it is to take the appropriate measurements (bust for bust, waist for waist, etc), and divide by the correct proportion to find the width of each piece.

In the case of this garment, the total 1/2 bust was 55mm / 21 = 2.61.  Take your half bust measure (don't forget some ease!) of 21 (for me), and divide by 2.61 to get the width of the back.

To find the armscye depth measure, double your vertical measure to the armscye, and then divide by the proportion.

In the case of the back shoulder, and front chest measures, you will not use a proportion, but the correct measurements.  In the image above you can see two different back armscyes; this is because I cut mine easy at the back, rather than more closely following the original, which is set well back and would help force your shoulders back.

On your note paper (as above) mark down all the proportionate measures and what goes where.

So, we will start by marking off the location of the nape of the neck, and your vertical measures of bust/armscye and waist (+ around 2 inches. More on that in the section on the front).  Work from the edge of the material, and don't forget to include your seam allowance.

Measure over by 1/6th of the neck measure and up 1/2 inch to draw the back collar as seen.

Measure across by the proportionate back bust measurement.  Likewise the 1/2 shoulder (even with your original starting line at the nape of the neck) and back measurement (about halfway between bust and shoulder), but not the waist (yet).

Remember the proportionate measure of the back vs. front armscye?  This is where it comes in.  Measure up from the bust level to find where the point of the shoulder will be (even with the shoulder measure).  Draw a line through the three points as above, then connect the point of the shoulder with collar line.

At waist level, mark over by about 2-3 inches--to taste, really--for the back pleat, and draw a curved line through it as above.  Make sure you keep the full width at the shoulder level.

Now, you can measure over by the proportionate waist measurement from the new back line.

Finish off the back line, continuing it by 2-3 inches (to taste, but around hip level.  Remember an elongated torso was the usual figure in this period) and squaring across for the top of the back pleat.

Draw a smooth curve between the chest and waist points as above, and continue down to the hem, adding some fullness at hip level (i.e. making the line slightly convex, rather than straight)  The width of the hem is personal preference, but should be fairly full; mine was based on fabric width--28 inches on the front widths, and around 24 on the back.  I believe the example I based it on is closer to 38 inches width at the front, but my rendition is only knee length due to fabric restrictions.  Note that the side pleats are optional, and were added from the inlays when I cut.

Now for the front.  Start out with the same as the back, marking off the width of the bust, plus 4-6 inches (about 2/3-3/4 of your 1/2 front chest measure) for the double breast.  The easiest way to include the overlap would be to measure off that distance from the edge of the fabric, and using that as your base line.  If you are making a single breasted banyan, try making this section around 2 inches to allow for the turned edge and overlap.  As in drafting the back, work from the edge of your fabric, and don't forget the seam allowance of the front edge.

With your base line (center front) in place, mark off the chest measurement, and measure down to find the waist (vertical to chest - to waist) and likewise mark it off there.  There is no curve to the front edge of the garment

 Draw a slightly "s" curved lined from the chest to the waist, and through to the hem to form the side seam.

Mark off the half chest measure, about 3 inches above the chest line.  From the chest/armscye line, measure up by the proportion of the front scye to find the level of the front shoulder.  Mark the 1/2 shoulder width there.

Curve the armscye from about 1.5-2 inches above the side seam, through the chest and to the shoulder, like shown/

For the fun part...the neckline.  In this and later periods (until near the end of the Victorian era, at least), the front shoulder is carried to the back of the body at the inside as well as point of the shoulder.

You will start by measuring over (from center) by the same 1/6 of the neck measure, then up by 1//3rd.  Mark this off, and continue the shoulder between the neckline and armscye as shown.

To ensure you didn't mess up irrevocably, cut with extra ease (or inlays, rather) to the front shoulder and collar.

  The skirt shape isn't yet finalized--when it comes time to hem, I will trim the curve into place.

Hope this tutorial has been of help.  Part Two will consist of the Construction up until the point of adding the sleeves, at which point Part Three will deal with drafting those (when making any garment, I often don't bother making a mockup of the sleeves until the body is constructed, in case I have to make adjustments to the body).  I plan on scheduling the posts to be published every two weeks, but if you find and want to try this before they are all out, let me know--I might be able to help.  The links for the other parts will, of course, be linked here.

While I did not succeed in publishing (or finishing) on schedule, they are finally done. 
Part II, covering how to draft the sleeves.
Part III, discussing how it all goes together.

Pattern based on: OR

 For inspiration, check out my Pinterest board, House Robes and Lounge Hats.

© John Frey, 2016. The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document for non-commercial private research or educational purposes provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on all copies.

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