Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Featured Garment: Bottle Green Overcoat (1820s?)

And I'm jumping back to the Regency, to share an elegantly plain overcoat or redinote.  This Featured Garment will likely be fairly short.
The victim of my mangled descriptions this time is a wool overcoat from Augusta Auctions, in the style of early frock coats...i.e. a body coat with a waist seam. As it should be, with the given date of the 1820s.  It caught my attention because of the elongated look, and how low the buttons go (which is slightly unusual).  The following is the description from the Auction Site:

But first, the Disclaimer: As usual, my featured garments posts are my observations, and research.  I try to be accurate, but sometimes things creep in.  They are written for my personal edification and to promote discussion.

Wool broadcloth, fitted, 7 pair buttons in hour glass pattern, 1 chest & 2 side pocket flaps, top-gathered narrow sleeves, long 3 button cuffs, half rever collar brown velvet, gold braid pocket, cuff & collar edging, W seams in F & sides, full B skirts, red wool batting, linen, wool & cotton linings, lining inked "A. Kimball Haverhill", Alfred Kimball married Mrs. Mary Haynes in Haverhill, MA. on Dec. 25 1821, CH 36", W 34", L 49", (few moth holes & snacks) excellent. J. Kochan - D. Troiani Collections

As it specifies, the coat is made of a lovely, dense wool broadcloth in a sort of bottle green (which makes me wonder...is bottle green named after champagne bottles?), and a rather narrow fit--without the broad skirts to accentuate the waist you see slightly later (and indeed, at the same time).  As an overcoat, it is just that--it would have been worn over your normal jacket (and waistcoat) to protect it and you from any inclement weather; one of the main signs that it /is/ an overcoat is the lack of a back vent.

 As is suitable for an overcoat, the back waist is actually fairly wide, and--as you can see--there is no center vent.  There may be plait pockets, but I have a feeling there is not--just an unsubstantiated feeling, mind.  The waist of the coat appears to be about an inch below the natural waist, at the swell of the hips.  You can also see some uneveness in the hemming, both at the center back and from.

 It's clear that the garment is double breasted with a cut on overlap, and has a total of seven pairs of metal buttons arranged in an hourglass, and starting rather low--around the lower thigh, it appears.  Interestingly--and this may push the date slightly later towards the '30s--the one buttonhole you can see clearly appears to be of the keyhole variety, sewn in "gold" silk.

With the above side on image you can see exactly how close the fit of the sleeves are, with a decent bend to the elbow--also note how high the sleeve cap goes; it's not at the point of the shoulder, but even higher.  There appears to be a slight downwards curve to the body, curving down towards teh center front--presumably this gives room for the hips.

Going back to the sleeves, you can see they have a beautifully shaped cut on cuff with three buttons.

 Looking closer at the cuffs you can see that the edges--like those of the pockets, front, and collar--are edges with a fine braid of gold silk.  This silk matches that of the buttonholes exactly, both in colour and weight, as near as I can tell...which might mean that the edging was produced to order for this garment. The buttons of the cuff are likewise covered in gold silk--it is a possibility that all the buttons were once covered the same, but wore off over the years.

You can also see a fine closeup of the hip pocket, finally.  Looking closely, it is single welted (with a very narrow welt), and possibly curved.  While the pocket is definitely slanted, I almost feel as though the way the skirt was cut means that it is actually on grain.  I would guess that the pocketting is of silk--if it doesn't match the material used for the sleeves, since you can see the deterioration of the flap lining (which I believe is polished cotton).  You can also see a fine line of prick stitching along the edge of the welt.

 Now for the fun and /really/ interesting part...the linings.  First, I want you to note that there are four different materials used for the linings, noted as being linen, wool, and cotton.  You can see that the forepart is self lined with the same wool as the exterior--that is simple enough.  I suspect that the skirts, back, and sleeves are all of different polished cottons, although the grain of the sleeves looks as though it could be linen.

I should note that this is all perfectly reasonable.  For some reason, white linings to sleeves is a fairly common thing; using a cheaper fabric for the back, which would never be seen is perfectly reasonable.  And the skirts are made of a slightly fancier fabric.  Note how they are hemmed, btw; the wool shell is left un-turned since it won't fray, and the lining is turned under and allowed to just hang.

The last interesting bit...see that red?  That is red wool, and forms the padding over the shoulders and chest...presumably the collar as well.  At this time, it is the norm to use red (madder dyed?) woollen material as an interlining, in conjunction with linen canvas (also visible, just under the red) to stiffen the body and collar of the coat.  In all likelihood, the sides may also be padded.

Lastly, given my proclivity towards using period drafting manuals wherever I can, I would use one from the early 1820s--there is one from 1827, and another from '33, but neither have diagrams.  So, specifically I would use the Rules and directions for cutting men's clothes, by the square rule : by which, in a few hours, a person may acquire such a knowledge of the art, as will enable him to cut all sizes and fashions, with the greatest accuracy by Jones, Amanda, (1822)--it is nice and simple to follow.  Because it doesn't yet cover frock coats, I would modify it by essentially trimming off the forepart tails; to find the shape over the hip, I would follow a logical deduction of what there is, compared to the earliest draft I can find with a frock coat.  The skirt is fairly simple, but not quite an even curve, since the folds are pushed towards the back.  The back draft I would keep unchanged, likewise the sleeves.

For materials you would want a heavy, heavily fulled (but not napped) wool in a dark colour for the shell, as well as a silk velvet for the collar and cuff lining--those are actually not difficult to get your hands on (likewise the wool and linen canvas for interlinings).  Polished cotton is much harder to get your hands on, but a cursory look online brings up a few sources--I would probably ask the reenactment community for suggestions of reputable dealers, though.

Photos and garment from here: https://www.augusta-auction.com/component/auctions/?view=lot&id=15959&auction_file_id=36 

© 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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