Hand-Made 18th Century Jacket | Historical Sewing Project
Updated: Dec 17, 2021
This is part two of my “Draping an 18th Century Bodice” - it details how I completed the pattern and sewed a silk 18th century jacket for modern every day wear. Enjoy!
The Pattern and Mockup
The pattern for this jacket bodice was draped on my DIY dress form, and was based off of my “Modern 18th century jacket”, which I made during my pregnancy. I love that original jacket, but it is more suited for maternity wear. I used the sleeve and peplum pattern from that original pattern, which was taken from a Janet Arnold book. I adapted the sleeves to fit into the tighter armholes of this new bodice pattern.
I created a mock-up, which turned out great, the only issues being that the bust was slightly tight, and the waist too loose. I can only assume this means that my dress form is smaller in the bust and larger in the waist than I am. I altered my pattern by slashing it at the side, adding more width at the bust and overlapping at the waist to take away width, before truing everything up. I planned on having a placket in the centre front with sew in snaps for a modern closure, but it would seem fate had other plans. More on that later.
I used brown striped silk taffeta purchased from Burnley and Trowbridge. That fabric purchase has really been like Mary Poppins' magic bag, as I have now made a full circle skirt from it, a pair of shoes, and an 18th century jacket. I will definitely be repurchasing the same fabric in different colours for future projects - it has been lovely to work with and had a great body-to-drape ratio.
This jacket was lined and interfaced with plain cotton muslin, and I also cut facings out of silk taffeta for around the neckline and the centre front areas. I was really impressed at how the cutting process went - normally, cutting a project of this calibre would have had me super overwhelmed, but this time it felt perfectly doable.
I did some pattern matching with the stripes, and had them going vertically over the bodice and peplum, and horizontally over the sleeves. For the peplum, I split it into 8 parts rather than 4, so I could have more control over the direction of the stripes.
So, I had millions of pattern pieces cut out. But where to begin sewing this jacket?
Making the Bodice
The great thing about making a fully lined garment is not having to worry about finishing the seams. I sewed two separate bodices- the outer bodice, out of the silk taffeta, and the inner lining bodice out of muslin. But before sewing the lining bodice together, I first added my interfacing to the centre-front and neckline area, and to the centre-back area.
I machine stitched this in place, as well as adding my facings around the neckline and centre-front. Normally, facings on a lining would be a part of the lining, and the fabric underneath the facing cut away. I decided to leave the extra thickness of fabric however, to reinforce the neckline.
I went ahead and stitched my bodice seams together, pressing and clipping them to help them lay flat. The silk outer layer was left un-interfaced, so there would be no visible stitching lines from the sew in interfacing. I repeated this process with the lining for the bodice, and trimmed down the bulk in these seams as much as possible.
I also stitched boning channels into the centre back, using strips of fabric tape.
It was at this point that I realized that my plan for a placket wouldn’t work, since somehow I hadn’t ended up with enough fabric at the front. It must have been accidentally cut away. However, this turned out for the best, because it forced me to try something I’ve been secretly admiring for a long time: hidden lacing.
Hidden lacing is commonly found on 18th century garments- it is a beautiful way of having an adjustable garment closure without obvious lacing. The eyelet would have to be set into the centre-front of the lining only, and the centre-fronts of the outer bodice and lining finished independently of each other, so the outer can form a “lap” over the inner lacing. Think of it as a lapped zipper, only with lacing.
So I measured the centre front, marked where my eyelets would go, and used a hammer setting system to set my eyelets. I finished both of the centre-fronts with facings, which also reinforced the area.
At this point, I decided to try to make this jacket have enough inherent structure so that I wouldn’t have to wear stays underneath to give an 18th century silhouette. So I added extra boning channels to the lining, at the side front, side seam, and centre-front. Then, I inserted my boning - I used my trusty synthetic whalebone.
Now what about those scary 18th century sleeves and winged cuffs?
Making the Sleeves and Cuffs
18th century sleeves are really miracles of engineering! They have two panels, and are curved, which enables these bodices to have much tighter armholes than we are used to in modern garments.
I sewed my two sleeve seams in each of my four sleeves (two outer sleeves and two lining sleeves), then pressed using a seam roll to press my seams, and clipped them where they curve. I then stitched the sleeves into the outer bodice and lining, respectively.
To make the cuffs, I added interfacing to the lining, stitched the side seams, then sewed them right sides together at one edge, under-stitched, and turned right side out. I pressed the edges of the remaining side under and top stitched.
Now it was time for the pleated peplum...
Making the Peplum
The peplum is shaped like a gored A-line skirt, or a circle skirt. After stitching interfacing to the lining pieces, I stitched together the panels for the lining of the peplum, and the outer peplum. This left me with two peplums. After truing up the bottom edge of the peplum so it would have a smooth edge ever when pleated up, I stitched the two peplums together around the outer bottom edge, right sides together, then under-stitched.
Then I formed the pleats in the peplum at the hip areas, which give its lovely flare and help give an hourglass silhouette. This required some cross-referencing to make sure that the peplum would fit the bottom of the bodice.
But how would I attach this pleated peplum to the 18th century bodice?
Attaching the Lining
After the jacket lining and outer were all sewn, it was time to bring them all together! How did I do it? Well, I started by connecting the two bodices around the neckline, sewing right sides together, then under-stitching. I connected the sleeve ends by simply sewing a rolled hem. Then, it was time to connect the peplum to the bodice!
I began by sewing the outer bodice waist to the peplum, right sides together. Then, I pressed under the lining waist edge, pinned it in place, and sewed a top-stitch from the right side which also caught this edge. Ta-da! Finished.
Except for adding the winged cuffs! I sewed these to the sleeve ends using a combination of machine and hand-stitching. Finally, I stitched in the ditch of the armhole seams, to help hold it together.
The moment of truth: trying on the jacket.
How Do I Like It?
I love this jacket! It gives a very accurate 18th century shape, even without stays underneath, which was my goal! It fits beautifully. The only thing that could use improvement are the arm holes. They need a little more work to be more comfortable.
I love the front lacing- it is comfortable, adjustable, and allows for easy breastfeeding access. The historical closure method makes this feel like my first "authentically 18th century" garment. The only thing I could add to complete this look is an 18th century “false rump” - I really feel that it would improve my overall silhouette.
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