Friday, 20 November 2015

1750 Riding Habit - Waugh Diagram XXXI

Pattern: Norah Waugh diagram XXXI, "Riding Coat 1750-70. Victoria & Albert Museum."
Fabric: Wool, medium coat weight. Color best described as a heather lavender? Lavender shot through with gray.
Black cotton poplin for petticoat.
White heavy weight linen for lining.
Black cotton crochet thread for Dorset buttons.
Available on Etsy HERE
Available on ebay HERE
Alterations: I added mariner's cuffs, which are not part of the Waugh pattern but are part of one of the suspected extant coats (see below)
I also brought up the waist by eliminating the "dropped waist" angle that lets it curve out over the hips a bit before reaching the horizontal seam. I'll tell you why I did that further down.

Measurements: *unaltered from pattern. As is.
Chest: 39"
Waist: 32"
Hip: Free
Back width (arm socket to arm socket, across shoulder blades): 13"
Torso (bottom of armhole to natural waist): 9.5"
Upper sleeve circumference: 15"
Petticoat hem: 40" at center front and back.
18th century stays often had the effect of increasing the wearer's final waist size rather than reducing it, depending on the style(and especially if the stays had an inflexible busk at the front). A flat barrel or V below the bustline were the desired shapes, not the hourglass of the 19th century. =)

Construction Note: I did all the topstitching/visible stitching by hand. The coat has edge stitching on almost the entire garment, minus the collar, which I also did by hand. The buttonholes are hand worked and the buttons are handmade. I only used machine stitching where it would never be visible during wear.

~The Confusion Over the Museum Garment~
     As I always do when I use a pattern derived from an extant piece, I tried to find images and information on the actual garment. Most of the patterns in the Waugh book feature inventory numbers on the items (not always useful, as some of the museums have altered their cataloging methods over the years, or sold off the pieces). This riding habit, however, has no inventory number. When I tried to find the coat in the Victoria & Albert digital archives, I was unable to find anything that actually matched the pattern. I did, however, find two jackets that, when combined, have all the features of the Waugh pattern.

*See V&A info. on blue coat HERE................................................................on brown coat, HERE
So, long story short, I think the pattern in the Waugh book is actually a combination of features from two different coats. The Waugh description has it as a "brown camlet", but the camlet coat in the V&A archive is blue, and the brown one is linen. The Waugh pattern shows a very short standing collar, but the two riding habits in the V&A have no collar and a very tall collar, respectively. One has the right cuffs, but the wrong pockets. The other has the pockets and totally different cuffs, and so on and so on. This might explain the absence of an inventory number, since this pattern doesn't really exist as a single garment. (I'm sure all of this is already known in corners of the costuming world, but it's news to me, LOL).

~The Cursed Dropped Waist~

The Waugh pattern has a torso that is cut with a dropped waist, meaning the bodice extends further down that the natural waist and begins in an outward curve over the hips for about 3 inches. I don't like it. I made up the bodice as was, even attached the skirt panels, and when it was all placed on the form it looked terrible. The dropped waist had the effect of elongating the torso and making the legs look short and stumpy. This style works if the skirt is going to go all the way down (a la 1840s wasp waist), but not with a coat like this. Not flatting to practically any figure. Plus, that shaping interfered with the placement of any foundation garment (hoops, bum roll, pads, etc.).

I wish I had taken a pic of the unflattering "original" , but I didn't. I took the skirt panels off and cut away the bottom 3 inches of the bodice, bringing it up to natural waist, and attached the skirt panels again. Problem solved. =) **Note that this is not 'shortening the torso' as a fit alteration. That involved actually moving the natural waist. All I did was remove the material below the natural waist**

~The Pockets~

The original pattern and description don't say anything about the pockets on the coat skirt. For all I know, the pocket flaps are just for decoration, but I went ahead and made two functioning pockets to be covered by the flaps.

As you can see, the buttons don't actually button down the flaps. They are positioned below the reach of the buttonholes and are purely for looks. I think that's kind of silly, but who am I to argue with the long dead? LOL I also wanted to stay true to the pattern look, so I went ahead and placed my Dorset buttons as they appear on the pattern (see pattern illustration at top of page).

Stitch on the line on the outside, then turn the whole pocket in to be on the back side of the skirt panel.

As with all of the top stitching on the garment, the stitching on the pocket flaps is done by hand.

~The Dorset Buttons~

This coat has 19 handmade Dorset buttons in all. I made them myself using black cotton crochet thread (size 3). I neglected to take pictures of the process, but it's just a manner of weaving/wrapping/knotting thread around a solid ring. You can see a very good description of the process here at Threads Magazine, "Get Creative with Heirloom Buttons."

There are many types of Dorset buttons, but I made just the standard cross-wheel pattern on 7/8" cabone rings (which are becoming harder and harder to purchase, by the way!). Each button takes about 15 minutes to make up. Before I learned to make my own, I used to purchase them from an indie fabric shop in St. Petersburg and always used to balk at the $3 each price tag. I now realize I was getting off light!

~The Mariner's Cuffs~

The original pattern has wide, folding cuffs of a contrasting fabric, but I have always preferred the Mariner's cuff. Easy to make, functional, and looks pretty damn snazzy ;). I whipped mine up following the very useful construction tips from The Fashionable Past blog, Riding Habit Mariner's Cuffs. I altered the shape of my tab, but the process is essentially the same.

Note that these cuffs are made into a slit on the outer-sleeve, not built into the sleeve seams.


And just as a final note, I did struggle to decide how I want the silhouette of this coat to go in the final ensemble. I could have done pocket hoops, bum roll, pads. The final shape determined how I would cut the petticoat, so I had to choose. I decided to go with wide and narrow: pocket hoops.

Now, I have no idea if ladies actually road horseback while wearing pocket hoops. I somehow doubt it, but I do know that women often worse sport "looking" clothes as every day casual wear (sort of like us buying yoga pants to go shopping in, right? LOL). I also found images of very ornate, obviously non-functional riding habits


  1. Very well done as always, Lydia. :) And the coloring and the texture of the fabric are very lovely. They go extremely well with the dorset buttons. :)

  2. Stunning piece of work. The prick stitching is just lovely!