Vena Cava Design

Historical Sewing Patterns (Men)

1700s Frock Coat

1700s Frock Coat
1700s Frock Coat 1700s Frock Coat

Full size paper patterns for Men's Frock Coat for the 1680s through early 1700s with dog-ear cuffs. Upper class and lower class instructions included. Fits chests 34-54 Iinch. All sizes included in one envelope. Embellishment suggestions included.

Suggested Fabrics: wool, heavyweight silk
lightweight silk or linen for lining
heavy linen or canvas for interlining

Yardage Requirements:
5 yds 60 inch or 6 yds 45 inch wide

30-75 5/8 inch buttons for front and vents
buttonhole floss
7-5/8 inch buttons for arm closure (optional)
braid and cording to taste (optional)

Below is an excerpt from the historical notes you will receive as part of this pattern:
1700s Frock Coat
In the 1680s, the style of fashionable men s clothing changed rapidly. While some gentlemen were wearing the slim-bodied coat purportedly inspired by Polish caftans (the Justacorps, see RH701), others were beginning to wear a garment with flared skirts that was the progenitor of the frock coats of the 18th century. The structural differences between these two styles were in fact rather slight the skirts of the frock coat are semi-circular as opposed to simple flares and the sleeve cuffs are more elaborate but the silhouette of the overall outfit was greatly changed. Thus what we think of as 'Baroque style' came into being.
Extant Garments
There are a good number of extant frock coats of this early type. Some fashionable examples date as early as the 1680s. Others are the everyday wear of country squires and common people and date to the early decades of the 18th century. The cut of the garment, regardless of the materials, is remarkably the same across the board.

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London houses a man s suit from the 1680s (accession #191&A-1900). It is made from worsted wool and trimmed with black silk and silver-gilt thread braid. Silver braid is applied horizontally down both fronts, ornamenting the buttonholes. The garment is faced and lined with blue wool. In the museum, the ensemble is shown with an equally lavish embroidered cape. The museum description of this suit states:

In Britain in the 1660s a new style of formal day wear was introduced for men. It replaced the doublet and petticoat breeches. The new fashion was started by Charles II, under the influence of Louis XIV of France. Men now wore a long, fairly tight-fitting coat reaching to the knee.

This is an early example of this cut being worn by the upper class. Although it is made from wool and not silk, it is elaborately embroidered and decorated with silk and silver-gilt threads.

A more daily-wear example is a brown wool frock coat from the 1690s in the Gallery of Costume, Manchester (accession number M5998 and Waugh Dia XVI). Straight-fronted and unadorned by embroidery or braid, this garment is as plain as can be imagined. However, the applied vertical pockets and dog-ear cuffs are arranged in pleats to add a bit of decoration to the ensemble. Thirty basketweave (passementerie) buttons close the center front and adorn the cuffs and pockets. The last eight buttonholes on the front are false. Fifteen of the same buttons line the back vent and three sit at the tops of each side vent. The frock coat is lined with brownish blue shot silk and a 2 belt of blue brocade spans the inside back at waist-level and is sewn into the side seams, presumably to stabilize the back above the flare of the skirts.

A doll, known as Lord Clapham, that is thought to have belonged to the Cockerell family, descendants of the diarist Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) is housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London under accession number T.847D-1974. The doll s coat mirrors the life-sized examples almost perfectly.

Also in the V&A is a grey cloth (wool) coat lined with grey silk (see Waugh Dia XV for more details) dating to 1700. Simply constructed with cut edges and a self-bound neck opening, the garment s only concession to decoration is twenty-seven 2 wide silver buttonholes that match its silver basketweave buttons. Twelve back and twelve side buttonholes are all false except the buttonholes at the tops of the side vents, which were worn buttoned. The seven buttonholes on the pockets are unused. Three buttons decorate the sleeve cuffs.

To demonstrate the practice of dressing children as miniature adults we have a boy's coat and breeches from the V&A (T.327&A-1982). This ensemble is made from red wool faced with silk twill and lined with cotton twill. The buttonholes are embroidered with silver thread to match the passementerie buttons. It is shockingly similar to the outfit worn by the doll, Lord Clapham.

A brown wool coat in a private collection (shown at left) dates to the 1720s. All of the same elements are present: flared skirts, straight front edge, round neckline without a collar, buttonholes from neck to hem. A few exceptions should be pointed out to show the evolution of the style as the decade progressed. The sleeves do not stop just past the elbow as do the earlier examples; they are wrist length. Also the cuffs are more conservative in size, veering away from the dog-ears popular at the turn of the century. The pockets of this coat sit rather high, at the waistline. Despite the drabness of the coat, the buttons on the front, cuffs, and pockets are in the elaborate passementerie style. Flat wooden cores are wrapped with brown thread in six-pointed star designs and edged with buttonhole stitch. No buttons appear on the back vent of the coat. Instead buttonholes are present on both sides. Although monochromatic, the coat is quite lovely.

To demonstrate just how long this cut of garment was popular we have accession number 1954.1106 from the Gallery of Costume in Manchester. This fawn-coloured homespun woollen coat dates to the 1730s. The front edges are straight, not curved as we would expect by this late date. Ten cloth covered buttons and buttonholes close the front from neck to waist and do not extend onto the skirts. None of the front buttonholes are fake. A slightly shaped flap covers horizontal pocket slits, but the flap is only held closed by one button and buttonhole at the front end. These are fake. A button also sits at the top of the side vents as was typical by this time. The center back vent has neither buttons nor buttonholes. The two-piece sleeves are wrist length with a wide cuff trimmed with four fake buttonholes and buttons sewn on top of them. The bottom edge of the coat is not even, indicating that the wool has been stretched out of shape or that the cut was not good in the first place. There are wear holes in the wool and ravelly bits at the lower edge.

Before we leave the extant examples, there are two bog finds that add to our knowledge of how far-reaching this style of coat was. Both garments were found on bodies in make-shift graves in the British Isles during the late 17th century: one in Gunnister, Shetland, Scotland and one in Tawnamore, Co. Sligo, Ireland.

The Gunnister coat was found on 12 May, 1951 in a peat bank on Shetland. Coins found in the clothing give a date of no earlier than 1690. Discovered thirty inches deep in the peat, the find consisted of the body of a man, his woollen clothing, and pieces of leather and wood objects. It is thought that these are the remains of a traveller who died from exposure and was buried where he was found later in the year.

His garments include a wool coat, wool jacket, wool shirt, wool breeches, knitted gloves, knitted stockings, knitted cap, and bits of leather indicating a belt and shoes. The garment most pertinent to our discussion is his coat.

The coat is 39 long and 18 across the back with a 36 waist. The sleeves measure 15 from shoulder to cuff end. The skirts are widened by two small triangular gussets, making the circumference 124 . The neckline is faced but collarless. The front edge of the coat is straight and closed by 20 buttons approximately 1 apart. Four more buttons and fake buttonholes continue to the bottom hem of the coat, much like the other extant examples. Pocket slits are cut and faced at hip level on each side, but they were then sewn back up. Below each slit are seven buttons and above the slits are seven corresponding (but uncut) buttonholes. A center back vent and open side seams from the waist down further confirm the classification of this find as a late 17th century frock coat. The cuffs are formed by multiple pieces of cloth sewn to the ends of the sleeves which are then turned back.

In County Sligo, the body of a middle aged man was found in 1969. Researchers at the time gave a mid-17th century date to the find, but a late 17th century date is more likely. The find consists of a wool coat, jacket, breeches, knitted stockings, garters, and leather shoes. The coat is pictured at right.

It is made of fine tabby wool, firm and felted and 40 long and 18 wide across the back. The sleeves, like the Gunnister coat, are only about 18 long and turn back with a large cuff. This time the typical button decoration is in evidence. The front closes with 15 buttons and the neckline is collarless but piped with self. Except for the notable exception of pockets and the rather obvious piecing together of narrower widths of wool, this piece resembles in all ways the other frock coats discussed in these historical notes. Therefore we see how the garment was worn by all social classes around the turn of the 18th century.
Pictorial Evidence
Although the record of extant garments shows a wide range of garments worn by all classes over a period of many decades, the pictorial record is rather slim. The fashion of wide skirts progressed so quickly that this progenitor of frock coats was not shown in paintings for very long, even though the coat itself was worn for nearly half a century.

One of the earliest depictions of the straight-front frock coat is the engraving of a fashionable Frenchman from around 1685. The huge cuffs, unnaturally-shaped wig and vertical pockets demonstrate the early date of this coat. The front edges of the frock coat are straight and the buttons and buttonholes do not appear to be in use at all. The gentleman s waistcoat looks to be of a similar cut as his frock coat, at least in front. Not waistcoat sleeves but diaphanous shirt sleeves emerge from his enormous cuffs. The width of the skirts can be seen in how the coat hangs in round pleats. The coat is so long the breeches cannot be seen.

An early English example of this style of frock coat is worn by the Squire of Alsatia from Marcus Laroon s The Cryes of the City of London Drawne after the Life from 1687. The Squire wears this early frock coat open to the bottom of the sternum to show his waistcoat beneath. Only a few buttons hold the coat closed around his waist and we can assume the rest are fake as they are on the museum pieces from this time period. His cuffs are large and his coat sleeves come no further than the middle of his forearm, showing elaborate fringes and his waistcoat sleeves.

Sir Charles Haggerston wears a similar frock coat in a portrait painted by A. S. Belle in 1714. Although the back of the garment cannot be seen, the shape of the bottom indicates wide skirts. The habit of buttoning the coat only at the waist is shown here. The cuffs approach wrist-length at this late date, but they remain large. The pockets flaps are starting to conform to a single style.

Our final picture is of a Portugeuse man of fashion from 1715. The lines of his garment and person have been simplified for ease of painting on tiles. However, the straight front, open fashion of wear, and large cuffs can still be discerned.

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