Monday, October 14, 2013

Sewing 1812 Trousers

 Painting of a quilting frolic by John Lewis Krimmel. Note the very high waist-ed trousers worn by the young man in the foreground. His stockings or socks are exposed because he's wearing very low dancing shoes (which look just like modern ladies flats) in combination with high water pants. Military pants were supposed to come down to the tops of the brogans, but still have the vent on the sides.

As a historical reenactor, one thing that is constantly on my mind is clothing. Finding accurate costume for the War of 1812 period can be a challenge, since the period isn't as widely popular to recreate as is the Revolutionary or American Civil War eras. This is changing-- the War of 1812 has become more popular lately as a result of the bicentennial, and more merchants are starting to manufacture accurate costume for the period. 

I remember when my mom bought my first suit of clothing for 1812 reenacting for Christmas when I was in high school. The sutler sold her an 18th century pair of knee breeches and a waistcoat. We traded them in for smallcloths that were more accurate, and that I wore for years afterward. But even these clothes were 18th century patterns; a low rise, baggy seat pair of linen trousers and an 1803 pattern vest. Even now, more accurate clothing is so expensive compared with Rev War era stuff-- and off-the-rack clothing is usually far too baggy and ill-fitting for the well-tailored 1810s-- that it is far more cost effective to make your own.

I made my trousers off of a Past Patterns' pattern for 1820s-1840s men's trousers. I'm happy with the way they fit-- high waist and no baggy seat like many 18th-century pattern trousers-- but would shorten up the fall and fall welts a bit. For those of you who've never seen a pair of small-fall trousers up close, the intricacies of the drop fall and dog-ear pockets may be interesting. The small welt pocket on the left center of the waistband is for a pocket watch-- these were universally worn in the trousers and attached to hanging watch fob chains-- not hooked into vest chains like later 19th-century pocket watches. (This latter way of wearing watches has not fully percolated through the 1812 reenacting community.) I'm not an expert tailor by any means, so there is a lot of rough machine sewing here.