Civilian Men’s Basics

London Cries: A Fish Monger by Paul Sandby (1759). Yale Center for British Art, Accession Number B1975.3.210

London Cries: A Fish Monger by Paul Sandby (1759). Yale Center for British Art, Accession Number B1975.3.210

I love this Paul Sandby picture for many reasons. The first is that it’s Sandby and he created some really useful art portraying the common people. Second, I love the woman’s yellow gown. Third, I love the detail, including the child on the left. Fourth, the man in the center is perfectly wearing simple clothes. I have to be honest, the construction of 18th century men’s clothing is not easy. Women’s clothes are draped to the body, allowing for constant tweaking for a perfect fit. Men’s clothes were tailored and that is a whole ‘nother ballgame entirely. To be a proper English/American civilian you want to look like more like this man and that will take some time. For now we’re going to talk about what the man in the Sandby print is wearing.

The very first thing you need to do before you start reading this page or making your clothes is go to the Burnley & Trowbridge website. Click the “Historic Fashion Workshop Series” in the top left corner. Look at that page and see if there are any breeches, waistcoat, or frock coat workshops coming up. If there are, do everything you can to sign up and go to one. If you go to no other workshop but the breeches one it will pay great dividends in the long run! If they don’t have any workshops for men’s clothes scheduled than click “Email List” in the right hand corner. Sign up for emails!!!! You will be sent an update when they add new workshops and you can snag a spot in the next breeches workshop that comes down the pike. Their workshops are given by Williamsburg trained tailors so you know that the information and techniques you are learning are RIGHT. They also have a knack for making everything MAKE SENSE which paper patterns and websites don’t really do.

Now you are ready to proceed through this page.

Here’s what you need to make:

Body shirt, breeches or trousers, sleeved waistcoat which is also called a jacket. (If you are very ambitious you should make a sleeveless waistcoat and frock coat instead but we won’t talk about that here.)

Here’s what you need to buy:

Cotton, Linen, or Wool plain color stockings and black or brown laced leather shoes, civilian cock’d hat/linen workman’s cap (You can make a linen cap pretty easily – just only use the “Workman’s Cap” example.)

Here’s what you need for fabric:

What patterns should you use?

  • Body Shirt: You can buy Kannick’s Korner shirt pattern (skip the ruffles) or request the First Virginia’s shirt pattern on PDF from the Quartermaster/mistress.
  • Breeches: There are several breeches patterns available to reenactors. Personally, I feel that the Mill Farm Drop Front Breeches pattern has been the best to work with and produces better fitting results. Breeches for the Revolutionary War period should be drop front NOT fly front. They should fit snugly all over with a little extra room in the seat without being baggy. They should end just below the knee.
  • Trousers: I am currently working on creating a trousers pattern as I have yet to find an appropriate pattern for our time period. I will update this page once I have done that.
  • Sleeved Waistcoat: Reconstructing History’s  Working Man’s Jacket. If you are making a sleeveless waistcoat, the First Virginia also has its own pattern that can be obtained from the Quartermaster/mistress.