18th Century, Striped 18th Century Caraco Jacket

Making an 18th Century Skirt and Jacket – Part 1

Hello everyone 🙂 Welcome to a new post, discussing the making of my grey and ice blue 18th century ensemble, consisting of a skirt and a jacket with a stomacher. If you’d like to know, how I made the undergarments for this project, you can find two blogposts here:

The Materials

Since the pet-en-air failed because I do not have enough materials, I am going to make a caraco jacket. Let us start with my materials:

  • 2.60m of grey cotton velvet
  • 1.60m of my striped icy blue fabric
  • 5m of light blue lace
  • 4m of blue lace

So, we basically work with nothing… But a lovely colour palette, I am determined to make this work. It reminds me of a stormy day and the sea. My asthetic and my colours, I love stormy weather ;).

A skirt, that has it’s own mind

Let’s start with the skirt. I already had to compromise here. Since my two pieces of fabric were not the same length, I pieced the back of the skirt together by adding 30cm of length from the longer piece to the shorter. Which left me with two pieces with a length of 1.30m of fabric each. At this point, let me say, I considered this project a total failure. Which is why I did not pick up the camera too often. I was not sure about it in the first place and this feeling did not get better the more I worked on it.

I sewed my two pieces together and hemmed the side splits After that I draped the pleats on my dressform over my stays and pocket hoops. From here on, the skirt was a disaster. I managed to pleat it in a way that looked nice on my dressform. Until I secured the pleats with thread and needle. I’m not going to hide my fails, so enjoy and have a look at it:

This is the front. And on the next picture you can see the back:

Beautiful, right? I don’t exactly know where things went that wrong, but at least, I think, I know how to fix it (thanks to my dear friend Hannah on Instagram, celestialdiamondcouture).

The first thing that definitely is wrong, is the width at the waist. Front and back piece are both about 3/4 of my waist circumference, which makes absolutely no sense (no idea why I pleated it like this). The overlap at the side splits looks horrible because of that. The other issue, that I cannot solve, is that it is probably just not enough fabric for pleating. So what I am going to do is open all seams at the waist and start again. This time I will do the pleats in the center and gather the rest (thanks again, Hannah). Since I am disappointed with this, I am still procrastinating. But I will fix it eventually. I love the fabrics and the colours I decided to use and I want to save it and make something pretty.

This is, how it looks right now after trimming it to a (not so) good length and hemming it:

Moving on, this skirt makes me mad ;).

Two jackets, but no fabric

In the meantime, let us talk about the jacket. As I already spoilered you above, the pet-en-air will not be made. I drafted the pattern for it on my dressform and also made a mock up. But I just do not have enough fabric because of the stripes (I want to pattern match, otherwise it will not look as clean and perfect as I would like it to). The pet-en-air will eventually be made, but in other fabric and maybe it will even be a robe à la française (I adore these…). I’ll show you the process of patterning when make it. For now, this is what the mock up looked like:

This is a very elegant garment in my opinion. And extremely flattering. I would love to have one. There are a few things about this pattern though that definitely need more work. The side seams for example or the sleeves etc. But this is work for another post, so let’s go back to solution number 2.

Since the pet-en-air did not work, I started all over again, using this picture as a reference:

I decided to make a stomacher and changed the front part of the bodice. It would have been too similar to my robe à l’anglaise with that kind of closure and I like to have some variety. I also decided to shorten the sleeves and add flounces, since I have such pretty laces. They play a huge part on the stomacher, and I like repeating details and pull the whole outfit together. There will also be ruffles araund the neckline (if I have enough fabric left, I hope so). Janet Arnold dates this between 1775 and 1785. But since the stomacker is inspired by another of her sketches (same book, p. 28f) and a different sleeve design, I guess it is more similar to 1760s to 1770s gowns, so I’ll go with that for the accessories.

The last thing I changed is the hidden pleat in the back. I decided to make the skirt in the back a little bit more voluminous, to create the illusion of a hidden pleat (due to: not enough fabric). Spoiler: That plan did not work really out, the back is flat without even the slightest sign of a pleat.

After drafting my pattern, I cut all pieces out from cotton to create a mock up:

I marked the waist as a guide, the seams will be boned in the end. Then I sewed all pieces together without hemming them and this is, what the jacket looked like:

I really like this jacket as well. I had to make a few changes to my pattern though. There was too much room in the waist, the back gaped away from my body and the sleeves where off (like always… I always need around three trials before I have a usable sleeve pattern). The last thing was levelling the hem (I also shortened it about 5cm, because, you guessed it, not enough fabric). This is the pattern I came up with in the end:

Optimistic thoughts

This is what I’ll attempt to make. So far, it looks as if it should be possible to squeeze it out of my little bit of fabric and even have some scraps leftover to make ruffles or accessories. It’s starting to look good, I am a bit more optimistic about this project right now. But after I have finished this, I will venture into another period for some time. I need a break from the 18th century, eventhough I really started to love it.

I’ll end the post here. In the second post, I will discuss making the jacket and the accessories and hopefully be able to show you pictures of my finished outfit. That is, if I can find the motivation to correct my mistakes ;). Thanks a lot for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post, eventhough it is a bit more on the negative side. But we learn the best from mistakes, don’t we?

If you’d like to see the latest updates, you may want to give my Instagram a try 😉 Most updates are on there before my blog posts are ready. Thanks a lot and bye 🙂

PS: I made a video about this ensemble 🙂


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