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Mother Dean
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« on: March 04, 2015, 07:42:00 PM »

I'm still in the process of making a shirt, and then it will be on to the vest so I am sort of researching ahead trying to find my way in the vocabulary and rules of men's clothing. Please excuse any crazy typing that may come across. I have been reading the forum for several days now and I'm trying to organize the jumble that is in my head.

My husband has never shown interest in accompanying us to events until now and I would like to have him well dressed and comfortable for a picnic this summer. Basically I am wanting to start off by make a nice linen suit but I am finding that deciding on the type of coat is sort of a challenge. The coat names that I have come upon are foreign to me so clarification on use would be wonderful. For example, for what occasion would he wear this or that?

Morning Coat - Is this strictly for in the morning or can you wear this for an afternoon visit or outing? Are there fabric or color "musts" and "must nots" associated with this? I'm not really sure what this coat looks like but I am very curious about it.

Sack Coat - This seems to be the easiest coat as it is recommended to most as a first attempt coat (in my reading through the forum). I have seen it suggested in linen and wool and perhaps cotton seersucker as well (but I could be off in my remembering on the last one).

Frock Coat - This is a more tailored coat and probably not the one that I want to jump into as my first men's tailoring project. This seems to be the most popular coat in name or perhaps just the one that I hear about most. This can be made in wool or linen but most commonly found in wool.

Tailed Coat - I'm not even sure if that's what it is formally called. This is mostly done in black wool and worn over a black or white vest. This is a highly tailored coat and not something that I'll be trying my hand at this year. This is for formal events like a ball.

Are there other common styles that I'm missing?

Is there a difference between the types of vests worn under the various coats? Since I am making the vest next, do I need to decide on the coat before I begin that piece?

I have a fondness for stripes and plaids and am hoping to include many of those in his wardrobe. There was a discussion earlier about the absence of plaid coats in period images. Has anyone found new information that would allow for this or should I keep the plaids and stripes to pants and vests?

Thank you in advance for any light that you can shine on this for me. I am sure to be missing many very important details.
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Jim_Ruley
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« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2015, 10:58:17 AM »

Terminology associated with men's coats can be confusing, and it doesn't help that terms change meaning over time.  Here are some thoughts on the coat styles you mention:

"Morning coat":  Today, this refers to a specific style (coat with tails cut away at an angle or curve) worn for formal events in the "morning" (meaning "before 6 PM").  At the time, this seems to have been a generic term for "undress" (meaning less than full dress) coats worn by "gentlemen" during morning pursuits such as walking.  The specific style varied with taste and fashion.  Early in the 19th century "morning" coats had tails similar to "dress" coats, and the frock coat was once a fashionable style of morning coat.  DeVere's 1866 "Handbook of Practical Cutting" contains a style which has the skirt cut in one piece with the forepart but otherwise is the same as a frock coat, and I have seen this in other 1860's references as well.  By the 1870's the current cutaway style was become fashionable in the "morning" and the frock coat was becoming more of a formal item.  The takeaway here is that until the latter part of the century "morning coat" refers to a purpose and not a fixed style.

"Sack coat":  This is indeed the easiest coat to make and was available in a wide variety of materials and patterns.  Originally intended for very informal wear, by the 1860's these were becoming more acceptable for everyday use in such settings as stores and offices.  This style eventually developed into the modern suit jacket.

"Frock coat":  This is distinguished from other close-fitting styles by having a square-cut full skirt.  Originally a very casual garment, by the 1840's this was considered "correct" for day wear, and by the 1860's was in turn being edged out by the "paletot" and sack coat.  Frocks would be favored by older or traditional-minded gentlemen, men in positions of responsibility or authority, or on more formal occasions (for example, a farmer might wear one to church).  Frocks might even be seen on "dress" occasions (like balls) if they were the "best" coat the gentleman had (or had brought with him).

"Tailed coat":  This is actually the oldest form of the close-fitting style.  Originally an equestrian coat, it was popularized early in the 19th century by "Beau" Brummell and his adherents in London and came to be accepted for "dress" as well as "undress" wear.  By the 1860's this style is antiquated for all purposes except "dress", but is still the "correct" form for formal evening occasions such as balls and dinners.  In England and America the "correct" colors for evening dress were monochrome, a black coat and trousers with either black or white vest and tie.  ("Day dress" coats, of a similar style but colored, still appear in fashion plates and were evidently "correct" for very formal "morning" occasions such as formal calls; but these were largely replaced by the frock except in very "high society".)  The tailcoat survives today as the core of ultra-formal "white tie".

Color combinations are a subject in themselves.  As mentioned above the only "settled" color scheme in the 1860's was the monochrome evening dress.  Fashion plates show a wide variety of colors and patterns, but black was also very popular.  In fact, European visitors were known to remark that Americans looked like "a nation of undertakers".  So black is by no means "incorrect" for less formal styles and is a very safe choice for a frock coat.  White or off-white seems to have been favored for unlined summer clothing, no doubt due to its washability.  Sack coats were often part of a "ditto suit" (meaning all three pieces of the same cloth) and a stripe or plaid would be very suitable for this.  Frocks and morning coats seem to have been plain, but judging by fashion plates were often worn with plaid or striped vests and trousers, whose patterns might or might not match.  However, too much showiness in men's dress was frowned upon by ettiquette manuals.  Think of a modern used car salesman in dark glasses and a bright colored blazer dripping with "bling" jewelry, versus a serious-looking banker in a dark pinstripe suit; the same principles have survived.
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Mother Dean
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« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2015, 08:27:29 PM »

Thank you very much for your time. Your reply did fill in a great deal of the holes in my understanding.

I had my husband look at some of the printed pattern images to see what appealed to him. He chose the sack coat. I am greatly relieved because that seems the most logical for my purposes, material and skill level. However I am seeing that the reviews on the modern patterns are not very good.  Huh

The only other questions that I have at this time have to do with material weights and weaves.

What weight of linen would be best for the summer sack coat?

Then the same question in regards to a frock coat of wool? I am only accustomed to tropical weight wool for dresses and have no understanding of wool in men's wear.

Thank you so much for sharing your insight.
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Rob Bruno
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« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2015, 09:01:37 AM »

Jim.
Is the "paletot" have the length of a frock but just not the waist seam?  I can't remember exactly the difference or characteristics of the paletot.
Rob
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Jim_Ruley
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« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2015, 08:55:20 AM »

Is the "paletot" have the length of a frock but just not the waist seam?  I can't remember exactly the difference or characteristics of the paletot.
Rob


"Paletot" is a very generic term in this era and basically covers any coat style without a waist seam.  Paletots can be very loose fitting or tightly fitted at the waist with a dart under the arm.  Lengths range from hip length (pea jacket) to below the knee (paletot overcoat).  Backs can be cut on the fold in one piece, or taken in at the waist to fit better.

Basic drafting principles are the same for all these styles.  To determine what was fashionable at any particular time, you need a fashion plate or draft illustrating a specific style.
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Jim_Ruley
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« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2015, 09:03:54 AM »


What weight of linen would be best for the summer sack coat?

Then the same question in regards to a frock coat of wool? I am only accustomed to tropical weight wool for dresses and have no understanding of wool in men's wear.



I don't have a specific oz/yd figure to recommend, but I prefer a medium weight linen for hot weather.  A very light (hanky?) weight will not hold its shape well and is liable to be transparent, and a thick material will be uncomfortably hot.

A wide range of weights of wool can be used for a frock coat.  The material with the best finish (a glossy, directional nap) comes from Hainsworth Apparel Fabrics in the UK and is fairly heavy (about 14 oz/sq yd last time I checked).  This makes the best looking coats but can be oppressive on a hot sunny day.  A lighter wool suiting will still tailor well, but will not have the glossy finish or hold a cut edge without raveling.  Tropical weight is even lighter, but will not stretch or shrink much with the iron and has a tendency to wrinkle badly in my experience.
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Mother Dean
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« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2015, 06:09:55 PM »

Thank you so much for your time, Mr. Ruley. I have good information to start with. I will most likely have more questions once I move on to this garment. Smiley
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Chip
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« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2015, 07:02:37 PM »

Just my personal preferences, but these ranges are what I look for...

10 to 12 oz. if it is a gabardine or flannel.  (sack coats and morning coats)

About 12 to 14 oz. if it is melton. (frock coats and dress coats)

Anything over 16 oz. is more practical for an overcoat/overfrock of heavy lined sack coat.

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Mother Dean
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« Reply #8 on: March 10, 2015, 08:32:36 AM »

Thank you very much, Chip. Those weights will help greatly when I'm shopping. Smiley
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