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Added flair for frock coat/ over-coat skirts.


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#1 India Mail

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Posted 15 December 2009 - 07:18 PM

May I thank all concerned for the honour of being invited to post a query here. I would like to expand on my thought from the London Lounge web-site. Please excuse my ignorance of professional terms; I hope my descriptions make sense.

If one wanted to add more 'flounce' or 'flair' to a waisted long coat (frock- or frock over-coat), could one request the skirt be cut 'on the bias'? I think this is the correct term, meaning the cloth is cut 'diagonally' on the weave, and hangs differently. Is this done ever, or always dismissed as quite impractical?

One argument against it that occurs to me is it might give the wrong 'shape' of flair: like the 'bell' of a trumpet (i.e., much wider at the ankles), rather than a hemi-spherical 'inverted wine-glass' (i.e., 'rounded' or 'cupped'(?) over the hips and seat after being shaped 'out' from the waist). Understandably, if a coat's skirt does not cling properly from the waist, such a cut should be avoided.

Other problems might be that, especially if on an over-coat with very heavy cloth, the resultant 'gatherings'/ pleats formed would be wearing on the fabric. Or would the heavy cloth make it difficult to 'form' the gatherings at all as the coat is worn? Would it cause problems with the vent? My partner says such a bias-cut, in the 1920s, was used on women's skirts made from light fabrics, so the garment would 'form its own pleats', as it were.

I.B. was kind enough to send me a reference saying the back half of the coat's skirts were bias-cut, which suggests a 'restrained' shape. Can anyone tell me why such a compromise would be needed?

Inspired by Sator's, esq., illustrations, I would like to commission a calf-length D.B. frock over-coat, which, being worn buttoned far more often than my frock-coat, I feel would need 'assistance' in giving a more 'flouncy', flared, dynamic, silhouette. So if the members' judgment here is for the bias-cut, last but not least, how would I break such a request to my tailor!

#2 Sator

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Posted 15 December 2009 - 07:36 PM

I've moved this query here to encourage people to use it to ask for advice on prospective commissions.

The answer is that the skirt of body coats is not usually deliberately cut on the bias in the way ladies' skirts are. However, it is very easy to add greater flare to the skirt. Part of the skirt will end up being partly on the bias this way anyway, as you mention.

The degree of flare in the skirt is a matter of personal taste. The following three diagrams show increasing amounts of flare being added to the skirt of a frock coat/overcoat:

Posted Image

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You can see how if you place the pattern on the cloth in these examples with the front of the coat on the straight grain (ie exactly as shown) how the greater the flare added, the more the back of the skirt will be on the bias. The skirt should flare out fairly evenly. The Germans call it a Glockenschoss - a bell shaped skirt. It won't be perfectly even and will form natural folds in it like this:

Posted Image

If in doubt ask for more flounce and reduce it at the fittings. Once cut, you can decrease it but you can't add to it. Just show your cutter the diagrams, which are self-explanatory.

#3 J. Maclochlainn

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Posted 15 December 2009 - 07:47 PM

I believe you have to trade one for another. If you want a nice curvature over the hips, produced by ironwork, you would need a skirt more akin to the straighter style of skirt produced from the 1880's-1910's. When you add flair to the skirt you add a lot more fabric and due to the nature of the flared skirt you will never get a nice roundness over the hips, just round pleats where the fabric wants to sit. Fundamentally, a frock skirt cut fully on the bias is wrong and should never even be thought, little alone discussed.

The skirts have a sleight bias at the backs, with a sleight round, which was pressed (shrunk) straight and the resulting fullness was pushed over the prominence of the seat and then a strip of linen is worked in to arrest any stretching that might occur and preserve the pleat thus formed.

My question is; how much flair do you want? you want it quite full, falling into round pleats about the hips, or just a little fullness to extend movement for horseback riding, dodging of cars or ease in walking up steps. IMHO a flared skirt on a later styled Frock looks a little too much like some women's overcoat styles and would not be flattering on a Gentleman.
Silly Cognoscenti, Drape is for windows!

#4 Sator

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Posted 16 December 2009 - 01:02 AM

My diagrams come from the 1930s, BTW. I have never tried cutting a frock coat/overcoat with a flared skirt so I really cannot say one way or the other. The style intrigues me, and it would be interesting to try it out. I would not be as negative as Jason about at least trying it. As I say, have it cut that way and if it looks wrong to you at the fitting, slim it down. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

May I ask who you were considering asking to cut this style for you?

#5 J. Maclochlainn

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Posted 16 December 2009 - 01:47 AM

Although the diagrams are from the 30's they are the same as the diagrams I have from the 1880's, so the principle is the same.

I wasn't trying to be negative :p just stating that too flared a skirt will negate some of the properties to keep you warm and if made from a light material prone to blow up. You have to look at it from a practical vs. style stand point. Form should follow function and if you are going to be active in this Frock/ Albert then add a bit of flare, but make sure your tailor knows how to not only manipulate the standard amount of fullness into the waist seam, but also has the ability to harmonize the superfluous length on the bottom with the fullness. What will tend to happen is the fullness worked across the hips will concentrate the bulk of the material and thus make the round pleats fall and gather more in this area (the hips). This fault is more prominent in extreme flares such as diagram 3 as Sator presented. If you notice the way the pleats hang in the plate Sator shows this demonstrates it well, good for 30/40's, bad for more modern garments.

Negative Nance :)
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#6 Terri

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Posted 16 December 2009 - 11:37 PM

on an over-coat with very heavy cloth

I think that the amount of flare will depend a lot on the weight of the fabric. I agree with Sator-ask for more flare because you can always reduce but sadly cannot add after the fact.

The fullness of the skirts in Sator's 19th century examples are balanced out by the size of the collar and the sleeve style- so keep proportions in mind as you go.

last but not least, how would I break such a request to my tailor!

That sounds so sad- I hope your tailor is not so frightening or rigid! But perhaps I am just used to these kinds of requests. ;) Go for it.

#7 J. Maclochlainn

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Posted 17 December 2009 - 12:36 AM

Once again, I apologise for seeming negative, just trying to give some food for thought. One of the "jobs" of the old tailors was to advise the client in matters of practicality. Now days it seems what ever the customer wants they get, and they are typically disappointed by what they get in the end because what looks cool might not be practical for your lifestyle. Flared skirts (or a little extra ease along the bottom) are brilliant for an active lifestyle, riding horses, stooping, having to walk up a lot of stairs to work (such as old municipal buildings in classical style)etc., but I feel the straighter skirt affords more practicality as the lines are straighter and more modern, the closer skirt afford more warmth and less prone to get in the way or blow up in a strong wind.

I do admit I gave my advice before knowing what lifestyle/ region the asker is from, but these are things he should ask himself prior to making any decisions on style and cut. In the end it is his choice and I would love to see how a flared shirt would look with the broader longer lines and short rise collars would look. I think a deeper pleat in back would be a good compromise as he would get the long silhouette the frock is famous, for plus the added benefit of extra skirt when he needs it.
Silly Cognoscenti, Drape is for windows!

#8 Sator

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Posted 17 December 2009 - 06:52 AM

Dramatically flared skirts on men's coats were also a bit of a target for satirists in their time:

http://www.cutterand...p?showtopic=196

It doesn't have to be that exaggerated that it looks like a crinoline skirt.

#9 India Mail

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Posted 17 December 2009 - 07:20 PM

Dear Lady and Gentlemen,

Thank you so much for such a comprehensive reply to my plea, including the negative points. Please accept my apologies for taking so long to reply. First, may I correct my mis-quotation of my partner. Bias-cut skirts were done in the 1930s, not 1920s, of course, as the latter was the age of the 'flapper'.

I see now how the cutting of the skirts automatically gives a 'bias' towards the back. The idea started after being inspired by Sator's illustrations, particularly:

Posted Image

...and the memory of an ankle-length frock over-coat worn by a fellow commuter, admired from afar ten years ago (I was ignorant of the sartorial nomenclature then though). I enjoy the 'swirl' of the skirted coat as I walk, and indeed 'perambulate' in my frock coat, but it is worn open. Thus, I wondered about obtaining the same effect with an over-coat worn buttoned up, and in a heavier cloth. I would not want it flapping about badly, of course, but enough to 'cut a dash' on a calf-length garment, when striding about town from work to station, &c., and more formal occasions (not riding).

Whilst a tolerable train-ride away from Savile Row, I was going to use the nearby branch of Ede & Ravenscroft in my college town. Partly from 'brand loyalty' as the staff have been so helpful, especially with my previous commission (above frock coat), and partly because I know of no other specialist. Perhaps not ideal, but I am happy with their advice: I was joking about their being intimidating, although I would hesitate to wave the cutting patterns under their noses immediately, lest they thought I 'thought I knew it all'. No-one likes to be told how to do their job!

I am still unsure about the pleats and vent - the latter compulsory, if I am to stride about when buttoned. In the frock coat, I have no vent, and two triangular pleats, which emphasise the 'angle' towards the waist (at least I hope they did when I was slimmer!), but could such detail be done in a much heavier fabric? My frock coat is only a 12oz. barathea. I fear not, so will probably have to be content with the standard 'hidden' vertical pleats.

Anyway, that is the 'state of play' so far. May I thank you all again for your advice, especially the 'initial cutting with flair which can be reduced'. I did not know the use of an iron to shape the fabric played such a part: thank you messrs Maclochlainn and Ruley. 'En passant', I am much taken with the tying of mr Ruley's white tie. Much though I like the Victorian crinoline, I am not aiming for such a silhouette! Just a greater flair than the above illustration and mr Ruley's frock coat, but, I hope, maintaining the hugging of the hips and small of the back if possible. I will see what compromises are necessary.

#10 Sator

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Posted 17 December 2009 - 07:48 PM

If E&R already have a working pattern for a frock coat for you, it should be a simple matter of deriving the pattern for a frock overcoat from that while adding a bit more flounce to the skirt. If you are happy with the pattern and fit you are best to stick with them. Naturally, I would love to see some pictures!

#11 India Mail

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Posted 18 December 2009 - 01:33 AM

It might have to wait until next month, but I will whet your appetite with a few shots of the current frock coat as soon as possible.

#12 jruley

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Posted 19 December 2009 - 09:28 AM

'En passant', I am much taken with the tying of mr Ruley's white tie.


The tie shows up better in this photo:

Posted Image

It's actually pre-tied, with a buckle, so any credit belongs to my wife, who made it out of leftover vest material.

#13 India Mail

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Posted 21 December 2009 - 08:01 PM

Thank you mr Ruley for the additional picture. I wondered if you had found the elusive knot that allows a symmetrical bow, a personal 'holy grail'. Your secret is safe with us!

One final question (I hope for you all): should I demand a centre seam in the back panel of the frock over-coat? My frock coat does not have this (i.e., the back is just one piece). I assume this would make it more authentically a 19th-Century pattern, but would it give any additional comfort, or help with a better fit? I do not want to give the poor cutter extra work just for the sake of it.

Again, thank you all for your interest and advice. Lest I do not get another opportunity, may I wish you all the best for the season.

#14 J. Maclochlainn

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Posted 21 December 2009 - 09:22 PM

My frock coat does not have this (i.e., the back is just one piece).


I would like to see a picture of this "Frock Coat" you already have, because the more you talk the more it sounds like a paletot.
Silly Cognoscenti, Drape is for windows!

#15 jruley

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Posted 22 December 2009 - 12:16 AM

Thank you mr Ruley for the additional picture. I wondered if you had found the elusive knot that allows
a symmetrical bow, a personal 'holy grail'. Your secret is safe with us!


There is a small booklet, originally circa 1820's, available in reprint titled "The Art of Tying the Cravat"
by H. LeBlanc. It shows about thirty different knots, though most are variations on tucking away the ends.
The basic knot resembles the "barrel knot" used on sailor's neckerchiefs.

One final question (I hope for you all): should I demand a centre seam in the back panel of the frock over-coat?
My frock coat does not have this (i.e., the back is just one piece). I assume this would make it more authentically
a 19th-Century pattern, but would it give any additional comfort, or help with a better fit? I do not want to give the
poor cutter extra work just for the sake of it.


When I get home after the holidays, I'll see if I can post some photos of an original frock overcoat I examined a few
years ago. The back was cut in one piece, with an attached back skirt that was attached to the left side skirt in the
usual manner. The right side skirt was sewn to a separate back skirt piece which was laid under the left one and
attached at the waistline. The effect was a very broad overlap which would retain warmth, while retaining a functional
back vent. I have no idea how typical this construction was, but at least it's documented.

#16 J. Maclochlainn

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Posted 22 December 2009 - 01:47 AM

original frock overcoat I examined a few
years ago. The back was cut in one piece, with an attached back skirt that was attached to the left side skirt in the
usual manner.


Interesting, I have never seen a "Frock Coat" treated this way only paletots. I look forward to seeing this.

What time frame is the coat attributed to?
Silly Cognoscenti, Drape is for windows!

#17 I.Brackley

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Posted 22 December 2009 - 04:13 AM

I've seen one frock coat cut with a one-piece back and seperate sewn-on tails; over the summer I got the chance to examine a turn-of-the-last-century (British) Royal Navy uniform frock that was cut as described. I only got the chance to see it on a hanger and laid out on a table so it was hard to say what sort of fit effect such a cut had on a garment of this type. I suspect the back may be less shapely, at least about the waist. My first thought was that the uniform was normally worn with a cross-belt and perhaps the back was cut in one with this in mind.
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#18 greger

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Posted 22 December 2009 - 08:06 AM

My experience with custom clothing is custom clothing. The documented patterns that exist of the past is very limited. The documented patterns are not the end all end all. They are the stepping stones to all the other garments a customer wants, and these would not be documented, but found as an odd garment here or there. No cutter is going to spend time inventing a speciality system for a one time garment that one or ten customers are going to wear; and then, for documentation, print it. The printed systems are almost exclusively for the most popular clothes of the time, and only some cutters used those system, because the others had there own, and those would not be printed anywhere, so, undocumented. When I look at patterns and systems I'm thinking well beyond that system to what maybe wanted. In the old days people spent much more time outdoors and there were less city people. City people don't have needs for speciality clothes like country people do. Some outdoors people, whether it is work or play, think about the restrictions the clothes they are wearing have and what to do about it. They also think about how the cold and wet get in, and how a garment can be better. The intentions people come up with can be amazing and it is the tailor who is expected to make them. The tailor has to adapt whatever system he has to meet the needs of the customer. I think, with out a doubt, the big city tailors have the most boring of tailoring jobs. A city tailor might only make sports coats or lounge coats or dress coats of trousers or riding clothes- it's like watching paint dry. How many city tailors who only make sports coats know how to make shirts? The village tailor had to make every thing the customer wanted. Between the imagination of the tailor and customer how much has been documented? There are documented unusual clothes and I think some mistake them for the norm of the time. Documention works both ways. When you look at clothes from the times before the printing press and paper and reading was rare those tailors only had 4 or 5 patterns, if any, and they made all of those garments from their imagination and a little know how for adapting patterns. We today are too dependant upon a pattern for this and a pattern for that. The printed world has made us smarter in many ways, but it has also dumbed us down to zombieness. The next time you look at that coat system or pattern you like so much think about how you can adapt it into any type of shirt, vest, cloak you can imagine. Same with the trousers. Be creative, not dependent. All the variationist are really just fluff.




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