Constructing a Toile

With the pattern finalized as best you can, it’s time to prepare a muslin toile for the first fitting. The toile is important not only to help with the fitting, but to work out any errors in the pattern you may have introduced and get you more familiar with the construction process.

Begin by laying out all of the pieces, being sure to align the grain lines, and trace around each with some sharp tailor’s chalk. You can weigh the pattern pieces down to keep them from moving.

Also be sure to mark the roll lines on the front and collar pieces. Then cut out each of the pieces, keeping to the inside of the chalk lines. As you get to the darts, do not cut them out, rather, leave them in and cut across the bottom edge of each.

Here are the two front pieces all cut out. I marked the darts and roll lines on the wrong side, then flipped over to the right side to mark the pockets, button positions, and center front line.

The Darts

Any darts are closed in the same manner. Grasp the fabric and fold the dart in half along the middle, aligning the chalk marks as best you can.

And pin the dart closed.

If you’re putting in a front waist dart, the same method is used, though it can be slightly more tricky to get everything aligned.

Here are both of my darts pinned and ready to sew.

Sew the darts, following along the outer edge of the chalk line. I like to start at the outside and work my way towards the point.

As you get to the point, gently taper the stitching into the fold, ending just as you reach the edge.

Press the darts to one side or the other (just be consistent).

I like to press the neck dart downwards to make it a little easier to press over the roll line later. You’ll notice that the roll line is no longer straight, thanks to the dart, and this is something we’ll address later on as well.

Here’s one of my waistcoat fronts after sewing the darts.

If you put in a front dart, that will mess up the pocket lines as well, so feel free to redraw them if you want.

Attaching the Collar

Lay the collar on top of the waistcoat front, right sides together. Be sure the collar edge with the roll line is laid alongside the neck seam underneath.

Align the bottom of the collar so that the 3/8″ seam allowance is aligned with the edge of the waistcoat front and pin in place.

Continue pinning the collar to the waistcoat front, working your way up the neck. Distribute the fabric as necessary as you go.

Do keep the pins away from the seam allowances. As you get to the top, you should have about three inches of collar (roughly) extending beyond the shoulder.

Turn the waistcoat over and mark a point along the neck seam 1/2″ below the shoulder to indicate where the stitch line stops.

Sew the collar on from the bottom edge through to the point you marked using a 3/8″ seam allowance. I like to keep the collar on the underside while sewing, as it seems to help distribute the fabric more evenly.

Press the collar seam over towards the collar, using a tailor’s ham to support the curved areas.

Here’s the completed collar.

Side Seam

Construction gets a little easier from here on out. Lay the back piece on to the front of the waistcoat, right sides together, aligning the side seams.

Pin the side seam.

And sew the seam using a 3/8″ seam allowance.

Press the side seam open.

The Shoulders

Align the back and front shoulder seams, right sides together.

Fold the collar extension out of the way so that it doesn’t get caught in the stitching.

Carefully align the seam allowances and pin both ends of the shoulder seam. This is the armscye side:

And the neck side with the collar folded out of the way.

Sew the shoulder seam using a 3/8″ seam allowance, being sure to keep the collar out of the way.

Press open the shoulder seam using a tailor’s ham.

Here’s the completed half of the waistcoat. Repeat the entire process with the other half if you haven’t been keeping up with it.

Center Back Seam

Align the two halves of the waistcoat along the center back seam and pin.

Mark a point near the bottom of the center back seam just at the point where the curve straightens out to indicate the end of the stitching.

Sew the center back seam using a 3/8″ seam allowance and press open.

Securing the Collar

Lay the waistcoat on the table with the right side of the back facing you. Arrange one side of the collar along the remaining neck edge, make sure it’s neither too too nor too loose. Mark on the edge of the collar the position of the center back seam underneath.

Move that half of the collar out of the way and repeat the process with the other half.

Square across the collar at each of the points.

Now align the two collar halves right sides together along the lines. Ideally, the collar will be perfectly even at the ends, but I must have gathered on the collar slightly differently on one half while pinning it — something to be aware of.

Sew the collar halves together directly along the line.

Trim the excess collar down to 3/8″ from the stitch line.

Press the seam open.

To finish up the collar, pin the collar to the back of the waistcoat, right sides together, aligning the center back seams of each. Then pin along each side as necessary.

Sew the rest of the collar on using a 3/8″ seam allowance. Take care not to catch unwanted parts of the collar under the seam — the tension tends to draw the collar towards the needle here.

Press the collar and seam allowances up towards the top of the waistcoat.

Final Pressing

Begin pressing the roll line at the back of the waistcoat. This is best done by someone else while you’re wearing the waistcoat (not with the iron!), but you can get fairly close just by developing your eye.

Then by putting some gentle tension on the collar and neck seam area, you can get a fairly close idea of where the roll line should be (it was distorted due to the neck dart).

Press the remaining areas of the collar as necessary.

With the toile complete, go ahead and try it on to see how it fits. If you need any help or advice, please post photos from the front, side, and back along with a top down photo of your pattern, so that others can learn from your experience as well.

Trimming the Front Waist

There’s one last little detail to take care of on the pattern before moving on to the toile. The way the pattern is designed, you’ll be left with two little points at the bottom front of the waistcoat if you don’t trim them. The easiest way is to make a quick copy of your waistcoat front pattern, with the center front line drawn on the copy. Then overlap the two, trace the overlapped area, and trim off the excess, giving you a nice clean front.

Here’s what I did in practice. First I copied a small part of the front pattern, basically from dart to dart, to a fresh sheet of paper, and copied the center line as well. You really only need a small section of the front copied, not the entire pattern.

Then I placed the copy on top of the original, carefully aligning the center line, and making sure the edges of the pattern met at the bottom of the center line.

Then trace the new line onto the original pattern.

And trim off the excess section.

Then simply use your altered pattern as usual. I forgot this step and so had to do it after cutting out my waistcoat front.

Seam Allowances

When you’re happy with any alterations, trace each of the pattern pieces onto a fresh sheet of paper. This way you can maintain your original pattern for future use and alterations. Add a 1/4″ or 3/8″ seam allowance around the entire collar – I’m using 3/8″ due to how easily the silk fabric frays. Similar seam allowances are added around the front and back pieces, except for the darts, which are treated a little differently during construction.

Be sure to copy over the pocket and button locations, the center line, roll line, and it’s a good idea to mark the grain line, indicated by the arrows (they’re simply parallel to the original vertical construction line). Then cut out your pattern around the entirety, including cutting out the darts.

Here’s my pattern after tracing, adding the seam allowances, and cutting everything out.

To make marking the various buttonholes and other points a little easier, I punched 1/8″ holes using a hollow hole punch, the type I use for buttonholes.

Here you can see the seam allowances added, the neck dart, and roll line.

Waistcoat Alterations

Before moving on to adding the seam allowances, it’s a good idea to check your pattern as best you can for fit, by applying your own measurements to the pattern as shown, comparing them, and then making the changes as necessary. I also like to compare the lengths of the center back, though that isn’t specifically mentioned in Devere’s manual.


The most common and important alteration is adjusting the width of the waistcoat around the waist. If your waist is only slightly smaller than your chest measurement, an inch or two, I’d highly recommend removing the front dart. If your waist is larger than your waist, you’ll need to add some material to the front and back side seams as shown. This is such a common alteration that I actually add material to the back side seam, by making the side seam vertical, for most of the waistcoats that I make. Any excess material in the back will be taken up by the back buckle.

It’s possible, for very corpulent figures, that material will need to be added to the front of the waistcoat. This is obviously very complex, thanks to the pattern, so I’ll update this section after I work out the best way to do so. If you are making a waistcoat for such a figure, please let me know so I can help you out.

The second, less common alteration is to adjust the back balance. These days, with people staring at their phones or computers all day, we have a tendency to stand slouched over. If the waistcoat is left as is in this case, you’ll notice a gap at the back of the collar. Likewise, if someone stands extra erect, you’ll see too much fabric just below the collar. To adjust, add or subtract the appropriate amount from the shoulder and neck of the pattern. I usually adjust this measurement only after the first fitting of the toile, to see precisely what needs to be done.

Drafting the Back

It’s helpful to draft the back of the waistcoat so that it’s aligned with the front piece, to more easily check for accuracy and check measurements. Extend the waist line at 10 1/4 over to the right far enough to make room for the back. Then square up the main construction line from there and mark out the various points as shown in the next step. All measurements are made using the graduated rulers again.

Marking the Points

Begin by marking the following points from 0.

  • 0 to 3 1/2 for the shoulder point and top of the armscye.
  • 0 to 10 1/4 for the waist line and bottom of armscye.
  • 0 to 20 for the bottom of the waistcoat.

Now square out the following points.

  • 2 1/2 from 0 for the neck. Also square up from 2 1/2 by 3/8 for the back neck rise.
  • 7 1/4 from 3 1/2 for the shoulder point and top of the armscye.
  • 10 5/8 from 10 1/4 for the bottom of the armscye.
  • 9 1/4 from 20 for the bottom of the side seam and width of the waist.

The Curves

The curves are relatively simple, especially compared to the front.

  • Draw a line between 7 1/4 and 3/8 for the shoulder seam. Find the midpoint and mark in 1/4.
  • Draw a line between 7 1/4 and 10 5/8. Square inwards at the midpoint 1 1/2 for the armscye.
  • Also at 7 1/4, draw a construction line square down, about three-fourths of the way to the 10 5/8 line. This aids in drawing the curve.
  • Draw a line from 10 5/8 to 9 1/4 for the side seam.

Draw the curves as shown.

  • The neck curve starts at 3/8 tapering into the neck line at 0.
  • The shoulder seam is drawn smoothly between the three points.
  • For the armscye, keep the curve rather deep from 10 5/8, through 1 1/2, and then following the construction line straight into 7 1/4.

The side seam is mostly straight, curving in near the bottom about 3/8. The original draft doesn’t have any specific marks to help with this, just do it by eye.

Curved Center Back

If you prefer, you can curve the center back to give a more stylized back. The other alternative is to just keep the pattern as is and cut the center back on the fold, which does make construction a little faster.

Finishing the Front Draft

We’re not quite done with drafting the front – still need to add a couple of darts, draft the collar, and figure out the position of the buttons, buttonholes, and pockets.

Neck Seam Dart

Adding a dart along the neck seam helps the collar to stay in position as well as takes out some of the excess material sometimes found in the neck area. The exact position depends upon your own draft and preferences, something that you’ll learn through experience.

At a point roughly at where the neckline intersects the dashed front construction line, draw a line at right angles to the neck line, about 2 inches long, indicating the center of the dart. You don’t want this dart to be so long that the collar fails to cover it.

In the diagram, I’d actually move the dart a little lower, so that the roll line roughly goes through the middle of the dart.

Determine how wide you want the dart to be and split the distance over the construction line. Then connect each side to the end of the construction line, forming the dart. The exact width really depends upon your own pattern and body type. I recommend starting with a 1/2″ dart [graduated inches] and seeing how that fits. I ended up going with a 3/4″ dart for my own pattern.

The Collar

The collar is a little difficult in that there are almost no measurements given for it – instead it relies more on the artistic side.

From point 13 7/8 at the bottom of the collar, continue the curve you already drew from 12 3/4, gradually curving around towards the neck point at 9 5/8 (but not hitting it, and tapering the other direction until it is parallel to the roll line at the shoulder, keeping 1″ [graduated] from the roll line.

Now draw the bottom of the collar, beginning at about 1/2″ [graduated] above point 13 7/8 and tapering into the neckline near the dart, and gradually ending up parallel with the roll line after you pass the neck at point 1.

Again this is very artistic and you can’t really rely on any of the measurements. Feel free to send me photos of your draft so I can help and critique.

At the bottom at 13 7/8, the 1/2″ opening forms a sort of dart between collar and neck, adding some more tension to the area for shape and keeping the collar in position. You could open the dart even more, up to 3/4 graduated inches if necessary.

To complete the collar, square off the end of the collar from the roll line, about 3 inches (or a little more to be safe) from the top of the shoulder point. The exact width depends on the width of the back neck, and with construction errors or fabric stretching out of shape unknowingly, I like to add a little extra here.

Waist Seam

Draw a construction line from 11 5/8 to 1 1/4.

Form the bottom edge of the waistcoat by drawing a shallow ‘S’ curve as shown, transitioning between the two near the middle of the waist. Again there are no real measurements here, just use your eye as best you can.

Waist Dart

Optionally, you can add a waist dart here for more shape and to take in some extra fabric, especially if you are fit and are somewhat proportional in size to people from the 1860s – as in your waist is 4 – 6 inches smaller than your chest. If your waist is a little on the larger side I highly recommend leaving this dart out, as it’ll just give you more fitting issues.

Draw a line from the center of the waist, roughly squaring up, to just past the construction line from 15 1/4.

At a point just above the waistline (indicated by the dotted construction line), mark the width of the dart. This depends on your own measurements, but 3/4 to 1 graduated inch is a good starting point. Mark half of that on each side.

Draw a line from the top of the dart, tapering through the waist, and narrowing back down to about 1/2 a graduated inch. Again the exact measurements depend on your own size and preference.

Button and Buttonhole Positions

At the top and bottom of the center front line (10 3/8 to 10) draw two lines perpendicular to the center front.

At the top, mark the button and buttonhole positions at 2 graduated inches from the center line.

At the bottom, they’re 1 1/2 inches away.

Then connect the upper and lower marks with two lines to determine the angle of the buttons, and then mark the additional two buttons equally spaced out (they turn out to be almost exactly 2″ apart on most drafts).

Pocket Positions

No measurements are given for the pocket positions either, but here is what I typically do. For the lower pockets, draw a line about 3 graduated inches above the waist line, roughly following the angle of the waist.

I make my pockets about 5 graduated inches long, and keep them roughly 1 inch from the buttons and from the side seam. Again, you’ll have to adjust these measurements to fit your own individual pattern.

For the breast pocket, I usually make mine 3 1/2 graduated inches wide. It’s positioned at about 1″ from the armscye, angling more steeply towards the front of the waistcoat.

And that finally completes the waistcoat draft! If you’re stuck or need advice, please consider posting top down photos of your draft in the support forum so that others can benefit from your work as well. Or you can email the photos to me if you prefer.

Drafting the Front

Drafting this style of waistcoat is definitely a bit complicated, but hopefully I’ve broken the steps down clearly for you. All points are measured out using the size of graduated ruler closest to your chest size.

Main Construction Line

Begin by drawing a vertical line and marking out the following points, measuring from 0 for each of them, using your graduated rulers.

  • 0 – 2 for the slope of the shoulder.
  • 0 – 4 3/4 for the neckpoint.
  • 0 – 7 1/2 for the width of the armscye.
  • 0 – 10 1/4 for the bottom of the armscye.
  • 0 – 12 1/2 for the width of the collar.
  • 0 – 15 1/4 for the bottom of the roll line.
  • 18 3/4 for the inset of the side seam.
  • 20 for the bottom of the side seam.
  • 21 1/4 for the center of the vest.
  • 22 1/2 for the bottom of the front edge.

Now square out from [most of] these points the appropriate distances as follows:

  • 0 – 5 3/4 for the shoulder point.
  • 4 3/4 to 9 5/8 for the neck point.
  • 7 1/2 to 2 3/4 for the width of the armscye.
  • 10 1/4 is not given a specific measurement, just make it a little longer than the next line below it, 13 7/8.
  • 12 1/2 to 13 7/8 for the chest and width of collar.
  • 15 1/4 to 12 3/4 for the bottom of the collar. Also mark 10 3/8.
  • 18 3/4 to 1 1/2 for the side seam inset.
  • 20 to 1 1/4 for the bottom of the side seam.
  • 21 1/4 to 10 for the center front of the waistcoat. Also mark 9 1/2 for a construction line.
  • 22 1/2 to 11 5/8 for the bottom front edge of the waistcoat.

Shoulder and Armscye

I tend to just work my way around the draft from here on out. Once you’re used to the process you might change the order to suit your own way of working, this is just what works for me.

  • Draw a straight line from 2 to 5 3/4 for the shoulder seam. Find the center of this line and square up a 1/4 graduated inch for the shoulder seam curve.
  • Draw a line from 2 to 2 3/4. Square in 3/8 from the center.
  • Draw a line from 2 3/4 to 10 1/4. Square 7/8 down from the center.
  • Draw a smooth curve from 5 3/4 to 2, as shown.
  • Draw the curve of the armscye from 2 through 2 3/4 to 10 1/4. Try to keep this curve as smooth as you can between the various points with no hard transitions.

The Neck

Only a small part of the neckline is actually used in the final pattern, but I like to draw out the entire thing for reference.

  • Draw a line from 5 3/4 to 9 5/8.
  • Mark 2 1/4 from 5 3/4.
  • Square inward by 1.
  • Draw a curve from 5 3/4 through 1, flattening out as you get to 9 5/8.

Side Seam

Draw a mostly straight line from 10 1/4, curving gently or tapering into 1 1/4, to 1 1/4.

Construction Lines

  • Draw a construction line from 9 5/8 to 9 1/4, curving it gently. This indicates roughly the position of the typical base pattern draft and is useful for the coming steps.
  • Then draw a straight line from 9 1/4 to 1 1/2. This indicates the waist line and is used for drawing a dart later on.

Not that I used a dotted line in the diagram for clarity. In practice, I just draw a solid line in pencil, only lighter than the others.

Center Line

  • Draw a line from 10 3/8 to 10 as shown. This indicates the center front of the waistcoat and is very important for getting the overlap correct when fitting, as well as the position of the buttons and buttonholes.

Front Edge

  • Draw a gently curved line from 13 7/8 to 12 3/4, forming the bottom of the collar area. The exact depth of this curve depends more on your artistic skills than any specific measurement.
  • Draw a straight line from 12 3/4 to 11 5/8 for the front edge of the waistcoat.

Roll Line

  • Draw a straight line from 12 3/4 through 5 3/4, extending about 3 [graduated] inches beyond the shoulder to form the roll line. The roll line is very important in that it determines the roll of the collar as well as aiding it its drafting.

Front Opening

Complete the outline of the waistcoat front by drawing a line from 13 7/8, tapering into the neck line near 1. This line is ever-so-slightly curved, I typically use a hip curve ruler to help with that.


Before we can begin drafting our waistcoat pattern, it is necessary to take a few measurements to ensure a good period fit. While a few of the measurements will seem familiar to you, Devere uses some special measurements based on the ‘center point’, which forms the basis for the entire system. Just take things step by step, feel free to ask questions in the forums, and I know you will get it.

To start off, here is an overview of all of the measurements Devere suggests, although the Front Opening measurement is not illustrated. Try to get someone to measure you. While it is possible to measure yourself (I do it all the time), it takes practice and skill, and it’s very difficult if you’ve never used these measurements before.

As you go, write down each measurement in the spreadsheet provided. You can either draft using the measurements that are filled out for you in the spreadsheet, or use the instructions found on the website, which use the graduated measure. You can download both below.

All measurements should be taken over a well-fitted waistcoat, if possible. If you don’t have one, a period shirt will do, but I’d add maybe an inch to your breast and waist measurements.


This measurement determines the size of the graduated measure you should use. Hold the tape around the chest as shown, as high as possible under the arms, and over the fullest part of the chest, holding the tape with the thumb and forefinger of each hand. Draw the tape very tight, and loosen it gently as the client breathes, for the best accuracy. Write this measurement down as half in the chart, i.e. if you have a 48  inch chest, write down 24 in the spreadsheet, since we only draft half of the waistcoat.Waist

This measure it goes around the body on a level with the hollow above the hips, and it should be taken rather easy. Like the breast measure, it is only written down as half the length taken; say 15 ¾ for 31 ½ inches.

This measure, by comparison with the breast, shows if the waist is thin or stout. In the proportionate man it is 15 ¾ or 3 less than the breast.


This measure is also taken under the coat: it goes round the body on a level with the hollow above the hips, see figure blank, and it should be taken rather easy. Like the breast measure, it is only written down as half the length taken; say 15 ¾ for 31 ½ inches.

This measure, by comparison with the breast, shows if the waist is thin or stout. In the proportionate man it is 15 ¾ or 3 less than the breast.

Finding the Centre Point

The center point forms the basis of finding the next two measurements, and lays out the position of the side seam. Unless you know you have a very accurate waistcoat (which you could use the side seam as the center point), it’s best to manually find the center point.

To find the centre point, we must use the formula of taking 2/5 of the Breast or 1/5 of the full chest and using that number to find the centre point. For example, a 35 inch chest measured all the way around would be 7 inches to the centre point. So find the center of the back at the waist level and measure 7 inches around to find the Centre Point. Or just fill out the spreadsheet and find the center point position that way.

Mark this center point on the client being measured using some chalk in the form of a cross hair +.


Take the Bust and Curve part of the Tape, slip the eyelet-hole at the end of it over the head of the pin, and hold it there; the eyelet-hole must be exactly at the top of the back seam: then with the other hand carry the tape perfectly straight to the Centre Point, crossing the side seam near the middle, and not letting the tape be either very tight or too slack.


Continue to hold the end of the tape at the top of back seam, and with the other hand pass the tape over the shoulder in front of the arm, close to the front of the scye, letting the clients arm hang down in its natural position; draw the tape very tight, to flatten any creases there may be at the front of arm, and carry it direct to the Centre Point.


Pass a pencil or penholder through the loop at the end of tape, and hold it tight under the arm (the arm must not be raised up, but should lay close to the body). Then measure the length to the Centre Point, so as to ascertain exactly, the distance between this point and the bottom of scye.

This measure serves to rule the depth of the bottom of scye, and shows the degree in which it must be hollowed out below the side point. In proportionate men it is 8 ½, and is usuallyabout half the length of back to natural waist. It is longer for extra erect men, and for small or high shoulders; and less for stooping men, and for large or low shoulders.


This is also known as the length of neck seam, and begins at the middle of the back neck and ends at the top of the desired opening in the front, being sure not to measure too tightly or loosely. This is a good measurement to use if you are copying a known vest or style and want the opening at a certain position.

Front Length

The Front Length is measured from the center of the back neck to the bottom of the front, and gives us a reliable way of checking that the length of the vest is correct.