Category: Drafting Frock Coats of the 1860s

Fitting the Sleeves

You should now construct a sleeve out of muslin, to test the fit. Only one side is necessary to test, and if you can do the left side, it is a little easier to set into the armscye (if you are right handed, that is). Begin by sewing the front seam together. Press open.

Sew the rear seam together, pressing that open as well. Line up the rear seam to the middle of the back body at the armscye, as shown for the wool sleeve. Baste the sleeve into the coat, right sides together, using a running stitch. It’s okay to pleat sections in to make things easier. After the muslin sleeve is attached, you should check for the following fitting problems.

Fitting issues

There are several fitting issues you may encounter when fitting the muslin sleeve. Try to correct these now, as they are much more difficult, with the exception of the Sleeve Pitch, to fix later on.

Too long or short

If you find the sleeve is too long or too short, this can be fixed on the draft by altering the measurement from C to H, and adjusting all of the points from the elbow to cuff accordingly. The sleeve should fall to just past the hollow of the wrist. This is a lot longer than modern sleeves, so be careful not to fall into the too-short sleeve trap.

Armscye too Full

You may find when basting on the sleeve that there is just too much extra ease on the sleeve head. If you have more than an inch of ease, I suggest adjusting point F, and bringing that closer to C in both the under and upper sleeve in equal amounts. So if you have an extra inch of fullness that you don’t want, subtract 1⁄2 an inch from point F on both halves of the sleeves.

Elbow too Wide

If you are a very large size, starting at about size 46 and above, you’ll find that the elbow is very wide compared to the length of the sleeve. In this case, disregard point L, and make the curve from F to G follow a more proportionate line if you can.

Pitched Forward or Back

If you distribute the fullness on the sleeve head incorrectly, you’ll find that the sleeve will want to hang too far forward or back, and that there are wrinkles on the front or back of the sleeve head.

If the wrinkles form at the front of the coat, you’ll need to rotate the sleeve back, and distribute more fullness towards the back. Likewise, if the wrinkles are near the back of the scye, you’ll want more fullness near the front. This can be easy to fix later on, but you want to be aware of it.

After you are happy with the fit of your sleeves, you can cut them out of the wool. Make sure the grain lines are aligned properly, as well as the direction of the nap.

This concludes the Drafting and Fitting a Frock Coat Workshop. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to email me or post on the support forum.

You may now proceed with confidence to the other workshops, knowing that you have a properly-fitted pattern upon which to base your work.

Drafting the Sleeves

We will begin the last module of the workshop by first drafting and fitting the sleeves. Devere’s sleeve draft is relatively easy, compared to the coat. The sleeve head’s width is determined by a proportion of the breast measurement. The length is determined the the Length of Sleeve measurement, and the wrists and elbows can either be proportioned to this, or as fashion requires. Remember that in the 1860s, the sleeves were very full at the elbow, and covered the wrist. The ‘show half an inch of shirt cuff rule’ is a more modern development.

I neglected to account for the sleeve draft in the measurement spreadsheet you filled out in the first module, so a new one is included that deals specifically with the sleeves. Just fill in your full breast measurement and sleeve length, and the rest will be calculated for you.


Begin by drawing a horizontal construction line. Mark A at the left end of the line. Point B is three-
eighths of an inch less than one-fourth of the Breast.


One-sixteenth of Breast.


One-fourth inch more than one-fourth Breast.


One-eighth of Breast. Sometimes a smaller amount can be used here if you have trouble drawing the sleeve head later on.


Three-fourths inch less than half the Breast.


Length of Sleeve to measure.


Wrist, to measure or to Fashion.


One-Twelfth of Breast.


Half of I – B. Using the tailor’s square makes this calculation easy to check.


Curve of Forearm Seam to fashion. This is variable according to your fashion needs. For example, an 1850s coat would have a tighter, more deeply curved seam. Therefore, you would increase this measurement.


Elbow width, to fashion or to taste. Remember that coats of the 1860s had a very full elbow.

The Upper Sleeve Curves

We’ll begin drawing the sleeve curves, first for the upper sleeve, followed by the undersleeve.

The Sleeve Head

We’ll first draw the sleeve head, as shown. Using either a French curve or bendable ruler, start by connecting Point F to points D and E in a smooth curve. Continue on to point B, but aim about 1⁄4 high, and then quickly curve in to Point B. This will make it easier to align the seams later on.

Back Seam

Connect point F to L with a very shallow curved line. At point L, the line swings downward, connecting to point G. You may find that point L is too high, which can happen with larger breast sizes combined with short arms. In that case, you’ll need to lower point L until it looks a more reasonable shape.

Front Seam

Connect Points B, K, and I with a smooth curve, using a hip curve for accuracy.


Draw a straight line connecting Points G to I. Use that line as a guide draw a curved cuff. It’s also permissibleto leave this straight, if you wish.

The Under Sleeve

Begin the under sleeve by drawing a line squared up from point B, about half way up the height of the sleeve. Mark 1⁄2 an inch up on this line from point B, and do the same from point F, as shown.

Completing the Armscye

Connect the points you just drew from point F to point B in a smooth curve, as shown. The curve should extend slightly past the construction line from Point B. This is not exact, and with practice you’ll learn how to draw this seam more accurately.

Completing the Back Seam

Connect from 1⁄2 inch below Point F in a nearly straight line, gradually curving into point L.

Completing the Front Seam

Connect in another nearly straight line from 1⁄2 an inch above point B to point K. The Sleeve Draft is now complete.

Seam Allowances

You should now add 1⁄4 inch seam allowances around the entire sleeve, on both over and under sleeves.

Toile Construction

It is now time to construct the full body muslin. The purpose of this fitting is to ensure the seam lines are in the correct place, and that all of the pieces fit together properly. It’s also one last chance to catch any errors you missed during the close fitting wrapper stage.

Before you begin, you should have constructed at least one close-fitting wrapper, and corrected that on the original paper pattern.

Construction is slightly different because of the added pieces, and make sure to press each seam before continuing on.

Before commencing construction, draw the lapel line on the forepart fabric in chalk.

Forepart Darts

Begin by sewing the darts closed on the forepart – the lapel, gorge, and armscye or waist if necessary. Remember that the seam lines are directly on the construction lines of the dart. The fabric should not be cut out from the dart area until after it is sewn. Also sew on the lapel if constructing a double-breasted coat.

Side Body to Forepart

Sew the side bodies to the forepart. Press open the seams.

Front to Skirt

With right sides together, pin the skirt to the forepart and sew. The back seam of the side piece should overlap the inlay we added in the skirt by 1/4 inch – the seam allowance. Sew the seam all the way across. There should be about 5 inches extra fabric in the front of skirt.

You can measure off the extra 5 inches and mark with chalk, and then trim off the extra amount in the front. This extra amount is only needed when sewing the actual coat.

Front to Back

The front in then carefully pinned to the back, making sure the tension is neither too tight or two loose in either piece. At the top, the side body should extend out 1/4″. At the waist seam, the two pieces should line up with the little spring we gave to both the skirt and back pieces. And the bottoms should match as well, although this is commonly off by 1/4″ either way.

On the underside, the skirt seam allowance should be clipped just 3/8 of an inch past where the seam will be sewn. This allows the inlay area to remain flat, and reduce bulk.

You can see the back side of the seam and the shape it should take. Note how it follows the edge by 1/4 throughout, and the ‘step’ that the seam takes.

When pressing open the curved side seam, clip the seam allowance of the back piece to allow it to lay flat.

Here is the view from the right side of the pieces sewn together. The next step is to sew the shoulder seam together using the same method discussed for the close fitting wrapper.

Notice that it does not want to lay flat on the table. That’s a sign of good tailoring and that you are moulding the shape to the human body.

Back Seam

Finally, pin and sew the two sides together at the back seam, sewing 1/4″ past the ‘step’ at the waistline. Clip the corner to the stitching, and press open.

The muslin is now complete. When trying on, check that the waist seam is at the appropriate place. Check also for any fitting errors as discussed in the last section and correct if necessary on the original draft, and recopy the pieces in question.

When fitting the draft, the seam connecting the forepart to the lapel should meet at the waist, while having a little bit of ease at the chest line, where it’s fullest.

I love the back view. The skirt, which I cut a little fuller than usual, drapes almost perfectly.

Notice how the armscye comes right up to the bottom of the arm. This was the practice back then, and is still used on higher end coats today.

I need to shorten the back about 1/2 an inch.

Front view with arms raised to show how there is almost no movement of the coat. Try that with yours and see if the results are the same. A close fitting armscye gives much more mobility, contrary to what most people think.

Seam Allowances

At the end of this drafting process, you should have the following pattern pieces. Note the seam allowances that have been added to the sides and bottom of the forepart and side piece, the sides of the back piece, and the top of the skirt seam. These are the basic seam allowances used for any frock coat. We will be adding inlays later on to account for fitting issues.

The dart lines in the forepart indicate sewing lines, not seam allowances.

All seams are .25 inches.

Drafting the Collar

The first step in drafting the collar is to draw the baseline. This should be 10 graduated inches in length, or the length of the collar from the collar notch (edge of the neck dart) to the neck and shoulder point, plus the width of the back neck.

The next step is to square up from points A and B, and mark the appropriate distances. These are subject to fashion – Devere’s 1866 manual gives 1 1/4″ height for the collar stand, and 3 3/4″ for the collar fall. For an earlier type collar, say from the 1850s, Devere recommends 1 1/2 for the fall and 4 inches for the stand, giving a much higher collar.

Mark halfway between A and B. Draw a curved line from the mark at 1 1/4″ to this halfway mark. This is giving some curvature to the collar, which will give tension to the area and help it stand properly.

Next, measure the distance from the collar notch to the roll line. Measure that distance out on the curved line, and from there, draw the rest of the roll line on the collar. At about the half way point, the curve of the roll line straightens out.

Seam allowances are added all around for the undercollar. The canvas is cut the same size as the pattern, and the top collar has 2 inches seam allowance all around.

Long Turn of the Collar

If you have a high buttoning coat, you will have to edit your collar pattern slightly. This is due to the fact that more fabric is needed on the outside to get around the longer curve.

To do this, move point B downwards, up to half an inch, and to the right, about 1/4 inch. Form a right angle from the new baseline at B, which will curve outward now. Measure up the appropriate distance, and redraw the top of the collar. Also be sure to redraw the roll line on the collar, it must curve as well.

Short Turn of the Collar

On the other hand, if your coat buttons rather low, the curve will be less severe at the collar, and you will need less fabric there. Raise point B up to half an inch and outwards slightly, redrawing the bottom seam in pretty much a straight line. Draw a right angle up the same distance as the original collar, and redraw the top curve as shown. Redraw the roll line as well.

For Both of these instances, there are no set numbers on how far to adjust the collar. Rather, it’s up to your fitting skills, which will only get better with more practice. Usually 1/4 – 1/5″ will suffice for the alteration. I highly encourage you to practice with some scrap canvas the different cuts of the collar, and see how they affect the fit of the coat.

Skirt Fullness

As you are trying on your full completed muslin, check out the back of the skirt. Does it hang straight down, or does it spread apart at the back vent? Also, take a look at the hips. Does the fabric seem a little tight here, giving a pulled or strained look? If any of these cases is true, you will need to add some fullness to the skirts, and perhaps some fishes (darts).

To create more fullness, instead of rising three graduated inches from point 0 in the skirt draft, rise up 4 1⁄2 to even 6 graduated inches, and also give more spring to the back seam, as shown. You can give up to 45 degrees of spring, instead of the standard 30, if desired. This will give the coat plenty of room in the seat area, and the skirt will drape nicely.

Darts in the Skirt

If you are adding spring to the skirts, as above, it is also advisable to add in one or two small darts, depending on how much fullness you want. The main dart needs to lay directly underneath the where the side seam will be. To figure this out, lay the side piece of your pattern onto the skirt pattern, ‘right sides’ touching.

Mark the point where the seam allowance of the side seam begins. Then measure out to the left 1/2 inch. From the midpoint of those two points, on the skirt waist line, draw a line about 2 to 3 inches long, and connect the three points, creating the main dart.

If you wish to have a second dart, it needs to be centered under the side piece, i.e. between the first dart, and the inlay of the skirt where it springs up. Make this dart 1/2 inch wide, and about half an inch shorter than the first dart. After these are drawn on your pattern, they are cut out directly on the lines you just drew, which will be the seam line of the dart. Note that the above diagram gives several skirt styles – feel free to experiment with them.

Drafting the Skirt

To draft the main skirt, start by drafting a vertical line on the left side of the paper. Mark point 0 near the top, for the placement of the waist seam.

Rise up 3 graduated inches, and mark that point for the fullness of the skirt.

Finally, measure down 3/4 common inches less than the length you used for the back. In my case, I’m using 17 3/4 inches.

Square across from the three points. The top and bottom lines aren’s measured at this point, but measure 5 graduated inches on the line from point 0. This line gives us room for the Lapel, the turn-in (facing), and one inch extra in case of error.

Measure from point 5 up to the construction line from point 3, the waist to measure (half the full waist, remember).

At the point where the waist line meets the construction line, draw a vertical construction line as shown. Length is not important, you just need to be able to register your protractor against the line.

Measure a 30 Degree angle using your quilters square or protractor, and draw a line equal to the length of the back skirt – in my case 18 inches.

Draw the bottom of the skirt, staying with the construction line for about a third of the distance, then gradually curving up to meet the side point.

The waistline is now curved as shown, dipping about 3/4″ from the waist construction line.

On the side seam, an inlay is added for the skirt plate. This should be 7/8″ wide to match the back skirt, and spring up at the top.

Finally, a 1/4 inch seam allowance is added to the top. The skirt draft is complete.

The Back Skirt

It is now time to draft the skirts, completing the draft of the coat body. To begin, make sure you have plenty of space on your paper, as the skirt can get quite large. We will start with completing the back skirt, as it’s length determines the length of the main skirt.

I generally have the skirt fall to two or three inches above the knee, but this is a matter of preference and following the styles of the period you are reproducing.

The Back Skirt

Begin by tracing the back piece onto a fresh sheet of paper, making sure you have room underneath to draft the skirt. Orienting the pattern sideways is a good way to ensure this. Also copy the construction line, and extend it, as shown. If you subtract the “Length of Back to Hip Buttons” from “Length to Bottom of Skirt”, you will find how long to extend this construction line. In the sample draft, I am assuming a length of 18 inches. Measure from the waist construction line (that is now vertical in the diagram).

Next, measure 7/8″ graduated inches on the waistline, and mark that as shown for the plait. Now measure the entire distance from that mark, down the waistline to the horizontal construction line. Keep a note of that for the next step.

At the bottom of the skirt, the length should be 3/4″ graduated inches wider than at the waist line, and is drawn square with the main construction line.

Draw a straight line representing the side seam, extending about a half inch past the waistline, as shown.

Draw two short lines ‘springing out’ from the waistline as shown.

Here is the completed draft of the back. Note no seam allowances have been added yet. An optional step is to shape the center-back seam of the skirt into a slight curve – 1/4″ depth at the fullest point. This will allow you to give some extra shape in the skirt later on.

The Roll Line

The roll line can be placed according to how wide and deep you want the lapel to be. Start at point L at the shoulder, and draw a straight line to the desired location at the front of the lapel. It is this point on the lapel that can be drawn higher or lower. Again, study your photo, fashion plate, or original for inspiration.

It’s also a good idea to mark your button placement beforehand, as they can affect the location of the roll line. Place the top button parallel with the top of the lapel, about half an inch below the top, and the bottom button right on the seam line. Space out the other buttons evenly according to how many you want. Buttons should be 3/8 to 1/2 an inch from the edge of the coat. The placement of the roll line should be about half an inch above one of the buttons, to leave room for the lapel to roll freely.

One thing that Devere doesn’t mention, is that the distance of the curved front on the forepart is greater than the straight line on the inside of the lapel. For this reason, the roll line will not match up if you leave it as is.

To fix this, raise the roll line about 1/4″ on the inside edge of the lapel, as shown by the solid line. This should fix any problems of alignment and when the dart is closed up, the two lines should join up. Do the same at the gorge dart, raising about 1/8 of an inch.

This roll line is something you should experiment with. After you have sewn the muslin together, try the roll line you drafted. If you don’t like the appearance, you can move the line up and down as you’re wearing it, and then transfer it to the pattern when you are happy.

The Gorge Dart

The gorge dart is very important for the correct fit of a coat based on Devere’s patterns. While it will give some additional degree of fullness to the front of the coat, it’s main function is to help straighten the shoulder point – especially if we just crookened it again with the armscye dart.

The lapel dart will move the shoulder point forward, as well as remove some of the extra ease that will appear in the front chest area of the coat when buttoned. If you’ve made a coat with Devere’s drafts before, and haven’t put in the lapel dart, you’ll be familiar with this problem.

First, about 2 inches from the neck point, draw a line parallel with the construction lines. This line should be about three to four inches long.

At the top, on the neck line, measure over 1/4 inch from the line in both directions. Then connect each point to forum a sharp triangle – the gorge dart.

Because the sides of the dart are of unequal length, you may want to raise the lower side by about 1/8 to 1/4 inch to match. If you forget to do this, you’ll still have an opportunity to correct it with inlays, as I’ve done.

The dimensions given are a rough guide. You may find you need to adjust it slightly during the fitting, but this is a good place to start from. Cut the dart out of the paper pattern directly on the lines. The lines you drew were the seam lines.

The Lapel Dart

Also shown in the previous image is the lapel dart, which is already drafted for us. The right side of the lapel and the curved edge of the forpart come down from the neck, meeting at around the chest line. These lines indicate the seam lines as well.