Category: Drafting Waistcoats of the 1860s

Pattern Layout

It’s now time to finally layout the pattern pieces on our fabric. I’m using a striped silk brocade here, so I’ll show how to layout patterns on striped fabrics to get things to match properly.

With right sides together, fold the cloth in half so that the stripes are aligned with each other all along. Pull back the top layer of fabric to check yourself for alignment.

Note: I know I said right sides together, but I was clearly not thinking when I laid out my waistcoat, and did wrong sides together. While it worked out, in that the fabric was less slippery on the wrong side, there are layout marks on the right side that I have to hope will come out!

Lay your pattern pieces on the doubled fabric, making sure the layout lines are parallel to the edge, or as in my case, the chest line is perpendicular to the edge of the cloth.

Try to get the front edge to fall entirely within a stripe if you can. If the stripes are thinner this won’t be possible, but it helps with the finished appearance.

Don’t forget to mark the location of the darts.

As well as the roll line. I initially misplaced the line by going to the edge of the fabric instead of the edge of the seam allowance, hence the two roll lines.

Finally, mark in the breast pocket, which will be on the left side of the waistcoat only.

And the front pockets. I draw in a line marking the pocket, and then mark the ends according to the length I want them.

Cut out both layers of fabric at once, being careful to cut on the inside of the chalk line, since the chalk has a width to it. Here is the general idea of what you will end up with.

Now add tailor tacks to all of the markings – pockets, roll line, and darts, to transfer the marks to the lower piece, and to make the lines more durable.

The pockets are marked with tailor tacks.

After cutting the tailor tack threads, you should be left with two identical halves of the front.

You can see how the tacks transfer the pocket markings to the other half of the forepart.

Seam Allowances

Seam allowances are drawn as shown for the forepart, back, and collar, at 1/4″ for each. Keep in mind that no seam allowances are added for the armscye, as Devere already accounts for that.

It may be helpful to draw in guidelines as shown by the arrows, to indicate pattern placement in line with the grain of the fabric. Especially on the collar, which can easily get confusing! All pockets, darts, and roll lines are also marked on the pattern.

Begin by tracing your original pattern pieces to a new sheet of paper, giving them a little space to make room for drawing in the seam allowances. Then use a ruler and draw in the 1/4″ seam allowances as shown.

[callout]Note: If you wish to use a one piece back, leave off the seam allowance of the center back, and cut this piece on the fold.[/callout]

Here’s my collar traced out with the seam allowances added, as well as the roll line drawn in.

After all the seam allowances are drawn, carefully cut out each piece. Also cut out the dart in the forepart — I must have forgotten to do that before taking this photo.

Fitting the Waistcoat

Waistcoats are probably the easiest articles of clothing to fit, as there are only a couple of seams to worry about. After you have constructed your muslin, try it on, and look for any excess fabric, or pulling. This will help you decide on the adjustments to be made on the pattern. Please post photos of you wearing the muslin waistcoat in the forum, and I will help you figure out the best solution.

Thin or Stout

This is the easiest adjustment to make. If the waistcoat does not close in the front, measure how much extra you need to add, divide that by four, and add the product to the front and back of the pattern as shown. Likewise with a waistcoat that is too large in the waist, just subtract the product.

Devere gives the following advice on the subject:

The Thin Waist requires the pattern to be sloped off at the front of waist in the forepart, and at the bottom of side seam in the back. Stout Waists, on the contrary, require extra allowances given at these places, according to the size, half being given to the front, and half to the back (Devere is speaking in terms of half of the pattern, so these are really quarters, as discussed above). It should be observed that for Stout waists, the extra allowance in the front, is sloped off to nothing at the height of the breast line, and also that the side seam of the back, is, for Stout men, drawn in a straight line.

Stooping or Extra-Erect

Check out the back of the neck area during the fitting. Devere’s draft gives us a fit good for an average man, but some of us may have a more stooped posture, or a more erect posture, which can lead to issues in this area. If you see a lot of excess fabric, then you must decrease the height of the neck as shown above. Likewise, do the opposite if there is pulling away at the back of the neck, or tension.

The back, as compared with the forepart, may be required to be made higher or lower, according as the client is Stooping or Extra-erect, and unless this alteration is correctly made, the pattern can not have the proper balance, and must fit ungracefully.

Now that you have these fitting issues sorted out, and a nicely fitted waistcoat, it’s time to move on to completing your draft with the styled aspects, for example, a shawl or stepped collar, lengthening according to fashion, etc.


Here is an example of one alteration I had to make. This is the back, showing the back neck balance being shortened due to some folds I had in that area when trying on the muslin. I make the corrections on the original pattern, based on measurements I took while wearing the muslin. Tricky to do by one’s self!

I then trace the corrections on to the pattern piece (or a new piece of paper if necessary), and then cut along the new line.

Your Progress

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Fit your toile as necessary.

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