Sunday, June 10, 2012

Disguised as a Human Being

So two weeks ago, I was in Montreal on a museum conference. While I was there, I was witness to some of the student protests regarding the tuition hikes for the province. I, frankly, am the last person qualified to talk about politics and you can read all of the details on the interwebs. However, seeing the angry French people got me thinking of this chap here:

Jean-Paul Marat 1743-1793
Most ardent of the Jacobins, self-styled champion of the sans-culottes, editor of L'Ami du Peuple, best known for getting murdered in his bath by a young lady from Caen.

We've got a bit of a history. Met in Grade 11 Social Studies class during the French Revolution unit, shared some brain-space on a few sketches, a few short stories, and a one-person play performed after school for the teachers (yes, I was one of those...). Hung out a bit in university too. He's got a habit of turning up each spring/early summer and so, with a few weeks remaining in June, he's on the brain again.

I had initially planned to do Dr. Jacquin from The Duellists as my light costume for SDCC but time is tight and I want to really nail that one (proper buttons, lots of hand-sewing, proper fabrics, etc). So instead, I opted for Marat. Why? No clue. Will anyone get it? Probably not.

But onwards ho!

First off, was the muslin for the coat. I had drafted up a very rough pattern for this costume about six years ago (wasn't kidding about the history, eh?) so I dug that out, grabbed a copy of 17th and 18th Century Men's Costume, Cut, and Fashion by R.I. Davis, and got down to work. There are a few pictures of Marat out there but I'm after this look in particular*:

He was a bit.... eclectic with his clothing during the Revolution. That style of coat is very 1780s-1790s so I took the basic design from Davis' following pattern:

The revers - also known as lapels to modern people - weren't the right shape on my initial muslin mock-up so I hacked off a rough square of fabric, pinned it to the coat front, and drew the proper shape of the lapel on it. Here's a photo from Giovanni's doublet, because showing is easier than telling:

After that was completed, I cut the new lapel out, pinned it to the coat body, and changed the pattern accordingly when I cut the second muslin out.

Overall, the muslin went together almost flawlessly, which is a rare and delightful thing. Even better, my drafted sleeve pattern matched up perfectly with the armholes on the first try.

Win? I'm just happy the sleeve fits on the first go. Which never happens.

So, apart from sewing the sleeve in backwards, everything behaved as it should. Warning: Self-Indulgent Fitting Photos off the port bow!

Coats from this era tended to be high-waisted - right about your natural waistline or slightly below. I dropped this one about five inches from my waist to balance my top and bottom halves out. Marat was a very short guy (about 5' 4" or so) with short legs. So being a bit like Legschilla, I had to make adjustments. Which brings me to the subject of pants. Or breeches. Or... a towl or a sheet or something.

Since Marat was tight with the sans-culottes - literally, 'without breeches' - I'm inclined to think he wore similar gear to them, looking something like this:

However, the sketch above seems to have him wearing a rather nicely fitted pair of breeches - from what I can tell. In my mind, he's always worn breeches - tatty, gross, and stained with... whoknowswhat - but breeches none-the-less. So I'll likely go that route.

Fabric Choices:

The Stash has supplied most of it, based on material bought for this project a number of years ago. The coat outer will be made with a chocolate brown wool flannel - heavier-weight but not melton (on the bottom right) and lined with a striped cotton (above). Had to do a photo test to see how the fabrics behaved with the flash on (due to the inevitable flash photography at conventions). The brown flannel isn't as heavy as I would have liked but that's why God created interfacing.

Right. Off to bed, then. Actually, wait! Another self-indulgent picture - this time from Calgary Expo:

Cil as the Marquis from Guy Davis' comic of the same name and me in Marius' gear. Still need to write a post-Expo post too....

Stay tuned for further coatage on the morrow!

*I was discussing this project with one of the soldier chaps at work (he's also a Civil War re-enactor and so is pre-exposed to strange historical clothes). I did a quick internet search to find the main reference photo - "Oh my GOD, he's ugly!" - and then described Marat's famous death in the bath-tub, which met with suitable approval and then a description of how to kill someone with a sharpened Phillips screw-driver.


  1. Wow! Wonderful and incredible costumes~ especially Cil as The Marquis, but I'll admit I'm biased! ;)

    1. Oh wow, Mr Davis, thank you!! (omg, ttlly losing my sh*t here, lol) You should see the work that Kaiser did on the Marquis' costume -- and the sword and guns done by a professional woodcrafter by Inki! :D

      We would be so, so pleased and ecstatic if you could come to the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo next year, I'm such a huge fan of your work on the Marquis, omg...!! :D

    2. Haha, yeah, what Cil said. Thanks a bunch for stopping by! I'm totally thrilled, no lies. Please keep making wicked comics with badass characters. :)

    3. Thanks Cil and Kaiser! ~just call me Guy, I'm not formal ;) Really amazing work on it all~ and those pistols and sword are wonderful! You both brought that long-nosed devil hunter to life! Will try and make it to the Calgary show one of these years too!

    4. Guy, we were planning on doing a more detailed photoshoot this weekend, so if you can check back here next week, we'll have more flattering images to show! (hopefully I won't look so... Short!) now with 100% more weapons action!