Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dr. Jacquin: Word Goes Round

Have my pork chops in the oven and a big fist o' peach-orange juice, so let's get this party started!

Jacquin's coat is progressing well. Between last weekend and today, I've got the tails sorted, the collar and cuffs sized up and basted together, and some vague idea of how the embroidery is going to go.

However, due to the entirely shoddy quality of my... er... "internet-acquired" copy of the film (is this the part where I go to jail?), it's hard to see specific details. However! Because Ridley Scott is awesome and pays attention to historical details better than most directors, it's quite easy to trace the origins of Jacquin's uniform back to this chap here:

Dominique Jean Larrey was surgeon-in-chief in Napoleon's army between 1797 and 1815.* Even better, some of his uniforms have survived:

Not quite the same as Jacquin but enough to give a general idea of cut and embroidery.

Now the tails were a pain in the arse as they always seem to be with men's garments from this era. I took the initial pattern from the Single-Breasted Tail Coat in Men's 17th and 18th Century Costume, Cut, and Fashion by R.I. Davis - a terrific book if you're after easy-to-follow patterns from this era. The tails with Davis' pattern were slightly more involved than Larrey's tails above with knife pleats at the side and a vent in the back. I had sort of winged it on the pattern draft and didn't pay as much attention to Davis' directions as I should have and spent the majority of last Saturday fixing my earlier sins. 

The collar was an adventure unto itself. I did a quick mock-up out of some left-over blanket wool and the fit was good enough to give me a starting pattern. I initially drew it up as a straight rectangle but once I got it basted on the coat, it was really obvious something had to change.

Just... just no.

The fix turned out to be incredibly easy: just slope the front backwards (bottom to top) by a few centimeters and then it looks FAR less like the popped collars on the orange volleyball boys from high school.

Fwew! That was close.

The cuffs were done the same way: start with a basic mock-up from excess wool to get the sizing down and cut the real version out after. Now a word about this red melton... It's not melton in the traditional sense but rather a luxurious, $120/meter sort of melton/doeskin combination - the stuff they make officer's dress uniforms out of. It's easily the most expensive material I've ever worked with and I must give a bit of a shout-out to one of my co-workers who donated it for this project (he's got a whole bolt of it left over from his mess kit, the lucky bastard).

The cuffs are double-lined: a double-interfaced layer for the outside and an un-interfaced layer for the inside. Hint: When sewing the edges together on the latter, give yourself a bit of extra seam allowance because it will stretch more without the interfacing.

So here we are with the collar AND cuffs basted on:

And the desired effect..... Where you can't really see much of anything beyond Tom Conti's extreme hotness.

The secret to this coat is in the interfacing - the more, the merrier. From the movement of the jacket in the film, the front panels are heavily interlined so I went the same route here. Two layers of light-weight iron-in and then an extra strip of blue wool along the front edges on the inside to support the buttons and button-holes. And it captures the look and hang perfectly. 

Embroidery is the next step. Bought the gold embroidery floss after work today and have quelled my nerves enough to have a go this weekend. It may end in despair. Place your bets now.

*I had an entirely bizarre dream the other night where we were discussing this project in detail. He didn't have much to offer beyond faint suggestions that I was out of my mind.

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