Sewing: Reading a Pattern Envelope

IMG_7648A friend of mine has wanted an (English) Royal Navy style coat from the Napoleonic Era since childhood.  We’ve discussed it several times.  This spring, Burda issued the relevant pattern. Muaahhahahahahah!

This isn’t quite the right pattern.  It’s going to be sort of a cross between Pattern style A and Pattern style B.  Getting the trousers right is going to be interesting; so is getting the cut of the jacket and vest to this particular person.

My first task is figuring out their size, and then reading the back of the pattern to figure out how much of each fabric they will need to make this particular costume for them.

First, I have to consider notions — buttons, zippers, trim, interfacing.  A coat, vest, and trousers like this is often button-heavy, because that was part of the way that status is shown in these sorts of garments.   That part is fairly easy to read from the back of the pattern guide. I’m going to need

  • around 6 1/2 yards of interfacing
  • 1 1/2 yards of piping tape
  • 5 hook and eye sets
  • 4 shoulder pads
  • a half-yard of 1 1/2″ fringe (for the epaulets, I think)
  • A 7″ zipper (for the pants? I might ask my friend if they want a traditional sailor’s fly with the button-flap instead… I have a pattern for those).
  • twenty smallish buttons that have to match, more or less, the 
  • twenty-ish large-ish buttons.

I don’t know what all of that is going to cost, but I bet the gold/gold-colored buttons are going to be the most expensive part of it.  Sometimes buttons sell for $3 a pair at large sizes, $2 a pair at small sizes … so we’re looking at $30-40, maybe more, for the large buttons and a similar amount for the small buttons… $60 for buttons!  Most of the rest of the items in the notions list are under $4 each, so I can estimate around $16 for all of that, and then the interfacing is around $2 a yard, so that’ll be around $25, less with a coupon.

$60 (buttons) + $16 (other notions) + $25 (interfacing) = $104 for parts.

Then there’s the fabric… I’m guessing my friend will want version B, with the straight collar and the front placket, on the left, rather than the Napoleonic fold-over collar, on the right, with matching pants and vest.  That version requires three fabrics in different quantities and weights for the coat, two for the vest, and one for the pants … at the maximum sizes (which my friend won’t be), these sizes are…

  • Coat
    • body fabric: 2 5/8 yards
    • contrast fabric 1 5/8 yards
    • lining fabric 1 3/4 yards
  • Vest
    • Body 1 1/4 yards
    • Lining 1 1/4 yards
  • Trousers
    • 2 yards

Let’s estimate some.  Cotton quilting fabric runs around $8 a yard for the high quality stuff, down to about $3 a yard for the simplest broadcloth;  natural fabrics like linen and basic woolens often start at $20 a yard and higher.  Let’s estimate at $10 a yard for all the fabrics.  It might be more, might be less, but there’s an average in there somewhere.

So the trousers are going to be $20 in materials.  The vest is going to be a similar material to the contrast fabric of the coat, so we can lump the coat and vest together for about 4 1/2 yards at a minimum of $10 a yard = $45.  The lining fabrics are going to be about the same price, for three yards, or $30.  And the contrast fabric might be $10 a yard, too, so around $18.

$20 (trousers) + $45 (coat and vest shells) + $30 (vest and coat lining) + $18 (coat contrast) = $113

Notions and fabric together?  $113 plus $104?

All over, we’re looking at around $217 (call it $220) for materials, before any coupons, discounts, bargains, gifts of fabric, or materials they provide for themselves.  And that’s before the time that I spend, trying to figure out how to make a pattern for the first time.

There’s also the question of authenticity against wearability.  The British Navy probably made their uniforms in a combination of linen and wool, with very little cotton except in hot weather stations like the Caribbean. If my friend wants this uniform in authentic fabrics like fulled woolen felt which is about as authentic as can be imagined… that tends to start at $40+ a yard and up, sometimes as high as $120 a yard.  This is why close modern reproductions often start at $1200 and up.  But in the circumstances that my friend is likely to wear this costume, creating it in gabardine or linen or even cotton fabric may be more situationally suitable.

This may be more than my friend wants to spend.

At the same time, though, I feel empowered. Burda pattern #2471 looks expensive but doable, a jigsaw puzzle of many difficult parts assembled in three dimensions.  But I’ve learned enough about working from patterns to be able to guesstimate costs, and figure out how to work out where the savings can be.  And I am not scared of this particular project.  I may never get to do it, but I know I can.

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