Elizabethan Waist Coat

Christian Doré

This is just a quickie write up, but it should give you the basic idea.

The basic idea behind building this coat is simple. Essentially it is a 3 piece doublet (body) with a skirt attached instead of peplums. I won't try to tell you the basics of how to make a 3 piece doublet -- there are much better guides to that than I could write. However, you will want to modify the basic doublet in 3 ways:

  1. The doublet must be cut off square -- not to a point or at an angle -- at belly button level.
  2. The doublet should be made lose like a coat rather than close fitted like a doublet. It should not be enormous or anything, but it must go over your doublet and still be lose enough to allow movement. If I measure myself at belly button level I get 39". [note: This measurement should be done relaxed, not holding in your belly.] The finished seam between the body and the skirt of the coat is 45", so that gives me about 6" of space.
  3. You will want permanently attached sleeves that are not slashed. They should not be big and poofy, but they should allow enough room to fit over the sleeves of your shirt and doublet and still give you the freedom to move.

The skirt should be long enough to hang from belly button level to just above the knee. When cutting, remember to add enough length for a seam allowance at the top (usually about 1/2") and a hem at the bottom (1" should be about right). For the width of the skirt, start with the length of the bottom of the body (45" on my coat) and add about 1/3 of that length again. So for me that is 45" + 15" = 60". When you attach the skirt to the body you will pleat or gather that extra width into the seam. I used 9 pleats: 1 double pleat in the center of the back and one regular pleat every 6".

If you are making multiple layers for a lining or for fighting clothes, hem the bottom of the skirt separately for each layer. Do not sew them together. This prevents the coat from "bagging" at the bottom. Just hem the inner layer(s) about 1/2" shorter than the outer layer so it will not show when the coat is worn.

Ok, here are some pictures of my old, worn out coat to fill in the blanks. If you still have any questions, e-mail me at jtc@io.com. I can tell you about the coat but don't expect me to teach you how to sew.

This is a picture of a coat worn in 1477. This was made of red satin. The pattern did not change for at least 175 years, so it is period for the Tutor, Elizabethan, Jacobean, Cromwellian and Restoration periods. In particular I have documented as a standard item worn by Sir Philip Sidney's Company of Horse in the Armada campaign and at his funeral in 1587. I'll try to get a scan of some more of my documentation for this page.
Here is the back of the coat. Notice the pleats.
The front of the coat. For later periods -- about 1575 on -- this looks good with a plain white linen falling band collar.
Notice the "waist" seam on this coat is at belly button level.

This is me basically standing in a fighting stance. Notice how the jacket falls around the knee level. The coat is not buttoned below crotch level, so it does not restrict movement.

By the way, if you are wondering where the "park" behind me is, that is actually my back yard.