Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Victorian Chesterfield Overcoat

Last year I made my son a blue overcoat inspired by the coat worn by Eddie Redmayne in Fantastic beast and where to find them. We try to keep him engaged in our hobby by making his costume the way he wants it. Even if it means having to cheat a little on the authenticity.

When he asked for this coat, he was actually jumping the queue. As I promised my husband a Victorian overcoat years ago! I sorta had not gotten around to it as there are so many spiffy costuming projects for moi and he still hadn't not made up his mind up on what model he wanted.
This year I decided to make good on my promise. So I made him decided what model he wanted, thumbscrews had to be applied, but we got there in the end!

He wants a Chesterfield coat! Well that's nice but what exactly is a Chesterfield overcoat?
Here are some definitions:
"The chesterfield is a man’s overcoat with simple vertical seams, no side-back piece, and a velvet collar, usually in grey with black." - the Dreamstress
Who also provided me not only  with this excellent pattern from the Thornton’s Sectional System of Cutting Gentleman’s Garments (1893), book but also with the definition in it:
"The Principal Characteristics of the Chesterfield…the turns of the collar and lapels are bold in character, in keeping with the general outline of the garment, and all the details arranged in accordance with the requirements of a winter overcoat… The buttons are of horn or smoked pearl…The edges are double stitched…Sometimes the seams are strapped, a style which produces a very good effect."

The slightly fitted waist is still visible here, 
it has been lost in later models.

"...the original Chesterfield overcoat seems to have been a dark (probably black) single breasted overcoat with a velvet collar and most importantly characterized by a lack of a waist seam. Until then, all the body coats had waist seams in order to guarantee a close fit. The Chesterfield, on the other hand, was to be worn more loosely over another garment and hence did not require waist seams."- Gentleman's Gazette

They had this picture of the coat being worn by it's namesake George Stanhope 6th Earl Chesterfield.

This version doesn't have cuffs or top pockets.

"The Chesterfield has no horizontal seam or sidebodies, but can still be somewhat shaped using the side seams and darts. It can be single- or double-breasted, and has been popular in a wide variety of fabrics, typically heavier weight tweeds, or charcoal and navy, and even the camel hair classic. It has often been made with a velvet collar.These variations make it extremely versatile, so it can be worn with a city suit or even semi-formal dress, as well as casual sports jackets. It was a staple of smartly dressed men's wardrobes from the 1920s to 1960s, and has become a classic style for both men and women." - Wikipedia
Wikipedia also had several good images of a Chesterfield coats from the Victorian and Edwardian era.

Chesterfield coat on the left.

Double-breasted Chesterfield coat, 1876
worn by Major General the Hononorable James MacDonald
painting by James Tissot

Two later versions a double breasted and single breasted.
Also a view of the back!
A 1901 fashion plate of a Chesterfield overcoat,
Source: Men's Fashion Illustration form the Turn of the Century. 
Reprint by Dover Publications, 1990. 
Originally published New York : Jno Mitchell Co. 1910

With the definition of a Chesterfield a little bit more defined. It became time to decide what elements we wanted to use, what kind and what color of fabric and ultimately what pattern to buy.

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