In late 2014 we were approached and asked if we would make coats for some members of an artillery regiment in time for the Battle of Waterloo anniversary.
An apparently innocent request resulted in a project far longer and more detailed than first expected.
Coats were not something that was on our radar initially, we wanted to provide basic non-regimental clothing simply to help supply anyone looking for a quick wardrobe boost.
All the same, we accepted.
Cutting the pattern became the first real challenge.
We had a little help initially in the form of a pattern to work from. It is not unreasonable to expect to have to make alterations, particularly when sizing, but it quickly became apparent than there were more than a few "tweaks" needed here.
What was provided certainly didn't seem well suited to any normal human proportions so most panels needed re-shaping and altering.
The wools chosen for the coat are very heavy weight, absolutely perfect for this period and style. With that in mind, there is no room for error in the cutting of this fabric. Not only would any mistakes be difficult to recitfy later on, it would be very costly indeed.
To ensure the new pattern was better suited a fitting was arranged once the lining had been sewn together.
Of course, while obvious, it helps to check the fitting as often as possible with new projects.
Fortunately this client was quite close by which helped enourmously.
Next the outer pieces were cut and sewn together. From here it was a relatively straight forward job to join the lining with the outer coat to form the main body.
The collar and epaulettes begin to show the first signs of facings and trimming.
Trim itself became the next major issue. After a very long investigation we discovered that finding trim of any colour at all other than white, cream or black was next to impossible.
All enquiries seemed to indicate that coloured cotton twill tape is no longer made (I am very happy to be proven wrong so if you know where any is manufactured feel free to contact me).
After checking out a few alternatives, all proved to be highly unsuitable. It is worth mentioning that there is over 15 meters of trim on a coat like this and the correct colour, texture and size is vital to the finished image. We went to great lengths to use the correct fabrics and it would be wrong in every way to them "make do" with the most decorative and visible aspect.
With that in mind we tacked the problem by finding the best trimming tape for the job and them dyeing it to the exact colour required. It was all dyed by hand which took a day in itself before it was ready but the results were well worth the effort.
The most difficult and by far the most labourious task now lay ahead.
As already mentioned, there is over 15 meters of trimming on the whole coat and all of it, without exception, was sewn on by hand.
Carfeul measuring and placement followed by hours of pinning and sewing. A task made all the harder because the heavy fabric was so dense it slowed the sewing process down a great deal.
Another tricky task was fitting the trim around buttons and button holes which had been carefully placed beforehand.
Other details like the shoulder decorations below also had to be made by hand from carefully sourced matierials before the relatively simple task of sewing them in place.
Finally the cuff facings were added along with any remaining buttons, (There are around 30 buttons on a single coat) and final trim measured, placed and sewn to finish the coat.
This project was one of the first in-depth bespoke commissions we have had and it was no small feat to source, and subsequently make much of the matierials before we could complete the coat itself.