I’m adding this book to the list of recommended titles. It’s a little specialist but if you are at all interested in the way clothes went together in the 17th century rather than wearing something that just looks the part, you need to read a copy.
Mathew Gnagy lives in New York and has years of experience of tailoring both modern and historical clothes. He has put a lot of that experience into the book and initially financed publication via kickstarter and I’m glad he did. It’s a gem.
The book takes you through all the stages of making a man’s doublet of a style worn in the early part of the century. The pattern can with care be adapted to a more modern style (eg for 1640s), but I’d recommend you go with Mathew to start, just so you get a handle on the methods. It’s divided up into sections, tailoring principles, fabrics, pattern drafting, hand sewing techniques and how to make the doublet last of all. He has taken the bold step of not including any instructions for machine sewing, and all the interlining and tailors padding etc is done by hand. I think this is right. Why go through all the bother of making something as involved as this without doing it the way they did? You will learn so much about the clothes they wore by making them the original way rather than bashing through the project with a machine. If you want fancy dress this book isn’t for you anyway.
All the sections are clearly illustrated with original examples laid next to Mathew’s work and it’s easy to follow through the method and refer to the necessary pictures as you go. The period method of pattern drafting in chapter three is based on a spanish method of making graded tapes and could be easily replicated for a living history display.
I particularly liked Mathew’s buttonhole method (it produced the neatest buttonholes I’ve ever made) and the way seams are stretched here and eased there to create a sculptured three-dimensional shape out of two dimensional pieces was a revelation to me. Negative points? I think there could be something about stiffening and belly pieces, but that might have just made the whole project a bit too unwieldy.
The proof of the pudding however is in the eating. I used Mathew’s method to construct this doublet. I admit I didn’t use the pattern drafting, as the pieces were already marked out, but I did use all the other sections of the book, and had I not I would have come up with something vastly different in feel. This new doublet has a weight and almost an authority to it that i’ve not managed before. I’ve learned so much from this new book. All thanks to Mathew Gnagy!