Saturday was Fall Crown Tourney for the East Kingdom, and as well as finding who would be the East’s heirs, it was also when my good friend and fellow Fencer Nataliia was to be elevated into the Order of Defense.
I had the honor of making Nataliia’s doublet for the occasion. We were in the back of court at K&Q Rapier when we had this great exchange:
Nataliia: Can you make me a doublet for my elevation?
Me: Sure! When is it?
Me: When’s that?
Nataliia: In a month.
I was a little worried, mostly because the style of doublet she wanted was a style I hadn’t made before, and the book/pattern used a historical measuring system instead of our modern measurement (more on this later). Also, I’m new to making garb for other people. So there were a few twists to this project, but we came up with two plans:
Plan A. Make the 1618 doublet from the book using the period pattern and period measuring system, but fudging the construction to save on precious time.
Plan B: If Plan A goes sideways, abort it and go with a pattern I’ve used before and know better
Fortunately, we were able to pull off Plan A. I used the Modern Maker Vol 1 book/pattern that was generously donated to me by Baron Jehan du Lac.
First up was getting Nataliia’s measurements. The Modern Maker measuring system is based off what tailors used and did in the 17th Century. Specifically, it comes Spanish tailor’s manuals and the measurement system is based off the bara (Old Spanish for yard, though it’s not like a modern yard).
The measuring system is so simple it was almost confusing at first. You need two (sometimes three) measurements to create a custom fitting doublet. You need to know their height and get their chest measurement. Sometimes you’ll need a waist measurement, too, but for Nataliia just height and chest sufficed.
This is done by making a mark on tapes and then measuring at the widest part of the person’s chest and marking where the tape crosses the first mark. From there additional marks are made so you have a custom bara.
I don’t want to get into too much detail, as to not steal Matthew Gnagy’s work. But if you’re interested in period doublets, construction, tailoring, and all that good stuff, you should definitely pick up his book.
I also snagged modern measurements in inches, just in case I needed to abort Plan A and go to Plan B. It also let me sanity check the historical pattern should something seem off sizing-wise.
Nataliia wanted something fancy and shiny, so we decided silk was the way to go. She said she was going to wear the hat I made her, so I decided to use that as the base for the color scheme — lilac, crimson and black. I found a few nice options from Renaissance Fabrics, and Nataliia chose the red-violet silk taffeta silk. It’s a cross-weave silk of blue and red, giving the silk a real nice depth and gradient to it.
The doublet was lined in black cotton and interlined with some canvas that passes the SCA’s armor drop test (not that Nataliia plans on fighting in this).
The construction of the doublet was pretty simple, especially considering that I had to draft the pattern from scratch and I had never used it before. All the points on the pattern are based off the marks created on the bara tape. The book clearly explains what marks to use to get the measurements of each point. There were a few points where there was info left out the book and updates, but I was able to fill in those gaps well enough.
After cutting and basting the pattern together, it was time for the test fit. I was a little nervous it wouldn’t fit and we’d have to resort to Plan B. Also, I’m new to test fitting for people, so I brought Kate along to help out. Fortunately, Nataliia put the test fit on and announced that even in that state it was the “best fitting doublet she had put on.” Definitely a good sign.
The only thing that needed to be redone were the sleeves, which were about 4″ too long — somehow. I took that as a win and a testament to Gnagy’s research and the tailors of the 17th Century.
From there it was cutting out the rest of the doublet pieces in the silk and the lining. The test fit was the canvas material, so I just use the pieces that were already cut for that.
The Modern Maker goes very in depth into the hand sewing techniques, adding bias tape in certain areas, creating period silk-thread buttons, and adding additional padding in areas to help get the right shape and stiffness. Because of time constraints, a lot of this stuff I just skipped and started putting the doublet together in a more contemporary fashion. At some point, I’ll go through the book all the way through but I had two weeks to put this doublet together, so I had to “cheat” to get it done in time. But there is a lot of cool stuff in there.
I also gave a couple of strips of the silk for Nataliia to add to the breeches she was making, so the pants would tie in well with the look/feel of the doublet.
Amazingly, I was able to finish the doublet on time. I even got it done “early”, so there was no 11th Hour work the night before (which I tend to do a lot with my own stuff). In the end, I spent about 30 hours on this book, including drafting the pattern, the measuring, test fit and actual creation (doesn’t include searching for fabric). I’d imagine doing it this way in the future for other people would take a little less time, though.
I’m really happy with the end result, even with the necessary shortcuts. The doublet fit great and look fantastic with the rest of her ensemble. I know she got a lot of compliments on her outfit.
It was a super fun project and I was glad to be part of Nataliia’s special day. No doubt in my mind that she’ll be a fantastic addition to the Order.