Livery Vests, and Coats, an Interpretation - Part 2, by Alex Kay

Following the first two patterns, the search was on for the next type of livery skirt. Shockingly I spotted a document that showed in great detail some seams that work follow up nicely from the segmented skirt type. Upon looking for further references I noticed they were everywhere. It was one of those moments of realization. So, there are two possibilities open to these skirt sections, they are either an a) easy way to draw or illustrate a medieval skirt upon a livery vest or coat, or b) a real item, that has a complete seam arrangement that creates a great shape to the garment. Either are possible, but when studying the original image that sparked this off, it is hard not be convinced by the present of these more complex patterns. So the first task was to catalogue the images found in order to support the existence of such a skirt. The primary source is actually in the COSG men’s clothing guide, and therefore has been right under my nose for quite some time. This was certainly a break from the normal of sorting through thousands of images on the internet. Much of the work had been done.

The image showing the extremly interesting seam arrangement. Again contained within the excellent COSG mens clothing guide

So excited about another livery vest as an interpretation of some pretty detailed imagery I started the first vest. Now to get this to the point where I am comfortable that it has been done right, it has taken two attempts. The 1st gave a pleasing shape, however the cut of the fabric is not optimized and also it requires some securing tacking in order to get the pleats to sit correctly as per the images, however it does work. The 2nd attempt at the skirt was learning from the first and removing the excess fabric that was not needed to achieve the shape of the garment. So if you are planning to copy one of these patterns, I certainly recommend the 2nd, but I have included the 1st as a learning curve.

A whole line of men in livery vests who are potentially wearing the same pattern as above, also within the COSG mens clothing guide
Other potential references that appear in the excellent and highly recommended COSG men's clothing guide

So the first version I decided to do to a vest, it is the quickest way in which to build a garment that could include a skirt but be complete. So the first thing was to mark the pattern for the body, but then to extend down into the skirt area with a big square added to the bottom of the pattern (do not cut this square off, there is not any certainty that there is a waist seam on these, as a belt is worn, and as we are following a doublet pattern, and many doublets do not show waist seams then why put it in?) This square should go to the length of the skirt, so again just around 1” lower than the top of the cod-piece by my reckoning. As per the previous 2 vests the body of the garment is going to be tight fitting to the body, and should follow a similar shape to that of a doublet, but with an open neck hole (the doublet should be the garment that carries the collar, not the livery vest). Once the 2 front panels and the 2 rear panels are cut, then we need to also cut out 16 Gussets (it seems that a sensible number of these are 4 per quarter of the garment), which are big triangles these are going to be inserted into cuts we are going to make to the square bit at the bottom of the garment. So at this point I should have not taken out as much material as I did, I cut 4 x strips of material and a half circle at the top which was around the diameter of an English penny (EdIV 1st reign of course). However, what happens is the top of this garment tends to stretch out over the hips and therefore the dimeter of these gussets became too large compared to the illustration. In hind sight I think it would be wise to bring the cuts to a point, rather than a radius. This results in a much tighter radius as per the reference. The second attempt follows this methodology. 

So similar to the segmented pattern the panels were sew in in order to force the shape of the cone on the gusset, and these seams where not finished off as the felting of the wool was really good thus preventing any fraying. 

The pattern of the 1st attempt. Note the waist is illustrated however you do not cut along this line
Showing the 1st attempt. note the sewing of the seems forces the tubular shape of each gusset
Cutting to provide the opening for the gusset to fit
showing placement of the 1st gusset (note the seams are not sewn like this) but you can see how much it will flare the skirt
The 1st panel with all 4 gussets sewn in
A partial success, although as said the diameter at the top of each slot is too wide
The livery vest just missing its white trim on the oppersite arm hole and the neck opening

Attempt No.2

The test peice, Two miniature gussets sewn in place, and then joined together beyond the bottom edge of the body panel

Having learnt some key lessons on the first attempt on how to put these gussets into the fabric I decided to do a test sample, this time the section that is continued down from the body panels was shortened, and to allow the gussets to merge with each other around half way down their length. This both saved material and also provided a far more effective and efficient pattern. I also did not do any radii at the top of each slot which equated to a far smaller radius when the gusset was sewn into place.


A test piece was sewn up on the machine (it tends not to get much use these days), and I was very happy with the result. 

So a new pattern was made, which had rather than slots cut into the bottom of the garment it had cheese shaped cuts removed terminating in a point which would work for the tighter radius. The length of the block added to the bottom was about half, meaning the gussets would join around midway as well. Again 16 gussets were cut, do not underestimate how wide these need to be, the wider the gusset the fuller the skirt. 

The final difference was that I wanted to make a full coat this time, as per the original source. So simply followed the doublet pattern for the body, no collar added (again this is the doublet collar coming through) and then large baggy sleeves.

Each gusset is sewn into its incorporating 'v' and the lower part of each Gusset is joined to the next, viewed from the inside
What the outside of each quarter of the garment should look like...

So the construction of the skirt. Exactly as per the test piece but by hand, each gusset was sewn into the body of the garment and the lower parts joined together, this was pretty uneventful, apart from the tops of the cutouts, clear had to be taken to make sure the correct diameter was maintained, as the two parts where joined together. Basically all of this was done with a back stitch, which gave an excellent dense join. Once the entire body had been sewn together then it was tried on to make sure it was a good fit.

The unlined garment being tried on to make sure everything sat right

Once the good fit was established (right first time for a change) each panel of the lining was sewn to each panel of the garment, this was easy and fine on the body, however I would say it was potentially the most complex lining project I have ever done around the skirt. 

The lining being sewn into each woollen panel, not the gussets can be seen at the bottom of the image

So the garment was finally completed and I must say I was delighted with both the making of it and the final result. Once again, I hope this 2 part document has given some ideas or inspiration to potential interpretations of livery vests and coats could look like, and I have enjoyed the project. I will keep an eye out for any other styles that may extend the project. 

The first point to which I realised it did what I wanted it to
The livery coat being worn under armour at Tattershall Castle in Lincolnshire this November
Alex Kay