The Basic Anatomy of Working Garments of the Federal Period: Men

Garments worn by working class men were made for ease of movement, comfort and durability. Similar to women’s clothing of the Federal Period, there was a wide variety of fabrics used and styles worn. The following garments are 'basic' items found in a working man's wardrobe.


Hand-stitched linen shirt belonging to the 1820 Col. Benjamin Stephenson House.


Shirt:
· Loose fitting
· Made of linen, linsey woolsey or muslin.
· Colors commonly used were woven checks and white.
· The shirt was constructed with a series of squares and rectangles. The body is a large square cut on the fold, sleeves are rectangles cut on the fold, a square gusset connecting the sleeve to the body and a long rectangle also cut on the fold for the collar.
· The sleeves set off the shoulder, known as a ‘drop sleeve’.
· Length of the body could reach to the knee.
· Long shirts often times double as under-drawers by wrapping the tails between the legs.
· WHAT NOT TO DO – Men, regardless of social status, would not have worn this garment without something over it. This was an undergarment.
A Stephenson House interpreter wears a blue checked shirt.



Trousers:
· Long pants worn by men of all social classes.
· Length ranged from above ankle to top of foot.
· The front fall should be narrow not broad.
· Made of jean, corduroy, wool, heavier linen
· Fit could be very baggy through the legs to snuggly fitted down to ankle.
· Working men probably preferred a loose fitting trouser.
· Sailors and laborers are often depicted in period paintings wearing a garment called “slops”. Slops were very loose fitting pants (similar to women’s modern day ‘gauchos’) that could be worn over the top of regular trousers to protect them from soiling.
· High waistline. In men’s trousers, this high waistline was achieved by setting the bottom of the waistband slightly above the navel then extending it up about four inches. Suspenders kept the trousers from sliding down.
· Knee britches were falling out of fashion by this period. Some men continued to wear them with riding boots, under a pair of leggings, hunting or for working in the fields. Older men who felt comfortable in the styles of their youth may have worn them but the style was very old fashioned.
· WHAT NOT TO DO – ‘French’ fly and zipper fly trousers were not worn during this period.
 
Vests and trousers of this period are high-waisted.
Vest:
· Cut high into the arm pit.
· Narrow shoulder
   Worn over the shirt and was consider the lowest state of undress acceptable.
· Double or single breasted.
· Only two pockets on lower front. No chest pocket.
· Tall standing collar very common.
· Cut to reflect the high waisted fashions.
· Made of a linen, heavy printed cotton, wool or silk.
· The back of the vest was generally made of a cheaper material since it wasn’t meant to be seen.

Neckerchief or neck cloth:
· Worn over the shirt collar with the collar folded over it or standing up.
· Typical fabric: linen of various prints and colors.
· Working men probably preferred a simple neckerchief
Shortcoat in the Stephenson House wardrobe. This garment was made from a Kannik's Korner pattern.


Coat, Jacket or Work Smock:
· A coat worn by someone doing hard labor would not have had tails; they would have only gotten in the way.
· Working men preferred a short coat or jacket.
· Coats or shortcoat could be single or double-breasted
· Commonly made of linen, jean or wool with a stand-up or rolled collar.
· A work smock is a very large loose fitting over-shirt often worn over the top of the short coat or vest to protect the other garments from soiling. See picture below.




Group of reenactors portray the men who manned Fort Russell (Edwardsville, Illinois) during the War of 1812. Since the Illinois Militia was not uniformed, the men of the militia would wear their everyday clothing while serving their enlistment obligation.

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