Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Where to Start: Building a Federal Period Wardrobe

Suggested Books on Clothing, Sewing Techniques, Interpretation, Fabrics, and First-hand accounts
The following are highly recommended to anyone just staring to build/construct a Federal Period wardrobe.
1. Fitting and Proper by Sharon Ann Burnston - construction details and patterns included…must be drafted up to scale.
2. Rural Pennsylvania Clothing by Ellen J. Gehret – construction details and patterns included…must be drafted up to scale.
3. The Lady’s Guide to Plain Sewing by a Lady – details period sewing techniques. Available through Kanniks Korner (
4. The Lady’s Guide to Plain Sewing II by a Lady - details period sewing techniques. Available through Kanniks Korner (
5. The Workman’s Guide to Tailoring: Stitches and Techniques - details period sewing techniques. Available through Kanniks Korner (
6. Who Was I? Creating a Living History Persona: A Modest Guide to the How’s and Whys by Cathy Johnson – discusses how to develop a believable and accurate interpretation.
7. Swatches: A Guide to Choosing 21st Century Fabrics for 18th Century Clothing by Hallie Larkin

The Best Pattern Companies & Patterns
The following are pattern companies who base or copy their patterns from original garments. These companies also provide lots of research and historical background.

Past Patterns, ( owner Saundra Altman. This company is highly recommended. Saundra does extensive research on all of her patterns. If she prints it, I guarantee it will be correct.
Kannik’s Korner ( owners Fritz & Kathleen Kannik. Highly recommended pattern company. The company also researches the garments used to create their patterns.

The period appropriate patterns listed below are based or copied from original garments. There are a lot of poorly written patterns available for purchase but the following are patterns that are authentic and accurate.

Women’s Clothing Patterns
Past Patterns: #030: A "Transition Stay" Fashionable Circa 1796-1806 (
Past Patterns: #038: A Partially Boned "Transition Stay" Fashionable Circa 1793-1820 (
Past Patterns: #001  1820s-1840s Corded Stay (
Past Patterns: #031 Circa 1796-1806 Lewis & Clark Era Front Closing Gown (
Kannik’s Korner KK-6603 Woman's Caps and Bonnets c. 1790-1820 (
Kannik’s Korner KK-6103Woman's Shift 1790-1820 (
Kannik’s Korner  KK-6602Woman's and Girl's Caps 1740-1820  Everyday Headwear (
Kannik’s Korner Pattern KK-6901 Woman's Short Cloak Second half of the 18th Century (1750-1800) (
Kannik’s Korner KK-6001 Stockings, Pockets & Mitts (
Folkwear Patterns #215 Empire Dress ( – this is a fairly accurate pattern that is easily made up for working attire or nicer occasions. The ‘train’ would not be appropriate for a fort interpretation.
Period Impressions #460 1809 Day Wear (
Period Impressions Empire Bodiced Underpetticoat (

Period Impression 1809 Spencer Jacket Pattern (

Period Impression 18th Century Caps & Pockets Pattern  (
Period Impressions Empire Shortgown & Petticoat (
Period Impression #464 Bibb Front Muslin Dress 1800-1812 (

Men’s Clothing Patterns
Kannik’s Korner KK-4202 Man’s Waistcoats Single-Breasted Worn by Both Common Working Men and Fashionable Men c. 1790-1815  (
Kannik’s Korner KK-4303 Man’s Trousers High-Waisted c. 1790-1810  (
Kannik’s Korner KK-4102 Man's Shirt 1790-1830 (
Kannik’s Korner KK-4001 Men’s Accessories Common Items used by Men of all Classes
c. 1740-1830
Kannik’s Korner KK-4551 Man's Double-Breasted Short Jacket 1770-1800 (
Past Patterns #041: U.S. Army Roundabout Matching 1812 Specs (

Fabric Suppliers
Burnley and Trowbridge Co.,
Wm. Booth, Draper,
96th District Storehouse,
Jackman’s Fabrics

JoAnn Fabrics

Things to Avoid Like the Plague!!!!! (Time for me to get on my soapbox)

  • French or English Bodices: these are not historical garments by any stretch of the imagination!
  • No mob caps…they are not historical!
  • Skirts with drawcords…one size should not fit all!
  • Polyester and Rayon
  • Painter pants, blue jeans or dockers
  • Zippers, Velcro, snaps
  • Undocumented patterns: if the pattern company does not provide reputable sources (i.e. museum collections, paintings, primary source from the period, collections with provenance, etc.) don’t use it!
  • The mind set of “If they would've had it, they would've used it.” They didn't have it and didn't use it!
  • Vests with chest pockets. Men’s vest had two pockets not three during this period.
  • Ladies, be sure that your bosom is in your bodice...not below it. Get the girls UP and in the correct position. Bodices were high during the Federal Period. Invest in a Federal period corset (preferably) or obtain a support garment that will serve the same purpose (i.e. bodiced petticoat or sports bra). Do Not use a corset from another period....KEEP IT FEDERAL!