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Western European
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Eastern European:

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Ancillary Arts
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- Pouch Hinges, Part 1
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Demonstrations>Accessories:Eastern European>Rectangular Constructed Coats

The rectangular construction of garments is as old as weaving. The main emphasis of rectangular patterns is not formed from the body but rather constrained by the width and length of the cloth. Rectangular construction typically is loose fitting rather than form fitting but can involve some tailoring. This is particularly evident in the engineering of the bias-to-selvedge construction of the long side seams which attach the sleeve and gores to the body of the garment.

The photos to the left and above show actual examples of Turkestani coats worn in the 1800s. Photos copyright the Fitz Gibbon-Hale Collection from For a more detailed look at the photos, click here. The pattern of these coats has changed little throughout the centuries. Patterns for 16th century coats look almost identical to patterns for the 18th century.

In order to make a rectangularly constructed coat, three initial measurements are necessary. First measure the width of the shoulders. This determines the width of the front/back body piece. Second, measure how long you want the coat. This will determine the length of the front/back body piece. Third, measure the length of the sleeves. Once all of these measurements have been taken and the pattern pieces marked out, the gores and flaps can then be determined.

Optimally, the less waste the better. In the diagram to the right, the rust colored areas represent the wasted fabric from this method. Compared to Western European construction methods of the same period, this is an extremely small amount.

Additionally, ripping the fabric pieces out as much as possible rather than cutting them out is best. This gives a perfectly straight "cut" for the long length of the front/back body piece as well as the sleeves and the straight sides of the gores.

The inclusion of the front flap pieces on the side with all the other pieces requires that the front/back body piece be somewhat long. If a shorter front/back body piece is wanted - knee length or mid-calf, then the front flaps can be left off or cut from left overs at the end of the fabric length.

The width of the side gores is determined on how much fabric is left after the front/back body piece is removed. In order to figure out how long they need to be, you must first determine the sleeve size and the under gore size. Remember that the bias cut of the gore is the length to be determined, rather than the selvedge cut. After you have determined how much space your sleeve is going to take, you can then determine the under gore length. I have found that the seam between the base of the under gore and the top of the side gore is best if placed right at the natural waist line. In this way, the tailored effect of the bias-to-selvedge construction of the side gore to the front/back body piece shapes itself around the curve of the hips very nicely.

After all the pieces have been cut out, it is time to determine the sequence of construction. Generally, sewing the under gores to the side gores is first, then the under gore/side gore piece to the sleeve. Complete both back and front sections to the sleeve. Once this is all accomplished, you can then sew the entire side to the side of the front/back body piece making for one continuous seam front to back.

After the long side seam is done, you can then add your front flaps to both sides of the front. These flaps are optional and were included as often as they were excluded.

If you are going to line your coat, make up the lining exactly as you have made up the shell. Once done, the lining can be placed into the shell. This will leave the hem, neck and front seams, and the sleeve ends to finish.

Any embellishment or appliqué will need to be done at this point, prior to binding the edges closed.

Finishing in period consisted of long strips of fabric, cut at a width of about three inches, and sewn onto both layers of fabric at the edges so that, once it was turned to the inside, it bound the edge and was self facing. If you're going to be sewing this on by hand, by all means, cut straight grain strips. That way, you can ease as needed. If you are going to be binding the edges by machine, it's easier to cut these strips on the bias, essentially producing your own bias tape.

Viola! A Turkestani Coat. Very often, especially during the Ottoman period, these coats were quilted and quite thick. Made from highly figured silks and Ikat (which was reserved for the very rich), the coat often reached to the ground. When made with gores of less width, the coat will tighten around the waist and fall smoothly over the hips - very reminiscent of the dancing coats pictured in period and of crusader influenced clothing of Europe. Many of the examples of "t-tunics" from Scandinavian countries during the fifth through twelfth centuries use these same techniques for their construction.

For more information on coats and coat patterns, try Traditional Textiles of Central Asia, Oriental Costumes, and Cut My Cote.

The following are pictures of a shirt, a vest and two coats based on this pattern. Click on the thumbnail for a larger view.

Detail of gores
Shirt and vest
Detail at neck of vest
Detail of undergores and side gores
Detail of edge binding and lining
Detail of applique and embroidery
Detail of lining of coat
Detail of lining at the neck
These last two photos are of a striped coat and pair of striped pants. The stiped fabric was made by first ripping strips of both red and black fabric and then sewing them back together. For a pattern diagram of the pants, click here.
Striped Coat
Striped Pants
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