Sunday, February 10, 2013

Young Horatio Nelson Coat

At our house, bad weather means projects.  I decided to take on a fancy one.  DN's 18th century wardrobe is largely noexistant.  For our last 18th century dance event, I threw him, somewhat against his will, in my IXth uniform.  It didn't fit too badly, but aside from fit issues, a grubby stained infantry grunt's uniform doesn't really belong in the ballroom.  I got a brilliant idea to re-create an accurate 18th century Royal Navy uniform for him.  It can do double duty for 18th century dance events and for 7th Sea.

I combed through a few portraits, and found one that fit the bill date-wise and general look and feel.

The young Captain Horatio Nelson, painted by John Francis Rigaud in 1781, with Fort San Juan—the scene of his most notable achievement to date—in the background. The painting itself was begun and nearly finished prior to the battle, when Nelson held the rank of lieutenant; when Nelson returned, the artist added the new captain's gold-braided sleeves.  (Borrowed from Wikipedia - Caption information from John Sugden's Nelson: A Dream of Glory, p. 464.)

Date: 1781
Medium: oil on canvas
Dimensions: Painting: 1270 mm x 1015 mm; Frame: 1250 mm x 1500 mm x 100 mm
Current location: National Maritime Museum
Accession number: BHC2901
Credit line: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. 

All of the portraits I could find all have the facings un-bottoned, collars popped like the 18th century Bros they are.   Visit my Pinterest board to see -

 The pattern I used as a base was JP Ryan's 1750’s Coat with Military Variations for the Officer orEnlisted Man.
  The pattern has the facings as a separate piece sewn on as an after-thought on the front of the coat.  All these portraits from the 1770s-1780s show the open, unbuttoned collar and that it is clearly one piece.  In order to keep maximum accuracy, and badassitude, I figured I had to alter the pattern to be a single piece.

I used a dark navy blue wool broadcloth from WM Booth Draper, which featured this caption.  Broadcloth, 100% wool, Navy Blue, 24 oz., 60" wide, $25/yd.
WWB 750

This wool was intended for the New York City police department which has very strict quality standards, according to WM Booth Draper.  It is lovely, thick and is the perfect color for the 1781 portrait of Nelson.

I have not yet managed to find 100% wool in white or buff for the facings, but I haven't given up yet.  I see a trip to Osgood Textile in my future.

 I think Norma Jean objects to being dressed in a man's military uniform, but this project is going to be absolutely spectacular when I get all the shiny lace on it.

Metallic Gold Lace - From WM Booth Draper - During the 18th century each officer went to his own tailor for clothing. Therefore there was no regulation officer's lace. The same gold lace on an officer's coat could be found on civilian clothing. For example in The Proceedings of the Old Bailey in 1775 there was a trial for three thieves who "were indicted for stealing . . .  a blue silk waistcoat, trimmed with gold lace, value fifteen shillings".


I'm pretty sure I will need 100,000 yards of it.  Sigh.


  1. Naw only about 50, there would at least 50 of 1 inch lace on the picture I sent you.

  2. I did not get the picture you sent me. Can you post a link?

  3. Also, talking to my dad, he used about 20 inches of 1/2 inch lace on his IXth musicians coat. Any idea on where I can get one inch lace for less than $5 a yard?

  4. Did you get the picture via Facebook?