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Thread: US Navy Uniform, pattern, construction, how-to

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2006
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    Central IL
    Posts
    226

    Default US Navy Uniform, pattern, construction, how-to

    I am going to be making my hubbys best guy friend a naval uniform over the winter. I don't know what the uniform term is, but the uniform style is the dark blue wool, fall front, wide-legged trousers and pull over style shirt that has a seam across the chest.

    I am a TOTAL newbie about naval uniforms. I've long admired the look but my husband has told me time and again he is NOT a navy guy. His friend gave me his dads old navy uniform from about 50 or 60 years ago to get an idea of the style and a book called The Uniforms of the United States Navy by James Tiley. The way the trousers are constructed seems complicated and they are partially lined with a heavy satiny material. I don't know if this is unique to the time when this particular uniform was made (mid 1900's) or if it was also used on mid-19th century uniforms.

    I want to make the uniform correctly with correct materials, style and construction techniques. I'm having a hard time coming across originals to look at (in photos, as far as I know there aren't any around here I could look at in person from this era). I'm also having a hard time figuring out how they were constructed and how they should fit. Are there any good patterns already out there for this kind of uniform? What books or websites should I be going to to find out more about these uniforms?

    I'm hoping to have a basic idea of the pattern shapes and the way the items should be put together before Thanksgiving, since that is the day we set up to take measurements and start drafting the pattern if I can't find a ready made pattern before then.

    Thanks!

    Sarah
    Sarah J. Meister

    Independent Civilian /
    Wife / Mother / Seamstress / Musician

    My Sewing Blog
    http://www.romantichistory.blogspot.com

    My Pattern Blog
    http://www.romantichistoryclothing.blogspot.com

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Spring Hill, FL
    Posts
    3,939

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    Mrs. Meister, welcome to the dilema many of us progressives have faced when it comes to the uniforms of the navy. There are about two known good vendors of naval clothing (Joe Blunt and Steve Hesson) out there, and they've spent years on the search for patterns. For frocks (also modernly called jumpers) and undershirts, Tom Apple created a pattern which can be found at the website for the Naval Landing Party or my home unit the USS Fort Henry (www.ussforthenry.com - in the research section). For trousers, your best bet is to get a commercial broadfall trouser pattern and straighten the leg. They weren't bell bottomed, just one width from thigh to hem. There were many variations for naval clothing, as much of it was ship-board made, by amauteur or semi-pro tailors or by the sailors themselves. You can also use a commercial pattern for mule ear style, buttonfly civilian trousers with the same wider leg. Only a percentage of naval trousers were actually fallfront, most were button fly as deduced from viewing hundreds of images. Larger ships carried bolts of cloth for this process to occur. If you've got the Union version of Echoes of Glory, there are just a couple of styles shown which can help guide the tweaking process. With the Tom Apple frock pattern and a good commercial trouser pattern like Homespun Patterns, etc, with some tweaking you can come up with something. Don't hesistate to send me a PM if you've got questions or concerns.
    Ross L. Lamoreaux
    Tampa Bay History Center
    www.tampabayhistorycenter.org
    On Facebook at: Tampa Bay History Center Living History Programs

    "The simplest things, done well, can carry a huge impact" - Karin Timour, 2012

  3. #3

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    Miz Sarah- Tom Nixon on the Sewing Academy has a naval impression and may be willing to share where he based his uniform components.
    -Elaine Kessinger

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Central IL
    Posts
    226

    Default

    Oh wow, thanks very much. I am thrilled for all this info to start out with, and am really looking forward to getting into the research aspect of this project. I have a broadfall trouser pattern already in my stash, and a good civilian trouser pattern that has the mule ear variation (which is the only pocket style David likes, so I've used it MANY times!)

    I'm going to go dig out Union EOG and visit the sites you mentioned; hopefully soon I can get started on some preliminary sketches. Thanks so much, I know I'll have many questions as I go through this project.

    Sarah
    Sarah J. Meister

    Independent Civilian /
    Wife / Mother / Seamstress / Musician

    My Sewing Blog
    http://www.romantichistory.blogspot.com

    My Pattern Blog
    http://www.romantichistoryclothing.blogspot.com

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Posts
    180

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    There is alot of information here. http://njsekela.com/forum/index.php?board=16.0
    Sgt. Timothy J. Koehn
    Boone's Louisiana Battery

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Bowling Green Kentucky
    Posts
    218

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Sarah Jane Meister View Post
    I am going to be making my hubbys best guy friend a naval uniform over the winter. I don't know what the uniform term is, but the uniform style is the dark blue wool, fall front, wide-legged trousers and pull over style shirt that has a seam across the chest.

    I am a TOTAL newbie about naval uniforms. I've long admired the look but my husband has told me time and again he is NOT a navy guy. His friend gave me his dads old navy uniform from about 50 or 60 years ago to get an idea of the style and a book called The Uniforms of the United States Navy by James Tiley. The way the trousers are constructed seems complicated and they are partially lined with a heavy satiny material. I don't know if this is unique to the time when this particular uniform was made (mid 1900's) or if it was also used on mid-19th century uniforms.

    I want to make the uniform correctly with correct materials, style and construction techniques. I'm having a hard time coming across originals to look at (in photos, as far as I know there aren't any around here I could look at in person from this era). I'm also having a hard time figuring out how they were constructed and how they should fit. Are there any good patterns already out there for this kind of uniform? What books or websites should I be going to to find out more about these uniforms?

    I'm hoping to have a basic idea of the pattern shapes and the way the items should be put together before Thanksgiving, since that is the day we set up to take measurements and start drafting the pattern if I can't find a ready made pattern before then.

    Thanks!

    Sarah
    MS Sarah, If I may give you a bit of "Squid Suit 101". First thing, put away they uniform from 50-60 years ago. Civil War era uniforms were not made like that and did not look like that. The lining tells me you have a set of "Tailor Mades". CAPT Tillys book is worthless as far as CW uniforms go. Additionally, all the fancy work shown on the originals in EOG is NOT seen on every day uniforms, only the special "Going Ashore" gear. The button down collars were also not the norm, and only rarely turn up in photos.

    Naval uniforms of the day were made of anything blue the Sailors could get their hands on. Even issue uniforms were not standardized. The "Frock"(called a jumper after 1913) was generally made of a light weight flannel much like US Army contract shirts. The trousers were generally of a heavier kersey. There are surviving uniforms where the frock and trousers were made of the 8-10 oz wool flannel that Army fatigue blouses (Sack coats) were made from. This fabric actually continues in use as the standard fabric and color of US Navy uniforms until the big change in 1933 when the Navy goes to the heavy dark melton that was worn through WW2 into the 1970s.

    Ross is correct in that the most common style of trousers were fly front with mule ear pockets. Mostly fall front trousers survive today because they were non regulation and reserved for, again, going ashore on liberty. Some fall front trousers were worn aboard ship, but they were not the norm for daily wear, and at that time the Navy was issueing fly front mule ear pocket trousers. The sizing gussett in the rear tends to be about 5-6 inches deep. This is because the trousers are to fit snug from the waist to the top of the hips. They should fit loosely from there down to allow freedom of movement. The best way is to get a measurement at the natural waist (have him stand at attention), then subtract one inch. Once the uniform is finished, the undershirt and frock are tucked in. Then tighten up the sizing gussett. Funny story, when I was training Naval recruits, one of my favorite days was when the recruits tried on their dress blue trousers for the first time. They would pull them on and then I would tell them that bunk mates were to tighten up and tie the laces of their bunkmates Always a great bunch of expressions on the young lads faces with that one. The formula for cuff width is measure the thigh, add four inches and carry that from crotch to cuff.

    On the frocks. The collar (that is what that hangy down thing in the back is called) was not a standard length. 9 inches was pretty common, but photos and originals tell us they could be any whaer from standard shirt collar length to 11 inches. When you are putting the frock together, if you think of it as a collar, you will be able to work with it easier. The length of the frock should be fairly long. Again, it was to be tucked in and worn some what "blousey at then waist. When the sleeves are unbuttoned, the edge of the cuff should hang to the first knuckles on the hand. They should be a bit blousey also. This was so the Sailor could reach and stretch his arms out and not be restricted in movement by his clothing. That is not good 90 up in a mast.
    Hope this helps

    Steve Hesson
    www.hesson-clothiers.com

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Spring Hill, FL
    Posts
    1,458

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    You won't get better advice than that. Steve has forgotten more about navy clothing than I've ever learned....
    Ross Lamoreaux
    Moderator and Sewer of Historical Clothing and Tall Tales

    "But our opportunity to learn and grow, to communicate the richness of the lives that have gone before us, that does not change. We do not outgrow it. It does not tatter and fall apart in our hands..." -Mrs. Terre Lawson, 2010

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Posts
    27

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    Sarah,

    I strongly suggest if you haven't picked up on it already, to pick Steve Hesson's brain on this matter. Go to him with any questions you may have as he can answer them.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Central IL
    Posts
    226

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    Thank you so very, very much for the additional extremely helpful information. When I first agreed to undertake this project I had no idea where to look besides staring at original images of navy guys. I feel like I'm starting to get a dim, basic understanding of what the project will entail. I appreciate so much the information and suggestions! Bill is coming over this weekend so I'm going to talk with him about all I have found and see what he thinks. (He is definitely NOT of a progressive mindset but I will make this for him only if he lets me make it right)

    One thought I had was that it would be more correct for me to handsew this uniform. Would this be correct? I usually use a combination of hand and machine stitching on the uniforms I've made my hubby but am thinking that if sailors often made their own uniforms it would not be likely they had access to a machine. Is this right, or am I totally off track?

    About materials; wool flannel was mentioned for the frock, and kersey for the trousers. The only wool flannel and kersey I've used before I've got from Charlie Childs. Is there another source for flannel and kersey that might be better than this? I've liked all the materials I've got from him in the past but at times he does not have the yardage or specific fabric on hand that I need. I went to Hancocks yesterday and they had navy blue wool flannel in, but unfortunately not enough!

    Thanks so much!
    Sarah
    Sarah J. Meister

    Independent Civilian /
    Wife / Mother / Seamstress / Musician

    My Sewing Blog
    http://www.romantichistory.blogspot.com

    My Pattern Blog
    http://www.romantichistoryclothing.blogspot.com

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Spring Hill, FL
    Posts
    3,939

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    Original naval clothing show a mixture of hand and machine sewing, so either one to your leasure. There is even a famous image of sailors with a sewing machine on the deck of ship or boat. As for material, CC is fine, as well as Wambaugh, White and Company. They carry a nice flannel (sack coat flannel) as well as a 20 oz kersey for trousers
    Ross L. Lamoreaux
    Tampa Bay History Center
    www.tampabayhistorycenter.org
    On Facebook at: Tampa Bay History Center Living History Programs

    "The simplest things, done well, can carry a huge impact" - Karin Timour, 2012

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