Assembling a 1920’s Tux Ensemble: Part 1 – Buttoned Spats

Having more 20s themed parties and events to attend, together with a great vintage find of an old tuxedo jacket and pants, has entailed my working towards putting together everything necessary to historically suit up my hubby like a “white tie” gentleman from the Jazz Age.

This post is “part 1” of what will more than likely be a total of three, maybe four, total increments to reach a complete 1920’s Tuxedo ensemble.  The other parts will be the shirt (and collar), vest, and a cummerbund or even a bow tie.  For now, I’m starting from the bottom up, with turn-of-the-century gentleman’s shoe spats.  The spats I made for him turned out wonderful, look great, a fit very well.  They were also fun and unusual to make.  I love trying new things!

100_3681a     It is a bit unfortunate that vintage menswear is so scarce.  Thus, I’ve been turning to old and reproduction patterns as of late to clothe my hubby in something to match my own eras of vintage and historic clothing.  However, even vintage and reproduction men’s patterns are not as plentiful as the choices for women, so I was extremely happy to find such a wide selection of historically authentic patterns for men through the company Reconstructing History.  This company is a great resource, not just for patterns, but also for ideas and through historical information.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  white cotton mid-weight twill (one yard was more than enough)RC 1900s gentleman's spats

NOTIONS:  two packs of big ball “La Mode” buttons were the only notion bought; the elastics and thread and bias tape were already on hand.

PATTERN:  Reconstructing History 1007, the downloadable version

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The spats were very easy and quick coming together, they just took me a bit longer to sew because of the machine I was working on.  I wanted to enjoy myself, get to know the sewing machine…more about this later.  The spats were made by me in a total of 5 or 6 hours ( a few evenings worth of a little time), and finished on August 7, 2014.

THE INSIDES:  All seams are clean, mostly hidden, and oh-so-professional looking!

TOTAL COST:  around $5.00

I picked out the Reconstructing History downloadable 1900s gentleman’s spats pattern to make for my hubby.  The downloadable option is great because not only do you save money, but most of all, you get your pattern almost immediately…no wait!  The downloadable option was perfect because I needed the spats done for a party in less than two weeks.  You simply print out the pages, then connect and tape the pages together for the full pattern, similar to Burda Style patterns (see my post here).  Their pattern pieces included the seam allowance, and thus can either be traced out onto something else, or cut straight out of the paper.  Being a relatively small pattern I just used the paper version.  Any changes will just go on a paper note with the spats pattern so I can remember what I did for the next time these are made for hubby. This way if I need to make the spats for anyone else I haven’t changed the pattern itself.

100_3673     The spats pattern is only three simple pieces, with each getting cut out a total of four times if you are lining the spats, and twice each if your spats are not lined.  Personally I would completely recommend lining the spats for a very nicely finished item that is sturdy and not droopy.  A heavier duty fabric also seems to work well for spats as well.

All three of the fabric pieces get sewn together in one, two-seamed, continuous semi-rectangle.  Thus, if you are lining the spats, you end up having four fabric pieces.  As my hubby’s ankles are a bit skinny, I had to do a small adjustment on all four fabric pieces before connecting the front and lining together.  I sewed in a tapering seam of about 1/4 to 1/2 inch from the center front corner seam over the calf to the top of the spats.  Then, with wrong sides out, two of the spats semi-rectangles get sewn together at a time.  I stitched all along three of the spats sides (right side, left side, and the top) and next turned right sides out.  The raw edged bottom got white single fold bias tape sewn on and turned under.  The entire sides and the two seams where the three pieces connected were top-stitched down through all layers.

100_3656     Everything up until now, had been sewn on my “new” birthday present – a late 1930’s Sears Kenmore Rotary sewing machine in impeccable condition, and in a beautiful table/cabinet as well!  It was really fun to get a closer feel for how they did things back in the past, even though there is a decade of difference between the spats and the Kenmore.  I can’t wait to sew more on this gem.  My parents sure know in a good way what will make my special day…I was very surprised and tickled (especially with the giant bag of attachments and thread, some of them silk)!

I went back to my heavy-duty, early 80s standby Singer sewing machine to make my own elastic loop closure strips for the edges of hubby’s spats.  I didn’t want to do that many tiny button holes on the spats and make it hard for hubby to get them on himself.   The pattern itself suggests elastic, and, besides, elastic was starting to become more prevalent in the 20s.  Cutting small sections of cord elastic of about 1 1/2 inches, and marking equalized spaces out on a strip on double fold bias tape, I hand sewed my own “loop tape” to go along the sides of the spats.  Hand sewing the “loop tape” was hard on my hands, but, with a thimble and some good music on for help, it actually went faster than I expected and the finished result was well worth the effort.  I used my heavy duty Singer machine to sew on the “loop tape” along the very edge of the two spats’ left sides.  Then I matched up the spots where the loops are on the spats’ right sides and sewed on buttons in their corresponding places.

100_3449     Last but not least came the strap that goes under the foot in front of the heel.  The Reconstructing History pattern called for elastic and I used some small 1/4 in non-roll white elastic from my stash for the underfoot strap.  After paging through my old reprints catalogs from the 1920’s and 1910’s, I suppose a true historical feature for these spats would have been to have the underfoot strap be more like a belt, with a tiny buckle to loosen and tighten the fit.  However, I knew the strap would more than likely get quite dirty and take much more time that I didn’t have (not to mention where to find such a tiny buckle), so I opted for the easy “elastic” way.  Hubby put the spats on so I could mark (while they were on him) where to sew the elastic underfoot straps on and how long to make them for a perfect fit.

I am excited to see how the rest of the accessories for hubby’s tux look with these spats.  The cotton twill of the spats are a wonderful match with the mid-weight grooved gabardine he picked out for the main body of his vest.  Think of the actor Jean Dujardin in the movie “The Artist”; that will be my idea of hubby in his finished tux ensemble.  He’ll be a “Dapper Dan” man!

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