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Or: Doublets, Singlets, Triplets...Oy!

To start with, I think I'd better throw out some terminology here, because you will notice if you've spent any time in books doing research, a couple of different garments go by the name of 'doublet'. I base my definitions on the garments that you see Henry VIII wearing in most portraits (like the picture at the top of this page - click on it to see it full size), that is: the doublet, jerkin, and codpiece are separate pieces, rather than blending into one as they do in Elizabeth's time.

Starting on the layer closest to the skin, and counting only those garments worn on the torso:

  • Blouse or chemise: in other words, the shirt. Some would say that the word chemise is reserved for the woman's garment. Smile. Nod. Dismiss them as unworthy.

    There are also some poor souls who pronounce the word as "sheh-miss". Any first-semester French student can tell you: it's pronounced "sheh-meez".

  • Doublet: what would one day be the waistcoat...weskit...vest
  • Jerkin: what would one day be the jacket
  • Great Coat: get's an ostentatious overcoat
The doublet is by this definition a form fitting garment, extending from waist to neck, with sleeves, collar, and optionally a skirt. It's also usually a man's garment, but there are some examples of women wearing them, and the result can be striking.

Making one is as simple as drafting a sloper (see the section on pattern making (which doesn't exist yet, by the way)), expanding the pattern to accomodate the fullness of a shirt beneath it, choosing a nice fabric, and putting the whole together with a lining. Some pointers on making doublets:

  • Pipe everything: This is my mantra. Seams can shape the garment to the body only, or they can shape and provide visual interest. Pipe the seams and the edges of the garment. (For more information, see the section on piping )
  • Leave lots of seam allowance: Do this anyway for form-fitting clothing. It's easy to take a seam up, but almost impossible to let it out --- you can't work with what ain't there.
  • Attaching the sleeves: if you must attach them permanently, measure from the shoulder line down front and back about 4-5 inches. That 8-10 inch space across the top is the only place the sleeve should be attached; leave the underarm open. Same goes if the sleeves are laced on. This does three things:
    • The wearer can lift his/er arms
    • It's cooler
    • It looks better
    One other thought on attaching the sleeves, even if you sew the sleeves on permanently, put laces in anyway and tie them. It completes the 'look'.
  • If you use laces to close: Don't use grommets. Just don't. They snag whatever fabric is beneath them, they corrode after a few cleanings, they will eventually pull out and damage the garment...just don't do it. However, if you must (oh GOD this hurts) use the big ones (1/4"), and back the hole with canvas. For cutting the hole, use a 1/4" wood chisel and cut an X. DO NOT cut a round hole. 1/4" grommets are also easier to lace through and provide visual interest.

    The preferred method is to use 'points': individual laces sewn into the seam wherever something needs to be tied.

  • Armholes are a bitch: so cut them deep. If you're working from a sloper, cut the armhole at least one and a half inches lower. If you don't your user will find the garment very uncomfortable, and may not know exactly why.
  • Line the garment: my other mantra. Not with muslin, not with broadcloth, with satin. You are wearing this garment over other clothing and it needs to slide on and off and move freely as you move, which it won't unless the lining is slick. Cheap, dollar-a-yard skirt lining is fine, bridal satin is better. If you intend to wear the doublet in cold weather, flannel-backed satin is very nice.


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