Rocky Mountain Outfit — American Mountain Men (AMM) party of Colorado

Review of Tailor's Guide 1830s Frock Coat
by Scott Walker on 12/26/2008

Front view

Front view

Side view

Side view

Back view

Back view


The goal of this project was to make a brain tan frock coat such as those seen in Miller paintings. Overall it was successful and I would use this pattern again.

I would give this pattern a rating of 3 out of 5. It is a good place to start if you're planning to make a hide frock coat if your jacket size is no larger than a 46. Too wide where the back seams pass down the small of the back.

How It Went

OK. I used the Tailor's Guide pattern to make a coat out of an old sheet. I decided the back panel was not narrow enough so I changed that on the trial coat, checked the fit, and cut it apart to use as a pattern on the buckskin. What I was trying to do was imitate a frock coat made in the field using an old cloth coat as a pattern.

Any frock coat pattern you buy, check and see if it has an extra piece between the curving back seam and a side seam. On the Tailor's guide pattern they call it the "side back". The older coats had no "side back" or extra seams between the curving back seam and the front of the coat. The extra piece started showing up among the fashionable folks in the late 1830s. The question would be how quickly this piece made it West and into Buckskin. Early Miller sketches don't show any extra seams — just the curving back seam and sometimes a center back seam.

You can tape up the pattern so the extra "side back" piece is attached to the fronts of the coat. Buckskin is stretchy enough to forgive this without a bad fit, although if you're doing it in fabric it might be a little touchier.

Looking at the sketches of some of the coats in the Mountain Man Sketchbooks will make all this clearer.

Miller also doesn't show a horizontal waist seam, even though some of the surviving originals have it. If you leave the seam off, you'd save some sewing on a "field made" coat.

I worked in brain tan, used elk sinew, welted most of the seams. I decided to use a running stitch rather than a whip stitch, thinking that a running stitch in sinew wouldn't be as likely to chafe as whip stitch in sinew. Even though most Native sewing is in whip stitch, this coat was representing one made in the field by a trapper, so it didn't have to use Indian methods.

The Best and Worst of It

The worst part of it was working up the courage to actually cut into the brain tan. The best part was that it actually fit.

Is it Recommended?

Yes, this was a good pattern for what I did with it, which was use it as a rough guide. As far as making an accurate cloth frock coat of the rendezvous years, I think you'd have to do a lot of research to get the period details right, adding what the pattern didn't include. This is a somewhat simplified pattern when compared to originals. Max. size for this pattern is a 46.

Hints and Notes

I would not put fringe on the sleeves. I would pink (zig zag cut) the edges. I would put ties down the front. I'd also make it shorter by about three inches. All of this would make the coat look more like the one in the Miller portrait sketch of Antoine Clement. Luckily I can still do this and even save the sleeve fringe for another project, and the three inches of cut off length for moccasin flaps.

Documentation Used