Fort Pitt

Fort Pitt
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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Winter Gear or "my kid brother looked like a tick about to pop"

View of Jeffries Undershirt/waistcoat

Inside of Underwaistcoat....seams sewn flat to keep from rubbing the skin...and no thats not machine stitching thats Just Crowder

FrontView of my underwaistcoat.

"The Ballad Seller" check out the ties on his under waist coat visible under his jacket, Long trousers, shoes with ties, short brimmed hat.....guy has enough brown on to be a longhunter ;)

So December is here…and It feels like it. I’m finishing up my winter Kit just in time for time the late muzzleloader season and am hoping to do a few day/nights at my camp over the Holidays. The only gear I’m really trying to finish up is a winter pair of leggings and a pair of mittens. And if time permits a new wool undershirt /Drawers. SO like my now stalled Native gear thread (deer season what can I say) I’ll start throwing some winter gear info I have on here. This started out as an article For On The Trail but my ADD kicked in and well Sorry Jason.
I can still remember the first cold weather event I went to. I was 14 and the Unit I was a member of at the “Cluggage’s Rangers” decided to do a small scout from our annual 12th night party. My clothing was (this is hard to admit) three cotton shirts, a green wool waistcoat, a blanket wool shirt and overall that wrapped a blanket. I also wore a green bonnet, center seam cheeto’s orange leggings, a few pair of cotton stockings and the world’s worst pair of moccasins.
Pretty Quickly into the scout we were hit by some freezing rain/snow which quickly soaked my moccasins and cotton stockings. Some of the guys had Moccasins made over sneakers so they held up a little better but their Cotton and linen waistcoats and hunting shirts didn’t help much. Overall the scout was over in a few hours and then Back to the lodge to Thaw out and brag to each other about the adventure we had just concluded.
The only Guy in the Scout that didn’t freeze out fast was A gentleman Named Peter Dobbs. Pete Wore a Canadian cap, brown wool coat, brown wool waistcoat, thin wool shirt, Linen shirt, Breeches, two pair wool stocking under leather leggings and a pair of Shoepacks that would turn back the ocean. It seems Odd to me I would remember Pete’s Outfit 20 years later but the way he carried himself in the bitter cold on Brush mountain made an impression on me. That’s when I realized there was more to 18th century cold weather gear then 10 shirts and a blanket!
The Focus of this will be on the use of foul weather gear from an English point of view. Karl Kostner and Isaac Walters have both put out great info for folks of the Canadian persuasion but this will focus on those of us that can’t speak French and proudly so. My intent is to cover documented Pieces of foul weather gear from an English world viewpoint and show that there is a little more to this then the “ blanket wool shirt” idea. Which is one garment I’ve personally never come across an original of or solid reference to.
The Key to being outside in Bad weather today like the 18th century is the idea of Layers. Wearing multiple layers of clothing means all the difference in your level of comfort. The Basic 18th century idea of being dressed means wearing breeches, a shirt, waistcoat, frock/jacket, neck cloth and head covering. Pretty basic and simple, you make these layers out of linen or wool to the season right? Well actually there is a little more to it then this and the mixing of the different types of fabrics really adds to the comfort level.
SO the first thing I’d like to focus on is the “underclothes” garments. These are items like under waistcoats or drawers that are common during the period. ……These garments are constructed like jackets or waistcoats but meant to be worn under clothes. The seams are sewn flat and to the outside of the garment this done to prevent chaffing as some sources point towards men wearing these underneath their shirts. Also these items can use tapes to close them. The reason for this is to keep the garment from messing up the proper Silhouette of an 18th century man. As well as not making you too bulky to work.
A few examples of these garments survive. One well Known piece belonged to Thomas Jefferson. It is made of a red flannel and lined with Stockings (yes I said stockings). The front of the garment is secured shut with tape ties. Ok I can hear folks now “Jefferson was a man of wealth I wouldn’t own a garment like that” These garments turn up in a number of runaway ads as well as an image of a “Ballad Seller” The image is of a man in typical working class clothes and under his jacket one can see the ties of his under waistcoat.
These garments show up here in the colonies on the working class as well:
march 12, 1772. SIXTY POUNDS REWARD. RUN away from the Subscriber, on Little Pipe Creek, in Frederick County, Maryland, the five following SERVANT MEN, namely, EDWARD RYLOT, about twenty seven Years of Age, five Feet six or seven Inches high, with a pale yellow Countenance, straight brown Hair, black Eyes, very bad sore Shins, and had one of his Ankles put out of Place; JOHN POLLARD, a well set Fellow, about twenty five Years of Age, five Feet six or seven Inches high, with a middling clear Skin, down Look, gray Eyes, straight brown Hair, and a large Scar on his Breast, occasioned by a Scald; JOHN BISSEY, about twenty years of Age, five Feet six or seven Inches high, has a bold saucy Look, gray Eyes, straight black Hair, and is much pitted with the Smallpox; WILLIAM NORRIS, about five Feet four or five Inches high, a well set fellow with a fresh Countenance, Pot Belly, flat Nose, and straight brown Hair; HENRY WITMORE, about five Feet four or five Inches high, a slim Fellow, with brown Skin, fresh Colour, black Eyes, and curled black Hair. All the above Servants had on under Jackets of white Linsey, Breeches of white Kersey, white Yarn Stockings, coarse Country made Shirts, Country made Shoes, the Bottoms of which are well-nailed, and old Felt Hats; three of them had on old blue Fearnought Jackets, and two had on white Kersey Jackets; they carried with them a new Felt Hat, a Country Cloth great Coat, a new gray Bearskin close-bodied Coat, an old white Cotton Ditto, and an old Linen Jacket….
July 26, 1776. DESERTED from the Hero galley, CHARLES FREEMAN, an Englishman, about 25 years of age, 5 feet 6 or 7 inches high, pretty full faced, with short brown hair; had on when he deserted a brown sailor's jacket, with an under jacket of scarlet stuff that had been turned, a check shirt, and a pair of osnabrug trousers. Also JAMES MARTIN, an Irishman, about 25 years of age, 5 feet 6 or 7 inches high, dark complexioned, and a little marked with the small-pox; had on when he deserted a brown sailor's jacket, a white linen shirt, osnabrug trousers, and a new hat. Whoever apprehends the said deserters, and secures them so that they may be returned to the said galley, shall receive 20 s. for each, and reasonable charges, from
GEORGE MUTER, capt. of the Hero.
February 17, 1774. RUN away from the subscriber, living in Cumberland county, on Thursday the 9th of December last, an Irish servant man named NICHOLAS M'CARTNEY, about 27 years of age, about 5 feet 8 or 10 inches high, pretty much pitted with the smallpox, of a fair complexion, with short black hair, and is by trade a shoemaker; has on a short brown coloured duffil coat, lined with plaid, a Virginia cloth under waistcoat, cross barred with red worsted, and an old pair of leather breeches. I will give a reward of FIVE POUNDS to any person that will secure the said M'Cartney so that I get him again.
There are two more examples of Undershirts/waistcoats that I am familiar with. One was worn By Dr. Samuel Jeffries as part of his “ballooning” clothing. The Other is a garment that was worn by Lord Horatio Nelson. These items are made from a Thin woolen cloth and seem to have been meant to be worn close to the body (i.e. under a shirt). These are tight fitting garments. With seams sewn to the outside to keep them from rubbing against the wearer.
The Underwaistcoat I wear is made from green flannel and was made by (yeah you guessed it) Travis Crowder. Travis simply took a waistcoat Pattern and tweeked it. It’s cut short at the waistline and has tape ties to close it. I’ve found wearing it under a wool waistcoat with a hunting shirt on top I’m comfortable when it’s pretty chilly out (early fall and late spring) but Under a wool linen wool waistcoat, and wool frock coat on top of that I’m good into the lower teens (with a wool cap on, mittens, breeches and thick stockings). I’ve even worn one under a jacket under a hunting shirt while wearing a….Matchcoat! (the shock..the horror!)
While the references I have seen to these items has been woolen cloths I don’t feel its outside of the realm of possibility to make one out of a linsey Woolsey. These items are part of working class clothes in Europe and the colonies and I don’t see why this idea wouldn’t have traveled west. And honestly it takes a lot less cloth to make and less room in your pack then 3 extra shirts. Try one out....

Also in the love of Shameless capitalism I thought some folks might dig this. My Friend Mike Burke (Happy Birthday BTW) started a site to sell some of his Modern Horn work. It’s crazy to see his horn carving on a punk rock item like a “black sheep” (I’m Outa step with the world!!!!) But the stuff looks great and really shows off his talent. The site is:

This site has some good images of Nelson’s undershirt:

This site has some images of the Jefferson Under waistcoat:

Articles on Underclothes:
Apparel for Ballooning with speculations on more commonplace garb ,Kidwell, Claudia

Under Waistcoats and Drawers, Baumgarten, Linda


  1. Good to see the English cold weather options being written about.

  2. Great stuff to see. Layers are underutilized. Funny... I was just thinking yestday that I need to dig out some wool flannel for a new underwaistcoat. I am headed to NORTHERN MN in a month for a little outing in the cold and stupid me sold off my capot!

  3. A quick addition... the Jeffries underwaistcoat appears to have the seams on the OUTSIDE. This made SO much sense if it is hidden under clothes and the seams would directly rub on the skin.

  4. Good post, very impressed. Thank you.