Jaco-Bee-an Jacket: Testing Margo Anderson’s Waistcoat Pattern 024

NOTE: An earlier version of this post was originally written for Margo’s Patreon page in 2021. She recently announced that she will be discontinuing her pre-printed pattern service. This  waistcoat/jacket pattern will remain available as a digital download (026D), but the paper pattern version will be retired when the current batch sells out.

I have always coveted an early 17th century waistcoat ever since I first discovered them a decade ago. I loved how “frumpy-chic” they were: comfy loungewear that was often completely over-the-top with polychrome embroidery, lace, and spangles.

I even hacked a thrift-shopped modern jacket into a facsimile of a Elizabethan/Jacobean waistcoat in 2013, with surprisingly good results considering I just basted up the side seams with giant backstitches—not out of a love of historical accuracy (clearly, considering I kept the original zipper front of the jacket which also happened to be made of a spandex/rayon blend), but out of pure adoration for The Look.

Also pictured: The Walmart eyelet lace ruff I made by gluing the folds like a book with Tacky Glue and the coif made from a recycled shirt. Sorry for the gaps in many of my old posts. Links and photos have changed/moved/been deleted over the years and I hadn’t yet learned hotlinking was considered rude…

I vowed to eventually do the fashion true justice and make a proper version, but I never seemed to get around to it.

You can imagine, then, my elation when Margo Anderson asked if I would be interested in pattern testing the new Elizabethan Waistcoat pattern. What excitement! I was thoroughly gobsmacked. Here was I, long dreaming of making another jacket of this very sort and here was the perfect opportunity!

Pattern testing is a curious business. I had no idea what to expect! Margo provided the rough draft of the pattern pieces and manual. The draft wasn’t complete since it was still in production—we were pattern testing for that very reason, after all—but it already had illustrations for the majority of the steps, so I could guess what needed to be done by looking at the pieces and illustrations.

Margo even has even kindly provided a comprehensive basic fitting and sewing guide available free for the enjoyment of all!

I have gained a bit more sewing and construction knowledge since my first baste-a-modern-stretch-jacket attempt, though only a smidgen more patience. However, my need for swift gratification was well-served and I found Margo’s waistcoat quite quick and enjoyable to construct. If I– an admittedly haphazard seamstress– can do it, I have confidence that anyone with a firm grasp of basic sewing techniques and a bit of ambition could make this pattern work. If you’ve ever made a Victorian bodice, 18th century bodice, or even a modern structured top, you would probably be comfortable making this pattern.

Pattern 024 contains different construction options like two sleeve choices (a two-piece slim/fitted sleeve or a one-piece full sleeve), high or low collar, and two different hip flare options (inserted gussets or a separate peplum).

I was asked to test out the separate peplum option which suited me very well since it eliminated the need to fiddle with inserting gussets. Margo, does, however, provide a clever method for doing so, should I opt to try tackling another version of the pattern in the future.

My measurements at the time.

I had no prior experience with Margo’s fitting system and feared that I might have some difficulty fairly testing the pattern since I normally have to perform quite a few major alterations to fit my large bust, short waist, and wide shoulders. As recommended, I followed her meticulous fitting guide, taking a multitude of measurements and filling in the appropriate boxes on the sizing chart. At first, I was anxious—my measurements were literally all over the chart! However, I trusted her system and cut out my mockup following Margo’s method.

To my absolute delight, with just a few minor tweaks, it worked!

I got an excellent fit pretty much straight away. The only alteration I had to do was a 1 inch Full Bust Adjustment (FBA)—considerably less than I normally have to do! Because of this, I was able to re-cut the front panels only and complete a wearable mockup of the pattern in a single weekend.

Additionally, because I did the peplum version, I was able to sew nearly everything by machine! While not historically accurate in the least, being able to sew the majority by machine means that folks like me who are impatient, messy hand-sewers, or needing to make it quickly can do so with little issue.

By far my favorite part of sewing Margo’s waistcoat pattern was the incredible sleeves! I absolutely adore full, fanciful sleeves! These are not only beautifully shaped and perfectly tapered (which is harder to achieve than you might think), they are easy to set and only one piece! Plus, as she pointed out, they offer an incredible full range of motion.

You can pick apples, bend down to tie your shoes, raise your hands fix your hat,  stretch your arms out to the steering wheel over 4 layers of 4 yard petticoats, and, if anyone quips about “A lady never had to raise her arms,” you can whirligig at them in a righteous rage with ease.

My jacket is made from a lighter-weight cotton duck printed with bees. It’s lined with an old curtain/sheet/something scrap. It is not interlined or boned in any way. I did opt to wear mine over a corset, but that’s personal preference. These sorts of garments would have been worn over stays or over just a shift to relax at home. To gussie it up a bit, I made some bows out of poly-satin ribbon and blinged them with some rhinestones rescued from an old sweater.

Elizabethan and Jacobean jackets can close with actual ribbon ties, but I am horrible at tying bows, so I opted to close my jacket by pinning my pre-sewn bows on instead. Hooks and eyes would also be period-appropriate. I also pieced together a collar and cuffs from a thrifted silk shirt and Walmart lace.

I made up a “pattern” for my collar by heedlessly hacking up the fabric until it fit the neckline that way I wanted. If you’d like a smarter approach, try one of the many free detachable collar patterns out there, like this one that’s a similar shape.

I am not a perfect seamstress by any stretch, but I was still able to create a lovely, comfortable garment I can be proud of, and it was just a first-try mockup! Margo has since updated, refined, and published the completed pattern and manual on her website and other folks have made awesome waistcoats of their own from it.
Many thanks to Margo for affording me the opportunity to test her waistcoat pattern!
You can visit Margo’s shop here.

A Valentine’s Chocolate Box Juliet Cap: Margo Anderson’s Cuffietta Pattern

“You are a seamstress. Borrow Cupid’s needle, and sew with them fine edges bound” –Not Mercutio

Exactly two years ago in 2021, Margo’s Patterns, which specializes in Renaissance era patterns for men and women, offered to let me help pattern test some of her newer patterns.

The first pattern up for testing was an Italian Cuffietta, a Patreon-exclusive at the time, now part of Pattern 029. This pretty design is based on the little football-shaped caps worn in a few late 15th century Italian portraits (most famously Ludovica Tornabuoni) and made famous by productions of Romeo and Juliet, which have dressed Juliet’s actress in such caps for centuries. Thanks to its iconic association with the Shakespearean play, the style is are commonly known as a “Juliet cap” in both fashion history and modern bridal wear.

I was excited to try out this pattern because it was a small project, perfect for breaking a sewing drought, and because it gave me an opportunity to use a pearl necklace I accidentally destroyed a few weeks earlier!

So that’s why my brain’s been all fuzzy! All my pearls of wisdom rolled away.

It was also nearing Valentine’s Day and it seemed fitting to make a red velvet “chocolate box” style cap for English Lit’s most popular tragic lover.

The pattern recommended buckram, but I used some bee-printed cotton duck soaked in a 50/50-ish mix of Aleene’s Tacky Glue and water. It worked like a charm! I applied the mixture with a paint brush, making sure the cloth was soaked enough to be wet through, but not so much that pools of glue would leave plastic-y spots on the surface. I did it on a piece of aluminum foil so I could easily peel it off when it dried. Don’t use wax paper or plastic wrap. The wax paper disintegrates with the moisture and tears. The plastic wrap too easily wrinkles, causing your homemade buckram to wrinkle as well. Foil is much easier to keep smooth and remove later.

I used this fabric for my Jaco”bee”an Jacket, too. I’ll get a post for that project written soon!

The directions were very easy to follow, even the part where you have to zig-zag the butted center seam together, something I’d never done before. I sewed floral wire from Dollar Tree around the edge by hand rather than by machine. Same for the binding made from a scrap of bias tape. At this stage, Chris walked in and asked if I was finally giving up and sewing my own bras after whining for years about the terrible state of the American underwear market. And that’s when I realized my boobs were the same size as my head!

34 J US for reference, LOL!

To hide the seam, I used some double-layer gauze I got from Walmart and then covered the whole thing in some rayon velvet cut from a shirt I’d been hoarding from Goodwill since 2014.

If you are making a solid cap instead of a net one, velvet is the perfect fabric because it hides stitches, it grips the hair to hold the cap in place, and it is bougie as heck!

The decoration portion is entirely up to personal preference. I decided to combine the chocolate box and historical netting looks together, stash-busting some thin metallic gold ribbon applied in a criss-cross pattern which I then decorated with the pearls from the broken necklace.

I opted to sew everything on by hand rather than hot glue for once. It took twice as long to decorate as it did to assemble the base, but it was worth it.

The cap was complete! But to properly show it off, you also need the period-appropriate hairstyle. My natural hair is very tent-shaped, randomly wavy, and unruly–like spaniel ears.

But seriously, it’s uncanny!

And, it seems, that works out in my favor because my favorite wild-hair eras are full of dog-ear hairstyles!

Woof! 1450-1500 (Allegorical Portrait of a Lady), 1660-1680 (Portrait of a Woman), 1820-1850 (Anonymous Portrait of a Woman)

To achieve a properly puppy-eared late 15th century hairstyle, I center parted my hair. Then I parted out my bottom layer of hair by running my thumbs along the sides of my head diagonally from my temples, leaving a curtain of hair hanging around the bottom half of my head. The top I gathered into a tight bun. I used the same clip-on ponytail hairpiece that I used for my Game of Thrones hairstyle, turning it into one thick braid and wrapping some of the gold ribbon around it. Attach it to the bun and wrap the braid into a thick coil at the back of the head. The bottom curtain of hair I curled with my thinnest curling iron. Gently separate the curls with your fingers.

You will look goofy until the last moment. That’s how you know you’re doing it right!

When you’re done, you’ll realize how nicely the Cuffietta/Juliet Cap finishes off the look!

You may also discover that in addition to looking smashing as a cap, a cuffietta makes an excellent multi-purpose accessory!

Interested in more Italian Renaissance costuming? I’m working on a short write-up about my pattern test for Margo’s Italian Renaissance Gamurra pattern! It will be posted soon.

In the meantime, you can check out my adventure making the Simplicity “Ever After” dress pattern (the one you see in the pics of my cuffietta) or visit one of my favorite Italian Renaissance costume blogs: “Diary of a 1480s Florentine Gown” by Jen of Festive Attyre! She has her own version of Ludovica’s cap on there, too, if you’re interested in seeing what a net cuffietta looks like.