How to Make a Victorian Tailcoat

By Araminta Matthews ; Updated September 15, 2017

Things Needed

  • Long black wool or cotton coat
  • Dress form or partner
  • White fabric chalk
  • Scissors
  • Sewing needle
  • Black thread
  • 6 silver eyes (from hook and eye buttons)
  • 14 matching silver buttons
  • Black ribbon (or other contrasting color ribbon)

The traditional Victorian tailcoat was most frequently worn in the evening as it was considered more formal attire than frock or day coats. The design of the coat features a hem slightly above the waist to reveal the waistcoat beneath, with sides that curve over the hip and extend into two tails below the buttocks. The simplest way to recreate this look is to modify an existing jacket structure by cutting away pieces of a blazer and adding tails or by modifying a modern long coat or trench coat.

Hang the coat on a dress form or ask a partner to put the coat on. Button the jacket. For the purposes of this project, each front piece of the coat will be referred to as flaps which button together. Use fabric chalk to draw the contour of the tailcoat shape.

Draw the front of the waist coat shape. Starting at the hip bone on one side, contour the hip in an arc that opens toward the thigh and peaks toward the waist, ending the arc 3 inches below the belly button and to the side. Continue this line up slightly to create a "V" shape that ends where the edge of the coat flap ends.

Repeat with the opposite hip, ending on the other front flap of the coat. The bottom front of the coat should resemble the bottom of a tuxedo vest: two slight points that point down to the thighs below.

Turn the coat so you are looking at the back of it. Use your chalk to continue the edge of the hip line in a slightly angled line down to the bottom hem of the jacket in the back. From the bottom, draw another line up toward the buttocks that begins about 4 inches to the side from where the last line ended. Repeat from the other hip line in the back to create two tail outlines.

Cut the coat along the chalk lines you created. Remove the coat from the dress form. Fold the frayed edges over 1/4 inch and stitch the hem along the waist and down the length of the tails to hide the frayed edges. If your coat has a lining, be sure to tuck the lining into the hem.

Flip the coat inside out. Pinch a pleat (a thin folded line 1/8 inch in depth) at the top of the coattails in the middle where they would each fall over the buttocks. Stitch the pleat through the lining and the tail -- about 6 inches long each.

Stitch three silver eyes such as those that accompany hook and eye fasteners or buttons in the center back of the tailcoat. They should be in pairs about 3 inches apart horizontally and 2 inches apart vertically.

Remove any buttons from the coat and discard. Stitch four silver buttons to the front of the coat starting where the first button on the original coat began below the collarbone and placing the others equidistant apart, ending about 1 inch from the bottom of the coat. Cut and stitch matching button holes and stitch up any old button holes that may have been on the original coat.

Stitch five silver buttons each on the back of each sleeve 1 inch apart vertically.

Lace a black ribbon (or choose a ribbon in a contrasting color to the coat) through the hook eyes on the back of the coat as you would lace a shoe, starting with the top and working down. Tie the laces together in the back to adjust the fit as necessary. When tied, the bow should hang down from the bottom of the laces over the tails.

Tip

Add a ruffled white shirt or a matching vest to complete the Victorian look. For a more authentic Victorian tailcoat, follow a Victorian tailcoat pattern in pin-stripe or black velvet material and line it with silk.

About the Author

Araminta Star Matthews began writing in 1994, and editing in 1998. She has been published in "Learning through History Magazine," "Dark Moon Digest" and the "Sandy River Review." She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Maine and National University respectively.