Alamance Battleground State Historic Site
One of the tools that we use to decide how to dress when portraying someone from the past is artwork. Historical Interpreter Drew Neill used his favorite painting, “Watson and the Shark” by John Singleton Copley, as his inspiration for a member of the artillery company of sailors raised at Wilmington. Capt. John Walker recruited this company to serve in Governor Tryon's campaign against the Regulators. Even with a painting to serve as a model, there is always a little experimenting that goes on while creating 18th century garments. Read on for more details about how this impression came together!
For the petticoat breeches (also sometimes known as "slops"), Drew used hemp canvas based on descriptions of originals. Based on the painting Drew noticed the pleats appeared to be pretty well defined all the way down to the opening of the fly. He believed that that could only be achieved by basting the pleats down and pressing them during construction. The sailor would then remove the basting stitches before wearing. He decided to test his hypothesis and make a pair! While it took a little bit more time to baste and press the pleats down, it made it much easier to work with and attach the waistband. It also made them a easier to fold and store while he worked on them. Assuming a “slop shop” or naval tailoring shop made hundreds of these and relied on division of labor and many people working on different parts, plus the need to store them until needed, it makes sense to spend a few extra minutes on that step to save more time overall.
We would love to hear your thoughts on this project! Do you agree with Drew’s interpretation of the breeches construction?
Thanks to Adam Hodges-LeClaire of AHL Tailor & Naval Clothier for his thoughts and encouragement on this project!