When I was at UC Berkeley, I had a library stack pass. Usually a student had to fill out a request form and hand it over the counter, and a library employee would find the book and deliver it to the waiting customer. There was no walking around the aisles, pulling books from shelves and looking them over in those days. Students with a certain grade point average were awarded the coveted stack pass, or the right to go mingle with the books. I used to go up into the stacks and look at old, rare books just for the fun of it. I would glance at the checkout card on the inside of the cover and see when the last person checked the book out (this was pre-computer). The books I was interested in were not very popular, and it was usually about 30 years since the book had been let out of the stacks. Two of the books I liked the best were a huge volume on architectural rendering (wish I owned that) and a lovely old book from 1830 full of diagrams on how to draft the garments of the day. It was a large book with page after page of plates full of diagrams for shirts, bonnets, dresses, undergarments, etc. There was no xerox then either, hard to imagine, isn’t it? I would really really love to have that book now. Anyhow, I copied out the diagrams for a shirt and a bonnet, both of which I eventually sewed. I have always been interested in historical garments sewn from rectangular or square pieces of fabric in the old way to use the available narrow widths of fabric in an economical manner.
Years later, my husband wanted to take part in the craft fair being held in the park in our small town on the Fourth of July. He is a photographer and wanted to sell some of his photos, so he requested that I make him an “old-timey” shirt with a late-1700’s or early 1800’s look to it. I found my old diagram and made this shirt:
I used a homespun-looking fabric. I think that for some reason I was unable to make the buttonholes (buttonholer lost or broken?), so I just sewed on the buttons and closed the cuffs with a hook and eye. All the pieces are rectangular or square except the yoke pieces. I seem to recall that they started out as a rectangle and had the slant for the shoulders cut in afterward. There are gussets under the arms, and the sleeves are pleated to the shoulders. There are also pleats or gathers in the center front and center back.
Similar shirt designs are shown in the wonderful little book, Cut My Cote: