The KCI J&G Project: Reference and Mysterious Mysteries

The main question on my mind as of late has been “What does the jacket do in the back?” Obviously there is an extant, existing garment, yet no one except the lucky people at the Kyoto Costume Institute, seem to know or are willing to share what EXACTLY happens back there. A peplum? A tail? A frilly something-or-other? Pleats? Kicks? A point? Nothing at all!?

So I’ve gone off on a mini-trek to take a look at similar garments, and to determine for myself an answer or two. Here is what I’ve found:

In the movies:

The Affair of the Necklace

The character Marie Antoinette wears a re-creation of this jacket, done up quite beautifully. The costume director chose a peplum with three box pleats, that fans out over the back of the skirt.

I think this look is absolutely smashing.

Jefferson in Paris

I have not seen this film, but it looks to be awesome in terms of costume and HAIR (zomg!)

From the photo here, it looks like the jacket was done up in linen instead of silk, and they’ve done a long tail down the back.

I know this tail thing to be period, but this looks too Victorian to me. It is difficult to tell from the picture, but it looks like the tail comes to something of a point, and it box pleated at the center, with two self-covered buttons to “hold it closed” as decoration.

The Aristocrats

Another one I haven’t seen, but from this picture it appears to be a ruffled peplum at back, with the self-covered, embroidered buttons carrying all the way around.
There is a seam at the waist, and there does not appear to be a point at center back.
Thus far I like this option the least.

Fashion Plates:

Though almost always exaggerated, fashion plates do reflect the fashion and ideals of a time period – if not more ideals than actual fashion. They are excellent sources, since you get the whole length of the costume.

These two show 1790s jackets, both with tails/peplums/kicks at the back, which leads me to believe that there is indeed something at the back of the KCI jacket, not just a point or a straight edge.

The first of these two, though difficult to see, looks to me that the curved bottom edge swoops back into a double or triple box pleat at center back.

The black and white sketch looks more like a zone-front bodice than a jacket, but still exhibits a tail that looks to be gathered into a very ruffly ruffle.

I think this black and white gown is on the more fantastical edge of fashion…then again, there were some pretty bizarre and amazing things going on in fabric in the late 18th c.

Actual Garments:

Neither of these examples are from the 1790s, but I believe that it is important to know what came before in order to solve the mystery.

This first jacket dates 1775-1785, and features a long point in back. The two tabs on the side back are split from the middle piece, and flare out over the skirt quite nicely.

This 1785 jacket features a peplum with an attached ruffle trim. This is very similar to what we saw with “The Aristocrats,” although this peplum is all one piece with the bodice back and side back.

So you can see we have some options!! And a LOT of work to do…


  • Jenny

    September 4, 2009 at 5:09 AM

    If it's any help, I would go with the Affair of the Necklace box pleats, or either of the actual garments. Are you wanting to choose one or two options for when you make a pattern?

  • Lauren Stowell

    September 4, 2009 at 5:23 AM

    Comtesse, I don't know why I haven't e-mailed them yet! I will go and do it right this very instant!

    Jenny, I agree, I like the "Affair" version the best. I think I'll get the pattern done with that option and then see if I even need to do another option. The worry is that it will look too "costumey" for people to want to wear with just jeans, etc., hence the more simpler option, like a squared-off back.

  • Margravine Louisa

    September 4, 2009 at 3:37 PM

    I like the "jefferson" version – there is something more flowing and then absolute about the peplm ending in a point at the back — think back to the politics of the time – the world was in an uproar!

  • Lauren R

    September 4, 2009 at 4:47 PM

    "The world was in an uproar" this is most true! I think in this particular decade, the 90s, almost ANYTHING was done in fashion, so all of these options could be quite accurate.

    So we've got a vote for the tail-point, and one for the pleated kick. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    September 4, 2009 at 11:28 PM

    I love both versions (Affair & Jefferson), but think the Affair wins for me. I think that and the aristocrat versions are probably the two closest to the original – I noticed that a pic I've found shows a *little* bit more of the tail and it does to curve round rather than going down into a tail (like Jefferson) and the buttons continue:


    I'd say from looking at the Affair and Aristocrats versions, that the affair looks more likely as it has that little bit of volume from the pleats, whereas the Aristocrat version looks rather flat, ugly, clumsy and half-hearted, really! The Affair version is much more elegant and sits much better.

  • Lauren Stowell

    September 22, 2009 at 5:22 AM

    Gentlewoman Thief, I completely agree. The "Affair" version is my favorite too, and I did think the "Aristocrats" take on it looked sloppy too!

    As for you, my dear Lithia, I only have a maniacal costumer laugh..mwahahahahaha. /intrigue

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