Belle Epoque Wardrobe – 1890s Linen Cycling Jacket

The finish 1890s linen cycling jacket

Like many of us during this lovely pandemic, I’ve been UFO-busting for the past several months. I’ve picked up and finished so many projects – two 1930s dresses, a Robe a la Francaise, an artistic dress bolero, and the subject of this post. (I’ve also created a few new UFOs, but those are posts for another day…)

I started Simplicity EA258101 Edwardian Dusters last year in July-ish and promptly got stuck on the pockets. It then became Fall and my squirrel-brain turned to sewing Autumnal things, not linen garments. I picked up the jacket again in June-ish of this year, determined to muscle through those double-welt-flap-bullshit pockets, and finish this jacket for at least *some* Summer wear.

Picking up this project again and doing a very quick try-on (sanity check), pinned together at shoulders and side seams.


  • Pattern – Simplicity EA258101 – print on demand from Simplicity’s website now. This has both the women’s and men’s long coats as well as hats and scarves. I found the pattern true-to-size and very well-made, as I’ve come to expect from Simplicity’s older costume patterns.
  • Materials – Medium weight linen, horsehair canvas, silk organza, silk charmeuse-ish (?) for the lining, flat tape, obnoxiously large mother of pearl buttons.


  • Extended lapels and re-drew top collar shapes.
  • Shortened hem.
  • Omitted the decorative back tab.
  • Different sleeves – I used the undersleeve that came with the pattern but draw a much more bodacious topsleeve with an enormous leg o’ mutton arc. I referenced “59 Authentic Turn-of-the-Century Fashion Patterns” for the shape, but Truly Victorian also has a sleeve variations pattern pack with all the glorious 1890s options. What I adore about huge sleeves of this era is that they’ll fit any armscye. Just pleat or gather that huge circle down until it fits the armscye. In my case, because I have le narrow shoulders and I wanted the sleeve heads way up on my shoulder and set narrowly in back too, my armscyes were quite large, particularly in back, but it didn’t matter because the humongous sleeves are easily adjusted to fit.
  • The larger half of the 2-piece sleeves. My favorite thing about leg o’ mutton and gigot sleeve designs is that the more of a circle you make for the sleeve top, the bigger your puff will be. To be honest, this is quite reserved!
  • Trim – this isn’t really an alteration. The pattern comes with suggested trim placement but I, of course, did my own thing. I applied a design to the upper back from an original jacket I found in Edinburgh, but did not buy, last year. I’m not 100% happy with it and think a more geometric pattern would’ve probably looked better, but I like the sentiment of it.
Sketching out the trim placement. I got this a little too wide, to be honest – I underestimated how much I was going to cut away from the armscyes and how narrowly I was going to set the sleeves in back.

This braid doesn’t like to curve!

Tailoring Techniques

  • Pad-stitched lapels and top collar.
  • Horsehair canvas interfacing on the fronts.
  • Organza-reinforced hem.
  • Bound buttonholes.
  • Hand-set lining.

I’m not great tailor, that’s for sure. I’ve only done a handful of tailoring techniques a handful of times and in general have made as many collared garments or jacket-like things than I can count on one hand. This was a big project for me!

There are three books I use to guide my feeble tailoring attempts, and I can’t recommend them enough, in this order:

Vintage Couture Tailoring by Thomas von Nordheim

Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire B. Shaeffer
Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing

Some guts on the front – hair canvas, bound button holes, pad-stitched and taped lapels. There’s a lot going on here!

Vintage Couture Tailoring, in particular, walks you through step-by-step and with a *lot* of photos, though it is definitely on the advanced side. Gerti’es book is kindof “tailoring lite” but has the most vital info in it.

Watch Points

  • Pocketses – I had a really hard time with the pockets on this jacket. They’re double-welt-flap pockets, which I’ve never done, and I found them unusually difficult for a Simplicity pattern. Nice, I guess, but also kindof pointless…I would’ve been just as happy with something more like an 18th century pocket with a top-stitched flap.
  • Lining – To line or not to line? I went back and forth for quite some time on this question, it being a linen Summer jacket, but I ended up not having a choice in the end because of how it was constructed and the tailoring I chose to do. Generally, unlined garments of this period have no structural tailoring except maybe in the lapels, top collar, and possibly the facings. Pockets are usually patch-pockets applied to the outside, and I don’t know what would’ve been done about the leg o’ mutton sleeves. I have all sorts of madness going on inside this, so I *had* to line. With some research and asking of The Instagram, I learned that cotton sateen was a common lightweight, breathable lining, but I didn’t have any, so I went ahead and used the very lightweight silk I got for the job. Yes, the hottest option, I know, but I was so far past the point of believing this was going to be a hot-weather garment that I went on and lined it for Spring and Fall and will use what I learned about unlined jackets on the next project.
  • Sleeve Structure – if you decide to switch out the sleeves and go for the bigguns, they’ll need supports. I have a flat-lining of cotton organdy in the tops and also an organdy ruffle stitched to the seam allowance around the top of the shoulder. This made it a real challenge to line the sleeves! I used the original, much smaller sleeve pattern, so the organdy puffs and ruffles are between the outer fabric and the more fitted lining. This means I can’t access them, but they also don’t scratch me when the jacket is worn.
Here’s what’s lurking between the outer sleeve and the inner sleeve lining. I added an additional round-cut ruffle in stiff organdy just around the top of the armscye too.

Sleeve supports make a big difference! On the left is with the organdy flat-lined support (shown above). The right is without any sort of support.
The Finished Piece 
Done! For such a “floppy, wibbly” fabric, the soft tailoring really goes a *long* way on the jacket fronts, lapels, and hem.

Inspirated by “Howard’s End,” I used enormous mother of pearl buttons, found at Costume College 2019.

The jacket has a double vent in the back – not gonna lie, this was really tricky to line, but Vintage Couture Tailoring has a section specifically detailing how to do it.
The only part of my jacket I’m not that pleased with – my angel braid design, based on an original jacket in Edinburgh. My braid was much narrower than the original. I don’t hate it, though, and it does remind me of Edinburgh, so it’s a positive feeling overall. On a better note, I didn’t intend for the collar to be able to stand like this but it’s a serendipitous detail I absolutely love. Next time I’ll padstitch the collar to do this properly.

I made the jacket from the same linen as this vest, so I’m 2/3 to a three-piece suit. I have enough of this linen left for some sort of bottoms…what shall it be? bloomers? jodhpurs? wide-leg trousers? full or short skirt? I’m wearing the split skirt from HistoricalEmporium in this photo.

Can’t forget the topper – a vintage boater found on Etsy from MountainMammaVintage. I’ve been wanting a boater for ages and was surprised at how rare and expensive they are. I found this one for a really good price, cleaned it up a little, and now I’m madly in love with it. 


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