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Historical Notes on Pattern #136 - Greatcoat and Garrick

Updated: Dec 18, 2020

This pattern was copied from an extant Garrick. For a Pinterest page that has many photos of this extant Garrick:

https://www.pinterest.com/LaughingMoonMer/extant-garrick/


There seem to be many names for this type of coat. The greatcoat can also be called an overcoat, topcoat, surtout, and redingoat. When you add the capes the names can be Carrick, Garrick, Box Coat, Driving Coat, or Coachman’s Coat. Made for ladies, this coat was called a Levett or Great Coat.With the capes added it was called a Carrick or Phaeton coat. And not everyone agrees on exactly which is which. Later in the 19th century it was called an Inverness or Ulster coat. Some costuming sites might also call it a French Highwayman’s coat. This type of coat has found fan’s in many costuming genres, such as Regency, Late Georgian, Napoleonic, Old American West, Pirate, Cosplay, Victorian, Goth, Steampunk, Military, and Futuristic. A version of it even became famous as the coat worn by Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer) in the movie Tombstone (1993). This type of coat is so famous it has its own place in tvtropes.org as the “Badass Longcoat”.

There isn’t as much written in textile history books about Great Coats and Carricks as other types of garments. Perhaps because they were considered a utilitarian and not a fashion garment, there is less discussion in period periodicals or drawings of patterns in tailoring manuals. But there are a few clues along the way, in addition to a very limited number of extant garments. I am fortunate enough to own one of these Carricks, which was copied for this pattern. The early date of 1750 that I have used for this garment should probably be questioned. There is more evidence after 1780 as to it being appropriate. A good place to see overcoats in this early period is here: https://www.scribd.com/document/221863733/Male-Dress-Great-Coats-Surtouts-Cloaks

One of the most famous garments of this type is the coat favored by Napoleon Bonaparte himself.There are several paintings of him wearing his gray great coat and a few extant coats in collections. In the book “The Age of Napoleon” this is written near a photograph of one of his coats: “After the uniform and hat, the calf-length Redingote was the third essential part of the ensemble, chosen by the emperor to make himself readily recognizable. A capote* (or great coat), as it was called by the emperor himself, it was made of wool cloth from Louviers, France. The armholes were ample enough to fit easily over a uniform with the epaulettes folded back.The collar was open and the comfort was provided by two folds in the back. Most of the capotes* were gray, but starting in 1811, blue or green ones were ordered as well. When on winter campaign, the emperor wore a fur-lined, velvet greatcoat that was longer and more generous than the average capote*.” There is an extant coat owned by Napoleon in the collections of Musee Napoleon I, in Foutainebleau.

*In my opinion using the word “capote” is confusing. In English the word capote is often used to describe a blanket coat. I think that perhaps Napoleon was using the Italian word “cappotto”, which means overcoat.

The earliest mention I can find is in the “The Cut of Men’s Clothes” by Norah Waugh. On page 95 she includes a drawing of a pattern in “L’Art du Tailleur” published in 1769. It is figure II and is called “Great-coa