Studded Leather Rapier Jerkin
also known as the project that had too many studs
Project Completed March, 2014
Inspiration Point and Reasoning
OK, so I will say it out loud - I don't want to wear a doublet on the rapier field. Ah, I feel better. It's not because I don't think doublets are cool, it's because of two other main sticking points.
First, it doesn't really fit my persona. I've always been a Scot with some Norse tendencies, but I've been leaning toward trying to get a kit together that's closer to the British Isles, if not Scottish in full. That and, to be honest, I like my crotch covered up instead of an arrow pointing right at it.
Secondly, it seems like doublets in some form or fashion are dominant on the field. Even with the folks that aren't 15th Century Western European, the doublet is an easily accessible garment - of which The Gypsy Peddler makes absolutely gorgeous variants. No, really, you should check her out. I'll wait.
So I started digging through the books on costume that I have on-hand and found the jerkin. I even found that Scots were ever present in some way or another wearing clothing that the other Brits were wearing during the given time periods (remembering a liene was in period - kilts weren't). So I had an idea of what to search for, and found the jerkin to the right (click on the image to the left to go to the original source) at The British Museum.
A couple of observations that I had in this piece. First off, it's a youth's jerkin. It's a little less "point-to-my-codpiece", but it's also not too far off from the Shakespearian renditions that we've all seen on the silver screen and off of it. It's a jacket, so that's a little closer to my modern comfort zones too. But the thing that caught my eye was all the little holes in it! That's right, all those little dots are actually stars! By George, something that I can document as having a hole that's not just a little hole!
Anyway, moving on. The cut lines in the parallel pattern don't look like they've gone all the way through the leather. They're scored well enough that it's held up through time, but it's not just a puff and slash approach on the body. The sleeves look like they're slitted, but the body looks intact. It's also got a lovely use of the leather covered ball shaped buttons that were more prevalent in period.
As much as I absolutely loved the idea of the cuts and holes in the jerkin that I found, I knew right off that I would fail as soon as a marshal caught me out of their peripheral vision. I also knew that I didn't want to tool out a piece of veg tanned leather due to the heat factor, instead opting to use a nice piece of designer leather that I found on sale. I'd previously failed on putting together a different coat because it was "too blue" for me as well, so I figured instead of tooling in directional slashes, I could use a second piece of oil tanned leather to get the same effect as it being quilted. For the dot pattern though, I decided on using "spots", since they give a studded look while being a lighter weight material.
Prefaced by the fact that I have very little experience making clothing, I cut out the pieces for the jerkin, based on a pattern that I found (I can not tell a lie, it's just a Simplicity pattern, but it suited my needs). I cut out the strips of oil tanned leather as well and laid it out a couple dozen times. Once I figured out the symmetry, I glued the oil tanned down using a contact cement to keep them in place. Then, it was a matter of laying out the couple hundred spots - first with the stripes, then up the front and then through the body of the blue. I kid you not, I had perforations in my fingers for a week after they got all the way down...
I had an idea part way through that I'd like to use buckles instead of buttons. And some button studs and straps on the side, so I could take it in a little if I felt like it (since sometimes the belly can get in the way). Well, that and I had some really cool little skull button studs and buckles that I could use. They're very,very subtle, but if you're looking up close it's just one little thing I figured would add to the personality. In putting the sides together so that it could be taken in, I also stitched in some shims to attach the buckles and straps to so that they weren't just hanging out there for no reason. I made the bottom skirt a little longer than the estimate on the sample source looked to be as well, but I wanted to make sure that it stayed below the waistline during a lunge.
Thoughts in Retrospect
After having been able to fight in this jerkin, I found out two major things. The first is that it's still hot as hell. In the colder months, I will happily wear this, but if it's over 70 degrees I will melt. I'd hoped that the spots would help to let a little air move around, but not so much. Secondly, it's quite heavy - especially for a rapier garment. For semantics, I could still feel shots come in, but found that the spots can be ripped out much more easily than I thought. It's also a little tougher to get in and out of because the buckles are all 1" - with gloves on, it's a pain in the backside.
So, instead of keeping this one as an active piece of field armor, I'm going to most likely use it more off the field. It's comfortable, and I have gotten compliments on it, but we'll see what comes up next.
Constructive feedback is both welcome and appreciated, please let me know if I missed some pertinent information or if there's somewhere I can improve.
As always, thanks for reading!