Free Pattern: Incroyables Tailcoat

Incroyables ensemble, ca. 1790-95
Incroyables ensemble, ca. 1790-95. Image: LACMA.

Happy quatorze juillet! For Bastille Day, here’s a pattern for an Incroyables tailcoat.

The tailcoat, which dates to Revolutionary France, was part of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s 2016 Reigning Men exhibit, currently on view at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum.

Incroyables and Merveilleuses were the dandies and fashionistas of the revolutionary period. Today, Directoire style evokes glam rock, Marat/Sade, and John Galliano. The style famously inspired Galliano’s 1984 graduation collection, entitled Les Incroyables, as well as his work for Givenchy.

Adam and the Ants, Prince Charming (1981)
Adam and the Ants, Prince Charming (1981) Image: Discogs.
David Bowie 50th birthday distressed frock coat 1997
David Bowie at his 50th birthday concert, 1997. Image: Pushing Ahead of the Dame.
The Royal Shakespeare Company presents Peter Brook's motion picture "The Persectution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as performed by the inmates of the asylum of Charenton under the direction of the Marquis de Sade, by Peter Weiss
John Steiner and Glenda Jackson in Peter Brook’s Marat/Sade © 1967 United Artists.
Givenchy Haute Couture by John Galliano, 1996. Steven Meisel / Grace Coddington
Linda Evangelista in Givenchy Haute Couture by John Galliano, Vogue, December 1996. Photo: Steven Meisel. Fashion Editor: Grace Coddington.

Here are the museum notes:

This handsewn silk tailcoat, with its high collar, wide lapels, short front, and long back exemplifies how French fashion extremists (incroyables) adopted and exaggerated traditional wool riding coats from England. The sleeves of this tailcoat, set unnaturally close together, forced the wearer to hold his shoulders back and thrust his chest forward to create a “pouter pigeon” silhouette which was fashionable in the late eighteenth century.
Detail, 1790s Incroyables ensemble
Detail, 1790s Incroyables ensemble. Image: LACMA.
1790s Incroyables tailcoat, back view
1790s Incroyables tailcoat, back view. Image: LACMA.
Back detail sketch by Thomas John Bernard
Back detail sketch by Thomas John Bernard. Image: LACMA.

Download the pattern here.

Note: Gridded pattern. Does not include seam allowance.

Length at centre back: 49″ (124.5 cm)

Notions: 14 1 1/8″ (2.9 cm) buttons for front and coattails; 6 3/4″ (1.9 cm) buttons for cuffs.

Alexander McQueen Fabric, Part 2: Tartan

McQueen tartan dresses from Widows of Culloden (FW 2006)
Dresses in the McQueen tartan from Alexander McQueen’s Fall/Winter 2006-7 collection (Widows of Culloden). Image: Metropolitan Museum of Art / Everything Just So.

If Alexander McQueen’s innovative prints reveal his interest in technology, the designer’s work with tartan shows his engagement with history. Continuing our celebration of Savage Beauty at the V&A, this post looks at McQueen’s use of tartan. (See Part 1: Prints, or my roundup post here.)

The MacQueen clan tartan appears extensively in the designer’s breakthrough collection, Highland Rape (Fall 1995). The collection—which used Lochcarron tartan and lace found in Brick Lane—was a highly personal response to the violence of the Highland Clearances and fashion’s appropriation of Scottish culture (watch Tim Blanks’ show video here).

McQueen wool tartan jacket and skirt from the collection of Isabella Blow - Alexander McQueen FW 1995
Jacket of McQueen wool tartan with green wool felt sleeves; skirt of McQueen wool tartan; both from the collection of Isabella Blow. Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 1995-96 (Highland Rape). Photo: Sølve Sundsbø. Image: Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Highland Rape runway photos - Alexander McQueen FW 1995
Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 1995-96 (Highland Rape). Images: Metropolitan Museum of Art.

McQueen also used his family tartan at the house of Givenchy. In his second couture collection, Eclect Dissect (Givenchy haute couture Fall 1997), which was built on the idea of a mad scientist, the McQueen tartan was cut on the bias for tailored pieces overlaid with black lace:

Two tartan looks from Eclect Dissect - Givenchy couture FW 1997
Alexander McQueen for Givenchy Fall/Winter 1997-98 haute couture (Eclect Dissect)

The McQueen tartan reappears the following year in Joan (Fall 1998). Named for Joan of Arc, with an opening soundtrack of burning wood and runway covered in cinders, the collection thematized martyrdom, with the McQueen tartan referencing the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots (see Constance C.R. White, Review/Fashion, and Kate Bethune’s note; full collection at firstVIEW):

Joan - Alexander McQueen FW1998
Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 1998-99 (Joan)
Joan - Alexander McQueen FW 1998
Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 1998-99 (Joan)

McQueen also worked with other tartans. The check pattern might be manipulated to appear blurred or bleeding, or it could be overlaid or embellished as in Eclect Dissect. In The Overlook (Fall 1999)—named for the haunted, snowbound lodge built on a Native American burial ground in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980)—a long, grey tailcoat was lined with tartan to match loose trousers, and an overlaid tartan jacket was paired with a balloon skirt in a large blanket check with tartan accents (full collection at firstVIEW):

Sunniva Stordahl and Hannelore Knuts in grey checks and tartan in Alexander McQueen FW 1999 (The Overlook)
Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 1999-2000 (The Overlook). Models: Sunniva Stordahl and Hannelore Knuts.

McQueen’s 1960s-inspired collection, The Man Who Knew Too Much (Fall 2005), included bias-cut separates in a wool ombré check, together with a black, white, and pink check party dress covered in beaded fringe:

Raquel Zimmermann and Carmen Kass in tartan looks from The Man Who Knew Too Much - McQueen FW 2005
Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 2005-6 (The Man Who Knew Too Much). Models: Raquel Zimmermann and Carmen Kass. Images: style.com.

The Girl Who Lived in the Tree (Fall 2008), a fanciful narrative of the British Empire, had several bias-cut pieces in a black, white, and red tartan, and two coats in a grey mohair tartan for a bleeding effect:

Alexander McQueen FW 2008
Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 2008-9 (The Girl Who Lived in the Tree). Models: Sara Blomqvist and Alanna Zimmer. Images: style.com.

There were several pieces in the McQueen tartan in Alexander McQueen’s Fall 2006 menswear collection, which was inspired by vampire movies Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) and Interview With the Vampire (1994). Vogue editor Hamish Bowles wore the appliquéd kimono-and-pants ensemble to the Costume Institute gala in 2011 (see the collection and read Tim Blanks’ review on style.com vogue.com; video at AlexanderMcQueen.com):

McQueen menswear FW2006 tartan
Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 2006-7 menswear. Images: style.com.

The same season, McQueen returned to Scottish history with Widows of Culloden (Fall 2006), a romantic collection commemorating the final battle of the 1745 Jacobite Rising. The show invitation had the title in Gaelic: Bantraich de cuil lodair (see Kate Bethune on Widows of Culloden). As in the Givenchy couture, the McQueen tartan was cut on the bias, embroidered, and trimmed with lace and tulle (click to enlarge):

Widows of Culloden - Alexander McQueen runway lookbook FW 2006

Widows of Culloden - Alexander McQueen runway lookbook FW 2006

Widows of Culloden - Alexander McQueen runway lookbook FW 2006

Widows of Culloden - Alexander McQueen runway lookbook FW 2006

For more see Jonathan Faiers, McQueen and Tartan, and Ghislaine Wood’s essay, “Clan MacQueen,” in the V&A catalogue.

Like other traditional tartans, the McQueen tartan can be ordered from Scottish textile mills in different weights and fibre contents. (It’s often listed as ‘MacQueen.’) Alexander McQueen used tartan from Lochcarron, a mill established in the mid-nineteenth century in the Scottish highlands.

McQueen / MacQueen tartan swatch
MacQueen Modern tartan swatch from the Scottish Tartans Authority.

As a memorial to the late designer, Scotweb owner Nick Fiddes designed a mourning version of the MacQueen clan tartan.

What would you make in the McQueen tartan?

Sourcing Tartan Fabric

  • Lochcarron has an online shop; Lochcarron tartans are also available through Mackenzie Frain and other suppliers.
  • My swatch is from the Scottish Tartans Authority.
  • The House of Edgar’s MacQueen Modern tartan is available from the mill’s retail site, tartankilts.com.
  • If you prefer ordering locally, many Scottish shops stock fabric and can special-order tartans they don’t have in stock.

Update: In an apparent nod to Alexander McQueen, Outlander costume designer Terry Dresbach dressed Bonnie Prince Charlie in the MacQueen tartan.

Prince Charles Stuart (Andrew Gower) and Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughans) in "Prestonpans" Outlander, season 2 episode 10
Bonnie Prince Charlie (Andrew Gower) and Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughans) in Outlander, season 2. Image: New York Times / Starz.