How to Make a Quick and Inexpensive Fencing Doublet: Part One

 

I’ve recently returned to SCA fencing and, having encouraged my partner to join me, there has been a great need to make a lot of fencing armor in a hurry. Fortunately, I know of a trick to make a garment that will not only look great but will also pass a punch test.

Firstly, doublets were essentially late Renaissance (or depending where in Europe you were looking, Elizabethan) jackets. They were primarily menswear, but women wore them too over traditional gowns and foundation garments. Doublets could be made of silk, velvet or leather, however the later was more likely to be used in the outerwear version which was called a jerkin.

Leather Jerkin, c.1550-1600 pinked decoration of stars and heart motifs between scored lines; © Museum of London

Either way, one lined leather garment is sufficient to pass a punch test and looks great as late period attire. In order to make one for yourself, you will need to find a discount leather jacket which has seen better days. If you are like me and browse thrift stores often, you have likely come across a few in the ballpark of $5-15 –and really, as we will be tearing this jacket apart and rebuilding it, you should not be paying much more. For this demonstration, I obtained a jacket for next to nothing because it was damaged already. ☺️

When choosing a thrift shop jacket keep in mind the following criteria…

  • Try for real leather. Thicker is better but even soft kid-skin can be reinforced with interfacing and sufficient lining.
  • Don’t spend too much. As mentioned previously we will be tearing this apart, don’t break the bank here.
  • Go for a size that fits in the torso (over the chest and waist), the shoulders on the finished piece will be forgiving and, when in doubt, bigger is better as a garment can always be taken in.
  • The jacket should have a collar which can be popped and altered to cover the neck in the style of the period. Try to avoid anything double breasted or too minimal to work with.
  • Choose a jacket that is free of studs, excessive buttons, external pockets or seams which might catch a blade or look out of place. (My own jacket has internal pockets, which I love but will have to seal in order to make the garment durable)
  • Make sue the jacket can be closed to cover the neck all the way down to the belly and past the hips.

Once you have found the right jacket, carefully take a seam ripper to the shoulder seams and remove both the sleeves along with the interior sleeve lining. Be very careful to not rip these pieces as we will need them later. While you have the seam ripper handy, carefully free the lining from the exterior leather along the base of the jacket so that the bottom is no longer joined with the lining.

Now put the jacket on and fit it to your silhouette by pinning along the available seams around the waist and back. At this time decide the shape of your waistband. Period garments tended to be longer in the front than they were in the back, but there is a good bit of variation. My tastes favor a pointed front which curves high over the fullest part of the hip cuts straight across the back. Mark this line with a pen leaving room for seam allowance.

 

 

Next time I will create shoulder caps and waist tabs from our scrap leather and complete the doublet look!

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