One distinctive Scottish Highland dress item is the Inverness cape (Inverness cloak) that Scottish pipe band members are apt to wear as rain-gear. They employ this outerwear style because they also wear full-dress uniforms with expensive materials requiring such difficult care that conventional raincoats would ruin them.
The frock and the capelet are, here, both fully lined in red lining satin for a dramatic contrast. Straps that are normally used at the armholes and the back to restrain the capelet, and keep it in place when the snaps are not fastened, are excluded from these instructions.
- Take measurements. Measure yourself, or the wearer of the finished Inverness cape/cloak, to insure that it will actually fit. (You are the assumed wearer in these instructions.) The frock of the finished Inverness cape/cloak, ideally, should NOT have a longer hem than eighteen (18) inches from the floor, to keep you from stepping on it!
- The frock should NOT have a straight silhouette. Ideally, it should flare, on each side, to approximately seven point five (7.5) degrees from the pits of its armholes to its hemline, and hence fifteen (15) degrees from the vertical in toto. This serves two functions: it accommodates your mid-section’s thickness if any, and it adds volume to the frock, keeping it from hampering your legs’ motion.
- The capelet can flare to almost any angle; this one flares to a forty-five (45) degree angle on each side from its shared neckline with the frock and the collar base, and hence ninety (90) degrees from the vertical in toto. Its hemline extends the length of your arms AND shoulders, from neckline to wrists.
- Use a felt-tip pen or indelible marker, pairs of scissors, and heavy-duty WHITE poster paper, in long rolls, to cut pattern shapes for the pieces.
- Trace both front-half and back-half pattern pieces for both the frock and the capelet onto the unrolled poster paper with your felt-tip pen or your indelible marker, using the measurements to guide you, and use a pair of scissors to cut each out.
- If you cannot measure yourself, or if no one else is there to measure you, then follow this alternate method. Base the paper pieces of the pattern on the largest and longest overcoat you have that fits you WELL. Trace the outline of only ONE HALF of its body on the unrolled poster paper TWICE, once for each frock paper piece, using your felt-tip pen or your indelible marker. Before you draw the flare of the frock’s sides on the pieces, the coat’s hemline will be straight; you will curve the hemlines when you trace them.
- For the capelet, trace the coat’s sleeve line from the edge of the collar to two inches (2″) beyond the sleeve cuff point TWICE, on a separate expanse of the paper. The two straight lines you then draw on that expanse should form an angle of forty-five (45) degrees. Draw two curves, as parallel as you can make them, to join these, then cut out the paper piece for the capelet.
- The cut-out frock paper pieces should each resemble one half of an oversized vest. Use the front frock piece twice, once each on the outer fabric and the lining, for both the front of the frock’s outer layer and lining, and use the back frock piece for its back. Use the capelet paper piece twice for each of the three pieces of both the outer layer and the lining.
- Shape the collar. Wrap any flexible object all the way around your neck, fold it in two, use your felt-tip pen or indelible marker to trace HALF its length on the paper with a gentle curve, and draw a straight line at a right angle to that curve–be sure to allow just over TWICE the height of your neck. Draw a second, gentler curve from there and join it to the first with a second straight line on a small angle from the first. Then use a pair of scissors to cut out the resulting paper piece and place the vertical straight line on both the outer fabric’s folds AND the interfacing folds TWICE.
- Cut and sew the frock/frock lining. Align the edge of the front frock paper piece with the selvages of each fabric–the black raincoat poplin for the frock and the red lining satin for the lining–and use another pair of scissors to cut along the outer edge. Allow a width of three-quarters of an inch (3/4″) of fabric from the paper pieces, to accommodate the seams you will stitch. Align the edge of the back frock paper piece with the foldlines of each fabric and, again, cut along the outer edge, leaving the same seam allowance. Choose wrong sides for the cut frock pieces of both the outer layer and the lining and, using your sewing machine, stitch the outer seams of each together; the front frock pieces should overlap visibly. Do NOT stitch an outer layer piece to a lining piece!
- Cut and sew the capelet/capelet lining. Align one edge of the capelet paper piece with the UNFOLDED selvages of each fabric–the black raincoat poplin for the capelet and the red lining satin for the lining–and, using the pair of scissors you used to cut the frock and the frock lining, and leaving a seam allowance of three-quarters of an inch(3/4″), cut the fabric and the lining along the outer edges. Again, choose wrong sides for the cut pieces and use your sewing machine to stitch the outer seams together; when this is done correctly, the leading edges of the front capelet pieces should overlap visibly. Do NOT stitch an outer layer piece to a lining piece!
- Interface and assemble the collar. Cut two pieces EACH of the interfacing and the collar–for the collar, use the black raincoat poplin ONLY! You will use your steam iron, as well as your sewing machine, here. Choose wrong sides for the cut pieces of the collar, place the cut interface pieces on each with their wrong, or fusible, sides down, and steam-iron the interface pieces in place. Use your sewing machine to stitch the two collar pieces together right side to right side and another one of your pairs of scissors to trim the excess fabric. Turn the collar inside out and use your steam iron to press it into shape.
- Install the frock lining and collar. Turn the outer layer and and the lining of the frock right side to right side. Stitch the front and top outer edges of the frock’s outer layer and its lining, including the collar, to each other, making sure, in order to allow for the snaps, that you crease the front outer edges of the outer layer OVER those of the lining before you join them–but do NOT stitch the armholes together just yet! Instead, hem the outer layer and the lining separately, without stitching them together either. Then use your steam iron to press the raw edges into creases, leaving more allowance for the outer layer than for the lining, and finally turn the assembled pieces inside out, wrong side to wrong side, matching the creased edges of the armholes and trimming the seam allowances to one quarter inch(1/4″). Finally, you should stitch the armholes together.
- Install the capelet lining. Turn the outer layer and the lining of the capelet right side to right side. Stitch the front and top outer edges of the capelet’s two elements, including the collar, to each other, making sure that you crease the front outer edges of the outer layer OVER those of the lining, and hem the outer layer and the lining SEPARATELY so that they will form perfect semicircles. Then turn the assembled pieces inside out, wrong side to wrong side, trimming the seam allowances to one quarter inch (1/4″).
- Join the capelet to the frock and the collar. Align the finished collar edges of the frock and the capelet, with the frock on the outside. Press creases into the raw edges of the turned-out collar and CAREFULLY stitch it between the frock and the capelet to join them both to each other and to the collar. That done, CAREFULLY flip out the capelet so that its lining rests on top of the frock’s outer layer.
- Put the finishing touches on your Inverness cape/cloak. Fold the collar over and outward along its horizontal centerline so that it will frame your neck. You will use your heavy-duty snap-attachers to install NO MORE THAN SIX (6) HEAVY-DUTY SNAPS in the front of the frock, with the caps on the left front if you are a man or the right front if you are a woman. Make sure you align the snaps precisely along the frock front.
- If you wish, you can cut front patch pockets for the frock out of unused outer layer material and unused lining material. These can be as wide and as deep as you choose; however, it is then best if they each have their top outer corners folded and stitched over. Attach these BEFORE you insert the frock’s lining into the outer layer if you even construct them, and make certain then that you align them as precisely as you can.
- Hanging the frock and the capelet on heavy-duty hangers is an excellent gauge for how each will look when finished; hanging both together on one such hanger, capelet OVER frock, will help tremendously in gauging your final shaping and assembly.
- When finishing your Inverness cape/cloak, marking the intended positions of the heavy-duty snaps you install with white chalk on both sides will help you to align them.
- Joining the hems of the outer layer and the lining of either the frock or the capelet could cause the trailing edges of each to make the lining bunch up on you and make you very uncomfortable.
- If you find that the capelet outer layer hems and/or the capelet lining hems will not form perfect semicircles if stitched, then you will have to trim and/or re-stitch the raw edges of the outer layer and/or the lining till they do, but DO NOT OVERTRIM the offending raw edges, or the finished capelet will be too short!
[Edit]Things You’ll Need
- Black raincoat material like poplin, for the collar and both the frock’s and the capelet’s outer layers. You need at least four (4) yards, and possibly even six (6) yards, in sixty-inch (60″) width.
- Red lining satin, for the linings of both the frock and the capelet. You need at least six (6) yards, and possibly even eight (8) to nine (9) yards, in forty-five-inch (45″) width.
- Heavy-duty fusible interfacing, to stiffen the collar from inside. You need at least one (1) yard–Pellon (R) CraftFuse (R) works best for the purpose.
- Pairs of scissors of different sizes, at first to cut the paper shapes for the pattern pieces to shape, then to cut the material and the interfacing to shape and trim both thread and excess fabric.
- A steam iron, to fuse the interfacing to the collar pieces.
- Heavy-duty sewing thread, black and red in colors, to stitch the pieces together–you need more black thread than red thread.
- Six (6) heavy-duty black-covered snaps, for the front of the FROCK only!
- A heavy-duty snap attachment kit, such as one with heavy-duty snap-attaching pliers.
- A household sewing machine–it does not have to have that many features; almost any one equipped with a reverse switch, a free arm, and a removable flat-bed “table” will do.
- At least two (2) full bobbins and at least two (2) spare bobbins, for the machine–do NOT fill them all with the same color thread!
- Heavy-duty sewing needles, gauge 100/16, with either pointed ends or “ball” ends.
- A tape measure, extending to one hundred and twenty inches(120″), or ten feet(10′), to measure yourself, the garment pieces, or both.
- Heavy-duty WHITE poster paper, in long rolls, to cut the pattern shapes for the pieces.
- A black felt-tip pen or indelible marker, to trace the shapes on the poster paper.
- A large area, for both spreading out, and cutting, the paper pattern pieces and the material; the HARD top of a large table will do.
- A sturdy table, on which to mount your machine when you use it.
- A comfortable chair, so that your sewing will not be tiresome.
- An adequate source of light, so you can see what you are doing.