How to Make Victorian British Uniforms

Written by tamara warta
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How to Make Victorian British Uniforms
A vibrant red fabric is essential to the Victorian British military uniform (red fabric background image by vnlit from

Learning how to make Victorian British uniforms is a skill you may need if you are sewing for a play, working on a school project, or just love the look for Halloween or another timely costume party. The Victorian military uniform of England was sharp and regal looking, with a bright red officer coat and gold embellishments. A black hat similar to what we envision "toy soldiers" wearing in classic Christmas stories was also standard along with a pomp feather. Replicating the look is easier than it looks, and you will need to rely upon supplies from your local craft and fabric store, as well as some basic sewing skills.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Bright red waistcoat
  • Coordinating strip of red fabric (2 yards)
  • 20 medium to large gold buttons
  • 8 small gold buttons
  • 4 yards of gold rope ribbon
  • 2 yards of forest green fabric
  • Black soldier hat (see Resources)
  • Gold metallic pen
  • Red and white feather plume or two solid feathers in these colours

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  1. 1

    Purchase a red waistcoat or long-sleeved dress shirt with a high, round collar. Cut a red strip of fabric that is the approximate length of the waistcoat from chest to waist. Measure this to 4.5-6 inches across. Sew onto the left side of the shirt or coat, and add snaps to the right side and inner right of the shirt or coat so the fabric will fold over any original closures and attach across. You can skip this step by purchasing a toy soldier costume at an online costume shop. Many will come decorated -- simply strip it of its decorations by carefully using a pair of small scissors until you have only the red shirt remaining.

  2. 2

    Down the very centre of the costume top (or the two sides of the attached piece of fabric to the shirt/waistcoat), sew on 20 medium to large gold buttons in rows of two. This should give you ten rows that reach from neck to waist line, if they are spaced out about an inch apart. Cut out two strips of forest green fabric approximately 4 inches wide and long enough to wrap around the cuff of the shirt. Sew this on to make a cuff border around the cuffs of the shirt.

  3. 3

    Cut eight small squares out of a piece of shiny gold fabric. Each square should be about 3 inches high and 5 inches across in diameter. Taking each square in your hands one by one, pinch in the sides slightly, and fold over the top and bottom just a bit. Sew these squares with tight stitching so they form a small pillow shape. After stitching all eight, line them up in a vertical line of four on each shirt sleeve. The lowest should start at the base of the cuff, with the top one about six inches from the green cuff border. Place them right up against each other and then sew the stack together. Add a small gold button in the centre of each square for a total of eight buttons.

  4. 4

    Cut gold rope ribbon to the length of neck to shoulder and sew onto the shirt in tight rows (approximately six rows, or as many as it takes to go across the shoulders). Cut multiple smaller strips to hang down around the shoulder as tassels. You will need a few dozen of these to complete the look. Add a shoulder pad to the inside of the shirt to make a better shape to the shoulder embellishments if you wish.

  5. 5

    Purchase a black British soldier hat, available at most party stores or through a costume website. This can simply be plastic, and does not need to be anything fancy to get the point across. Add two pieces of gold rope ribbon to the hat, so it forms an upside down "v" shape with the two parts meeting at the top centre and separating and wrapping downward. With a gold metallic pen, carefully draw a British crown symbol at the top front centre of the hat, and add the military symbol below that (see References for examples). Pin or glue a red and white feather plume to the top rim of the hat.

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