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Author Topic: 19th century naval unforms - what did people wear?  (Read 9339 times)
Matthias Gladstone
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« on: November 24, 2008, 07:06:13 pm »

Greetings,

As all of my steampunk stuff is meant to be Airship Navy related, i'm interested in what officers wore during the 19th century.
At the turn of the Century, up to about 1820, I know very well - it was more or less the same as the 18th century. What i'm interested in is how it looked during the steam/sail Navy, and later on the pure steam navy that saw the century out.
Any help greatly appreciated,
-Matt
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Lady Penelope
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« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2008, 07:26:24 pm »

Are you looking for regular Naval uniforms, or Airship Navy uniforms?  (Your post was a little ambiguous.)  I recently ran across a photo of an airship crew online (a real one, not a steampunk one!  Cheesy), so if that's what you're looking for, I can do a search and see if I can manage to turn it up again.
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« Reply #2 on: November 24, 2008, 07:28:12 pm »

A wee bit of googling came up with this page that has a few images from the Spanish-American War.

http://freepages.military.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~worldwarone/Spanish-AmericanWar/images.html

You might also want to check out the Osprey military history books, they are a great resource..

Cheers
Harold
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« Reply #3 on: November 24, 2008, 07:42:53 pm »

Are you looking for regular Naval uniforms, or Airship Navy uniforms?  (Your post was a little ambiguous.)  I recently ran across a photo of an airship crew online (a real one, not a steampunk one!  Cheesy), so if that's what you're looking for, I can do a search and see if I can manage to turn it up again.


Was it this pic?

Spoiler (click to show/hide)
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Lady Penelope
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« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2008, 07:47:04 pm »

Are you looking for regular Naval uniforms, or Airship Navy uniforms?  (Your post was a little ambiguous.)  I recently ran across a photo of an airship crew online (a real one, not a steampunk one!  Cheesy), so if that's what you're looking for, I can do a search and see if I can manage to turn it up again.


Was it this pic?

Spoiler (click to show/hide)


No.  I think the one I had in mind showed English or American uniforms, and they were a more modern-looking uniform style, but not too modern. 
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HAC
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« Reply #5 on: November 24, 2008, 08:08:11 pm »

Found these my images folders...






Cheers
Harold
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« Reply #6 on: November 24, 2008, 08:57:40 pm »

Those are fantastic images, Harold!
They really capture the atmosphere aboard those airships.
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« Reply #7 on: November 24, 2008, 09:04:36 pm »

Wow, does it ever.  Excellent find Harold.  markf
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Lady Penelope
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« Reply #8 on: November 24, 2008, 09:12:09 pm »

Harold always posts the coolest stuff.   Wink

I couldn't find the image I had in mind, although I suspect it's around 1940s-period or thereabouts.  I can keep looking, although in my opinion the pictures that have already been posted are more "steampunky" than the ones I've got in mind, which aren't very much different from what modern-day aircraft crew wear. 
« Last Edit: November 24, 2008, 09:14:41 pm by Lady Penelope » Logged
Matthias Gladstone
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« Reply #9 on: November 24, 2008, 09:23:01 pm »

I apoligise for the ambiguity, it's not very like me.
What I was refering too was British Royal Navy officer's uniforms from about 1850 to 1900; if there are any interesting examples from other countries, they would be interesting to see too.
While not apparently lookingpunk on the surface, I need a historical reference to get the right look, so I can steam later (and hopefully not end up  like a modern officer). I help run a stall at a military show sometimes, so I can get hold of militaria fairly easily.
Great pics there HAC, I hadn't really thought about real airship navy stuff. Grin
A quick word of warning on the osprey books - I do a lot of 20th century military history (personal interest) and they're often innacurate, especially on uniform details, weapons and the like.
-Matt
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« Reply #10 on: November 24, 2008, 09:31:20 pm »

While not particularly steampunky, I do beleive the Royal Navy's No1 uniform (the parade uniform with the bibs and bell-bottoms) is a hold-over from the C19th RN.
Officers, probably something comparatively modern in style.
Lifted from Wikipedia:
Quote
Throughout the nineteenth century, there was great variation in uniform; officers paid for their own uniform, and often adapted it to fit civilian fashion of the time, as the Admiralty regulations governing uniform were not highly prescriptive.
So I'd imagine something quite civilian, with hark backs to the old style, mix in a lot of militaria, jobs a good un...


That all is of course superfluous to Harold's find. Very nice there!
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« Reply #11 on: November 24, 2008, 09:49:21 pm »

Greetings,

As all of my steampunk stuff is meant to be Airship Navy related, i'm interested in what officers wore during the 19th century.
At the turn of the Century, up to about 1820, I know very well - it was more or less the same as the 18th century. What i'm interested in is how it looked during the steam/sail Navy, and later on the pure steam navy that saw the century out.
Any help greatly appreciated,
-Matt

Matt

In the sail/steam transition period in the middle of the 19th century any self-respecting navy followed the blue and white of the Royal Navy (except the Confederates who chose grey).

For ratings (normal sailors) the typical dress was dark blue wool cloth hat, trousers and 'frock' (smock)with taped collar, worn over a white shirt. In tropical climates the dark blue items gave way to white. The shirt eventually became the modern t-shirt. By the end of the century the overall cut of the uniforms hadn't changed much, but most navies had adapted their own unique style - for example some had striped (red or blue ) shirts and most changed to their own unique hat style - just look at pictures of sailors from different navies during the 1900 Boxer Rebellion.

Officers' clothing was more elaborate and reflected not only naval styles but also changes in civilian fashion, so the approximate date you choose is more important.

I've got a fair amount of source material on naval costume of 18th and 19th centuries, so if you can be more specific about what you want I should be able to give you some pointers. What role you want to portray makes a big difference on options for what to wear (as does the approximate date in the case of officers).

Big question then - do you want to portray an officer, petty officer or normal seaman (airshipman)?

BTW - where in UK are you based?

Dave

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« Reply #12 on: November 24, 2008, 09:54:55 pm »

 Most excellent.

I took the liberty of copying the images and post them in my blog.
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Matthias Gladstone
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« Reply #13 on: November 24, 2008, 10:14:52 pm »


Matt

In the sail/steam transition period in the middle of the 19th century any self-respecting navy followed the blue and white of the Royal Navy (except the Confederates who chose grey).

For ratings (normal sailors) the typical dress was dark blue wool cloth hat, trousers and 'frock' (smock)with taped collar, worn over a white shirt. In tropical climates the dark blue items gave way to white. The shirt eventually became the modern t-shirt. By the end of the century the overall cut of the uniforms hadn't changed much, but most navies had adapted their own unique style - for example some had striped (red or blue ) shirts and most changed to their own unique hat style - just look at pictures of sailors from different navies during the 1900 Boxer Rebellion.

Officers' clothing was more elaborate and reflected not only naval styles but also changes in civilian fashion, so the approximate date you choose is more important.

I've got a fair amount of source material on naval costume of 18th and 19th centuries, so if you can be more specific about what you want I should be able to give you some pointers. What role you want to portray makes a big difference on options for what to wear (as does the approximate date in the case of officers).

Big question then - do you want to portray an officer, petty officer or normal seaman (airshipman)?

BTW - where in UK are you based?

Dave



Ah, much as I expected (about officers tailoring their own uniforms). I'm a big fan of the steam/sail hybrid ships, with HMS Warrior being the most famous example, so i'll say 1860. I'm fairly familiar with the ratings dress, I was wondering about Officer's or Engineer's dress. I'd also like to know when khaki started being issued in tropical climates (for the befit of my pith helmet).
One of the major issues with wearing uniform is rank; it takes a long time to gain a commission, so I was wondering if there was any way of giving the illusion of rank without any modern rank insignia. When did the gold lace on the cuffs come in and gold eppaultetes go out? Do you think merchant navy lace would be appropriate instead?
I'm currently based in North Kent, although i'm native to the Isle of Wight.
I've been interested in the 18th century/napoleonic navy for a long time; it was only recently I gained my interest in steam power, and got steampunky again (once i'd rediscovered it).
Cheers for your help,
Matt
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« Reply #14 on: November 24, 2008, 11:06:46 pm »


Ah, much as I expected (about officers tailoring their own uniforms). I'm a big fan of the steam/sail hybrid ships, with HMS Warrior being the most famous example, so i'll say 1860. I'm fairly familiar with the ratings dress, I was wondering about Officer's or Engineer's dress. I'd also like to know when khaki started being issued in tropical climates (for the befit of my pith helmet).
One of the major issues with wearing uniform is rank; it takes a long time to gain a commission, so I was wondering if there was any way of giving the illusion of rank without any modern rank insignia. When did the gold lace on the cuffs come in and gold eppaultetes go out? Do you think merchant navy lace would be appropriate instead?
I'm currently based in North Kent, although i'm native to the Isle of Wight.
I've been interested in the 18th century/napoleonic navy for a long time; it was only recently I gained my interest in steam power, and got steampunky again (once i'd rediscovered it).
Cheers for your help,
Matt



Matt

Officers uniforms were regulated, but they did still tend to follow civilian fashions (altough often a few years out of date). However, they were tailored to fit the officer so there was always the scope for a bit of modification.

1860s would be my choice too. You can take influences from pictures of Royal Navy and American Civil War officers or merchant officers.

I suggest going for dark blue (almost black) wool cloth coat with trousers either in the same material (for European climate uniform) or in white canvas (cotton duck) for tropical dress (or when sufficiently far from the admiral!).

Best coat options are either:

Doublebreasted frock coat with skirts cut back (old-fashioned cut).

or:

Double-breasted coat with full skirts falling down to down to between mid-thigh or just above the knee.

or:

For a 1870s campaign look, a single-breasted coat in the same pattern as an army tunic for the Zulu War.

Gold lace on the cuff was certainly in use by 1860s. I personally think epaulettes should be considered mandatory if using the earlier cut-back frock coat and preferable if using the full-skirted type - these should be worn WITH cuff lace.

Whichever coat you choose, wear with a wing-collar dress shirt, black bow tie and black belt. Waistcoats would probably be of the same material as the coat. Buckles, buttons and hat badge in brass.

A simple peaked blue cloth cap with a black waist belt would top this off. Alternatively you could go for a white  'Zulu War' type sun helmet if portraying tropical dress - I don't think the navy wore khaki sun helmets until much later in the 19th century (I have a photo of naval brigade officers in 1879 weating BLUE covers on their sun helmets)

Since you are in North Kent I strongly recommend you take a trip to the National Maritime Museum - not just to look at the exhibits (including a nice collection of uniforms), but also to visit their excellent library:

http://www.nmm.ac.uk/researchers/library/visiting-the-library

Just tell them you are enquiring about officers uniforms of 2nd half of the 19th century. I found them very helpful when I was doing some research on 18th century warships.... but get there soon, as the library will be shut for several months for refurbishment from Saturday 20 December 2008.

Hope this helps.

Dave
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« Reply #15 on: November 24, 2008, 11:31:50 pm »

How is it that Harold always manages to find the most amazing stuff on this forum, while at the same time being incredibly knowledgeable. You, sir, are amazing.
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« Reply #16 on: November 24, 2008, 11:37:00 pm »


Matt

In the sail/steam transition period in the middle of the 19th century any self-respecting navy followed the blue and white of the Royal Navy (except the Confederates who chose grey).

For ratings (normal sailors) the typical dress was dark blue wool cloth hat, trousers and 'frock' (smock)with taped collar, worn over a white shirt. In tropical climates the dark blue items gave way to white. The shirt eventually became the modern t-shirt. By the end of the century the overall cut of the uniforms hadn't changed much, but most navies had adapted their own unique style - for example some had striped (red or blue ) shirts and most changed to their own unique hat style - just look at pictures of sailors from different navies during the 1900 Boxer Rebellion.

Officers' clothing was more elaborate and reflected not only naval styles but also changes in civilian fashion, so the approximate date you choose is more important.

I've got a fair amount of source material on naval costume of 18th and 19th centuries, so if you can be more specific about what you want I should be able to give you some pointers. What role you want to portray makes a big difference on options for what to wear (as does the approximate date in the case of officers).

Big question then - do you want to portray an officer, petty officer or normal seaman (airshipman)?

BTW - where in UK are you based?

Dave



Ah, much as I expected (about officers tailoring their own uniforms). I'm a big fan of the steam/sail hybrid ships, with HMS Warrior being the most famous example, so i'll say 1860. I'm fairly familiar with the ratings dress, I was wondering about Officer's or Engineer's dress. I'd also like to know when khaki started being issued in tropical climates (for the befit of my pith helmet).
One of the major issues with wearing uniform is rank; it takes a long time to gain a commission, so I was wondering if there was any way of giving the illusion of rank without any modern rank insignia. When did the gold lace on the cuffs come in and gold eppaultetes go out? Do you think merchant navy lace would be appropriate instead?
I'm currently based in North Kent, although i'm native to the Isle of Wight.
I've been interested in the 18th century/napoleonic navy for a long time; it was only recently I gained my interest in steam power, and got steampunky again (once i'd rediscovered it).
Cheers for your help,
Matt


It's not necessarily true that it takes a long time to gain a commission. While it was certainly possible to rise through the ranks most officers would have started out commissioned. It was pretty much the case, throughout history that commissioned officers were drawn from the upper echelons of society (certainly up to WWI) and the officer's uniform was as much an indicator of social position as military rank and being more wealthy (in general) they could afford more eleborate and better quality uniforms. One example of this is that WWI infantry officers often wore riding boots and breeches as a symbol of status (certainly not because they were riding a charger up and down the trenches).

Having said that the Navy was, arguably, more meritocratic than the Army, probably because command positions on a ship usually required a considerably greater degree of technical knowledge than the Army equivalent, but the same social distinctions generally held true.  

So as far as giving the impression of rank goes, it should suffice to go for a generally well dressed look, concistant with the era you're interested in, similarly just as officers would be better dressed than ordinarily soldiers/sailors more senior officers would have more elaborate uniforms and also a greater degree of personal autonomy of dress. If you're going for a generic look rather than specific period authenticity it's also worth bearing in mind that most military uniforms, however stylised have, at least a basis, in practicality.

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Matthias Gladstone
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« Reply #17 on: November 25, 2008, 12:13:59 am »


It's not necessarily true that it takes a long time to gain a commission. While it was certainly possible to rise through the ranks most officers would have started out commissioned. It was pretty much the case, throughout history that commissioned officers were drawn from the upper echelons of society (certainly up to WWI) and the officer's uniform was as much an indicator of social position as military rank and being more wealthy (in general) they could afford more eleborate and better quality uniforms. One example of this is that WWI infantry officers often wore riding boots and breeches as a symbol of status (certainly not because they were riding a charger up and down the trenches).

Having said that the Navy was, arguably, more meritocratic than the Army, probably because command positions on a ship usually required a considerably greater degree of technical knowledge than the Army equivalent, but the same social distinctions generally held true.  

So as far as giving the impression of rank goes, it should suffice to go for a generally well dressed look, concistant with the era you're interested in, similarly just as officers would be better dressed than ordinarily soldiers/sailors more senior officers would have more elaborate uniforms and also a greater degree of personal autonomy of dress. If you're going for a generic look rather than specific period authenticity it's also worth bearing in mind that most military uniforms, however stylised have, at least a basis, in practicality.



My gribble with the commission isn't so much what it took back then, but what it takes today - I was in the military (albiet briefly) and i've seen the work it takes to gain NCO, let alone officer (which do, as you say, normally start off commissioned), so i'm deeply cautious of wearing badges of rank I havn't earned.
As you say, things were different in the 19th century, when one could but a commission, so I have no gribbles impersonating an officer from then. My only concern was being mistaken for a modern one (or being accused of impersonating one) but 19th century tailored dress and eppaullettes should see to that.
I'll probably take a trip up to greenwich at some point - I have been around the museum a few times, but mainly to look at the ships rather than uniforms so another thrip may be required.
Thanks for your help,
Matt
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« Reply #18 on: November 27, 2008, 07:12:06 pm »

Mathias I must salute your attitude towards the military and being mistaken, even unintentionally for a current officer. I spent years in uniform and all too often encountered either civilians or even soldiers wearing and claiming rank and awards they didn't earn.

And I amabsolutely convinced that alot of officers got their comissions on EBay.
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« Reply #19 on: November 27, 2008, 08:13:25 pm »

If you're supposed to be an officer aboard an airship, you could always try and combine elements of Royal Navy and Royal Flying Corps uniforms - I seem to remember that they had quite a distinctive uniform during World War I which, combined with elements of 1860s Naval uniform (tails, epaulettes, vast quantities of gold braid etc.), could both look extremely good and solve any potential problems involving being mistaken for an actual Navy officer.  I think the tailcoats remained part of the uniform until the early 1860s and were replaced by frock coats or double-breasted jackets around the middle of the decade, but I'll have to check up on that, they might have switched over in the late 1850s.  The only problem with this sort of outfit is that it would have to be made from scratch - what are your sewing skills like?  You could possibly wear a forage cap instead of a typical Navy officer's cap as well.
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« Reply #20 on: December 04, 2008, 06:27:37 pm »

Keeping in mind that there is no set canon for steampunk fashion I took certain liberties with a Butterick Civil War pattern. The material I used was a dark blue gaberdine. I thought about going straight for the wool, but the cost and the consideration that it would be murder to wear at conventions and outdoor events I opted for a lighter more breathable fabric. I know someone somewhere just threw thier hands up. Grin!

The only real modifications I made to the pattern were to the pants because they were baggy and I like them a little more form fitting and streamlined. For the sleeve rank and pant stripes I used a bronze shade of ribbon, but over that I added gold braiding. The pants were rather high waisted in the first place and I left them as such. My lady freind told me I look like a Matadore now, but something about them I really dig. I am making a pair of not needed suspenders for them none the less for those instances I decide to take the jacket off and have that bit of extra detailing.

On the jacket I scored a lot of gold buttons with anchors. I used 1 1/8th inch buttons for the front, and on the sleeve 3/8ths. I did make the sleeves a little shorter because I wear a crisp white shirt underneath it and I waned to ensure a bit of that was visable to give the jack that added bit of layering.

I also made a cumbebund to go along with it. That I did from scratch. Oce that I intend to wear a sword/pistol belt.

I have tall boots that I am wearing with it. Since they are costume boots the visible inside zipper drove me nuts in the few pictures I have with other ensembles so I made boot covers/spats that I used heavy duty brass buckles to cinch it up. I am loathe to use an accessery that isn't functional, and since this is Steampunk I figured buckles would be more apropo than buttons. Truth be told for a second I had considered using buckles for the jacket closure also but I didn't want to deviate to far from the making the ensemle reconizable as a Naval uniform.

I really did want to do a Naval uniform because I spent a very long time the real Navy, and it is where a lot of my occupational heritage came from. At the same time was trying to avoid recreating and reliving a path I am rather proud of.

I will do my best to get some pictures up soon.

I'm am torn on the issue of gears. Simple things like broches, pendants, or necklaces I think are nice accents that bring an ensemble from Neo-Victorian to Steampunky. I just hate it when things go overboard and get tacky.
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Matthias Gladstone
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« Reply #21 on: December 04, 2008, 06:54:43 pm »

I've more or less decided now - This is going to be my winter steampunk kit (I wear khaki and black in summer), so will consist of a royal navy greatcoat with collar tabs for rank (probably plain white, which was I believe midshipman, aka cadet), a white shirt, black trousers, black tie and waiscoat. If I can find one, a soft peaked cap with a black top (modern officers have a white cover) will be on there as well.
I will wear a sword when appropriate.
-Matt
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« Reply #22 on: December 04, 2008, 07:16:36 pm »

Matt,

Good show! You must supply pictures.

I appologize for my divergent post. I potend to be a submarine in this punkish world of steam, vis an Airship type. Forgive my driftage.

Buzz
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Matthias Gladstone
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« Reply #23 on: December 04, 2008, 08:41:55 pm »

Not a problem sir, I find digression to be the better part of valour Grin
I don't have the kit yet, I still need to buy it, but it shouldn't be too long.
Heres a pic to keep you occupied in the meantime:

-Matt
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« Reply #24 on: December 05, 2008, 01:41:41 am »

Not a problem sir, I find digression to be the better part of valour Grin
I don't have the kit yet, I still need to buy it, but it shouldn't be too long.
Heres a pic to keep you occupied in the meantime:

-Matt


That's an idea you have. I hope you are planning to find a coat with huge lapels. Huge lapels always work well in my opinion.
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