Thursday, November 01, 2007

Jack Aubrey Costume

Jack Aubrey costume with jacket

Jack Aubrey costume without jacket

Here's the details on the Jack Aubrey costume that I wore to our Halloween party. I made this costume based on the everyday uniform worn by Russell Crowe in the movie Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. I made everything but the boots from scratch. Below, I'll cover each part of the costume individually.

Update 5/22/08: If you're interested in more costumes from the Master and Commander movie then please check out my photos and drawings of several outfits on display at the Maritime Museum of San Diego.

Update 9/18/12: Check out some photos of a no-sew Jack Aubrey costume here.


Project Name: Jack Aubrey costume - jacket
Time Taken to Finish: 2 weeks
Pattern: Modified from McCall's 4626, size Men's Small *(See update at bottom of page)Materials Used: Blue polar fleece, cream heavy weight cotton knit (for lining, same fabric used for vest and pants), 3/4 inch buttons, gold fabric, gold fringe, fusible interfacing, blue and gold thread
Special Tools Used: Singer 221K sewing machine
What I Did: So that it would resemble Jack's jacket, I modified the McCall's pattern by adding the fold-over lapels (where the buttons are) and removing part of the jacket below the lapels. I made the epaulettes (shoulder decoration) separately and sewed them on at the end. The buttons were cheap white ones that I spray painted gold (the same with all the other buttons in the costume).
What I Liked About the Project: Of all the costume pieces, the jacket took the longest to make but I think it turned out great. It was surprisingly comfortable.
What I Didn't Like About the Project: The weight of the lapels often caused them to roll back and show the lining of the jacket. The epaulettes could have been a little bigger. I wanted to use real brass anchor buttons but it would've cost me around $40 to get them. The spray painted buttons look fine, but those on the sleeves are already starting to get scratched.


Project Name: Jack Aubrey costume - vest
Time Taken to Finish: 1 week
Pattern: Modified from McCall's 4626, and McCall's 4864 size Men's Small *(See update at bottom of page)
Materials Used: Cream heavy weight cotton knit, 5/8 inch buttons, fusible interfacing, cream thread
Special Tools Used: Singer 221K sewing machine
What I Did: I started with the pirate vest (McCall's 4626) and modified the pattern by giving it a high neckline. I did that by adding the neckline from the McCall's 4864 colonial jacket pattern to the pirate vest pattern. I also made the vest significantly shorter. Since I don't have a buttonhole maker, I originally considered using sew-in snaps hidden under the buttons. But the snaps could not be hidden well, so I broke down and made real buttonholes by hand.
What I Liked About the Project: Considering that I had never sewn a buttonhole of any kind before, I think they looked very good.
What I Didn't Like About the Project: I wish that I had used sew-in interfacing instead of fusible interfacing. The fusible interfacing under the buttons caused the fabric to ripple. Since the vest was lined in the same fabric as the outside, I was able to turn it so that the ripples were on the inside.


Project Name:
Jack Aubrey costume - pants
Time Taken to Finish: 2 days
Pattern: McCall's 4864 size Men's Medium *(See update at bottom of page)
Materials Used: Cream heavy weight cotton knit, 5/8 inch buttons, fusible interfacing, cream thread
Special Tools Used: Singer 221K sewing machine
What I Did: I sewed the pants according to the pattern. The only change I made was in the number of buttons on the legs of the pants.
What I Liked About the Project: It was fast! The pants were the easiest part of the costume to make.
What I Didn't Like About the Project: I should've made the small size instead of the medium, because I had to pin the pants to keep them sitting at my natural waist. Since the pants were white-colored and unlined, they were practically see-through so I had to wear white tights underneath them. Even then you could still see the tucked-in shirt tail clearly through the pants.


Project Name: Jack Aubrey costume - shirt
Time Taken to Finish: 3 days
Pattern: McCall's 4864
size Men's Small *(See update at bottom of page)
Materials Used: White light weight polyester, 5/8 inch buttons, sew-in interfacing, white thread
Special Tools Used: Singer 221K sewing machine
What I Did: I also sewed the shirt according to the pattern. Again, I hand-sewed the buttonholes on the neck and wrist.
What I Liked About the Project: The fabric is light and comfortable.
What I Didn't Like About the Project: The shirt was the last thing I sewed and I did not have time to figure out how to add ruffles to the neck (as Jack's shirt has). Also, the shirt tail needs to be made shorter because there is too much to tuck in.

Captain Aubrey in action!
* Update 8/22/08: I just found out that McCall has discontinued both of the patterns I used in my costume (4626 and 4864). They're still available in the "Out of Print" area of their website but I'm sure they won't be around much longer. However, I recently ran across Butterick pattern B3072 which is really a better match for all the pieces in the costume than the McCall patterns. The Butterick pattern has the jacket, vest, shirt and pants all in one package. If you're looking to make your own Jack Aubrey costume I would definitely suggest starting there!
Update 10/4/08: I've uploaded several high resolution close-up photos of the jacket. You can see them here:


Anonymous said...

Delightful, Cathy. very ambitious and I love your documentation.
--gunroom denizen

Anonymous said...

Wonderful, Cathy, and all on a dear little featherweight! The polar fleece makes a pretty convincing stand-in for wool in the jacket.

All you need is a sword & pistols!

of the Gunroom

Anonymous said...

wow! amazing! great job. do you ever make costumes for others?


Cat Carlisle said...

Thanks! Since I've only made two full costumes so far (this one and a renaissance festival costume) I haven't tried to make anything for someone else. Though I have been thinking about trying to make a Stephen Maturin costume for my husband - if only he'd agree to wear it!

Anonymous said...

Hi, my name is Marco from Italy. I'm very astonished by your jack aubrey costume! I'm a great fan of o'bryan's books and of Master and commander film...My favourite interest is the model ship, and now i'm doing the HMS Sophie, but i'm also very interest for your perfect you have some drawing or photos more detailed of this costume?

Cat Carlisle said...

Hi Marco! I'm glad you like my costume. You might be interested in viewing this blog post:
Master and Commander Movie Costumes
. This blog post has pictures and drawings I made of some of the costumes from the movie. I would also be happy to post some detailed photos of my Jack Aubrey costume if you would tell me what parts of the costume you would like me to photograph.

Anonymous said...

Hi Cathy, thank you for the answer.I'm interested to make all parts of this costume; in particular, now I'm working on the jacket, could you send me some photos or drawings of the jacket (front and back) please? My e-mail adress is
Thank you very much, bye.

Cat Carlisle said...

Marco, I have sent you an email containing several photos. I hope they help! I have also put links to the same photos at the end of this blog post so other people can view them.

Anonymous said...

Hi Cathy, yes, I receved your e-mail, thanks! Now the jacket is draught on paper scale 1:1, in the next days I hope to begin the really one.
I'm also searching a sward for complete the costume, but here is very very difficult to find a faithful reproduction. Is perhaps in U.S. less difficult?
Bye bye

Cat Carlisle said...

From what I can tell, it's difficult to find an accurate sword in the U.S. as well. That's why I didn't ever get a sword (or hat) for my costume. Even if you can find an accurate sword, it would probably be very expensive. I suggest you read this post from a blog called Man the Capstan:
Behind the Uniform, Part III
. This blogger has been making a Royal Navy uniform (like Jack Aubrey's uniform) and this post talks about where he got his sword, hat, and boots. Hopefully it can help you get some ideas about where to look for your sword.

Elisson said...

My friends and I can't sew like you (or Jack's crew) - but, man, can we cook.

Cat Carlisle said...

I noticed! I would love to try one of those Yorkshire puddings. That post is what led me to subscribe to your blog. :)

Anonymous said...

Hey Great Custome - one thing though (dont hate me). Remove the epilephs from the right shoulder if you want to be the rank of Aubrey from the movie. A "Master and Commander" (a Royal Navy title) only has one. Master and Commander is someone that is a commander of the ship (i.e. the ships captain) but is only Commander in rank. Only a full "Post" Captain has two - one on each shoulder. Regardless, its a great outfit - what would you charge to make one?

Anonymous said...

I believe Cathy was looking to emulate the Jack Aubrey in the feature film "Master and Commander: Far Side of the World", in which two epaulettes would be technically correct, as he was most certainly a post-captain with three years, warranting two epaulettes shipped on either shoulder.

Cat Carlisle said...

Yes, manthecapstan is correct. This costume is based on the uniform worn by Russell Crowe in the
film - if you have a look at photos of him in the uniform, he has
epaulettes on both shoulders. This is because most of the action in
the film is taken from the novel "Far Side of the World" where Jack
Aubrey's rank was Post-Captain. So the full title of the movie,
"Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" is misleading since
Aubrey is not actually a commander in the film.

To answer your other question, unfortunately right now I don't have the time or the experience to try to make costumes on commission. If you really want a costume I encourage you to try to make one yourself - this was the first complete costume I ever made so if I can do it, so can you! :)

Anonymous said...

Actually, Check this site out - i think i will contact them because they do some great stuff.

Regarding the naval rankings - glad to have prompted the discussion. Its been a while since i read one of the books - but isnt the suprise his first - or does he return as a post. I am sure you guys will enlighten me.

By the way - your husband should wear whatever you put out for him.

Cat Carlisle said...

Thanks for the link to Sutlers, it looks like a really neat shop!

'Master and Commander' is the first book in the series; in it Jack is promoted to commander of the sloop Sophie. He gets posted to captain in the second book (called 'Post Captain') and he finally gets the Surprise in the third book (called 'HMS Surprise'). The storyline of the movie is from the tenth book 'The Far Side of the World', by that time Jack has been captain for quite a while.

I'm slowly wearing my husband down on the costume thing, I got him to wear a chef's jacket last Halloween so he could go as Gordon Ramsay. Given a few more years maybe I can work him up to a Maturin costume! :)

Anonymous said...

Outstanding job on the jacket. It looks wonderful. Do you know where I might be able to find a Redcoat jacket that looks as good as your work?

Cat Carlisle said...

Thanks! Redcoat costumes seem to be a little easier to come by online than royal navy costumes - many of the online Halloween costume stores seem to have them. For example: British redcoat Halloween costume.

If you are looking for something a bit more authentic then I would check out historical re-enactment outfitters such as The Sutlers.

And of course you can always try sewing one yourself - unfortunately I am not very familiar with the redcoat uniform so I don't know of any specific patterns. I suggest doing an online search for "Revolutionary War pattern" and browsing through the results to see the different patterns that are available.

Hope this helps!

Unknown said...

Hello Cathy, I stubbled accross your detailed Jack Aubrey Costume blog...Searched the whole wide world for this costume for Halloween next month...they are all crap...there is one place that makes authentic replicas but they want $1500 for the coat...hmmm what would you charge? Even the half way decent ones cost 100 - might have a nitch for stitch.

Cat Carlisle said...

Glad you liked it, Scott! Unfortunately right now I do not have the time to do commissions. And honestly, I don't think I have the experience to make a costume for someone who is not standing in front of me. If you can sew it yourself this costume could be made cheaply - I would estimate that you could get the patterns and materials for under $100.

What gets expensive is when you have to get someone else to sew it for you. It took me a solid month to make my costume - that's a lot of work! If I estimate that I spent 5 hours a day, 5 days a week for 4 weeks that would be 100 hours of work. At minimum wage ($7.25/hour) that would be $725, plus the cost of materials! Maybe an experienced seamstress could sew it faster so it would cost less but in general a commissioned costume will cost a lot more than one "off the rack".

Sorry I couldn't be more helpful, but I wish you luck in finding a costume for Halloween!

Anonymous said...


Nice costume!

I have the lieutenant costume from master and commander. one rank lower but i really like the look of that outfit a lot more.

Here are some pictures:

I hope you like it, it took many years to make and perfect.

Kind regards

Cat Carlisle said...

Great costume, Michael! What an amazing amount of detail. The amount of work you put in to it really shows.

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