18cNewEnglandLife
Clothing & Accoutrements


The Farmer’s or Workman’s Smock
by Rhonda McConnon

The smock is an outer garment worn over a man’s shirt or shirt and waistcoat for warmth and for the protection of the clothing worn underneath. The smock is a large over-shirt and is constructed from the same pattern as a shirt but made larger and longer. The fabrics used would depend on its use, with wool, linen, and various blends of wool and linen being used. The length can reach from somewhere about mid-thigh to the knee, and for ease of movement, slit up the side seams if slimmer fitting. The neck can be worn open since this is an over garment but the shirt underneath would be close- necked, often with a neckerchief.

The smock is a good all-around garment for the beginning reenactor with limited sewing ability or for one who is unsure of which direction to go until a persona is developed. The smock can be made of a heavy enough wool for warmth and rain protection. It can get you by with a limited garments when just beginning. A farmer or laborer’s impression could consist of the following: breeches, heavy wool stockings, shirt, neckerchief, smock and hat and then farmer’s boots or spats to cover modern shoes.

The smock will still be a versatile garment even when later on you add a jacket or a coat to complete your kit. The smock will be useful to those of you who go on to do encampments and have to haul wood or just want something warm and easy to wear in the early mornings. You will find many uses for it.

When deciding on fabric to make a smock, consider its use. Wool for warmth and to repel rain, linen or cotton substitutes if being used in warmer weather keeping in mind that the latter two absorb the rain. Solid colors, checks, and stripes are acceptable. In mentioning checks, I want to point out that we have no references to plaids, so be leery of them or find documentation and share it with us. A medium weight woolen is easy to work with and can be ‘fulled’. The heavy ‘coat-weight’ woolens need more documentation for this use.

To ‘full’ a fabric, buy about a half yard of additional yardage (per adult smock in this case), then wash it in warm water; no detergent is recommend. Dry it completely on regular or perm-a-press heat in the dryer. Now let me explain this method. First, I don’t recommend detergent as it removes the natural lanolin that helps to make the wool soft and rain-resistant. Secondly, a woolen can be listed as 100% wool and still have a small percentage of a synthetic, like nylon in it. If you over heat such a fabric, it will come out with permanent wrinkles and never look quite right. Periodically check the fabric as it is drying, and remove it from the drying process when it has reached the degree of 'fullness' :-) you wish it to have. You may find drying it completely works, but it is fulling quickly, remove from the dryer and line dry to complete the process. This may be needed to keep some wools from turning to felt.

This process is to re-texture your woolen to make it thicker and therefore warmer and more rain resistant. It does not stop the shrinking process in furture washings! Launder gently and line dry the finished garment. When laundering a woolen, use lukewarm or room temperature water and very little agitation. Its' the agitation and the temperature shocking that combine to really cause shrinkage.


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