Making Civil War Naval Fly Front trousers

This is a relatively simple conversion.  The basic pattern is the same an any other trousers of the period, just a few simple modifications.

Before we get in to conversions, the first thing you need to decide on is pockets.  Side seam pockets like on Federal Army trousers were not all that common.  They had them, but not that common.  Mule ears were more common than side seams.  Slit pockets set in at the waist band were the most common or no pockets at all.  I prefer slit pockets.

Fabrics: Any period blue fabric is good.  You may decide to use Federal Blouse Flannel or go with a dark blue kersey.  Linings and interfacing can be polished cotton, cotton shirting, white or blue cotton drill (especially for pockets if you chose polished cotton or cotton shirting)

Pick a pattern. If you have chosen slit or no pockets, you may butt the front and rear leg pieces together taking out seam allowances and cut the piece ans one.  This will eliminate the outer leg seam.  If you are going with mule or side seam, carry on.

The trousers need to fit just a bit different from Army.  They should be snug in the waist and down to the hip bone.  This is so they stay up (mostly). From the hip bone down they should be loose fitting and not binding.  We take the waist measurement of the customer and subtract one inch from the waist band.  At the point where the hip bone is we add 3-4 inches to the customers hip measurement.

The general formula for Naval trousers from the thigh on is the thigh measurement plus four inches.  This allows the legs to move freely and the trousers not to bind up.  In period clothing this ended up with an average of 26 inch cuff.  If your thigh makes the cuff more that an inch or so bigger than that, adjust the pattern in towards the cuff to keep it about 26 inches.  Other wise, it looks “off”.

From here put the trousers together as per instructions with the following exception.  Do not sew the back seam of the waist bands together and leave the rear seam of the trousers open about 4 inches down from the top.  Finish the back of the waist bands like the fronts, trimming out as much excess fabric as you can.  We attach them to the trousers , then add the facings and close them up.

At the rear seam which you have left open, press the seam allowances back and finish the trousers.  You should have a 5-6 inch deep slit in the rear of your trousers including the waist band.  At this point, you need to put in your eyelets.  I usually use 5 or 6 pairs.  Start about in the center of the waist band and then space the test about 1.5 inches apart down the sides of the slit.  About 3/4 of an inch in from the edge.  Pretty much, just space them out and make them even.  Make sure both sides line up.

Once you have the eyelets in, you need to make a gusset piece.  We use a triangle of trouser fabric and face it .  But, they were made of just about everything.  It you just want to use a piece of drill or shirting, that’s fine, you just need to finish the edge to keep it from fraying.  This piece is visible.  Any way, the top of the opening should be about four inches fully open.  Stitch the gusset piece down on the folded back section of the eyelet edges and bottom.  It will be puckered, this is good.  Lace up the back starting at the bottom.  I use black cotton twill tape, ½ inch wide, 1 yard long.  You should put some sort of “Tack” at the base of the rear slit to reinforce the opening.  I use a “Crows Foot”.  “Sprats Head” or simple “Bar Tack” also works.

The best way to size these trousers is to put on your drawers, undershirt and frock.  The undershirt and frock are worn tucked in, so tuck everything in and have some one else tighten up the laces and tie them for you . Or, you can just tighten them up and tie them before you put them on.

Naval trousers were built sturdy.  They tended to fell seams.  Even if they could not tuck the fabric due to thickness, they would press it to one side and stitch it down.  This reinforces the seams.  All stress points were tacked.  Many had a square of cotton stitched on the bias over the center point where all the crotch seams come together to reinforce this stress point.  These tended to be Sailor alterations, so do as you will.