Can a Coat be Glamorous?

And what exactly is glamour? A recent quote by Carolina Herrera – “It’s important for women to feel glamorous and feminine but always themselves” – prompted me to look up the definition of the word “glamour” – and I was surprised by what I found. Here is how Webster’s defines it in its noun form: 1) the quality of fascinating, alluring, or attracting, esp. by a combination of charm and good looks 2) excitement, adventure, and unusual activity, like the glamour of being an explorer 3) magic or enchantment; spell; witchery. And then there is the definition of “glamorous”: 1) full of glamour; fascinatingly attractive; alluring 2) full of excitement, adventure , and unusual activity: to have a glamorous job.

Glamour was the last thing on my mind when I started out on my current coat project. Making a muslin (toile) can be time-consuming and tedious, especially when it shows you that some serious alterations need to be made. Fortunately, my coat muslin revealed only some small changes to the shoulder of my raglan sleeve coat, compensating for my square shoulders. My go-to book to guide me through these complexities is Fitting and Pattern Alteration, by Liechty, Rasband, and Pottberg-Steineckert (recommended to me by Susan Khalje.)

I highly recommend this book.

I highly recommend this book.

One of the things I love about this book is that it covers all sorts of situations. Square shoulders for Raglan sleeves? Not a problem.

The diagrams take the guess work out of alterations to patterns.

The diagrams take the guess work out of alterations to patterns.

Once I had my muslin adjusted, my silk organza interlining marked and cut (to be used as the pattern for the wool), I felt like I was off to the races. Not so fast. A careful steaming of my wool fabric revealed three small “thin” areas (not holes, but thin enough that I would need to work around them). This is not unusual for vintage fabric, and is one of the reasons why a careful pre-steaming or pre-pressing of any fabric is important, but especially so for vintage goods.

I marked these small imperfections with yellow chalk.

I marked these small imperfections with yellow chalk.

And then double-marked the areas with orange post-its when I was arranging the pattern pieces.

And then double-marked the areas with orange post-its when I was arranging the pattern pieces.

After untold hours of basting the layers of silk organza and fashion fabric together, I was finally ready to sew.   And this is when I think it began to get glamorous. The first major details to be completed were the pocket plackets. I thought I might faint when I had to make that first cut into one of the side panels of the coat front. But bravery saw me through!

I have the placket catch-stitched temporarily so it does not get caught on something while I finish the remainder of the coat.

I have the placket catch-stitched temporarily so it does not get caught on something while I finish the remainder of the coat.

Here is the inside of the pocket and placket.

Here is the inside of the pocket and placket.

With the first pocket and pocket placket successfully completed, the second pocket placket was simply fascinating and alluring, my progress encouraged by the charm and good looks of the first one. Definitely glamorous!

Progress - both pockets/plackets finished!

Progress – both pockets/plackets finished!

More seams ensued, each one carefully pinned, sewn, pressed and catch-stitched. Particularly rewarding were the shoulder seams of the raglan sleeves. Properly clipped, pressed and catch-stitched, the seams lie beautifully and look good, too.

The benefits of a silk organza interlining (or underlining) are manifold, but not least of which is a foundation upon which to secure the seams.

The benefits of a silk organza interlining (or underlining) are manifold, not least of which is a foundation upon which to secure the seams.

A view of the back of the coat (in progress.)

A view of the back of the coat (in progress.)

Although I have many more hours to go with the construction of this coat, I can’t help but feel that not only is this coat going to be glamorous, with its elegant gray cashmere, its vintage sensibility and all its hidden, inside secrets used to tame those seams, it is also going to be feminine and definitely me.

Perhaps the next question to ask is “Can sewing be glamorous?” It is “fascinatingly attractive, full of excitement, adventure and unusual activity.” It is magical and enchanting, too. The answer would have to be, “Yes, sewing most definitely can be very glamorous!” Even when we are in our bedroom slippers and blue jeans, covered in threads and pins, if we are sewing, I say we are glamorous.

20 Comments

Filed under Coats, couture construction, Dressmaker coats, Love of sewing, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized, underlinings, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, woolens

20 responses to “Can a Coat be Glamorous?

  1. Can’t wait to see your coat, Karen. I am so in awe of your meticulous attention to detail and your superior skills. I made an evening coat last year and always feel so glamorous when I wear it.

  2. Definitely glamorous. Your attention to detail shows. This will certainly demonstrate “evidence of effort” as Roberta Carr used to describe sewing at the highest level. I’m looking forward to seeing the finished work.

  3. Jackie

    Thank you for the sneak preview of your glamorous coat. Inside and out, it already looks so beautiful.

  4. Andrea Birkan

    Your coat is going to be beautiful. I love reading your blog. I find it so inspirational. I also have a love of vintage sewing patterns and all the detail they offer.

  5. It’s going to be such a beautiful and glamorous coat! Can’t wait to see it!

    And that is one of the best books in my collection! Everyone who is into sewing and fitting should have a copy.

  6. jay

    This project is showing all the signs of being beautiful! I can relate to that tense moment of cutting through the fronts for the pockets, even when you’ve measured again and again, it still feels like wilful damage.

  7. This will be lovely – full of care and great details. Can’t wait to see the finished coat.

  8. Mery

    It’s beautiful and elegant even unfinished. Once you put in that lining and wear it you’ll be looking very “smart” too. Oxford’s word origin of glamour explains the bewitching connotations. Using special knowledge and skills to bring such lively charms to inanimate objects does indeed have an enchantment that shows in the finished product. It would be hard for me, at the first wearing, to force an alluring Hollywood smile because I wouldn’t be able to stop proudly grinning as big as Texas.

  9. Your sewing is always glamorous! I love the details of your coat, especially the pockets. I’m a fan of the fitting book too, but yesterday I was stuck with a shoulder issue even Liechty et al doesn’t seem to address. I even woke up last night and went over it again and again without finding the answer. Not much glamour in that 😉

    • No, I agree – interrupted sleep due to sewing problems is not glamorous! I can sometimes solve sewing issues best in the middle of the night or when I’m in the swimming pool! Sometimes I decide a certain pattern is just not for me… Good luck to you, Marianne!

  10. Those welt pockets always make me nervous! I measure and measure and I’m still nervous. You certainly do beautiful work!

  11. Let’s see….can a coat glamourous? Yes, of course. Are you making it? Yes, absolutely! Your work is always so meticulous. And I think that book is something I should have; right now the very thought of making fitting alterations fills me with dread.

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