A Fine February Finish

Leap Year, with its extra February day, seemed to be custom made for my sewing schedule. I had hoped to have my gray cashmere coat finished by the end of the month, and thanks to those extra 24 hours, I managed to do just that – barely! I will confess to taking out basting stitches, steaming, and adding two bar tacks to the lining on March 1st (gasp), but now my coat is finished.

A Fine Feb Finish

A Fine February Finish

Photos of me in this coat will be in a future post…

Like Claire McCardell, who said “I believe in a collection of coats,” and coats are “revealing, a clue to your taste, and your knowledge of Fashion,” I also believe that one should not “make a coat too basic.” The unique aspect of fashion sewing is that one can start with a basic (or not-so-basic) coat pattern and then make it her own.

The first owner of this Vogue Designer Original pattern, designed by Guy Laroche, which I used for my coat, had obviously used it. (This isn’t always the case – many vintage patterns are still “factory-folded” and in their unused condition.)

When I purchased the pattern, I had already decided to lengthen the sleeves, which are shown on the pattern envelope as “below-elbow” or bracelet-length. I wanted full-length sleeves as a practical matter. Much to my delight, the original owner had decided the same and had added tissue paper inserts into the sleeve pattern pieces. As it turned out, the length she had decided upon was also exactly right for me.

What a nice surprise to find the sleeves already lengthened!

What a nice surprise to find the sleeves already lengthened!

There are really only a few details I chose for this coat which serve to make it “not basic.” Besides the bound buttonholes (which used to be basic but are not so much anymore!), I put emphasis on the buttons, the lining and a couple of the finishing details.

First the buttonholes and buttons: because the cashmere fabric is coat-weight, I needed to make the “lips” of the buttonholes a bit wider than normal. Once again, I used an organza patch on the underside of the buttonholes, which makes a very nice interior finish:

The line of basting stitches is the fold line - the organza patch is on the facing part of the front edge.

The line of basting stitches is the fold line – the organza patch is on the facing part of the front edge.

Here is the patch ready to be sewn onto the back of the buttonhole.

Here is the patch ready to be sewn onto the back of the buttonhole.

I found these vintage buttons in an Etsy shop. Although they appear to be gray mother-of-pearl, they are actually plastic. The iridescent strip through the middle of each one, along with the square detail on the tops, gave me the idea to arrange them on an angle. I think they add just the right amount of interest to the front of the coat.

The "square" detail on the buttons picks up the design in the lining fabric.

The “square” detail on the buttons picks up the design in the lining fabric.

A Fine February Finish

Using the printed wool challis for the lining certainly elevates this coat to a notch above ordinary. The sleeves are lined with gray rayon Bemberg for practicality’s sake.

An inside out view, trying out the lining.

An inside out view, trying out the lining.

This photo shows a good look at the finished buttonholes, too.

This photo shows a good look at the underside of the finished buttonholes, too.

Of course the detail I love the most is the flat piping I added to the front interior edges of the lining.  As I have said before, doing this is so easy and adds so much.

A Fine Feb Finish

A Fine February Finish

Here is the flat piping stitched in place - so easy!

Here is the flat piping stitched in place – so easy!

The final small detail, which helps the collar to keep its shape, is under-stitching (by hand) on its underside.

A Fine February Finish

So what else did Claire McCardell say about coats? To quote from her book, What Shall I Wear, page 69, “… you can take another step and get a coat and dress that go together—never to be separated, never to be worn with any other dress or any other coat, and always with a special feeling of satisfaction. If you take a little trouble, you may be able to manage a heavy fabric skirt to go with the coat.”  I plan to take that little bit of trouble – a skirt out of the gray cashmere, and a blouse from the printed challis – to complete the outfit, and I will hope for that “special feeling of satisfaction.”


Filed under bound buttonholes, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Coats, couture construction, Dressmaker coats, Mid-Century style, Quotes about sewing, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, woolens

30 responses to “A Fine February Finish

  1. Fabulous! Grey is so chic, and grey cashmere is to die for. As we say in Ireland…. “wear well” which I have no doubt you will.

  2. Mery

    As we say in the South/west (USA), “Bless your heart!”… and fingers. Every extra stitch paid off. It is luscious and those colors make it joyful too.

  3. Beautiful! I love your finishing details: perfect bound buttonholes, contrast lining, piping along the lining, hand pickstitch and your button choice. Why stress about the extra day? The results were well worth it.

    • Thank you, Mary. I almost never put time limitations on my sewing, as it always takes longer than I imagine – and this end-of-February target definitely had some wiggle room in it!

  4. Margene Yeaton

    Stunning and wish I could see it in person. Looking forward to your photos with you wearing the coat. Beautifully done inside and out. A complete ensemble will be heart stopping! A wonderful March to you.

    • Thank you, Margene. I have started on the rest of the ensemble – I’ll probably have it done just about when the weather is too warm to wear for this year. Oh well! That doesn’t keep me from plugging away on it – indeed making for a wonderful March, I hope!

  5. It is just beautiful! I love the flat piping along the lining. It doesn’t look as easy as you say but I will have a go. And excuse my ignorance, but do you use basting to position your buttonholes accurately? Is that the trick? I hadn’t realised. I really struggle with buttonhole placement……but I have learnt something!

    • I do use basting stitches to mark my buttonholes. I find it is the most reliable method for me – and I mark them when I am basting the silk organza underlining and the fashion fabric together. That flat piping along the lining edge is really simple – please do give it a go. I think you will be surprised! Thanks for commenting, Jane!

  6. Cathy B

    Lovely coat! I always say, you get a lot of bang for the buck with coats!! I also love vintage coat patterns, and matching an outfit to a coat is oh soo stylish! I wish women would return to dressing like that. The ultimate would be shorter sleeved coats with long leather gloves and a matching clutch bag!!!

    • I so agree, Cathy – coats can make quite a statement. And I keep dreaming about orange-ish leather gloves and a coordinating handbag to use with this coat! Great to hear from you!

  7. Pamela

    Beautiful coat,,making a complete ensemble is so beautifully classic.
    Well done….

  8. Jackie

    So beautful. Looking forward to seeing you model your new coat.

  9. Oh so pretty! I love all the details and find it interesting how similar the coat I just made is to yours (gawh I really need to find the time to finish my blog post!). Vintage patterns are the best! I do hope you wear it with more than just the matching outfit though – it’s a great neutral basic!

  10. It’s so beautiful! I love the detailed work and the cashmere looks so soft. It must be a joy to wear! Can’t wait to see the rest of your outfit!

  11. Wonderful–the photos ooze with the softness of the cashmere. Enjoy wearing it!

  12. That’s a very special coat already. I can’t imagine how lovely it will look with the other matching garments.

  13. Mery

    Hmmm…I understand what Claire McCardell says about a coat as part of one special outfit, and I love it. Family photos of, for example, the muted solid blue coat/skirt/dress/hat ensemble my grandmother made for my favorite aunt are among my favorites. One look and I sense her whole life. She started college, married (happily) her brother’s best Navy friend 3 days after meeting (WWII) at the end of her sophomore year, got her first big job — all in that same ensemble. But when I look at your pattern envelope photo and see those colored scarves I get the feeling that in time, if the right coordinates pass your way, that rich gray cashmere might “afford” to grow from a lovely duet into a fine quartet without losing any of its special selectivity. Love the duet! Oyster gloves?

  14. mery

    Oops! Sorry, we were typing at the same time, so I hadn’t seen your replies. Sewing kidskin gloves is easy with pattern. I have a good one and can send its ID when I return home soon. Currently in cabin working on frustrating project. Hence the rambling (apology). Tandy’s Leather shops have kidskin in all kinds of sample colors not shown in catalog & helpful staff.

    • You know, I’ve seen vintage patterns for gloves, but somehow I think buying gloves is a splurge I am willing to make! This ensemble will definitely lend itself to accessorizing – once it’s all finished. I love your comments – thank you for taking the time to send such interesting ones!

      • Mery

        I quit and chuckled at myself. In trying not to ramble I edited out the good part. There are some really hideous glove patterns. I wouldn’t wish an ugly glove on you. I agree it deserves the best accessories, and I’ll bet you’ve found some lovely ones. Like many fine things we used to take for granted, the availability of gloves in a variety of accent colors is less than it once was. An old neck injury doesn’t allow me to wear jewelry, so I rely more heavily on gloves to add the finishing touch. So I really do know how fun the right shade of orange would be …and how hard to find. In mid-60’s a store owner packed away many gloves which weren’t unpacked until next owner retired In 2000. I re-stocked my basic supply (according to Excellence book) plus accent colors I can’t find elsewhere. Powder blue silk-lined kid to match silk dupioni suit with white slubs and white blouse. Lime green kid that I almost didn’t take but which went with many a summer suit and dress. They don’t look costumey because I’m not wearing too much, and their cut is basic. A white pique outfit has a yellow hat, so I don’t wear the yellow cotton shorty gloves. I’ve enjoyed this collection even more than I expected. So much so that I determined to make some replacements. Nothing with ugly tops: pattern is only to help with the great amount of ease in gloves. I wish you neither an ugly glove nor another project…only a sale like I found….with orange. They were 90% off the last (1960’s) sale price. Now I do hope I haven’t stuck my foot in my mouth again. Over & out.

  15. Marguerite

    What’s richer than cashmere? And what color is the classiest of all? You got it! This is a gorgeous coat. Funny you mention the temperature because when the thermometer hit 70 the other day I thought of you! You’ll be all set for fall which we know will be hot on the heels of summer.
    I think I wrote before about the ensemble look that I also loved from the 50s and 60s. My mom and aunts always had one in their rotation. I remember my mom having suits where the jacket lining was also used for a matching blouse. My stash has many of the mod versions of the coat/dress combo.
    Can’t wait to see you modeling this coat!

    • I really cannot keep up with the speed of the seasons! I should be starting Spring/Summer sewing, but I really want to finish this outfit first. You are correct – I will be set for Fall! I always love your comments!

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