A Fabric Full of Surprises

Several years ago I purchased a piece of vintage French Lesur wool, which I subsequently made into one of my favorite pieces ever, my pink Christian Dior-designed coat.  

When I received the length of pink wool from the eBay seller, I wrote her a note to tell her how excited and grateful I was to have the opportunity to purchase that fabric.  It apparently had been from the estate of an accomplished dressmaker, known for her good taste.  The seller then kindly offered me another piece – very different in aspect – from the same collection.  The photos she sent me showed a wool plaid which looked to be a medium khaki background with purple and lavender lines woven into it.  It wasn’t exactly what I usually gravitate to, but I knew the quality of the fabric would be superb, and being a pushover for vintage fabric, I decided to purchase a five-yard length from her.  

When the fabric arrived, it wasn’t at all what I had expected.  This is one of the downsides of purchasing fabric – especially vintage fabric – online.  You don’t always get what you think you are getting.  This fabric was deep brown and the purple and lavender intersecting lines were more the colors of eggplant and lilac.  It seemed kind of dark to me. Except for black and navy blue, I’m not usually a dark-wearing person.  The quality of the fabric, however, was indeed superb.  Soft, lightweight with a beautiful hand to it.  

I was a little disgruntled about this purchase, though.  I don’t like to spend money frivolously, and this suddenly seemed like an unwise decision.  But – it was done, so I put the fabric in my fabric closet for storage.  Every once in a while I would take it out and ponder it.  I started to like it more and more, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what to make with it – all 5 yards!  

Now. . .  I have discovered with fashion sewing, that sometimes time allows creativity and inspiration to blossom, and that is what happened with this fabric. At some point over the summer, I decided this wool would make beautiful slim slacks.  But what to do with all that remaining fabric?  Somehow, a matching jacket did not appeal to me at all – and then I remembered a lovely vintage Vogue pattern, designed by Molyneux, I had in my collection at home in Pennsylvania.  I knew it would be perfect with the pants – and the fact that I had long wanted to make its featured hip-length cape sealed the deal!  

In preparation for this project, I needed to order lining fabric, both for the pants and for the cape. I selected 5 shades of brown silk charmeuse on Emma One Sock’s website and sent off for swatches.  (I often prefer to use a contrasting color for a lining, but in this case I determined a matching lining would allow me greater flexibility in wearing the cape with something other than the matching pants.)  The swatches arrived in short order, and I was astounded to discover that not one of them was even close to a matching color.  

The swatch second from the right was the closest match, but it was still a long way from viable, even more so in person than in this photo.

And then it hit me – like an iron in the face! – this wool was not brown, it was a true olive green!  No wonder it had started to appeal to me.  I have long been a fan of olive green, which I now know to be a little bit of an enigmatic color.  Off I sent for 5 more swatches of silk lining, this time in shades of deep green.  When the swatches arrived, it was a Bingo moment.  One was clearly a perfect match.  

The center swatch “reads” brown in this photo, but it is a true olive green, as is the background of the wool fabric.

Please stay with me in the next couple of posts, as I work through this two piece outfit – a project whose time has finally come.  


Filed under Capes, Christian Dior, Linings, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, woolens

16 responses to “A Fabric Full of Surprises

  1. DKUK

    This looks like an inspirational project! I look forward to seeing your subsequent posts with great anticipation.

  2. So interesting! I have a few pieces of fabric that are almost too nice to cut into. I wish you were closer for advice.

  3. Mery

    Ooh, that’s pretty. I’m glad you figured out the color. Good quality shows and is always appealing. Good that you have five yards for pattern matching. You may have enough left for another small item.

    I fondly remember what I made to enter university of 5 yards of navy jacquard double knit (modern stuff at the time) – lined fitted jacket, pants, skirt, and I had enough left for a tunic/minidress work with a chain belt. Better fabric is much more appealing now, lol. I am eager to see your makes.

    • Isn’t it interesting how time and place is so often aligned with what we wore – or what we made to wear! Let’s see how quickly I can get these two pieces made, although it seems nothing I make is ever “quick.”

  4. Heather Myers

    This looks like a wonderful outfit in the making! I can’t wait to see your resukts, and methods. Thanks for sharing.
    I’ve been / am in the same indecision spot with a number of beautiful silk, cotton and wool fabrics I’ve had since the 80 and 90s – and my wardrobe needs have changed since I’m working at home, and soon to retire. I just decided to make a coat with one deep purple boiled wool, so ideas do eventually emerge – this one when I saw a colorful lining. 😊

  5. Looking forward to seeing your project move forward. I’m curious as to what parameters you use when shopping for vintage fabric on eBay. If you enter “vintage fabric by the yard”, you get nearly 80,000 items. Even applying some filters, I still had around 8,000.

    • Often I search for a particular manufacturer (like Viyella), or type of fabric, for example “vintage wool plaid fabric.” It can get overwhelming if your parameters are too broad. Hope this helps!

  6. There is nothing better than a sense of anticipation! I eagerly await your updates. Your creations will be stunning.

  7. Wool often needs to simmer! I have changed my mind so many times before doing the final make, often a complete 180 from my original ideas. This will be a fabulous outfit!

  8. Marguerite

    Wow! I am really looking forward to seeing this project take wings! Molyneaux was always one of my favorite Vogue designers and this cape is a beauty. This will be a VERY stylish outfit.

    • I found this pattern several years ago and was so excited. I remember admiring it back in the ’70s, when I simply could not afford to make a purchase of this “magnitude” with no immediate plans to use it. Had I known then what I know now… Hopefully I will do it justice now, decades later!

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