A Very Pink Coat, Part 1

Some projects deserve more than one blog post and this pattern and coat fall into that category. 

I am making View A, although with the concealed (fly front) opening.
I purchased this cashmere and wool blend from Farmhouse Fabrics. It has a “brushed” surface, giving it a nap which provides a depth to the deep pink color. I have underlined all the components of the coat with silk organza. Basting holds the two fabrics together and also gives me my stitching lines and other pertinent information.

From the magical year of 1957 (I promise some time I will devote an entire post to the notable spot that the year 1957 occupies in the modern history of fashion), this coat pattern is in a class of its own.  Referred to as a “car coat” in two Vogue Pattern Book Magazine entries, it is a quintessential example of that genre.  Here’s why:

  1. It is a wonderful example of fashion following lifestyle.  The copyright date of 1957 puts it firmly in the early appearance of this form.  To wit, the entry for car coats in Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion reads:  “Sport or utility coat made hip-to-three-quarter length, which is comfortable for driving a car.  First became popular with the station-wagon set in suburbia in the 1950s and 1960s and has become a classic style since then.”  (ibid, p. 89)
  2. The flap pockets – three of them – are intentionally utilitarian, but also add a certain finesse to the coat.   Those flaps help protect the contents of the pocket – in the case of a car coat, obviously keys, perhaps gloves, or even a change purse. 
  3. The side slits give a bit of wiggle room to the area of the hips, for sliding in and out of car seats.  And the buttoned tabs at the wrists add to its aesthetic appeal.  No, they are not really necessary, but that is not what this coat was all about.  It was meant to be extremely functional, but smart looking.
  4. The concealed front in View B, commonly referred to as a fly front, steps the appearance of this coat up a notch.  Particularly notable is the arrowhead detail at the top of the topstitching on the front of the coat.  
  5. The busy mother and wife would have looked very “put-together” wearing this coat out and about.  Later versions of the car coat style included Benchwarmer, Duffel coat, Ranch coat, Mackinaw jacket, Stadium coat, and Toggle coat (according to Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion)  But this coat was a car coat, in its very pure early, but fashionable form.

This pattern is featured twice in the Vogue Pattern Book Magazine from August-September 1957.

Here is the longer version shown on page 22:

“The coat that goes over everything.” Here is an interesting observation which might not be readily apparent. When I was fitting my muslin (toile) for this coat, I initially thought the sleeves may be a bit too loose. You can see in this photo they are not slim on the model. But then I realized they have a bit more girth to them for a reason – to give the wearer comfort and unrestricted movement while driving. (And in 1957 there was a good chance she was driving a stick-shift car!) I kept them the way they are as I will appreciate being able to wear a heavy sweater under my coat.

And here on page 37 is a drawing (by illustrator Dilys Wall) of the coat in red with this description:  “A hounds-tooth-check car coat with three flap pockets, side-slit seams, and tab-button detail on the sleeves.  Designed in sizes 10 to 18.”  

Interestingly, also featured in this same magazine is this example of a child’s coat, also with a fly front.  This type of opening takes more skill – and time – to make.  I love the affirmation this item gives to the commitment and ability of the home-sewer in the 1950s.  

Because this coat has those extra details which put it a notch above ordinary, there is a lot of preparation work before seams can actually be sewn together.  The sleeve tabs, with their bound buttonholes must be complete before the sleeve seams can be sewn.  Additionally, the set-in pockets with their flaps present a considerable amount of prep work on the fronts of the coat.  Sounds like fun to me! More to come . . .

16 Comments

Filed under car coats, Coats, Fashion commentary, Fashion history, Mid-Century style, Pattern Art, pockets, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, woolens

16 responses to “A Very Pink Coat, Part 1

  1. Thank you for the fun background on your vintage pattern’s style and origin.

    Your post’s images brought back fond memories of the Vogue Patterns magazine, which I subscribed to for over 30 years until it was sadly discontinued a couple of years ago when the company changed hands. Its articles and columns had improved in the last 10+ years, despite constant editorial staff change, but I always loved its wonderful photos, layout and presence!

    • Vogue Pattern Magazine was really in its heyday in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. I love the illustration art in the early issues. It is wonderful to be able to date patterns by finding them in these old issues; very helpful once the inclusion of the copyright date on the patterns themselves was dropped in the late ’50s. Thanks for your comment, Joan.

  2. I’m filled with renewed anticipation of yet another sewing extravaganza! What wonderful cashmere! I’m sure it’s sublime. I love to do the handwork and basting when sewing but your stitching and marking lines with the thread are a work of art within themselves.

    • Thank you, Peggy. I have been known to baste a wobbly line, so don’t be too effusive in your praise! Precise basting lines are more important when one is working with a solid fabric. I am always checking with a ruler to see if I have gone astray!

      • If you’re so inclined, go to the website “thecourtjeweller.com” and read the article titled “Crown Princess Mary’s Wonderful Wedding Tiara”. We are having a spirited discussion about the failure of the seamstress’s skills when making Mary’s blue gown and the terrible bust darts! There are some knowledgable ladies who are spot-on with their observations and technical knowledge. You’ll love it.

      • Thanks so much for this link, Peggy. Yes, I enjoyed the comment thread! What a shame – the dress is so pretty otherwise.

  3. I love the style of this coat, and the pink will be amazing!

  4. Meredith Weller

    Love this pattern a lot, and just bought one. Thanks for introducing it, your cost will be fab ( and now I get to make one too!)

  5. Linda Louise Bryan

    You will note that the vehicle in the photo is a SPORTS CAR. This natty lady not only operated a shift tranny, she literally zoomed down the highway to her country club’s Fall Festival. And she modestly swung her legs out from a near-asphalt sitting position behind the wheel, pushing off onto her high heels to arise [try this sometime!]. She had many talents.

    • That was good Linda Louise!!!

      • Linda Louise Bryan

        Just verified with hubby…This vehicle is an MGA. He restored one. I ride on passenger side of it and can only dismount with help, if I’m in silly shoes like this! And by the way, who left the car door open on this photo shoot?Let’s think of a good cover story?
        Gotta find a “car coat” at a vintage store, to improve my rides…I thank all for this conversation, esp. Karen who expands my brain with every posting.

      • No doubt the open car door has some significance! Yes, find yourself a car coat and you will be able to magically exit from your husband’s MGA with grace and poise, but please accept assistance anyway as a true lady would! Thanks for the fun comments – i love them!

    • Well said! Thank you, Linda Louise!

  6. Linda D.

    Thanks for writing. Looking forward to your next post and the progress on the car coat.
    Best,
    Linda D.

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