Category Archives: car coats

Figuring It Out

Having completed my first Marfy dress, I now have the pleasure of reflecting upon its creation. Unlike my “Ghost Dress” which caused me so much angst (but turned out okay in the end), this ‘60s-inspired design went together without a hitch, although it definitely took some “figuring it out” along the way.

First I’ll cover the four changes I made to the dress, based on my muslin (toile). Initially I had to lower the apex of the bust darts, an alteration I am now used to making. Second, I decided to lengthen the sleeves by about 2 inches. I did this mostly to make the dress more comfortable to wear in the cold winter months. Even covering bare upper arms just a little bit more is helpful. I was hoping this would not detract from the lines of the dress otherwise. I made a tracing to try it out on paper first:

Marfy Dress

Somehow, the longer sleeves did not look good with the very distinct A-line silhouette of the dress. I thought they would look better with more of a straight skirt. I knew from the muslin that the front detailing had a built-in kick pleat, so narrowing the skirt was entirely doable. I would still be able to walk in it!

Alteration number four was the neckline. I widened it a bit, as I think that looks better on me. Then I widened it again later in the process (I’ll get to that in a bit.)

With no written and illustrated instructions to follow, I relied on my sewing knowledge and experience to execute the seaming on the front left of the dress. I was able to sew the seam by machine from the sleeve down to the lower angle of the point. From there down to about 8” from the hemline, I sewed the seam by hand.

An inside look at the this seam stitched by hand

An inside look at the this seam stitched by hand

There is a pleat hidden beneath the dress here, and sewing by hand seemed to be the only solution.

Showing the built-in kick pleat

Showing the built-in kick pleat, before the hem is sewn

And here is the finished kick pleat.

And here is the finished kick pleat.

When it came to the sleeves, they are shown in the illustration with a contrasting band. However, no band was included with the pattern. I did a muslin mock-up to test the visual appearance of the width of the band.

Marfy Dress

Because I had cut the sleeves with a slight curve to the lower edge, I had to make a muslin guide for the bands, which included the same curve.

The sleeves with bands attached

The sleeves with bands attached

With sleeves, hand-picked zipper and all seams complete, I turned my attention to the lining. Instead of cutting the lining with the same angled detail as in the dress, I chose to cut a symmetrical front, thus reducing bulk at that critical waist area. However, I needed to add a kick pleat to the front lining to coincide with the built-in kick pleat of the dress. Here is how I did that:

First I marked where I wanted the pleat in the lining to be.  By the way, the lining is Bemberg rayon.  I usually like to use crepe de cine for my linings, but I had this Bemberg in the right color, so I decided to use it.

First I marked where I wanted the pleat in the lining to be. By the way, the lining is Bemberg rayon. I usually like to use crepe de chine for my linings, but I had this Bemberg in the right color, so I decided to use it.

I centered a triangle of the lining fabric  (about 10" x 8") on top of the marked line.

I centered a triangle of the lining fabric (about 10″ x 8″) on top of the marked line.

I stitched on either side of the marked line, graduating up to a point at the top.

I stitched on either side of the marked line through both layers of lining, graduating up to a point at the top.

I cut along the marked line and turned the placket to the wrong side.

I cut along the marked line and turned the placket to the wrong side.

I sewed another piece of ling fabric (10" x 8") to the wrong side of the turned placket.  It is stitched around the edges - a little difficult to see.

I sewed another piece of ling fabric (10″ x 8″) to the wrong side of the turned placket. It is stitched around the edges in a 1/2″ seam.

After securing these stitched together pieces across the top through all layers, I had a kick pleat!

After securing these stitched-together pieces across the top through all layers, I had a kick pleat!

Back to the final part of the dress: the neckline. I still wasn’t sure I had a pleasing neckline, so I got out my French rule and re-chalked one with a little wider stance and depth.

Marfy Dress

For the top-stitching around the neck and around the angled detail on the front, I did what I did with my jacket out of the same fabric: I hand-picked it. I am so happy with how it looks. It’s very subtle, but adds just the right emphasis. The buttons are smaller versions of the (concealed) buttons on my jacket.

Marfy Dress

I set the lining in by hand, under-stitched the neck-edge by hand, and finally the dress was complete.

Marfy Dress

Marfy Dress

Marfy Dress

And of course I have to show it with the coat!

And of course I have to show it with the coat!

Fifty Dresses

Marfy Dress

It is probably unfair to do an assessment of Marfy patterns after just one make, but I’m going to anyway! The things I really like, so far, about using a Marfy pattern are 1) its preciseness, 2) the individually sized patterns, 3) the pattern pieces without seam allowance added. And is there anything I dislike about Marfy so far? Yes, one big thing! I really miss having a pattern envelope with an illustration, variant views and back views. I am so accustomed to vintage patterns, most of which sport envelopes which are like small works of art. There is so much pertinent information on them (fabric suggestions, zipper sizes, garment descriptions, thumbnail pattern piece diagrams, etc.) and even wearing suggestions. The illustrations show outfit styling suggestions (hats, handbags, shoes, etc.). I love studying them. So, yes, it’s true – I feel like something is lost without a pattern envelope for this dress which I like so much.

I won’t be waiting long to wear this dress. Our American holiday of Thanksgiving is this Thursday, and Marfy will be one of my dining companions. To my fellow citizens, may the day be as meaningful and blessed for you as it always is for our family. To all my readers around the globe, my thanks to you for sharing your love of sewing with me!

 

 

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Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, car coats, Color blocking, couture construction, Marfy patterns, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized, woolens

Powerless in Pennsylvania, Sewing in San Francisco

“She had the loaded handbag of someone who camps out and seldom goes home, or who imagines life must be full of emergencies.”  – Mavis Gallant

Actually, the handbag I took to San Francisco was small, tucked inside a larger tote bag – so that I could use my allotted “carry-on” space for an extra suitcase for fabric purchases.  Off I went on February 1st for Susan Khalje’s Couture Sewing School held at The Sewing Workshop in San Francisco.  I had carefully packed myriad sewing supplies and my prepared muslins, hoping to be ready for any contingency.  Little could I have known that while I was to be sewing on the West Coast, the camping out (or really, camping in!) and the emergencies would be on the East Coast – with the county in Pennsylvania where we live especially hard-hit by a devastating ice storm.  Our house was without power for 5 days, and knowing that my husband was dealing with downed trees, downed power lines, blocked roads, confused pets, a house getting colder and colder with each day, and limited means of communication, weighed on me mightily as I worked away on my color-blocked jacket.

Coats of certain length - 7

Most of us in the class needed to purchase all our fabric or coordinating fabric or supplies for our intended projects, so off we went to Britex Fabrics on Monday after Susan had fitted most of our muslins.  I had thought long and hard about what color combination I would like to have for this coat.  Knowing that many, many hours of work would go into this project, and also realizing that this jacket could be a go-to piece of outerwear if I chose my fabrics carefully, I decided to look for more conservative colors.  So – no hot pink and apricot orange, at least this time.

Britex carries an extensive selection of coating wools, so much so that it is definitely advantageous to be helped by one of their incredibly knowledgeable sales assistants.  I was fortunate that Inna, who has such a trained and talented eye for color and texture, was able to assist me. We started with a lovely camel hair coating wool, which had a napped silky sheen on one side and was just the right heft for outerwear.  First I wanted to look at pairing it with gray, but nothing in the gray family seemed to strike my fancy.  Then we moved on to the navy blues – and there nestled in among the bolts was the perfect “medium” navy blue, also with a napped sheen on one side.  It was a little heavier than the camel hair, but Susan felt confident we could make the two fabrics work together, especially because their colors complimented each other so perfectly.

Silk lining fabric was next on the list, and I wanted something figured rather than plain.  Inna pulled out a bolt of Italian charmeuse, which picked up the geometric feel of the jacket, and introduced a little red into the mix.  I couldn’t be happier with it.

I am not so sure this gives the best sense of the colors of the fabrics, but you will see more in a future post.

I am not so sure this photo gives the best sense of the colors of the fabrics, but you will see more in other photos.

Back at The Sewing Workshop, armed with fabrics and enthusiasm, I spent the next two days cutting out the multi-, multi-pieced pattern (31 separate pieces, all of which would be cut in tandem, making 62 in all, not including the lining!), and basting the silk organza underlinings to each and every piece.

My well-lit and spacious work space at The Sewing Workshop.

My well-lit and spacious work space at The Sewing Workshop.

Because of the color blocking, I needed to pay great attention to which piece was to be cut in blue and which piece in camel.  Initially I went through and labeled each muslin piece “navy” or “camel”.  Susan double-checked me, but then suggested that, because I absolutely could not make a costly mistake, that I pin the muslin pieces onto the available dress form in our studio.  What a great idea, one of so many which I picked up from Susan and my classmates!

Here is the "front" of the jacket, pinned onto the dress form.

Here is the “front” of the jacket, pinned onto the dress form.

And here is the back.

And here is the back. 

Now, I felt confident and set about to cut my fashion fabric.

Here are the silk organza underlining pieces arranged on the blue fabric.  I pinned a small tag on each piece, telling me each piece's pattern # and description.  A lot of the pieces look alike!

Here are the silk organza underlining pieces arranged on the blue fabric. I pinned a small tag on each piece, telling me each piece’s pattern number and description. A lot of the pieces look alike!

Two piles showing all underlinings basted onto the fashion fabric.

Two piles showing all underlinings basted onto the fashion fabric.

By this time, I was half-way through the 6-day class.  I assessed my situation and determined the parts of the jacket construction upon which I wanted to get expert advice  from Susan:  treatment of the concealed fly front, flap pockets, rolled collar (all of which will be detailed in a future post).  Now I had a plan, which seemed to be much more than anything that was happening back home in Pennsylvania.

My husband joked during one of our few cell-phone conversations, that he had a vision of the power in our house coming back on Sunday evening, February 9th, as he would be driving me home from the airport in Philadelphia.  He was right.  That is exactly what happened.  I came home to a 39F degree house, but the lights were on, and soon the heat was, too.  Almost a week later, it is still snowing and snowing – perfect sewing weather for this sojourner home from San Francisco.

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Filed under car coats, Coats, Color blocking, couture construction, Uncategorized, underlinings, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, Vogue patterns, woolens

Coats of a Certain Length

“. . .  above everything they must be practical.  Practical in color and practical in style.”  This was Christian Dior’s dictum for coats which he wrote in 1954 in The Little Dictionary of Fashion (first published by Cassell & Co., Ltd., republished by Abrahms, 2007, copyright Catherine Dior and Jean-Pierre Teto).    Beginning around this same time, Vogue Patterns began to feature more coats in shorter lengths, with slimmer profiles.  The “tunic coat” and matching skirt debuted in the October/November 1955 issue of Vogue Pattern Book Magazine, with this description:  “The tunic . . . the newest and most sophisticated of the coats. Its straight lines are highlighted by an even narrower skirt.”

This was the only three-quarter length coat in this feature entitled "The most-wanted new coats."

This was the only three-quarter length coat in this feature entitled “The most-wanted new coats.”

In 1958, a tapered coat-suit was featured in the October/November VPB Magazine, touting its “three-quarter” coat:

Shown in "boxwood green mohair," this coat would be quite stylish in 2013.

Shown in “boxwood green mohair,” this coat would be quite stylish in 2013.

And in the same issue the smock-jacket certainly caught the eye of many a busy mom, with its alluring description:   “”Enjoying suburbia’s natural tranquallizers – grass, trees, sky . . .  Triangular smock-jacket in bright blue-orange-green-red plaid.  Grey flannel slacks – who could live without them?”

This "smock" coat has a pleat in the back for ease of movement for the busy mom.

This “smock” coat has a pleat in the back for ease of movement for the busy mom.

Indeed, who could live without such a comfortable, easy-to-wear, fingertip coat?  As this style morphed into the “Car Coat”, it quickly became ubiquitous, and for good reason.  Here was (and is) a coat, which is a barometer of culture (a term I have borrowed from the little book, 101 Things I Learned in Fashion School, p.32).  An excellent definition is given in The Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion, 3rd Edition, 2010, page 89:  “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 1950s and 1960s [my emphasis] and has become a classic style since then.  Some of the styles in which car coats have been made include BENCHWARMER, DUFFEL COAT, RANCH COAT, MACKINAW JACKET, STADIUM COAT, TOGGLE COAT.”

Coats of certain length -4

This pattern was for a reversible coat, shown here in poplin and sham lamb. The collar can be turned into a hood.  Click on the image to see the details.

By August/September of 1962, VPB Magazine featured a pattern for a Pea Coat, which although not officially a car coat, displayed the same practical length and wearability:

According to Fairchild's Dictionary, Yves Saint Laurent used the classic U.S. Navy peacoat as inspiration for his variation of it in the 1960s.

According to Fairchild’s Dictionary, Yves Saint Laurent used the classic U.S. Navy peacoat as inspiration for his variation of it in the 1960s.

And in the next issue of the 1962 VPB Magazine, in a feature called “The Rangy Western Look for Urban and Suburban Dudes,” front and center was this coat “corralled for suburbanites”:

VPB called this coat a "direct steal from the cowboys's sheepskin original."

VPB called this coat a “direct steal from the cowboys’s sheepskin original.”  (Another wonderful example of a “sheepskin” coat – this one by an English designer – can be seen here, with thanks to my reader, Carol, who led me to the sketch of this fingertip coat.)

Far be it for me to resist such a coat!  Last year I succumbed to this pattern on Etsy, which although not dated, is most certainly from the early ‘60s:

I just may need this pattern someday!

This is a good pattern to have in my collection – I just may need it someday!

Back in the 1970s, I purchased this Christian Dior Designer pattern, with intentions of making the “below the knee” version, although a nice variation of a stadium coat is also featured.  I still love this coat, in both lengths – and someday I hope to finally make good on my intentions!

The buckles around the sleeves add a great look to this coat.

The buckles around the sleeves add a great look to this coat.

However, this coat must be my all-time favorite hip-length style:

I will definitely be doing the color blocking version when I make this coat.

I will definitely be doing the color blocking version when I make this coat.

Purchased last August,  this pattern sometimes keeps me awake at night. With Dior’s words imploring me to be practical, I wonder – – – should I make it in navy and white (as pictured), in black and white, in red and black, in gray and camel, in orange and gray, in ??? and ???

Still to be decided . . .  but you haven’t seen the last of this pattern.

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Filed under car coats, Coats, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, Vogue patterns