Category Archives: Coats

The Best Laid Plans

The best laid plans sometimes need revision.  As a person who likes to make careful lists and schedules, I find it difficult at times when life conspires to upset those plans.  Especially difficult is when my sewing plans go awry!

I have been dreaming about making this coat in my treasured vintage pink wool.

With new enthusiasm after seeing the Dior Exhibit in Denver, I was sure this coat would be well underway by the end of March. However, for an unexpected, albeit happy, change of events, here we are at the end of March and all I have finished is my toile.  But my enthusiasm is still on track!

A fun part of any project in which I use a Vogue Designer pattern is devoted to finding out more about the initial debut of the pattern, and documentation of its appearance in Vogue Pattern Book Magazine.  Although I had a good hunch that this pattern was from the mid-sixties, I was quite delighted to see it included in a feature of new Designer patterns debuting in  the October/November 1965 VPBM.       .

The caption for my coat pattern, top and center, reads: “DIOR: The ensemble to wear all year – a dirndled dress and a coat that’s shaped high and narrow.”

 Of course this was when Marc Bohan was the Creative Director at Christian Dior, a period of the 1960s known for its gorgeous dressmaker coats and ensembles.  Here is a sampling of some other designs appearing in the same time frame in a few Vogue Pattern Book Magazines.

I actually own this pattern, too. I have always loved the look of this coat.  This pattern is shown in the same issue of Vogue Pattern Book Magazine as the Dior design, October/November 1965.  What a great year for coats.

This kimono-sleeved coat was shown made in textured pineapple wool by Einiger. I made my purple coat from vintage Einiger wool, so I know what fabulous quality it is.

This coat features a spread collar on a low V-neck.  This coat and the one above are shown in the February/March 1966 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine.

This coat is described as being “the total look of the Chanelesque tradition.” It, too, was made from “mossy-surfaced” Einiger wool.

And this coat is reminiscent of the Dior design I am making, with its pointed collar, straight-shape and concealed closing. The tubular belt is a brilliant addition. This design is by Guy Laroche and both it and the pink coat shown above were included in the February/March 1964 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine.

Back to my toile: I made the first one without any alterations to the pattern.  The first thing I noticed is that the horizontal seam which extends around the back and angles up on either side of the front, seemed to add extra “baggage” in the lower back.

Here was my first toile atop the waxed marking paper. This shows the lower front and back piece, with its angled side seam.

The seam was designed to be below the waistline, but I determined it might look better on me if it were reset to fall exactly on the waist.  This adjustment would keep the spirit of the design, but would be more flattering on me for some reason.

I made another slight adjustment to the shoulder line.  First I cut the shoulder line on the body of the coat back about ½ inch on either side, to reduce some excess fabric across the upper chest.  That made some pulling in the top of the sleeves. So then I added about ½ inch to the top half/curve of each sleeve.  So it was an even swap, just distributed differently.

This shows my markings on the upper shoulder.

And the adjustments to the top of the sleeves.

Interestingly, the sleeves have no shaping by darts or seams on this pattern.  They seemed a bit too full to me, so I tapered the seam to reduce the width of each sleeve by about 1.5 inches.  I have had to make this adjustment to other coat patterns from the same time period, so perhaps a fuller sleeve is a hallmark of that era.  I did not want to narrow the sleeves too much, as they need to be comfortable to wear over long sleeved dresses and sweaters.

I am contemplating adding a half belt, secured with buttons to the back of the coat.  That’s a decision I’ll make as the coat comes together.  The drape of the wool, as opposed to the drape of the muslin, may convince me I do not need it, but I rather like the appearance of a back belt.

Here is a rough mock-up of a possible belt, but this needs much more thought!

I found this picture of another coat which has a high back belt, probably about the length of one which I might add. It is so helpful to find examples like this of design details.

Lots of pink featured in coats from the 1960s. This design was featured in the February/March 1968 International Vogue Pattern Book.

So, I have embarrassing little to show for the past three weeks regarding this coat.  Perhaps the next three weeks may be kinder to me. We shall see!

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Filed under Christian Dior, Coats, Dressmaker coats, Fashion history, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s

More on Dior

In re-reading my last two reviews of the Dior in Denver Exhibit, I realize how very little I was able to include, when there was so much to see and learn.  Well, these reviews cannot go on forever, but there are a few other aspects and components of the Exhibit that I still want to share.

In one of the narrower passageways between Exhibit “rooms,” there was a display of Dior scarves lining each side.  From the Dior Heritage Collection in Paris, these printed silk twill scarves were designed by Alexandre Sache between about 1958-1976.

The very bright graphic ones were so eye-catching:

And this engaging one with its impressionistic rose in the center was my favorite, I think:

You may have noticed in my first two reviews how many of the fashions, especially the early ones, were made in black.  Dior considered black “the most elegant of all colors.”  While they often do not photograph as well as other colors, these fashions made in luscious black fabrics commanded attention throughout the Exhibit.

I apologize for not having the attribution on this cocktail dress.

Also spread throughout the Exhibit were quotes from the various Creative Directors.  Two especially caught my eye.  The first, from Christian Dior himself, was one I had never read before.  “The Americans are, by essence, impeccable.”  Wow!  What a lovely tribute to his stylish American clients.

And then there is this one from the current Creative Director, Maria Grazia Chiuri:  “A dress can have some impact but a woman makes the difference with her attitude.” This quote needs no further commentary…

The Exhibit included so many supporting documents and written and printed materials, it was impossible to identify the most important.  But I want to share this copy of Time Magazine from March 4, 1957, with Christian Dior on its cover.

Dior died the same year, 1957, on October 24th.

As Exhibit goers departed the exhibition space, there were paper punch-out Dior “handbags” for the taking:

Here is the reverse of this small bag, with punch-out puzzle pieces of the coat included! So clever.

After four hours nonstop in the Exhibit, I reluctantly departed from the Denver Art Museum to get a very late lunch, with intentions to return to the museum shop for a little browsing.  Here I am upon my return, standing in front of one of the displays of books:

And here is the bag (I love bags!) which housed all those lovely purchases made at the Museum Shop:

Upon my return home to Pennsylvania, I was anxious to see what Christian Dior Vogue Designer Patterns I have in my collection of vintage patterns.  Two are actually ones I purchased in the early 1970s, another time in my life when I was  actively sewing for myself :

I made this coat when I was in my early twenties. I only wish I still had it!

I never made this pattern, but I may still do so.

And then there are these two, somewhat recent purchases:

These two patterns are earlier than the two above.

And yes, you do see a theme emerging if you consider these four patterns.  They are all coats!  (I am obsessed with coats…) Any guess what my current project is (after I make birthday dresses for my granddaughters)?

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Filed under Christian Dior, Coats, Fashion commentary, Fashion Exhibits, Fashion history, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s

Another Rosy Outlook for the New Year

There is a fine art to planning ahead, and nowhere is this more obvious than in planning a new sewing year.  No matter how carefully I think it through, I still end up with some fabrics that never make it out of storage and some newly-purchased fabrics that quickly get moved to the head of the queue.  But no matter!  I still find it useful to make a list of intended projects, while at the same time reminding myself that being flexible and realistic about my intentions is what is really necessary.  (There are, after all, those unexpected special events which can’t be planned for, but which take top priority when the “save the date” card arrives in the mail.)

When I look back at what I accomplished in 2018, I happily find that about half my projects used fabrics which I had purchased at least a few years prior.  Some had actually been in my collection for more than a few years! Last year’s list was replete with rosy hues and rosy prints, and this year is not too different, especially considering three of my most favorite fabrics from last year are being forwarded onto my plans for 2019. Will this be the year that I finally get this vintage piece of Moygashel linen made into a dress?  I’ve only been trying to do this for at least three years now!

A very early 1950s’ linen, petite black flower silhouettes on a pale ecru background.

But for starters, and as with last year, I am first finishing up a project which I began, but did not have time to finish before the holidays took over my sewing room – and my life!

I am bound and determined to finish the Classic French Jacket I started in late 2018. While I am currently working on the body of the jacket, having completed its quilting, I am still undecided about trim.  I am auditioning different options, but have yet to find the perfect one.

However, I am anxious to get on with it, as the rest of my list includes:

1)  a wool coat

2)  3 cotton shirtwaist blouses

3)  1 boat-neck blouse (silk, maybe, or still undecided)

I love this French blouse-weight silk, so it is a heavy favorite for a boat-neck blouse to be made along with fellow dressmakers enrolled in Susan Khalje’s Couture Sewing Club.

4)  1 linen skirt

5)  2 wool skirts

6)  1 wool, two-piece dress

7)  1 cotton dress

I found this amazing cotton at Mulberry Silks in North Carolina when I was looking for fabric for the Christmas dresses for my granddaughters.

8)  1 linen dress – referenced above

9)  1 silk dress

10) birthday dresses for my two little granddaughters

11) play dresses for granddaughters

12) holiday/Christmas sewing for those same two little girls

and finally

13) some necessary home decorator sewing, which is not my favorite thing to do, until I see it finished and can enjoy living with it!

The wool coat will be my first major project in 2019 once the French jacket is finished.  I can’t wait to get started on this vintage Lesur wool from Paris, lined in a pink, gray and white silk purchased from Mendel Goldberg a few years ago.

I will probably make a simple wool skirt before starting the coat, as I know it will be a relatively quick project nestled between the jacket and the coat.  I found this wool when Promenade Fabrics was closing their Etsy shop a few months ago.  How I love a red and navy tartan.  I could not resist it, and I am glad I didn’t.

The hand of this wool is so lovely. I think it will make a beautiful skirt. And I have just the shoes to wear with it!

Life is, of course, filled with all kinds of non-sewing duties, and I have plenty on that list, too.  It will be a tricky balancing act to make significant progress in both realms, but my guess is that sewing wins out over cleaning out the attic.

Welcome, 2019, with all your grand opportunities!

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Filed under classic French jacket, Coats, Linen, Moygashel linen, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, woolens

A Coat For Many Reasons

When I started planning this coat, I could not then have known the many reasons why I am now so happy to have made it.

The journey – and yes, it has been a journey – started with the fabric, offered for sale to me by a reader several years ago.  Simply the provenance of the fabric  – a piece of stamped Ernest Einiger wool, from one of the great mid-century American wool manufacturers, now sadly long gone – was reason enough to give it some extra thought.  I knew I had to wait for the right time to put pattern and scissors to it. When the Pantone Color of 2018 – “Ultraviolet” – an orchid shade of purple – was announced, I knew the time had arrived!

In the meantime, I had given it much thought and the more I looked at it, the more I thought I would be wise to get some construction advice on it.  Happily I was able to go to Baltimore in mid-April for one of Susan Khalje’s week-long Couture Sewing Schools, during which everyone works on their own project.  Usually one is expected to arrive with a pattern selected, and a marked muslin (toile) of her project ready for fitting.  This time was no different, which meant that all my thinking about the best pattern to use for this coat was ready to come to fruition.

Because the fabric is a very heavy coat-weight boucle, I originally looked for a pattern which either did not include buttons and buttonholes (traditionally more difficult to do well on a fabric of this weight), or had slot-seam buttonholes. I thought I had the perfect pattern in this Vogue from 1962. However, when I actually opened out the pattern pieces, I realized it was not going to work.  The kimono sleeves would surely produce drag lines in this heavy fabric, and a double layer of the wool in the shawl collar could be quite bulky.

Then I pulled out two more patterns which I thought were possibilities:

The single slot-seam buttonhole in the Mattli pattern was ideal, but all the intersecting seams could be a problem to do well, so I eliminated that one.  The simple lines of the Christian Dior design were lovely, but then there were more buttons, in addition to my evolving thought that this fabric would work well with a pattern which did not have such a narrow silhouette. It was then that I went to a pattern which I had already used:

View A with the longer sleeve for this coat, although I originally made it with the shorter sleeve here.

I love the simple lines of this coat and its well-turned collar, and I especially love my addition of a half belt to the silk coat I made.  I still wasn’t sure what I would/could do about buttons and buttonholes.  Advice from Susan would be very valuable!  As it turned out, she helped me determine that I could do bound buttonholes even on this very substantial wool.  Another fortuitous finding was that this pattern lent itself to showing off the interesting windowpane weave of the boucle, which became much more apparent the further away from it we got.

Other of Susan’s recommendations included:

1) Making the coat dress length rather than coat length.  The intensity of the color, used with this pattern, looks better in a shorter length.

2) Cutting the belt on the bias.  This was brilliant and gives a nice subtle focus to the back of the coat.  She also recommended that I line the belt with the silk charmeuse lining fabric rather than using the boucle .  It reduces bulk and makes the belt lay much more nicely.  I sewed one side of the belt by machine and then hand-stitched the other side, making for a nice crisp turn of the charmeuse to the underside.

My addition of a belt to this pattern is an excellent example of what is known as a “dressmaker detail.”

Here the bias cut of the belt is quite apparent.

The entire coat is underlined in silk organza, including the belt, shown here with one side sewn by machine.

And here is the silk charmeuse belt lining almost ready to be applied by hand.

3) Underlining the collar with charmeuse (again to reduce bulk) and then under-stitching the underside, to make it turn beautifully.

The collar on this pattern is beautifully designed to sit perfectly on the neck.

4) Clipping the long back center seam, even though it is on the straight of grain.  Clipping it reduces strain on that seam and allows a much more fluid movement of the back of the coat.  (I’m sorry I forgot to take a picture of this, but it is certainly not rocket science, just common sense.)

5) Tips for matching the woven windowpane design in the wool, the weave of which was difficult to see close-up.  Forked pins and a walking foot  helped to keep the layers – even basted ones – from shifting.

Other procedures I used to help “tame” this fabric were:  lots of judicious trimming of seams and corners; clipping, clipping and more clipping; lots of steam and pressing; lots of basting of seams.

I even trimmed the edges of the bound buttonholes to reduce bulk down the front of the coat. I am not completely happy with the buttonholes (which were difficult to do on this fabric), but once I finished them, they looked better than I thought they would.

I found these buttons in an Etsy store. From the 1960s, they are a nice fit with the fabric and the pattern. And I like their wobbly edges!

By the time I returned home from my class, I had the coat about half finished, but I felt completely confident in my ability to finish it competently.   Here are a few more details:

The sleeves feature a turned- back vent which is secured by a button through all layers.

I used the pockets for this version of the coat (which I had eliminated for my silk version.)

The belt is attached to the side seams just about an inch below the armhole. This placement allows it to fall right at the center back waist.

It is always rewarding to get to the point in the construction of a coat when you are ready to put the lining in.  And to make it just a little more fun, I added flat silk piping on the inside front facings – which will match one of the dresses (still to be made) I intend to wear with this coat:

I ended the piping at the shoulder seam on either side. (I see a basting thread which is peeking out from the piping!)

So my “coat for many reasons” allowed me 1) to use treasured fabric which had been in my collection for a few years; 2) to take advantage of the focus of this beautiful purple color during the year of  “Ultraviolet;” 3) to use a coat pattern which I really wanted to use again after making it once; and 4) to have experience in working – successfully – with such a heavyweight wool.

But the most important reason?  I need another coat. I always need another coat.

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Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, Coats, Dressmaker details, Mid-Century style, piping, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, woolens

Reflections on the Couture Legacy of Norman Norell

It was my distinct pleasure and good fortune to visit the current Exhibition on Norman Norell at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (MFIT) in New York City last week. For those of you not familiar with this mid-century American designer, you may be surprised to learn of his enduring influence on, and remarkable contributions to American fashion and glamour. He also, in his extensive and versatile body of work, employed the finest couture techniques, making his clothes still the envy of designers and those of us who strive for excellence in our fashion sewing.

Norell: Dean of American Fashion opened on February 9, 2018 and will close on April 14th. Guest Curator and designer Jeffrey Banks and Deputy Director of MFIT, Patricia Mears, collaborated on this Exhibition. Included are examples from his entire career; however, the Exhibition focuses for the most part on his final, spectacular 12 years, from 1960 – 1972. Norell (1900-1972) left his native Indiana to pursue his interest in illustration and fashion design in New York. He worked under Hattie Carnegie, and then at the beginning of World War II he began a partnership with Anthony Traina, the label for which is the well-known Traina-Norell designation. It was in 1960 that Norell started his own eponymous line of clothing, and it was during this period, up to his untimely death in 1972, that he set his real mark on American fashion.

To all of you I commend the MFIT Exhibition website for learning more about Norell’s life and the evolution of his body of work, including a fascinating video presentation by Exhibition Curator Jeffrey Banks. (Be sure to click on “explore the Exhibition website” which will lead you to some excellent content.) It was with this background knowledge that I entered the Exhibition, knowing I wanted to view it on two levels – 1) as a dazzling display of some of the most beautiful fashions ever assembled, and 2) as an opportunity to see up close some of the construction details, style lines, and elegant touches in his fashions, serving as inspiration for my own fashion sewing.

The Exhibit is physically divided into two areas, the first of which serves as a guide to his trademark themes, each with a small grouping of fashions. I was immediately smitten with this selection of LBDs:

All of these dresses have a timeless appearance, making them as stylish today as when they were designed. From left to right, #1 Label: Norman Norell New York. Black sleeveless bodice with skirt and satin sash, 1963. wool jersey, wool twill. Lent by Kenneth Pool [a major lender to the Exhibit.];
#2 Label: Traina-Norell New York. Black cocktail ensemble, 1950. silk chiffon, silk satin. MFIT, Gift in memory of Miriam Abrams; #3 Label: Norman Norell New York. Black dress with belt, 1962-1963. Wool, leather. MFIT, Gift of Mortimer Soloman.

As a way of illustrating the impeccable couture construction for which Norell fashions are known, this “inside-out” dress was displayed.

Click on the photo for a closer look.

It was all I could do to keep from reaching over to see more of it. Noted on the caption were ”the hand-picked zipper and extra wide seam allowance, the deep hem … edged with bias-cut silk so that it is softly defined yet sturdy. Furthermore, the neckline and armholes are minimally interfaced to give shape without impeding movement, and they are under-pressed in order to hide the seams.”

The larger gallery of the Exhibit practically took my breath away when I entered. The large center stage is resplendent with examples of his famous eveningwear, including his sequined “mermaid” dresses.

The low light in the Exhibition gallery only added to the ambience and allure of these creations.

Around the perimeter of the gallery were featured many, many of his glorious coats, capes and dress suits, as well as dresses. I snapped this photo of one of his trademark sailor dresses to show the hand-picked zipper and the large patch pockets applied by hand (note the provenance on this dress in the caption):

Label: Traina-Norell New York. Off-white sailor dress with navy collar and red tie, circa 1957. Linen. MFIT, Gift of Lauren Bacall.

There were so many terrific examples of Norell’s vibrant use of color, including this coral cape from 1962.

Label: Norell. Coral double breasted cape, 1962. Wool melton. Lent by Kenneth Pool.

And I could not take my eyes away from this combination of off-white evening gown with a red bolero jacket and peacock blue sash from 1968.

The beautiful shape of the jacket, with those amazing buttons and bound buttonholes, sets off the sash to perfection. Label: Norman Norell New York. Off-white evening gown with red bolero jacket and peacock blue sash, 1968. Cotton organdy, wool, silk taffeta. Lent by Kenneth Pool.

Another brilliantly hued ensemble is this pink evening coat with matching skirt and blouse from 1964. Note the rhinestone buttons, the beautiful bound buttonholes, the angled pockets, and the lovely seaming detail of the high yoke on the coat which descends into the sleeves.

Label: Norell, Norman Norell New York. Pink evening coat with matching skirt and blouse, 1964. Wool, rhinestone buttons. MFIT, Gift of Lauren Bacall.

Norell was known for his cone and wedge-shaped coats, of which this purple one is an excellent example.  Note the spread of the descending buttons on this coat:

Photography was permitted, although flash photography was not, so my pictures do not do justice to many of these fashions. Label: Norell. Purple cone shaped double breasted coat with Peter Pan collar, 1966. Wool melton. Lent by Kenneth Pool.

This coat and pants ensemble from 1970 is set off beautifully by its wide belt:

Label: Norell. Coat and pants ensemble, 1970. Wool herringbone, leather. Lent by Kenneth Pool.

The collar is absolutely stunning. And those bound buttonholes are a work of art in that heavy wool herringbone weave.

Norell used the talented stitchers of the garment worker’s union to make his clothing.

While I am writing about coats (one of my favorite subjects!), I want to show you details from two which help to illustrate the quality and finesse for which Norell’s fashions are known. First is this pocket detail from an off-white coat with black collar, 1962-1965.

Label: Norell. Off-white coat with black collar, 1962-1965. Wool and velvet. MFIT, Gift of Mrs. Jane Albert

The right edge of the flap is angled slightly to follow the side seam line, a subtle touch which gives it a graceful appearance.

Second is another pocket detail on a beige coat with pilgrim collar from 1968:

Label: Norell. Beige coat with pilgrim collar, 1968. Wool. MFIT, Gift from the collection of Margery J. Davidson, lovingly donated by her son Harold S. Graham.

The pocket is an extension of a princess seam, beautifully angled. And more shaping is apparent to the left of the full-length seam, giving this coat such elegant and refined lines.

Seeing this following grouping of dresses and jackets gave me a new appreciation of the concept of “less is more.” According to the caption, Norell “chose to trim his day and evening wear with mink, fox, and sable. The judicious use of this expensive and sensuous material elevated the glamour quotient of his restrained daywear.”

From left to right: #1 Label: Norell. Pale oatmeal midi dress and bolero jacket, 1967. Wool, crystal fox. Lent by Kenneth Pool. #2 Label: Norell. Pale peach jacket and black gown, 1966. Brushed wool, fox, sheer jersey. Lent by Kenneth Pool. #3 Label: Norell. Red and black check suit, 1962. Wool, black fox, leather. Lent by Kenneth Pool.

One more Little Black Dress has the most beautifully placed buttons:

Label: Norman Norell New York. Black dress with jeweled buttons, 1965. Wool crepe. Lent by Kenneth Pool.

I loved the caption which (partially) stated: “Deceptively simple, Norell’s dresses were visually quiet but strategically constructed… to enhance a woman’s body.”

I could go on and on as there is so much more to celebrate about this remarkably talented “Dean of American Fashion.” Fortunately, the Exhibition is accompanied by a book, titled: Norell: Master of American Fashion, by Jeffrey Banks and Doria de la Chapelle.   Published by Rizzoli, the book is lavishly illustrated and beautifully presented, both in content and inspiration. I commend it to you.

In closing, on a personal note, I cannot help but think back to 1972, the year I graduated from college and the year Norman Norell died. So much has changed in the world of fashion and fashion sewing since those heady years. Seeing an exhibition like this one is a lovely reminder of the true timelessness of quality and restrained elegance, providing endless inspiration to those of us who dream and sew.

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Filed under bound buttonholes, Capes, Coats, Cocktail dresses, couture construction, Day dresses, Dressmaker coats, Dressmaker suits, Fashion commentary, Fashion Exhibits, Little Black Dress, Mid-Century style, Suit dresses, Uncategorized

The Essential Coat

How many coats do you own? (Not enough?) How many do you need? (More than you know!) Putting need aside, how many should you have? (Plenty!) In your sewing and in planning your wardrobe, do you give as much thought to your coats as you do to your dresses or pants or blouses? My guess is that you do not.

In our very casual world, coats seem to have taken on the essence of “practical” or “function over form.”   To me, this is such a shame, as I believe coats have an aura to them unmatched by any other garment. They are, after all, so often a significant part of the first impression you make when arriving at an event or party – or anything for that matter. A fantastic coat can also leave a lasting impression when departing such an event.

In her iconic book, What Should I Wear, Claire McCardell devotes an entire chapter to coats. Here is just a small snippet of her thoughts on the impression that your coat can make: “…Remember that a first impression often comes when you are wearing a coat. When you are interviewed for a job, you keep your coat on. Your future employer’s first impression of you may be based on the coat you are wearing.

When you walk down the aisle of a theatre, you are wearing a coat … your audience has already judged you and the most beautiful dress in the world cannot alter that first impression. Coats ride buses and subways and taxicabs…. A coat is not something to be dismissed lightly.”   (The Rookery Press, New York, New York, 2012, pages 61- 62.)

In The Little Pink Book of Elegance: The Modern Girl’s Guide to Living with Style, by Jodi Kahn, she writes: “Many an elegant look is spoiled by throwing on a coat or a wrap that is anything but . . . [I]f you think about the most elegant women you know, or those in the pubic eye, you’ll probably realize they have fabulous outerwear. In the ‘60s, Jacqueline Kennedy asked her designer of the day, Oleg Cassini, to pay special attention to what she wore over her clothes since she was always being photographed coming and going. Even if you don’t have to worry about getting your picture snapped around every corner, a few great coats will transform almost any [look.]” (Peter Pauper Press, Inc., White Plains, New York, c2005, pages 29-30.)

A beautiful coat can also hint at what is beneath it. One of the most elegant looks one can wear (and make for herself) is a matching coat and dress ensemble, where the two pieces are intended only to ever be worn with each other. Such a coat and dress often share similar style lines.   This Vogue Couturier Design by Mattli of London is an example of this:

Another example of a coat and dress with complementary style lines is this Vogue pattern:

And although the style lines of the dress and the coat in this Vogue Paris Original by Madame Gres are not matching, clearly the coat and dress featured in blue on the pattern envelope are intended as such an ensemble:

Here is an example of a formal dress and matching coat, sharing seaming details and clearly designed to go together. Would this dress be anywhere as exciting without its matching coat?

This evening coat makes my heart skip a beat!

Not every coat needs to match a dress, however. Here is a small sampling of coats, both dressy “dressmaker” coats and classy, more tailored coats, the prototypes of which have their rightful place in your coat wardrobe:

This is my original pattern from which I made the featured coat when I was in my mid-twenties. I loved this coat and only wish I still had it!

I am very anxious to make a coat from this pattern.

This is a beautiful example of a dressmaker coat.

Another dressmaker coat.

A coat better suited for everyday wear, but still beautiful.

One of the many catalogs we receive here at our home is the catalog from the J. Peterman Company. It is so creatively conceived and presented, with each entry reading like a mini story, and often evocative of other times and places. The “Owner’s Manual” (as the company’s catalogs are called) arriving during this past holiday season was no exception. Imagine my delight when turning the page to this entry for a “French Coat with timeless Parisian style.”

Click on the image to read its story.

But what really caught my eye was the caption at the top of the page: “I want to know the woman in that coat.” In a nutshell, that sums up the power of a beautiful coat. What fun to know that, as ones who can make our coats, we can also be the woman who made that coat!

And now, in deference to some of my readers who want progress reports on my Number Four Classic French Jacket, here are a few photos – and a short quiz for those of you who have never made one of these jackets, but hope to one day.

Here is the neckline, ready to be stitched.

I call this the “vest” stage. This is the front of the jacket . . .

And this is the back of the jacket.

It is always fun to pin the sleeves on quickly just to see a jacket taking form!

As you can see, all the machine quilting is complete. I’ve finished the interior seams as much as I can at this point. The next step is to insert the sleeves. Then I can complete the finishing work on the interior seams and the hems and get to work on the trim and the pockets.

QUIZ: How much more will I be using my sewing machine to do this work?

  1. a) only for the insertion of the sleeves
  2. b) only to make the pockets
  3. c) both for the insertion of the sleeves and to make the pockets
  4. d) not for anything

Back to Coats:  Are you ready to make one after reading this post? I hope so!

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Filed under Chanel-type jackets, Coats, Dressmaker coats, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s

A Rosy Sewing Year

It seems that every new sewing year – at least for me – does not start right on time, as I am always finishing up a project from the month of December. Such is the case in this early January of 2018. However, that does not keep me from planning and dreaming about the coats and jackets, dresses and blouses to come. I can’t help but think of the new year at hand as a “rosy sewing year,” because the fabrics that are in my queue right now share a common theme – so many are predominantly red or pink or peach or floral, a bouquet of colors and textures.

First up is this red and black “hounds tooth” boucle which I found at Mendel Goldberg. Yes, it will be a Classic French jacket, with a sheath dress to match.

I am planning some variations in detail and trim for this jacket and dress, about which I am excited. It is a big project, so I hope January gives me lots of sewing time! No doubt this will spill over into February…

As I mentioned in one of my December posts, I hope to make a coat from this vintage purple boucle I am so fortunate to own.

A few years ago I found this silk charmeuse (also at Mendel Goldberg) which I intend to use for a coordinating dress with the coat.

Other silks I would love to concentrate on this year are purchases made several years ago from Britex Fabrics in San Francisco:

This is a French crepe de chine.

This silk helps satisfy my penchant for polka dots.

Then there are two linens I never got to in 2017, one a geometric red and the other a ecru and black floral. I assume they are waiting patiently for me. Add to all this my determination to sew for my two little granddaughters and – there’s the year! (And can I possibly finish another classic French jacket next Fall?  We will see.)

But let me complete 2017 first. Whatever made me think I should start (and could possibly finish) another dress for myself in December I will never know. But that’s exactly what went through my head. I had plans to make taffeta “Cinderella” dresses for my granddaughters for Christmas presents, but thought I would sneak in some personal sewing time before I started on that project. Perhaps it was the pattern that made me do it? Or was it the fabric?

When I purchased this pattern at the end of last summer, I really had no idea when I would be using it; I just did not want to miss the opportunity to own it, knowing that I would surely use it someday. Little did I know that someday would be just a couple of months later.

Now it just so happened that I had draped this fabric, below, over my dress form so I could admire it while I worked on other things. I purchased this silk charmeuse from Mendel Goldberg fabrics in 2016 as an end cut, three yards in length.

I knew with three yards I would be able to use a dress pattern which called for more than normal yardage, and I had found a pattern in my collection which I thought I would use:

My idea was to lengthen the sleeves to three-quarter length.

But something just did not seem right. I could not get excited about that pattern in that fabric, even with three-quarter sleeves. Well, I had one of those proverbial light bulb moments when it occurred to me to use the Guy Larouche pattern for the champagne-colored, floral silk. It seems to be a perfect match. The bodice of the pattern is cut on the diagonal, and the meandering flower and vine motif in the fabric lends itself to both straight of grain and diagonal placement. I made my muslin (with quite a few alterations) and was really quite excited about the draped back, shown here in muslin:

And here is the front, minus one sleeve. The front neckline is a bit unusual and I think it will be flattering.

I got as far as transferring the markings onto the silk organza underlining, cutting out the fashion fabric, and basting the two layers together, all ready to start sewing. Then reality hit like a sledgehammer! I had to get those dresses for my granddaughters finished in time for Christmas (which I did, after some frantic sewing – and they love them, which made it all worthwhile!)

Just in case anyone would like to see these dresses, here they are. Big bows in back, and the sleeves are adorned with little bows. Very girly!

So that’s how I am now at this point, finishing up 2017, with the hope of starting the new sewing year one of these days – with my Guy Laroche dress perched in my closet, awaiting its debut. May the New Year be rosy and kind to all of us, and may it end with many sewing dreams fulfilled!

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Filed under Boucle for French style jackets, Chanel-type jackets, Coats, Linen, Moygashel linen, Polka dots, Sewing for children, silk, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s