It has been a slow start to the new sewing year of 2023. Although I had anticipated the completion of my first project – this black jacket – to be a speedy endeavor, I anticipated incorrectly! (Has anyone ever said fashion sewing can be very humbling?)
I was making this jacket to go specifically with a wool sheath dress I made two years ago – and also, hopefully, to pair with other dresses or skirts which might benefit from the addition of a somewhat dressy black jacket. I had the pattern, and I had the fabric, a very soft light-weight cashmere (which I found a number of months ago at Farmhouse Fabrics.)
I first needed to make a fitting muslin (toile) and I needed to determine what changes I would make to the original pattern. That ended up being three items:
- I changed the neckline to match the neckline of the sheath dress.
- I added a dart to the top of each sleeve, using that method as a substitute for the running stitches normally used to facilitate the insertion of the sleeve into the armscye. I have used this alteration frequently as it seems to fit my shoulder anatomy well.
- I shortened the sleeves from full-length to 7/8 length. I did this as I enjoy wearing bracelets, thus giving them a little “breathing room.”
Before I started making this jacket, I had the perception I would need to tie the sheath dress and the black jacket together in some way. Without a shared element, I wasn’t so sure they would necessarily look like they were made for each other. The only problem was, I had very little yardage remaining from the sheath dress, as I had made it from a limited piece of vintage wool. What to do?
Covered buttons would limit my ability to wear the jacket with other pieces, and besides, I thought they would look stark as the only two small embellishments on a very black jacket. I did not have enough fabric left, even for a small neck scarf, so that idea never had a chance. I’m not sure when it came to me, but in a eureka moment, I thought a fabric flower made from the vintage plaid would be just the thing to make this outfit work.
I knew M & S Schmalberg Custom Fabric Flowers in New York City would be my best bet (or only bet) for having a matching flower made. I wasn’t sure I had enough fabric even for that, but I contacted them, sent pictures and measurements of my scrap of wool, and they made it work!
I chose a 3” camellia option for my flower. Look what they did!
A few other details for the construction of the jacket: (1) I under-stitched the facing to control the front edges and neckline of the jacket.
(2) I used a black crepe de chine lining (and lots of extra light when I was sewing it in!) I should mention that I underlined the jacket with silk organza.
(3) The only bit of whimsy I added to the interior was to cover up the ends of the loops for the two buttons with two small jacquard ribbon pieces appliqued on. No one will ever see these except for me, but I like them.
(4) I covered the required snaps with the lining fabric.
I am so happy to have this jacket completed. Most of my projects seem to take longer than they should, but that makes completing one just that much sweeter.
￼Is It a Trench Coat – or Is it Not?
It is not. However, I am quite sure this classic look from 1974 was inspired by the classic Trench Coat as we know it.
I am certain this Vogue pattern is from 1974, as it is featured in that year’s July/August issue of Vogue Pattern Book Magazine. It is part of a section entitled NEW ARRIVALS.
The caption tells me it is made in silk shantung, a little bit of information unknown to me when I decided to make my (new) version of it in silk taffeta.
Interestingly, in the same NEW ARRIVALS section, a dress by Patou also is reminiscent of Trench coat style, with its epaulets, slotted pockets with shaped flaps and a belted waist. It also has a center back inverted pleat.
Fast forward two years and here is a very classic Trench in the 1976 September/October issue of Vogue Pattern Book Magazine.
The caption reads: “Come rain, come shine, what more liveable coat than the trench! All that star reporter elan in epaulets, front & back shields, center back inverted pleat.” This particular pattern also includes a detachable lining for the coat and additional detachable collar. I believe that is the collar you see in red in the above picture from the magazine. The thumbnail drawings of the pattern are helpful in seeing these details:
Now, hang onto your hats and fast forward 46 years to 2022. The Trench Coat, despite being in fashion since the 1940s, is apparently enjoying new attention and reimagination according to an article in the Style & Fashion section of The Wall Street Journal, April 23-24, 2022. Although I am a little doubtful as to the long-lasting appeal of some of the Trench Coat variations shown and suggested in the article by Katharine K. Zarrella – which include a skirt, pants and a corset (really?) – some of the reflections and thoughts on Trench Coat style by various fashion insiders are worth sharing.
Michael Kors is quoted as saying: “A trench coat inherently feels like an old friend that makes you feel very secure… But you want an old friend to surprise you.” (Pink checks, anyone?)
Jane Tynan, author of a soon-to-be-released book entitled Trench Coat, says the appeal of the Trench to contemporary women is the “danger and sensuality it conveys.” (Think spies and clandestine meetings.) However, a certain Loa Patman of Boston, Massachusetts, says, “Anything trench-inspired tends to look somewhat pulled together and professional.”
Well, I don’t expect to be doing any sleuthing in my Trench-inspired Christian Dior design from 1974, but I do aspire to feel “pulled together” while wearing it. Right now it is anything but pulled together, as you can see from the photos of my “work in progress”.
Thinking further about the origins – and definitional category – of this particular design from the House of Dior, it seems to me to be a cross between a dressmaker coat and a Trench. Perhaps “Dressmaker Trench” might be the best description. As you will recall, if you follow this blog, I have referred to “dressmaker coats” before. Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion describes it as: “A woman’s coat designed with softer lines and more details than the average coat. May have a waistline and unusual details, e.g., tucks or pleats.” (p. 92, ibid.)
I’m not sure Dressmaker Coat is a descriptor many use anymore, but it certainly is useful. One thing I am quite certain of, once this Trench-inspired Dressmaker Coat is finished – it promises to stand the test of further time. I anticipate it as a staple in my Spring and early Summer wardrobe.
Filed under Christian Dior, Coats, Dressmaker coats, Fashion commentary, Mid-Century style, Silk taffeta, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s
Tagged as Dressmaker coats, fashion sewing, sewing, silk, vintage fashion, vintage Vogue patterns, Wall Street Journal Fashion coverage