…but Your Outfit Can Be. I took a picture last summer of this sign at a Western wear store in Pinedale, Wyoming (Cowboy Shop). I loved the saying, but little did I know how often I would reflect on it this summer, which has had its difficulties.
And even when my outfit, like Life, is far from perfect, which has been often, I know there is always Hope, and yes, that is hope with a capital H.
What a long hiatus it has been between my last musings about Trench coats and Dressmaker coats and pink gingham. The final, finishing stitch in my pink checked coat was in mid-June, and at this point I can hardly remember what I wanted to say about it.
It does seem appropriate to start with the changes I made to the pattern, of which there were two major ones. The first change was to the size of the collar. In the 1970s long pointed collars were a trend. Although I like a pointed collar, one with a more petite profile seemed to be a little more flattering and classic. To achieve this desired look, I shortened the collar’s points by about an inch on either side.
When I made this coat in 1974, I remember being a bit disappointed with the volume of the back of the coat. I was using a cotton twill, so it was a heavier fabric than the silk taffeta in my new version, making the volume seem even more pronounced. But even so, I thought I would be happier with a less full back. I experimented around with my muslin/toile until I got the desired girth. It turned out I eliminated a total of three inches from the back pattern pieces, 1 ½” from each side back panel.
In addition to these alterations, I had a slight construction change. The instructions for the gathering of the lining at the back waistline called for using elastic thread. First of all, I didn’t have any elastic thread, nor did I think it would give the look I wanted even though it would not be very apparent on a lining. Instead, I had some elastic cord, and I attached it by hand, using embroidery floss in a criss-cross stitch enclosing it the width of the back. Worked like a charm, and I like the effect it made.
Once I had the coat partially assembled, I decided I would have liked it to be a bit longer than I planned with the muslin. I was very tight with fabric, so I really could not have cut it longer and still been able to get the coat out of the fabric I had. So, to gain another inch and a half, I decided to face the hem right to the point where the lining would be attached. It certainly took extra effort, but I’m glad I did it as I much prefer the slightly longer length.
The one thing I would change should I ever make this coat again (which I doubt) would be to add about an inch or so to the diameter of the cuffs. I would like to keep them buttoned and be able to slip my hands through them. As they are, they are too tight to do that. This was something I could have determined had I made a muslin/toile with completed sleeves, which I did not. All I did was check the length. A good reminder to me to be more thorough in situations like this.
When I was planning this coat, I intended to use this vintage silk fabric for the lining.
However, even though I underlined the fashion fabric with white cotton batiste, I felt there was a slight “see-through” of the black details in the print of the intended fabric. In the meantime, I had ordered a piece of polished cotton in “Paris Pink” from Emma One Sock Fabrics. Although not an exact match, the two fabrics – the pink checked taffeta and the polished cotton – made a pretty pair so I changed course, and the rest is history.
No report on this coat would be complete without mention of the buttons. Again, I went with vintage mother-of-pearl buttons. These have a carved detail in them, which I thought would pair nicely with the gingham.
This was an involved, lengthy project. I was rather in awe of my 24-year-old self for attempting it “back in the day.” But making it again brought back hidden memories (good ones) and new appreciation for all that I have learned over the ensuing years. Wearing my new version of this Trench-inspired coat will, I believe, fall into the “nearly perfect“ category.
While bogged down in the fitting of these wool slacks, my mind has been thinking about capes instead.
I know myself well enough to recognize it is always prudent to work on the least favorable item first and save the ”goodies” for later, and that is what I have done with this cape and slacks ensemble introduced in my last post. There is a reason I have made few pairs of slacks in my years of sewing: I find fitting them tedious. So, while I think I am just about satisfied with how they are coming along, the thing which has kept me sane is the prospect of making that beautiful cape.
All of this has led me to do a little research into capes. I started with Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion, as I often do when investigating a sewing/fashion topic. Well, oh my! There happen to be no fewer than 8 pages of entries for capes, cloaks, and shawls! It turns out a cape is not just a cape, and the history of capes is long indeed. For my purposes here, the simple definition of a cape is sufficient: “Sleeveless outerwear of various lengths usually opening in center front; cut in a full circle, in a segment of a circle, or on the straight – usually with slits for arms. A classic type of outerwear worn in one form or another throughout history….” (The Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion, Third Edition, by Charlotte Mankey Calasibetta and Phyllis Tortora, Fairchild Publications, Inc., New York, New York, c2003)
Interestingly, Christian Dior has no entry for capes in his Little Dictionary of Fashion, another one of my go-to reference books. But as luck would have it, the newest J. Peterman Company catalogue, Owners Manual No. 197, Holidays 2021, arrived in my mailbox this week. And there on page 5, he has offered for sale a Plaid Wool Cape, with the enticing caption: “Capes are mysterious. Alluring. Functional. In the past, they’ve existed as an alternative to coats so you wouldn’t crush your real clothing…” He goes on to say one will not want to take off this particular cape, as there could be nothing better under it. Well, I guess that’s an arguable point, but you get the picture. Capes demand attention, but in a good way.
I started thinking about the patterns I have gathered over the years, and I remembered at least two which feature capes. Once I got into my pattern collection, I found four besides the one I am currently using.
The earliest one is clearly this Vogue Couturier Design from the second half of the 1950s.
Its description reads: “Suit and Reversible Cape. Easy fitting jacket with concealed side pockets buttons below shaped collar. Below elbow length sleeves. Slim skirt joined to shaped waistband. Reversible, collarless cape has arm openings in side front seams.” I think this is pretty spectacular, and while the suit is lovely, it is enhanced many times over by the addition of the short cape.
Next is this Advance pattern from the 1960s, a cape in two lengths.
I was attracted to this pattern because of its lengthwise darts, its rolled collar and back neckline darts.
The 1970s is represented by the Molyneux pattern I am using and two more: a Pucci design and a Sybil Connolly design.
I purchased the Pucci pattern for the dress (which I now believe to be too “youthful” for me), but its cape certainly completes the outfit. The description reads: “…Cape with jewel neckline has arm openings in side front seams; back vent [which I find interesting}. Top-stitch trim.”
And the final cape pattern I own – almost a capelet – is this Sybil Connolly design. The caption states “…Short asymmetrical flared cape has side button closing.” No arm slits in this cape.
I actually made this cape a number of years ago, but I must admit I have worn it infrequently. The wide stance of the neckline makes it a little unstable. I guess there is a good reason most capes have a tighter neckline – and open in the center front.
So there is my whirlwind cape tour. What do you think? Are capes alluring and mysterious? Functional and sophisticated? I, for one, think capes have a slightly romantic charm to them. Do you?
Filed under Advance vintage patterns, Capes, Fashion commentary, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s
Tagged as capes, fashion sewing, vintage fashion, vintage Vogue patterns