…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.
￼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