When the weather turns wintry, warm coats become a wardrobe staple. One or two “practical – wear everywhere” coats are a must. (I just added years to the life of a 2+ decades-old cashmere, classic, double-breasted coat by having the tattered lining replaced by a local tailor – and I will continue to wear this coat often!) But how delightful to have a collection of coats – and how much better if they are not only warm, but also stylish. If you were sewing in the 1950s and 1960s you were fortunate to have many, many coat styles and patterns available to you – and if you are sewing now, you are also fortunate to have access to many of these same patterns through the internet – and they are just as stylish now as they were 50+ years ago. I am, of course, speaking of “dressmaker coats.”
Quoting from Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion, (Third Edition, by Charlotte Mankey Calasibetta and Phyllis Tortora; Fairchild Publications, Inc, New York, New York, copyright 2003) a dressmaker coat is: “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.” Such coats are so-called because they are styled more like a dress.
It doesn’t take very long to find examples of such coats in the Vogue Pattern Book Magazines from those two decades. The sheer numbers of patterns for such coats – and coat and dress ensembles – make me believe that home dressmakers from that period of time did not shy away from such sewing challenges. And why should we when so many gorgeous coats are waiting to be sewn?
Here are a few examples to tempt you:
“The Rectangle Coat: New Fashion Geometry” was a feature in the December 1958/January 1959 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine.
Continuing with the theme of “New Fashion Geometry,” the following pages of the same Vogue Pattern Book Magazine show examples of “the triangle coat.” Other terminology for this style of coat is the A-line coat. First introduced in 1955 by Christian Dior, this coat was “made close and narrow at the shoulders, flaring gently from under the arms to hem; shaped like letter A, made in single-or double-breasted style with or without a collar,” according to Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion, page 85.
A few years later, the December 1962/January 1963 issue of Vogue Pattern Book Magazine featured “7 new ways to keep warm and look wonderful.”
For me, however, it is the “ensembles” that make the ultimate fashion statement when speaking of coats. Christian Dior succinctly sums up their allure in The Little Dictionary of Fashion (Abrams, New York, New York, copyright 2007), page 40: “A very elegant way of dressing is to have a coat and dress matching together, making an ensemble… The frock should be fairly simple and the coat can be either fitted or loose, according to your taste. It can also be either long or short.” Vogue Patterns had no shortage of offerings for such ensembles. Here are four wonderful Vogue patterns – which are part of my pattern collection – and which are “ensembles.”
I actually have fabric for three of these patterns – with plans to sew them of course. (Can you guess which one is the fabric-less orphan?) However, all of them will remain part of my sewing dreams until after the holiday season – which “officially” begins this week with our American Thanksgiving celebration. I have festive attire and a few homemade gifts to fill my sewing days through December. Building my collection of coats will just have to wait.
Happy, Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers – and my heartfelt thanks to my loyal readers worldwide in this season of gratitude.
￼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