Here’s the biggest pattern piece I’ve ever worked with. You see it folded in two along the bottom edge here; it’s over three metres long.
It’s the main pattern piece for this Issey Miyake coat from Vogue Patterns. I had to cut it out on the floor because of the sheer size of it.
The very first step is to topstitch patch pockets onto that enormous body piece, a process that involves stuffing all the fabric through the harp of the machine as you manoeuvre round all four sides – the opening is a gap in the side of the pocket rather than the top. Luckily I’m using a lightweight coating, but it was still a bit of a struggle to get it done.
They don’t look too bad from this distance despite all the pulling and pushing involved.
But oh dear when you look closely it’s a bit of a mess with the stitching wandering here and there. It doesn’t help that it’s dark purple fabric and navy thread so even with my LED light it was hard to see what I was doing.
I am not unpicking it now; I don’t expect a second attempt will be any better. I suspect I’ll forget all about it once the coat is finished and no one who doesn’t sew will notice the pockets when there’s all the drama of that draped front to look at. So onwards and hopefully upwards because next I need to topstitch around the outer edges of that piece.
So here it is, my coat from a 1986 Claude Montana pattern, worn in 2022. Just for fun I’ve amped up the 80s styling with the scarlet lipstick and sunglasses. I haven’t been able to find any other images of the exact original design beside the pattern envelope photo below; however there are lots of similar brightly coloured Montana coat designs from 1985 and 1986 which are usually photographed styled in a similar way.
I was trying to reproduce the pattern envelope pose here but now I look at it again it’s not quite right. It does show off the strong triangular shape of the coat though. I think this one was from the peak shoulder pad era.
Disappointingly it’s less warm than I’d hoped. These pictures look like we took them on a warm day but it was bitterly cold despite the sun and I was freezing. The good news is it’s such an oversized style that I could easily fit a couple of sweaters underneath it. My pattern was a size larger than I’d normally make but I didn’t bother trying to grade it down as I didn’t think it would make much difference to the end result. The only pattern adjustments I made were to add my usual extra length to the body and sleeves and to extend the back half-lining into a full lining.
The lining is surprisingly discreet considering it’s bright pink. The facings of the coat are very deep so there isn’t a lot of it. I’m glad I went for the contrasting lining; I normally prefer to match the lining but I suspect I wouldn’t have found a similar green and the two colours do look good together.
This shot just shows the edges of the fly that hides all the buttons except the top one.
Like the other Montana patterns I’ve made there’s an element, in this case diagonal lines, that occurs throughout the garment. The front closure, the bound buttonholes, all the pockets, the angle of the neckline are all slightly on the diagonal. It’s very harmonious.
What I didn’t like about the pattern was the order of construction suggested. For example, sewing the front facings on around the front edges all the way to the side seams, and then asking to attach the patch pockets to the front without sewing them through the facing layer. It makes much more sense to sew the pockets on before applying the facing. This is a much easier way to get the pockets on because the coat front naturally lies flat at that point. If the facing was already attached it would have to be turned to the outside to avoid sewing through it, and then you’d be trying to put the presser foot in between the facing and the coat front; the facing would get in the way and pull up on the front.
That wasn’t the only construction issue; I also had to rip out the under sleeve seam in order to topstitch the upper sleeve seam. In that case I can see that the cuff construction is easier with both seams sewn and the hem facing already turned in, but it’s not impossible to do it my way, whereas topstitching the upper sleeve with the whole thing already sewn into a tube definitely wasn’t happening.
I didn’t think I’d want to wear this open but it actually looks OK in this picture. I’ll have to experiment when the weather warms up (so June then…)
This was a bit of a stunt project; I loved the pattern but I likely wouldn’t have got round to making it if I’d had to buy new fabric. As it happened I had the green wool and the lining in stash, and no other plans for either of them. However it’s surprisingly wearable. It needs the right outfit underneath, so it won’t completely displace my beloved silver quilted coat, and it’s probably best for spring and autumn rather than the depths of a UK winter. I’m glad I made it. I’ll report back on how it wore later on the year.
Thanks to my husband for taking the pictures as always.
At long last, here is my 80s coat. The dress form doesn’t really do it justice – she’s developed a slight lean and she doesn’t have enough shoulder to make the sleeves hang well.
Here’s the pattern envelope for comparison. It’s Vogue 1767 from 1986, by Claude Montana. I haven’t found any other pictures of the exact original garment, but there are plenty of 80s images that are close. Montana did lots of wide brightly coloured coats with huge shoulders, often worn over an all black outfit.
One of the great things about the Vogue Montana patterns I have is that the back views have plenty of detail. This one has lots of topstitching and a little back vent which is surely purely decorative. And the sleeves have cuffs that actually unbutton; again I can’t see that getting any use but it adds some interest.
The front closure has one feature button with a bound button hole and then the rest of the buttons are hidden under a fly, which was fun to construct. I went with plain black buttons as I think the fabric colour makes a strong enough statement on its own.
I couldn’t get lining to match the shell fabric so used grey for the fly lining in order that it wouldn’t be obvious if it peeked out. I used a green quilting cotton for turning the bound buttonholes and the welt pocket but that wasn’t a good enough colour match for the fly.
The buttons are backed with smaller ones on the inside. I need to brush that blue chalk off the buttonholes! The fabric generally resisted marking: chalk vanished after only a day or two and my air erasable pen didn’t last an hour, but the buttonholes seem to have held onto the chalk. I can report it shrugs off blood though: I accidentally stuck a seam ripper into my finger and bled all over one of the sleeves and it pretty much wiped straight off.
The patch pockets are huge. Annoyingly they’re attached over the side seams so have to be added quite late on.
And slightly to my surprise the pockets are lined to the edge. I expected them to have a self-facing, but even if the pattern had had one I wouldn’t have had enough fabric to cut it. Getting this design out of the three metres I had was a real struggle. I had to cut the sleeves slightly off grain and there was no chance of doing a ‘with nap’ layout.
No such problem with the main lining fabric: I still have quite a lot of this bright pink satin left over. I always intended it for this green wool but originally had a very different pattern planned which would have needed a lot more of the satin.
The lining is sewn in by hand along the hems because there’s not a lot of it, what with those deep front facings, and I forgot to leave a gap in one of the sleeves for turning. And I regretted it; I’m so much slower doing it that way. I managed to break a hand sewing needle in the process too, something I don’t think I’ve ever done before. Back to the machine next time.
Here’s my coat chain. Another surprising thing about this pattern is that there’s no neck facing, so I hope it holds up. The neck seam is a bit lumpy on the inside despite lots of trimming and pressing because the satin has so much less body than the wool. No one’s going to see it though.
Hopefully I’ll get some photos of it on me soon. Right now I’m really pleased with it but have only tried it on inside the house. I’ll report back on how it really wears in due course.
I’m so close to finishing my 80s coat. I literally just have to sew the lining to the hems and topstitch the edges and then it’s done. But that isn’t happening until next week. And I’ll need something 80s to wear it with, so in the meantime here is my 80s wardrobe sewing plan. It’s basically ‘make these four vintage Vogue patterns and a few supporting pieces’ so I can’t claim any credit for putting outfits together cleverly here.
There are two coats, two pairs of trousers, and two dresses. I’m going to make a boxy black polo neck jumper to pair with both sets of trousers, and a belt for one of the dresses. I’ll also need a pair of leggings or thick tights to go under the dresses and some stompy footwear, but I already have those.
The first pattern is 1767 by Claude Montana from 1986. I’m making the coat and the trousers with the turnups.
The coat as previously mentioned is almost done. It’s made in fairly heavy chartreuse green felted wool with bright pink lining. That’s a lot of colour, especially for someone whose entire wardrobe was black, white, and grey until three months ago.
These sort of coat styles were shown on the catwalk paired with black polo necks and trousers. So the trousers from the pattern are going to be black cotton twill. They’re typical 80s style with a lot of volume at the top which is gathered into the waistband. I think I’ll change the gathers to pleats.
Next is 1476 by Issey Miyake from 1984. Special thanks to Charlotte for helping me out with the missing instruction pages from my copy! The pattern has a shirt, trousers, and a coat but I’m just making the coat and trousers from this one, and I intend to wear the coat as an indoor garment – it’ll keep me warm while working from home in the loft.
The coat is going to be dark bluey purple; I have already got a length of a lightweight brushed wool coating for it. Black for the trousers again, but these are more drapey than the Montana trousers so I’m looking for a wool twill for those. And the polo neck will go nicely with the other two. I’m not a big shirt wearer; I get cold too easily.
Then there is 1071, another Claude Montana, from 1982.
The oversized dress is shown in a pale neutral colour on the pattern (cream? beige? greige?) but after much internet searching I found a photo of the original design made up in black, which I think is a lot more practical. I want a flannel for the base fabric. Haven’t decided whether to do the suede accents yet, but if I do it’ll be polyester fake suede so it can go in the washing machine.
The last dress is 1652, Montana again, from 1985. Very Grace Jones. Don’t think I’ll be doing the opera gloves thing, although apparently they are fashionable right now. They do look stylish on the Vogue model.
The original of this dress was almost certainly made of wool double knit although I haven’t found a reference picture. That’s difficult to source around here and I’d normally substitute a mostly polyester ponte knit, but I think most pontes will be too heavy for this style. The dress has a lot of pleats on the hood and sleeves and is two thicknesses at the front. I’m going for a satin backed crepe so I can use the shiny side as the contrast. Hopefully it won’t be too slithery. This dress also needs a belt, and as luck would have it I have an 1985 issue of Burda with a very 80s belt pattern.
I think I’d make the belt out of two layers and turn it out rather than binding the edges as Burda have done, but the shape is perfect. It also amuses me that the Burda dress the belt goes with has a certain resemblance to the oversized Montana dress.
I don’t have a contemporary pattern for the polo neck jumper but there are a couple in my Burda collection that will do. I’m mainly looking at 120 from 11/2020, minus the gathers.
That’s eight pieces, but two of them are coats. This is going to take a while! I’m hoping it won’t come out too costumey for daily wear. The hooded dress is very of its time, but it’s also fabulous, and I think the rest are fairly wearable. And if 90s style is really back in the mainstream as I keep reading, this is all probably going to look quite sensible and practical by comparison: thick layers of warm fabric and lots of pockets.
I’m still working on my 80s coat, which is from this Vogue pattern.
The original is only half lined so I decided to line the whole thing, and picked a very contrasting lining: a bright pink satin when the shell fabric is green (I had it in stash; in fact it was originally bought to use with the green coating fabric on a long abandoned project). But then I realised I’d need some more sober lining fabric for things like lining the patch pockets and the inside of the concealed button placket. And the green is proving impossible to match especially as in person fabric shopping isn’t happening at the moment. I have ended up with grey lining, again from the stash.
The first sewing job should have been the bound buttonholes. I’d never done these before and wondered how well they’d go in such a thick fabric. I was particularly concerned about what fabric to use for backing the hole as I don’t have anything that’s a good colour match to the shell fabric. After making some samples I found a bright green quilting cotton was the best because it pressed well enough that none of it was visible from the front, so the poor colour match didn’t matter.
I’ve finished the buttonholes and the front welt pocket, and finally started sewing the shell together. Feels like there’s a long way to go at the moment. My pile of fabric pieces still looks enormous. But I put what I’ve got on the dress form yesterday and the shape is amazing; it’s basically triangular. I may need even bigger shoulder pads than I thought.
I’ve had a piece of chartreuse green wool coating in my stash for years. I originally bought it to make a Burda coat and then rapidly changed my mind about the colour. The Burda got made up in a more neutral colour and the green coating sat waiting for the right pattern to come along.
Years and a house move later I still haven’t found anything to do with it. Occasionally I pull it out, look through my entire pattern stash, and then put it back again. There is only three metres of it which isn’t enough for the sort of big dramatic coat or cape I’m drawn to, and it’s too heavy for any other sort of clothing. I even considered selling it.
Lately I’ve been getting into vintage Vogue designs from the 1980s, especially those by Claude Montana. I’ve picked up a few patterns off eBay, including this one from 1986. It only needs three metres.
And I also have the Vogue pattern that the jacket pattern recommends to use for those enormous shoulder pads.
I haven’t been able to find an image of the original garment other than the one on the Vogue envelope, but here’s one with a very similar feel. This sort of coat often seems to come in very bright colours and be styled over black garments.
And here are a couple of links to rather blurry YouTube videos of Montana shows with very similar coats in the most amazing colours.
The chartreuse green should fit right in amongst that lot. And even better, I have most of the other things I need for making the coat in my stash.
There are a few unknowns: the coat requires a bound buttonhole which is a new technique to me, and I still haven’t quite got my head around the construction of the concealed button band which closes it down the front. And the pattern calls for finishing all the internal seams with home made bias binding because the jacket is only half lined. No way I am doing that, so I need to line the whole thing which means working out how to make it go around the back vent.
One thing that always strikes me when I look at fashion images from the early 80s is how warm those power dressing ladies must have been. They’re invariably wrapped in several layers, often of heavy wool, and with gloves and hats on top. Perfect for a UK winter.
This dress is very much part of that sort of look. It’s from a vintage Vogue Claude Montana pattern, number 1308. My copy came off eBay. This one comes up fairly often and inexpensively second hand so I imagine it sold well when it was in print. There’s no date on it, but comparing with the numbers and dates of Vogue patterns recorded in COPA suggests it is from 1983. I haven’t been able to find an image of the exact garment on the catwalk, unfortunately, although YouTube videos of Montana collections from 1983 have some similar styles.
The pattern has three pieces: the dress, a jacket, and a stole (the latter winning the award for the most unnecessary pattern piece ever – a giant rectangle with no markings that must have taken up an entire sheet of pattern tissue). The dress has huge 80s shoulder pads and some shaped topstitching detail around the neck and shoulders which is echoed in the jacket. But the main feature is the opening bands down the back and arms.
You’re supposed to use snaps as the band closures, which matches what I’ve seen in a lot of contemporary fashion images, but Vogue suggests buttons as an alternative and I agree – I’d be terrified of the snaps coming undone down the back. I was surprised that 1.5cm buttons were suggested which seem rather on the small side for the width of the band. Presumably that matches the size of the snaps on the original garment. My buttons are 2cm which I think looks better.
I had a hard time deciding on fabric for this. The envelope says ‘wool jersey, wool double knit, challis, lightweight crepe and raw silk’ but it’s not stated which of the pieces each fabric suggestion is for. Clearly the fabric for the dress needs to be heavy enough to support the closures so I went with the double knit option, although mine is a poly-viscose-elastane mix from Minerva rather than wool. It comes in a huge range of colours. This one is ‘ochre’ and I’m really enjoying having a change from neutrals.
This was a fairly easy sew although I didn’t follow the instructions exactly. They would have you turn under a tiny (6mm) hem on all the facings and then topstitch exactly along that line to secure the facing. This was not at all easy in a thick and bouncy ponte knit, so after the first few attempts I gave up and left the remaining facing edges flat and unfinished before topstitching. In a fraying fabric I’d have overlocked them, or I suppose they could be bound for a really fancy finish.
Those big shoulders aren’t just shoulder pads alone. There’s an extra crescent shaped stiffening layer inside the dress at the shoulder edge to help produce that very wide and rounded shape. This sort of detail is one of the things I love about Vogue patterns. Sadly I wasn’t able to track down a copy of the recommended vintage pattern for making authentic 80s shoulder pads, so I had to buy my pads from eBay and they aren’t quite the right shape or size.
I had a hard time getting the top of the back button band to sit nicely when worn. It looked fine on my dress form, but on me the outer corner of the top band kept curling outwards. The closures aren’t needed for function so I tacked it down.
I’ve only made the dress from the pattern, but my Burda 105 2/2021 jacket is a similar style to the Montana jacket and looks good with my dress. It also provides much needed pockets to the outfit.
I’ve been surprised how much I’ve worn this dress considering it was a bit of a stunt project. It’s so roomy I can get a jumper under it which has been great for keeping warm. Forget the nineties revival, I’m sticking with the eighties.
So here it is at last, my vintage 80s dress. It seems odd to think of 80s patterns as vintage, given I remember the decade quite well. But at the time I definitely didn’t appreciate fashion and had never heard of Claude Montana.
The pattern is Vogue 1376 from 1984. I’m almost certain the original designer dress is the one in this advert. I did consider constructing a blue cardboard triangle to put on my head but you’ll be pleased to hear sanity prevailed. My styling efforts are limited to 80s style stripy blusher.
This dress is all about the enormous shoulders. The bodice front and back are only joined together from the waist down in order to achieve that very triangular shape. Decency is maintained by side insets placed in the gap and topstitched in place. One of the insets is visible in this side view. What you can’t see here are the two shoulder pads each side required to support the shape.
Here’s a back view. I added quite a bit to the length. I always add 5cm to the bodice on Vogue but on this one I added another 3cm to the skirt. I’m very happy with where the hem has ended up. For once I’ve managed to hit the magic length which covers the knee but doesn’t make my legs look oddly proportioned. I’m wearing ridiculous heels here for photographic purposes but I think this would look OK with flats. I browsed through a lot of YouTube videos of Montana fashion shows while identifying this pattern, and was surprised by how low and practical many of the shoes were. Not how I remember 80s style. Is it just that heels got even higher later on? I remember fashion suddenly declaring that flats were OK after all at some time in the second half of the 90s, and how refreshing it was to be able to find shoes that were both attractive and practical.
There are a lot of details on the back: there’s a button closure, pleats, and a belt. On the original design the belt appears to be patent leather, but I stuck with self fabric and a lot of interfacing for mine. Incidentally the fabric is gaberchino from Empress Mills. I think this design needs something not too heavy, but with a bit of body to it.
The front has the amazing pocket flanges which echo the triangular shoulder shape and the overall outline. The whole thing is very thoughtfully designed.
Surprisingly it’s not all that close fitting, as you can see here. I made my usual size and I seem to have more ease than on the original. I don’t think I’d want it any tighter though.
I’m pleased with this, although who knows how much I’ll get to wear it in the near future. It was a lot of fun to make anyway.
Remember this? It’s a old Vogue designer pattern I bought earlier in the year because it is everything I love about the 80s.
It hasn’t just been sitting in my pattern collection; I am actually making it up. It’s been quite a journey so far and it’s not done yet. But I have finally got it to the point where it looks like a dress, so I thought I’d post some progress pictures.
The pattern envelope does not lie. The shoulders are seriously wide. Consequently the waist looks tiny. It hasn’t got shoulder pads in yet either, so those shoulders are going to be even bigger when it’s done.
The hip pocket flaps form amazing sticky out fins when the dress is on a body or dress form. My other half said it reminded him of a 50s Cadillac. Underneath them are welt pockets.
The fabric is gaberchino. It needs to be something that is drapey enough for the pleats in the bodice back but has enough body to make the more structured details. I’ve used a lot of interfacing to beef it up in places.
Here’s a better view of the shoulder and neck. The pins are holding the armscye facing in place as I haven’t topstitched it yet.
And here is the back; there is a lot going on there. There are going to be buttons and button holes on the upper back bands and at the collar and the back half-belt. My dress form has a much shorter waist than I do so it won’t be quite so blousy on me.
I still need to add insets under the arms, do a ton of topstitching, put the shoulder pads in, and make all those buttonholes. Oh and hem it, too. There is loads of work in this and that’s without making any effort to make the insides look nice – the pattern doesn’t call for anything special there so it’s all overlocked seam allowances. It’s a wonderful pattern though; beautifully drafted and full of interesting details. It’s been a lot of fun to sew.
I’m coming to the conclusion that the end result is going to be less wearable than I’d originally thought, what with the high neck and the very narrow skirt. But it will be a spectacular dress for going out somewhere fancy in, if we ever get to do that again. And when I finish it I will do my best to get some good photos…I’d better look up some 80s makeup inspiration.
One of my Christmas presents was an unusual sewing pattern ‘book’ called Mappamodello. It contains patterns for very geometric styles developed by the designer Nanni Strada in the 70s. The dress above is her ‘Arab-Islamic Work Dress’. It’s the only one I’ve made up so far but I suspect there will be more in the future.
I’ve described the object as a book but once you unpack it what you actually have is two very large pieces of paper. One is the (huge) pattern sheet, and the other includes brief notes on the history of each of the styles and some photographs and technical drawings of the designs. The only thing resembling sewing instructions provided is the key on the pattern sheet. The pattern for the dress I’ve made up didn’t entirely match the photographs and diagrams, but I found the process of reconciling the differences enjoyable. Having said that I made a fairly major mistake with this one which I would have avoided if there had been a photograph or a diagram of the back view as well as the front. More on that in a moment.
The designs are all one size and entirely flat in the sense that there are no seams or darts. They work by wrapping around the body and fastening with ties. The size is adjusted by fastening the ties more or less tightly. Most of the styles are very fabric-efficient and they almost all include pockets. You can see some of the fitting ties on the Arab-Islamic work dress in the back view below. If you’re familiar with the Walkaway dress it’s a similar ‘apron’ style. I was a bit cynical about the ‘one size fits all’ claim and added a few inches of length to the pattern for insurance. It probably wasn’t needed but does give a nice deep hem.
This particular style is supposed to be wearable in two different ways, but this relies on making the back neckline identical to the front neckline so you can turn the dress around 90 degrees and stick your arms though the neckline slits, tying the top neckline slit ties over your shoulders. The original ‘sleeves’ undo at the underarm, and those pieces then wrap over your chest and back, and presumably tie at your sides. As you can see I didn’t make a slit on the back of the dress so I haven’t got anywhere to put one of my arms through when I turn the dress around. I don’t think I’ve lost too much as wearing it that way doesn’t look very comfortable in the model photo.
I think the style I have made up is one of the earliest in the series. There are several very similar dresses in the book and it’s interesting to compare the later ones with the earlier. The shape of the neckline and sleeves evolves, the ability to wear the dress in two ways is dropped, the pockets become more complicated, and some purely decorative features creep in. I suspect the later versions make slightly more practical garments! Mine shouldn’t be worn without leggings and a t-shirt underneath because of all the gaps.
The book doesn’t go into any detail about fabric choice. For one or two of the designs it mentions ‘glazed cotton’ or ‘lacquered cotton’ which sounds to me like crisp fabrics. Accordingly I made my dress up in a polycotton poplin on the grounds that it’s got a crisp hand and is cheap enough for an experiment, but I think something with a bit more drape would actually have been better. By the way you need wide fabric for this style – 150cm/60″ – which limits the choices. I couldn’t find wide poplin from any of my usual sources and ended up getting it from eBay. The dress is mostly one huge pattern piece nearly the whole width of the fabric and well over two metres long. It makes efficient use of fabric. I only had small scraps left over.
So does this pass the wearability test? I’m not sure. These photos were taken on a bitterly cold and windy day so you are not seeing the dress or me at their best. It does feel a bit like wearing an academic gown only not as warm. Despite the book’s claim that the styles work for all seasons I think this one is only for spring and early summer days.
This all sounds rather negative but I really enjoyed the process of working out how to make the dress up. I’d like to give some of the more sophisticated versions a try, using better fabric. I think there’s a great dress in here somewhere.