Slow progress

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.

A slight miscalculation

I’m making an 80s jacket right now which requires serious shoulder pads. The pattern says to use one inch pads, or make your own with Vogue 8817. One inch thick pads are not something that’s readily available on eBay these days (or maybe I’m just not looking in the right place). In the past I made do with using two pairs of purchased pads for a similar project, but the shape wasn’t quite right. And then a copy of Vogue 8817 came up on eBay and I decided to have a crack at making my own.

The pattern calls for cotton batting to make the one inch jacket pads. I’m not a quilter and don’t have cotton batting on hand, but I do have the remains of the polyester batting I used for my quilted coat a couple of years ago so I pulled that out.

The way it works is you cut out a set of templates of gradually decreasing size from the pattern, then cut out several copies of each in batting, and layer them up.

There are five sizes of template.

The pattern doesn’t say in so many words how many of each size to cut out, but the cutting layout shows no less than five copies of the smallest one, four copies of the second and third smallest, two of the next, and one of the biggest. And that’s laid on a double layer of batting, so you’re cutting ten of the smallest piece, five for each shoulder. My batting seemed pretty lofty so I started off with just two each side of each of the smaller layers. Here it is stacked up.

That’s three inches high.

I reduced the layers to one of each size.

Two inches. These are meant to be one inch pads. Now obviously the pad will squash a bit when the jacket is hanging off it. I estimated the degree of squash by the highly scientific method of pulling out the pile of cut fabric pieces for another project and sitting them on top of my stack of batting shapes. That reduced the height to about one inch, but I’m not hugely convinced this is going to be accurate. Maybe I’d better get hold of actual cotton batting.

Planning the next project: 80s jacket

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.

Green coating from Stone Fabrics

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.

Vogue 1767 envelope

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.

Bill King for American Vogue 1984, clothes by Claude Montana, periodicult.tumblr.com

And here are a couple of links to rather blurry YouTube videos of Montana shows with very similar coats in the most amazing colours.

Claude Montana 1985/1986

Claude Montana Fall 1986

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.

I think this one will keep me busy for a while.

Hindsight is 20/20: Vogue 1558

If I ever need a quick fancy dress costume I think I’m sorted; I’ll just wear this dress, borrow a toy lightsaber from my son, and say I’m Princess Leia.

This is the original pattern: Vogue 1558. It’s a Rachel Comey design from maybe 2018. Surprisingly it seems to be out of print already. I think I bought it when it was first released, but never got around to making it up because it’s difficult to find the right fabric for. It needs a lightweight but relatively stable knit. Anything too heavyweight would make the pleats at the waist very bulky, but the wide skirt needs a lot of support so too much stretch is to be avoided.

The original Rachel Comey dress is made from silk jersey, which was never going to be an option. I decided on ‘silk touch’ poly lycra from Tissu Fabrics. It’s stretchier than I’d like, but I attempted to compensate by not lengthening the bodice pieces by as much as I normally would. It’s also inexpensive so I bought some extra to make underlayers for opacity: a basic crew necked t shirt and an underskirt. I had a clever idea I wanted to try out with the underskirt: I put side seam pockets into it and left slits in the dress side seam to make them accessible. That way the dress has the benefit of pockets without all the pulling you normally get from pockets in a lightweight knit.

Unfortunately I underestimated the stretch and everything ended up much too long. I needn’t have lengthened the bodice at all. The pocket idea worked, but as I can only just reach the bottom of them they are not exactly practical.

I did manage a good invisible zip insertion, which in this difficult fabric is a minor miracle. Yes the pleats aren’t quite symmetrical.

It’s not just the stretch though. The whole style is wrong for me. This dress is soft and pretty whereas I feel more comfortable in something sharper edged. I thought the strong vertical lines of the pleats and the high neckline would make it work for me, but the midi length and bishop sleeves are what is coming through. I could chop off some length – it’s not currently hemmed – but I’m not sure that would save it and anyway it’s winter here right now. So I think I’m chalking this one up to experience and moving swiftly on.

Back to the 80s: Vintage Vogue 1308 Claude Montana dress

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.

Thanks to my husband for taking the photos.

Experiments with colour: Vogue 1567 top

I’ve been wanting to add a bit of colour to my mostly black and grey wardrobe. Admittedly blue and black stripes is starting off very cautiously, but I wanted to make something I’d be sure to wear. Too many brightly coloured clothes have ended up festering in my wardrobe because I always reach for the grey things.

This is the top from Vogue 1567, which sadly is out of print. It’s very simple: the sleeves are cut in one with the bodice so there are only three pattern pieces. However it’s thoughtfully designed. There is a hidden stabiliser that keeps the front slash neckline from drooping. The pattern calls for hand stitching a piece of tape on to the wrong side, but being lazy I fused a strip of interfacing on instead and it worked fine. I also reinforced the hems with stretch interfacing which makes a twin needle hem produce a better result on my machine.

Vogue 1567 line art, somethingdelightful.com

The back neckline is a slight v neck. I was tempted to put the stripes on a slant to line up with it but with two metres of fabric I didn’t have enough fabric to do it. In fact I barely squeezed the pattern on to the fabric on the straight. This design is a fabric hog. But I’m very pleased with the stripe matching I ended up with at centre back.

The fabric itself is a lightweight sweater knit from eBay. I searched high and low for blue and black striped knit and this one is all I came up with, but it’s exactly what I envisioned even down to the width of the stripes. There was also a red and black version which was quite tempting but for one thing I’d look like Dennis the Menace, and for another red is one of the many colours that I like the idea of but never wear in practice.

Blue and black stripes was definitely the right option because I’ve worn this quite a lot already. In fact if the weather hadn’t suddenly gone cold I’d probably be wearing it right now.

Thanks to my husband for taking the pictures.

Wearing a rectangle: Vogue 1567 skirt

This is not a skirt for fading into the background in. It’s Vogue 1567, a Paco Peralta design from 2017. The original sample was made up in red satin; mine’s plain black cotton poplin, but it still brings the drama while being slightly more practical to wear than satin.

I’ve been feeling uninspired by Burda for the last few months, and Vogue’s new releases haven’t appealed either. But I do have a collection of older Vogues that I’ve never got around to making up, and this is one of them. I wish I’d got to it sooner; it turned out to be a quick and interesting project with a great result. I should say it was only quick because instead of painstakingly binding all the seam allowances according to the instructions I whizzed them through the overlocker instead.

The main feature is the origami pockets. The construction is fun to do and I can report they are actually practical for holding stuff. Nothing slips out when I sit down and they hang fairly well even when loaded. These things are important. And here’s the obligatory ‘if I spread out the pockets my skirt is really a rectangle’ shot.

The picture above also shows off what I think is the one flaw in the pattern: the skirt front is almost completely without shaping. The skirt is very slightly longer than the waistband and supposed to be eased on, but even with that there’s not a lot of stomach room and consequently my version tends to pull up at centre front. It wouldn’t be difficult to add a bit of width and a couple of darts next time though.

The back closes with an invisible zip and a hook and eye, very necessary to take the strain at the top of the zip. I made my usual Vogue size, ie one down from what the chart recommends, and that meant almost no ease in the waistband. However as the skirt is big and heavy and the waistband needs to sit at the natural waist I think that was the right choice. And talking of sizing this one runs really long. I’m 5’10”/175cm tall, I did not lengthen it at all, and the back corners are ankle length on me.

That zip gave me a hard time. I don’t know if it was a different brand to normal but it didn’t feed nicely through my invisible zip foot. I had to rip it out three times before I finally got it inserted without the skirt ending up gathered onto the zip tape. Other than that this was a remarkably painless project.

A slightly better view of the back. I’m wearing it with the top from the same pattern, of which more another time.

I’m quite tempted to make this again in a wool for winter. Thanks to my husband for the photos!

Change of direction

For about the last year I’ve been steadily sewing through a couple of wardrobe plans, with a bunch of pieces designed to mix and match. I rarely wear colour so I’ve been sticking to black, grey, and white so everything goes with everything. A couple of weeks ago I finished the last piece, a fairly plain black v neck top – photos to come – and started thinking about what to do next.

While I’ve made some pieces I really love from the wardrobe plans, the whole mix and match thing isn’t working as well as I expected. I don’t mix my separates up much: for each bottom I know the top that goes with it best, and rarely pair it with anything else. But it is nice not to have wardrobe orphans, so perhaps the solution is to sew outfits rather than whole wardrobes. And that has the advantage that it’s slightly easier to add a bit of colour…and after a year of grey even I’m ready to introduce some variation.

I cautiously set out with Vogue 1567, a Paco Peralta design which comprises a boat neck knit top and a dramatic skirt.

Vogue 1567 line art: a dolman sleeved top and draped skirt

Here’s the result. Dress form photos only because I haven’t had a chance to do modelled ones, but I’m really excited to wear this.

A dressform wearing a blue and black striped top and a long black skirt stands in front of a bookcase

Admittedly the skirt’s black. This is because it’s a huge fabric hog and I already had a suitable length of black poplin in my stash, but I haven’t made a coloured top for…well, I can’t actually remember.

I’m also planning a yellow dress, a green jacket, bright blue trousers. There’s a bit of white in the scheme too because it’s bright. I’m not going too overboard: the blue and green fabrics have been lurking in my stash for years.

Blue, yellow, green and white fabrics on a grey tile floor

We’ll see how long this lasts.

Vogue 1378 Vogue Donna Karan pieced leggings

These leggings are from Vogue 1378, an old favourite pattern now sadly out of print. I don’t wear a lot of colour or print so I like clothes with seam line interest. But I find a lot of the patterns with extra seams have them placed in a less than flattering way. Not these though. The original pattern is strictly speaking for close fitting trousers rather than leggings, as they’re loose from the calf to the hem and have an ankle vent. But it’s very easy to sew the vent shut and tighten them up by taking in the inseam.

I made these as part of a wardrobe plan; they’re supposed to go under a couple of the dresses. I’m firmly in the Leggings Are Not Trousers camp where my own person is concerned, so no outfit photos of these until I have made at least one new dress to go with them.

Vogue 1378 technical drawing, originally from mccalls.com

They’re designed to be made in a knit, but the construction isn’t the normal overlocked seams. Most of the seams are lapped and top stitched with two rows of a long straight stitch, and then the outside seam allowance is trimmed down close to the stitching. This means the fabric can’t be too stretchy or the seams will break.

I’ve previously made these in thin neoprene, which worked very well, and scuba knit, which wasn’t as robust. This pair are in a thick coated knit that’s meant to look like leather. It came from Tia Knight a few years ago now. It’s super sticky on the coated side so it’s quite difficult to top stitch. A Teflon foot was no good at all. The roller foot worked with my machine set on the maximum stitch length only, and still produced tiny stitches. The walking foot was the only one that produced a decent medium length stitch and even then it isn’t all even, especially on the waist elastic.

The back thigh seam isn’t overlapped. That’s what the pattern says to do, and I have always assumed there is a reason for it. It’s certainly a handy indication as to which way round to put them on.

A closeup of all that lapping and top stitching. I’m quite pleased with the even spacing.

And the waist, with the not so even zigzag top stitching to hold the elastic down. The good thing is that this will never be visible while I’m wearing them.

Although I’ve made these before it was a while ago, and I’d forgotten that the waist is a little low and they’re very long in the leg. This isn’t normally a problem for me with Vogue Patterns so perhaps I added too much extra length when I originally traced them. I ended up shortening this pair by something like 8cm. There’s not a lot I can do about the waist this time, but it’ll never be seen.

Although I’ve not made the dresses I had planned to go with these, they have been getting some wear under my grey Style Arc Toni dress. They’re pretty good for the sunny but cool weather we’re getting in the UK at the moment. This is a pattern I will definitely hang onto.

Getting in a flap: Vogue 1347 shirt

Back to sewing with a plan. This is the shirt from OOP Vogue 1347 made up in black linen. This is a Ralph Rucci design so it has tonnes of top-stitching and is beautifully finished on the inside. When I was getting ready to make it I threaded up the overlocker to finish the seams, and then realised I needn’t have bothered because there isn’t a single exposed seam allowance in this pattern. They’re all flat felled, bias bound, or hidden under folded and top-stitched bands. Needless to say it took a long time to make.

Here’s the technical drawing. The obviously interesting bit is of course the bands. But the sleeves are worth a look too; the top sleeve is cut in one with the front and back yoke. There’s a dart where a shoulder seam would normally be. The whole piece is on the bias so it curves nicely over the shoulder. This caused me a problem making my usual sleeve length additions: the lengthened bias piece only just squeezed into the width of my fabric. Incidentally I think there’s a problem with the body lengthen/shorten lines on the pattern: they were missing on one piece so things would have gone horribly wrong if they were followed blindly.

Vogue 1347 technical drawing, patternreview.com

I do like a pattern where the back view has some interest. Not 100% sure of the best way to wear those back bands though. The technical drawing shows them hanging loose but I’ve been wearing them knotted to hide the slight mismatch of levels where I sewed them down on each side. Oops.

The fabric is 100% linen. It was lovely to sew and press, but it had some little holes in it. I noticed one when cutting out and managed to cut around it, but to my horror I found two more in the shirt after I’d sewn most of it. I fixed them up by putting a small patch behind and doing triple zigzag over the top, and they’re practically invisible now. I’ve only seen with linen once before so not sure if this is common or if I just got unlucky?

I’m on the fence about the flappy bands. They look fantastic, but I find I need to be a bit careful not to sit on them as they crease horribly. The ones on the arms are not as annoying as I expected though. As they dangle from the elbow they mostly stay out of the way.

I’m wearing it with the trousers from the same pattern here. I haven’t been able to find any pictures of the exact original garment besides what is on the pattern envelope which is a shame – I like to see how the original was styled! The closest I found is this ensemble from Resort 2012 which looks like the same two patterns but made up in black satin rather than linen. More like very glamorous pjs than proper daywear.

Ralph Rucci Resort 2012 look 19, vogue.com

Although I haven’t worn it a lot yet I am liking this one. It looks really good with my black pleated culottes. Currently I’m putting a warm knit and several t shirts underneath but it should work worn on its own for a UK summer too. But this is definitely not a pattern to make more than once; it took about a month. Standards were definitely slipping by the end. I’ll enjoy wearing it but I need to make something a lot simpler next.

Thanks to my husband for pictures as ever!