It’s FINISHED

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.

80s sewing plan

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.

Burda 120 12/2020 line art, Burdastyle.ru

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.

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.