My Vintage Yet Modern Military Coat Sewing Project
One of the things not many people know about me is that I LOVE to sew. I’ve had a voracious love of couture fashion since I was about 13 years old. But it has only been in the last few years that my sewing skills have caught up with my artistic vision… I can’t tell you how many projects started out lovely and were never worn (or even finished!!) because whatever I made couldn’t live up to the image I had in my head of how I wanted it to look. Last year I started getting closer, and then this fall I finally nailed it. Here it is, and the back story of how I finally designed and made a coat I didn’t want to ever take off.
A few weeks ago, I was looking for some inspiration to sew this fall coat, and I perused Google images looking for good examples of a redingote. A redingote (derived from “riding coat”) has lots of history back to the 1800’s, but recently refers to more of a lightweight coat that is left mostly open in the front. My favorite example of a stunning modern redingote is Kate Middleton’s blue masterpiece of an ensemble that I’ve been trying to imitate for over a year:
While hunting around, I came across this very vintage-inspired military jacket designed by Christophe Decarnin for Balmain:
I was IN LOVE. Obsessed, even. I couldn’t get this military coat out of my head. So I set out to find a sewing pattern that was somewhat close to this design. THAT was a time suck. I found a few that were close, but none that were close enough. I finally came across an out-of-print Vogue pattern that almost got me there:
But at this point I had already found the perfect fabric on clearance at Hobby Lobby (still $15 a yard!), and my impatience kicked in. I didn’t want to wait to order and ship the pattern when I was itching to start on this coat right away. So I decided to take a risk and alter a pattern I already had in my stash, Simplicity’s Project Runway 2812:
This is where I should have actually kept some notes and took some photos, because I really had to figure out this alternation as I worked. I took the middle stand-collar version of the pattern, cut away at the bottom front to make it curved instead of straight, and created pattern pieces for the velvet cuffs and flaps on the openings. Unfortunately, the coat was truly sized and intended to be a winter coat to wear over other clothing. I wanted my jacket to fit more like a blazer. So once I had it mostly pieced together, I found I was swimming in it. As I was taking in the seams, I made a HUGE cut into the fabric that I didn’t intend to make, and I suddenly was left with about 4 inches less of width than I had intended.
I almost cried.
But my sewing ambition kicked back in, and I vowed to fix it.
After that, the jacket ended up being somewhat smaller than I had hoped, but since I intended for the front to be open all along, I was happy to find that it all worked out ok.
As I was constructing the coat, I had to change the order of how I put the coat together, because I had to add the front velvet flaps before I could sew in the lining. My inexperience again kicked me in the pants here, because this meant I had to sew most of the lining in by hand. At that point I was quite grateful I had chosen to take the Essential Hand Stitches for Garment Making by Burdastyle and Gretchen Hirsch at BlogHer Handmade this fall. I think I might have given up had I attempted to finish the coat by machine.
When the sewing was complete, I was dying to get it ready to wear by adding buttons to the front. I spent about an hour in Joann’s button aisle to no avail. Nothing they had worked, or if it did, they didn’t have enough of them for my project. I needed at least ten buttons for the front, plus I wanted to add more to the cuffs. I happened to be going to into Chicago soon, so I forced myself to wait and go to Vogue Fabrics store (no relation to the pattern line or magazine). Their store is simply the best in the area for hard to find fabrics, notions, trims (OMG, the TRIMS!!), and buttons. I found the perfect set – only to find to my utter dismay that they were $7 apiece for the large and $5 each for the smaller ones. I teetered on the brink of justifying spending $60+ on buttons… but reason got the best of me. I decided to splurge and get two of the large buttons, but settled on a slightly different set for the smaller buttons that I used to fill up the rest of the flap:
Here are the final pictures of the coat, front and back:
I was so freaking excited when this coat was done that I almost couldn’t believe I had made it myself. On my first wearing, a stranger asked me where I got it, and when I told her I made it, she asked if I had ever considered making a living at this. THAT made my day.
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