Making & Wearing a 1950’s Swing Coat

Usually I start the year off with a wrap up showing the previous years projects and my thoughts on them. But I’m not particularly happy with how 2017 went, and I’d rather move forward with new things than write about my previous work.

So today’s post is going to focus on my first project of 2018: A 1950’s ensemble. This project was inspired by the glorious mid century costumes used in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “The Crown”.

(both of which are wonderful shows if you are looking for something new to watch!)

Mrs. Maisel featured a lot of very vibrant pieces, with outfit changes between almost every scene. I was especially fond of her oversized coats, and it seemed like an appropriate season to sew one for myself!

green coat (10 of 10) RESIZE

I didn’t have anything in my stash that would work, and most wools I found online were outside of my price range. But I ended up lucking out and finding a 5 yard cut of bright green textured wool from Fabric Warehouse that was $50. Score!

green coat (7 of 45)

I did a lot of pinterest browsing prior to draping this, but nothing really sparked my interest. I wanted this to be styled after swing coats, with tons of volume. But I also wanted to have it be functional, with a collar and buttons as opposed to an open front. To make it harder,  most of the wintery “swing coats” I found were lacking the dramatic silhouette I wanted.

green coat (4 of 10) RESIZE

I had a few ideas sketched out but created most of the design elements while draping. Which was also a challenge – I’m not entirely comfortable draping loose garments, since there isn’t as much of a guide to go off of when it comes to fit. It was also difficult to imagine the design made out of the thick wool when I was draping it from flannel.

I ended up with this, which surprisingly turned into a passable mockup. So I transferred it to paper and decided to go for it! I figured worse case scenario the panels would be wide enough I could make changes as I went.

green coat (8 of 45)

I focused on the back panel first, since it has the most volume.

It’s made from four pieces – two that meet at the center back, with one gored panel on either side. The pieces were sewn together with one inch seam allowances, then topstitched down. I didn’t worry too much about raw edges since this wool doesn’t fray.

green coat (10 of 45)

Then the back panels were pleated. I topstitched the top 12 inches of the pleats down to create a slimmer shape around the torso.

green coat (11 of 45)

Another view – the stitching isn’t perfect but this was very difficult to manipulate through the sewing machine, so cut me some slack!

green coat (12 of 45)

Then I cut out the sleeves…which were also upper portion of the back panel. The sleeves are raglan style, so these pieces were connected.

I stitched three quarters of an inch away from the bottom edge to create a guide for turning the edge inward.

green coat (13 of 45)

And here it is pinned on. I topstitched this in place by machine.

green coat (14 of 45)

The front panels are much narrower, and shaped with darts above the bust. I topstitched the upper portion / sleeves onto these pieces as well.

green coat (15 of 45)

Even though the edges of the wool don’t fray, the interior of the upper portion was looking pretty messy, so I lined it with a colorful cotton sateen. green coat (16 of 45)

Now it was time for the buttonholes. I chose to do welted buttonholes since I like how professional they look. I was a little worried the material would be too thick to pull them off, but it totally worked!

This was actually my first time using this technique on a garment so I didn’t take many pictures of the process, but there are a lot of tutorials out there if you’re curious.

green coat (17 of 45)

I turned the front edges inward and lined them with more cotton sateen. The lining around the buttonholes got a bit messy – I should have marked the cutout placement on the fabric instead of doing it by eye.

But no one will see that since I only photographed the other side!

green coat (18 of 45)

The front lining was secured with a cross stitch, and I hand stitched across the center front edge with a running stitch.

Then I sewed on buttons, which are very simple, but MASSIVE. I originally wanted to use vintage buttons on this, but they were all too expensive. So I purchased these from here instead.

I think this was a good call – not only were they cheaper, the more elaborate vintage buttons might have been a bit too much for this design.

green coat (19 of 45)

Now the shoulder seams and side seams were done up…only for me to find out the jacket was too big. I cut a good two inches of width out of the underarm, then redid the seams. This looked way better.

At this point I was trying to figure out the cuffs. I originally wanted them to flare out and reveal the lining. But the edges were really bulky and I thought the visible splash of pink made the coat less versatile. So I cut four inches off the sleeves and sewed on rectangular cuffs made from a scrap of green wool instead.

This looked so much better, I’m thrilled I made the change.

green coat (21 of 45)

Now for the collar! This was made from a layer of wool and a layer of cotton sateen for lining.

I made a mockup for this at the beginning of  the project, but decided to do another test before cutting it from wool. This was another good call! After a few minor changes to the pattern the proportions of the collar were way better.

I sewed it onto the neckline by hand, then flipped it out and pinned the edges while it was on my dress form. I’m not sure how I came to the idea (because it looked fine before I did this) but I decided to pleat the front of the collar. This added more shape and a really unique detail – so I decided to go with it!

green coat (24 of 45)

The collar was tacked in place, and that’s it for the jacket!

I did also make a hat to go with this – I didn’t document the process very well, but I’ll do a pillbox hat tutorial in the future. It was basically a rectangle and oval cut from heavy weight interfacing, with wire in the edges and cotton sateen lining.

green coat (23 of 45)

I padded the top and edges heavily, then pinned an oval of coating on the top. Then I pulled a loop of coating over the sides,  and whip stitched around it. The bottom edge of the coating was whip stitched to the lining, and a comb was pinned into it prior to wearing. Easy peasy!

green coat (28 of 45)

I did also make a dress to go with this. But at this point I was focusing on filming the process (that video can be seen HERE) so I neglected to photograph most of the steps.

The dress was supposed to be a simple number made from a bright pink cotton suiting which was shown in the material picture at the top of this post. But after washing that fabric it felt like cheap, stiff, thick, bedsheets – not really what I wanted. I also wanted to wear black and white shoes with this ensemble and knew that wouldn’t match.

After another pinterest browsing spree I decided to make a fitted bodice with a sheer pleated overlay and full skirt.

green coat (31 of 45)

Here is the mock up – this was intended to be the base layer. The pleated layer would be made from rectangles that were draped, gathered, and trimmed overtop.

green coat (25 of 45)

Mockup number one looked okay.

green coat (27 of 45)

But when I did some tests with my fabric, I realized the sheer fabric I wanted use crinkled up when it became wet. It’s a cool effect, but not for the structured pleats I wanted. It also ruined the dresses washability…so I decided to use the cotton on its own.

This meant I had to pleat down rectangles then kind of cut them to the shape of the pattern pieces…but not entirely, since then the pleats wouldn’t be straight. It was all less than ideal but looked okay in the end.

The pleats are half inch wide knife pleats which I topstitched down a quarter inch away from the edge.

There is also a facing that flips outward to create a decorative collar detail, which is what you see here.

green coat (32 of 45)

My original button plan had to be scrapped since they were ivory and clashed with the white cotton. But this meant I could use these bright vintage ones I bought in PA earlier in the year! I got these for $1 a card which I was pretty happy about.

green coat (35 of 45)

Buttons on, buttonholes done. I realize now the buttonholes were too close to the edge because I did my math wrong. So I need to be more careful about that next time..but it still looks okay!

At this point I did a fitting and removed a huge wedge from the side seam. I also shaped the bodice with a dart/pleat instead of the originally planned gathering. Though this was a thin cotton, it looked to bulky when I attempted that.

green coat (33 of 45)

The seams were done up with french seams. I also drafted a quick sleeve pattern and got that sewn on. I wasn’t kidding about the lack of progress pictures, this is the next one I took!

green coat (36 of 45)

One of my favorite bits about this is a little placket (?) / tab (?) thing that I added. This extends out from the neckline and hooks on to the second button. It looks cute on its own, and even cuter with a bow threaded through it!

This bow was made from a floral fabric I got at jo-anns. The bow was made from triangles, instead of rectangles, which gave it an interesting shape.

green coat (40 of 45)

The skirt was made from my remaining fabric – I tore it into two 30″ x 72″ pieces, then sewed them together with a french seam. The front was folded inward several times until the material was thick enough to sew button holes into.

(the bottom 12″ or so of the front skirt panels were topstitched shut as opposed to seamed)

I did a massive 4″ hem on this skirt, then gathered down the top by machine. The pieces were sewn together at the waist, and I bound the edge with bias tape.

And that was pretty much it! A few more buttons were added and its done. Not quite what I originally envisioned, but I like the end result.

It’s slightly long waisted and the buttons are too far over, but for $16 of material and less than two days work I think it is okay!

green coat (41 of 45)

And with the coat (which is the real stunner, in my opinion)

green coat (44 of 45)

green coat (43 of 45)

Now for the finished “look”! Modern pieces are so much more fun when it comes to makeup and accessories.

I tried curling my hair outward to get that Mrs. Maisel flip, but it was sort of a fail – I think my hair is too long. Regardless, I like how it looked, and it held up to the crazy winds we had when photographing this piece.

My lip color is Dusty Rose from Besame, and everything else is pretty much identical to what I show in this video (I go through my hair styling process in that, too).

The earrings were my moms and perfectly match the buttons on the dress!

green coat (45 of 45)

The belt was vintage from the etsy seller TwinFoxVintage. And the shoes are from Royal Vintage*.

I want to talk about these shoes for a second, because visually they are probably my favorite pair I own. Black and white spectator pumps* are such a classic, and these are beautifully made. They really cup the foot and have sturdy padding in the soles.

green coat (3 of 45)

I know sometimes with cheap shoes (of which I own plenty) your foot pops out regardless of size since they aren’t shaped properly. That definitely isn’t a problem here.

I didn’t have any issues with grip when wearing them and the heel height is perfect. They are really flattering on the foot too, and creasing/wear on the leather has been minimal so far. I would definitely order more from the brand in the future with this in mind. (They’ve been teasing spring releases on instagram and I’m already excited).

BUT

They don’t fit me. The site advertises them as running large, so despite being a solid 10 I bought a 9.5. The right shoe actually fits me well, but the left shoe is…evil. It felt okay when I wore it around the house, just a little tight, but I was confident the leather would stretch. I also thought a size up might be too big for my right foot.

I WAS SO NAIVE.

After wearing them…Well, I’d share a picture but it’s not safe for work. It gave me blisters that bled through my sock after 20 minutes of wear. And I was in a situation where I had to wear them for hours. By the end of the day it was pretty horrifying. I refused to wear hard shelled shoes for the following two weeks.

I don’t think this is the shoes fault, just the sizing instructions. If I bought a 10 I would have been fine, but by the time I realized it wasn’t fine, the shoes had marks on their soles and couldn’t be returned.

I’ve been trying to stretch them with crumpled paper and it’s helped a lot, but I think the wearing in process is going to be long and hard for me. It sucks because if these did fit, I think they would probably be my most comfortable pair of heels based on what I mentioned above.

green coat (4 of 45)

green coat (5 of 45)

So next time I’ll order my normal size (or maybe a size up). And do an indoor wear test for a lot longer to ensure they fit before wrecking my ability to return them!

As for foundations, the petticoat is from modcloth (it’s their longer one, but I really don’t like it and wouldn’t recommend it). The stockings have proper seams in them and were purchased from sockdreams, but are by the brand leg avenue. I ordered the plus sized option since I’m tall and they fit great!

This was also worn with a longline bra from the 50’s which I got on ebay.

Now for pictures!

green coat (2 of 2)resizwgreen coat (1 of 10) RESSIZEgreen coat (3 of 10)RESIZEgreen coat (6 of 10) RESIZEgreen coat (2 of 10) resizegreen coat (4 of 10) RESIZEgreen coat (10 of 10) RESIZEgreen coat (8 of 10)RESIZEgreen coat (7 of 10) RESIZEgreen coat (9 of 10) RESIZE

And that’s it! First project of the new year done. Now onto something new!

Thanks for reading!

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25 thoughts on “Making & Wearing a 1950’s Swing Coat

  1. PsychicSewerKathleen says:

    So beautiful! I love the whole outfit from head to toe – the colours and the true swing of your coat. You are such a gifted artist!

  2. Mary Ann W Keyes says:

    Liked the coat and dress. I’ve been sewing for many years and mourn the loss of the fabric stores from my childhood. However, I can highly recommend Fashion Fabrics Club. I’ve happily purchased their fabric for at least ten years. Also, I love the Vintage Vogue patterns from the Vogue pattern company for an authentic 50’s look.
    Best,
    Mary Ann

  3. sooze98148 says:

    Gorgeous!

    I was born in ’46 so I remember the 50s well. I think we even had a davenport in that shade (that’s a compliment!).

    I hope you don’t mind if I share this post with the FB Jadeite Junkies. (Notice I’m posting before I get permission)

  4. tawg says:

    I love the darts on your pleated dress bodice – the pleats from such a nice shape that it’s hard to believe it wasn’t planned that way from the outset. This who outfit is stunning, thank you so much for sharing your process.

  5. makeneatstuff says:

    This is such a cute style! The dress is better than you’re giving it credit for, I love the subtle chevron stripes in the skirt.

    I’ve read that you can help leather shoes stretch by rubbing in a light coat of isopropyl alcohol to the inner lining. It might cause a little discoloration, but if it’s the lining you won’t see it when worn anyway.

    Love your blog, btw. I’m a long time reader 😁

  6. Sarah Jackson says:

    Bravo! You look lovely, but, Honey, you have killer sewing skills!! Where did you learn to sew like this. I love everything. Wow. I think I would a light color horn buttons on the green coat. I love the green. Thank you sharing your story and the photographs. Waiting for the next outfit. Oh, green leather gloves would smashing

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  7. Bonnie Phillips says:

    Angela, you can take your pump to a shoe repair place and have it stretched.

    I think your ensemble came together we’ll. Love the dress and swing coat.

    Bonnie

    On Jan 21, 2018 7:02 PM, “Angela Clayton’s Costumery & Creations” wrote:

    > Angela Clayton posted: “Usually I start the year off with a wrap up > showing the previous years projects and my thoughts on them. But I’m not > particularly happy with how 2017 went, and I’d rather move forward with new > things than write about my previous work. So today’s post is g” >

  8. kasukiswelt says:

    Hi Angela, an easy way to stretch out real leather shoes is ice.
    Fill a ziploc bag with water, make sure to knot or close it properly, put it inside the shoe that needs stretching and freeze the shoe. When the water turns into ice it will expand and stretch the shoe. I used this method myself on two pairs of shoes and I think you can get the shoes up to a full size larger if you repeat the process a couple of times. That is way easier then braking them in and you will avoid blisters.

  9. AlexMarie says:

    Hi Angela, love the detailed post, and I admire your ability to be creative and take risks. It’s such a lovely outfit. I don’t know if it’s the pictures, but it seems like the left side of you coat hangs lower than the right. I also wanted to ask if you considered using interfacing to stabilize the button holes and the hem, since the wool looks quite heavy?
    I feel you on the shoes, wet paper over time might help, or wooden shoe expanders. Being a 10 myself, I know how it feels to break into new shoes, I really hate doing it.
    Overall, such a lovely coat and dress, I hope they end up on Mccall’s.

  10. Jane Jefferies says:

    Dear Angela.. Regards your shoes.Try this idea..Fill plastic bags with water .Insert the bags in shoes ,place the whole thing(shoe and waterbag) in the freezer.The water bags will expand when frozen and stretch your shoes…Voila !!! Fixed….Hope this helps…

    On Mon, Jan 22, 2018 at 11:00 AM, Angela Clayton’s Costumery & Creations wrote:

    > Angela Clayton posted: “Usually I start the year off with a wrap up > showing the previous years projects and my thoughts on them. But I’m not > particularly happy with how 2017 went, and I’d rather move forward with new > things than write about my previous work. So today’s post is g” >

  11. swappinghowdies says:

    You have outdone yourself once again, Angela — the outfit is simply beautiful. You wear it with such grace! 🙂

    Lots of greetings from Germany,
    Birgit

  12. Hokie Thoughts says:

    Fantastic job, and that coat is absolutely stunning. You can tell through your writing that you were much more enthusiastic about these pieces than some of the more recent ones you finished in 2017. I wish I had your talent for draping and pattern making!!!

  13. Marcy Fowlet says:

    Dear Angela,
    I’ve been a longtime admirer of your sewing skills and stunning work! This outfit is a winner, and a refreshing change from the earlier period garments you have been creating. I like your attention to detail and your well-curated accessories.
    Since you love the look of these spectator pumps, if all the stretching techniques fail to make these shoes comfortable, list your shoes on eBay and purchase another pair
    In a larger size.
    Will you accept donations of fabrics, trims, buttons and accessories? I have often come across great finds of remnants and mill ends and thought of you, but did not know how to send them to you. When I moved last summer, I ended up donating these things to the costume shop of a local repertory company. Do want donations to your stash?
    Best wishes for a happy and fulfilling 2018!
    Marcy
    Bakersfield, CA

  14. CORRECTION; Marcy Fowler says:

    Regarding my earlier posting, I made a typo on my last name. Please correct online and in your records. Thanks!

  15. Amy Betts says:

    This is beautiful!

    I had a similar problem with theater character shoes – they fit great, but a little snug. I wrapped them in plastic, added a ziplock bag full of water to the toe, filled the rest of the shoe with crumpled newspaper (tight so the water can’t expand towards the heel), and wrapped them TIGHTLY with saran wrap. I put them in the freezer for 24 hours. Then I repeated the process twice more, each time it expanded the toe slightly. After the third time, they fit great.

  16. Sharon Howell says:

    I also remember the 1950’s. I think you pretty much got everything right. I remember shirtwaist dresses that were buttoned down the front like yours, but the buttons stopped at the waist. There was a zipper under the left sleeve that opened the waist enough for one to pull it over one’s head. I remember that my mother put too short a zipper in one dress and had trouble getting it off every time she wore it. I only made one dress that way; never again will I put in an underarm zipper!

  17. ThePatriotic Romper says:

    Wow! That is so cute! Good job. I so want to make 50s clothing now… just after I bought fabric for 1860s! (I’ve got a bad case of make. all. the. things.)

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