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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Mockup number one looked okay.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

Thanks for reading!

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Making a Green Edwardian Gown

This weeks project is one I’ve had roughly planned ever since I saw the first season of Downton Abbey and fell in love with this dress. I love the deep green color, and how elaborate it is while still being simple in design. Back in April I bought four yards of green satin faced chiffon with plans to make something similar.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find an eleborate lace in a matching color, so I decide to make my dress a bit simpler. After some more research I came across this dress, which I really like (especially the lace undershirt and use of black netting), along with these dresses.

The finished dress takes inspiration from all of them – plus some stuff I made up!

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I didn’t take any pictures of the drafting process, but the bodice is a simple three panel pattern with darts to shape the back and front. The skirt is also three pieces, with a straight front, flared sides and a bit of gathering at the back.

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I cut all the pieces out from a light green polyester charmeuse that I picked up for $4/yd during my shopping trip in Pennsylvania. It was a tight fit, but I managed to get all the pieces cut from the three yards I had.

The skirt panels were sewn together with one inch seam allowances. I left the edges raw, and facing outward since the satin faced chiffon will cover them.

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I leveled the hem since it was a bit wonky, then sewed horsehair braid into it to give the skirt a bit more body. I also sewed the darts into the bodice, and the waist seam.

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Then I repeated the process with the bodice – here you can see it on the dress form, along with some matching appliques I found on etsy. The darts on this didn’t turn out very well since satin faced chiffon is a pain to sew with, but luckily it wasn’t too noticeable in the end.

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I cut the skirt out of satin faced chiffon too, then sewed the pieces together. I trimmed the hem and turned it inward by a half inch, then inward by another half inch to create a rolled hem that was whip stitched in place by hand.

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I sewed the chiffon to the charmeuse around the neckline, with the right side of the satin facing the wrong side of the charmeuse. Then I basted the layers together around the arm openings and waistline.

I sewed some black lace around the neckline by hand, then placed the appliques. It took me longer than I would like to admit to get these symmetrical, but I’m happy with the end result.

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I should mention that the appliques match the fabric perfectly, but something about the sheen of the chiffon makes it look teal in photos rather than the emerald green it actually is.

(I made sure to confirm this with every member of my family so I know I’m not crazy)

I’ll edit the color balance in worn photos of it if it becomes necessary, but I couldn’t be bothered for the progress photos.

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I sewed the appliques on and now it was time for sequins. A couple years ago a follower of my blog (I’m not sure if she would want her name mentioned) was kind enough to send me some beautiful vintage sequins. I’ve used the clear ones on a few projects, but this was the first time I had a project suitable for the black ones.

I can’t even tell you how excited I was to finally work with these – look at all those colors! They are black but shine purple and green, almost like an oil slick effect.

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I started off with just a few around the neckline, and some on the sides of the waistband (which is just a gathered rectangle of mesh).

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But I quickly came to my senses and realized it needed way more sequins, which led to this!

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This shows the sheen of the fabric (and the sequins) a bit better. I think it’s a pretty dreamy combo!

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After a fitting I realized the lining was visible below the hem of the satin faced chiffon, so I raised the hem with a horizontal dart a few inches below the waistline. This way I didn’t have to mess with the horsehair braid in the hem.

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Speaking of the hem, I decorated it with some green lace that was stitched on by hand (which once again, matches the fabric but doesn’t look that way in photos) and more sequins. The trim had little swirls that were perfect for embellishments.

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I sewed the back seam of the charmeuse and satin faced chiffon separately, and left the top eight inches of the skirt open. Then I turned that edge, along with the back edge of the bodice inward by an inch. Then I turned it inward again and whip stitched it down.

The back closes with hooks and bars. I sewed the waistband down to either side of the closure point, and when it’s worn the waistband ties in a bow.

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It isn’t the prettiest bow, but it’s still a bow!

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Now it was time for sleeves! These are just simple straight sleeves I drafted, then cut from the satin faced chiffon and charmeuse. The hem is finished with black lace, and a doubled band of netting. I embellished the hem with some sequins and finished the top edge with lace binding.

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The arm openings of the dress were finished with lace binding too, then the sleeves were sewn on by machine.

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There are a few pulls in the sleeves that I’ll have to steam out, but other than that the dress is finished! I really love how it turned out. It’s the elegant, sparkly, simple, edwardian gown I’ve always wanted, and I can’t wait to get photos of it!

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The construction isn’t my best, but I don’t think you can tell from the finished dress. I think it’s pretty lovely for a week and a half of work and less than fifty dollars of material!

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I intend to wear that dress over a blouse, as inspired by this dress. I don’t think it’s necessary for modesty like it is with that gown, but high lace collars are a big part of the early 1900’s, so I wanted to have the option.

I made this from scraps of silk satin I had leftover from a chemise, and a piece of lace that was slightly larger than a fat quarter. Since I didn’t have enough lace for the whole blouse, I made half of it from muslin, and used lace trim down the center of the sleeves and back.

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I don’t think I took any progress photos of this, but it was pretty easy to make. There was just a lot of hand sewing since the lace was sewn to lace trim, then basted to satin.

I used another lace around the cuffs, and added a few sequins for a bit of interest.
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The back closes with snaps.

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I think they look very pretty together!

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To finish off the ensemble I made a headband. I started with a strip of black mesh, then chopped the lace trim I had leftover from the hem into tiny appliques. These were sewn on by hand, with gaps left in between.

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I covered the gaps and edges with sequins, then whip stitched the visible netting inward.

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And the final touch were some dyed feathers I got in the garment district last year. I glued most of these onto the underside of the headband with E6000.

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And that’s it! I haven’t tried all the pieces on together, but I plan to this weekend so I can get photographs of it. It’s so different from the other projects I’ve been working on recently and I adore the end result. Though part of that probably has to do with the materials – emerald green satin faced chiffon and vintage sequins do a lot of the work for you!

Thanks for reading!