As ironic as this post’s title is for me – someone who does not care too much for snow and detests bundling up and being out in the cold – I did have my ultimate snow day off in Denver this past February. As I mentioned a few posts back, I had traveled there to see the “Dior: From Paris to the World” exhibit, while hubby came along because…well…he loves Colorado, skiing, and the cold. To sum it up, I am now a happy convert that western America is freaking beautiful and I can survive the combo of high elevations and freezing temperatures. Of course, I took this trip as an opportunity to create my ultimate cold weather vintage style outfit! So – while hitting the slopes is something people are currently doing over Spring Break and before balmy weather completely set in here at the Northern hemisphere – I want to share a cozy corduroy and quilted winter snow set, made using two 1940s patterns, sewn for our visit to Winter Park, Colorado.
I totally went for something different and new with this set – first up, the jerkin vest. This is a very old term for a garment that has been around at least since the 1500s. A jerkin is classified as “a man’s short close-fitting jacket, usually made of light-colored leather or padded material, often without sleeves” worn over a long sleeved under layer. Traditionally a jerkin was something that was an interesting combo of warmth and protection of the body (especially when fighting) together with a marker of fashion and societal status, all depending on what materials and colors it was composed of. I absolutely love the progressive female empowerment that this odd 40’s jerkin pattern represents. It takes a man’s garment from antiquated times that has either separated groups of people or been used in warfare, and tweaks it into something so complimentary, useful, and up-to-date for any woman. My jerkin kept my body so very warm and cozy without any bulk restricting my arms. The princess seaming and wide shoulders keep it streamlined. I am sold on this little experimental piece I tried!
Second up in the ‘novelty item’ list is my corduroy trousers! I have never had corduroy pants before – I used to have a dress in the fabric, and I have a few shirts and jackets. They are so awesome! I wore lightweight silk filament long underwear with the pants and wow – are they super in the cold. I sense that corduroy is not really any sort of trending fabric, and all I really see available nowadays is small wale cords in very basic colors, so I enjoy the fact that these are different and unique, making them (so I think) quite chic in their own special way…my way!
FABRIC: A quilted, cotton covered batting is the inside of the vest while the outside is a plaid printed quilting cotton; the pants are 100% cotton large wale corduroy, with cotton (scraps leftover from this dress) lining the waistband
PATTERNS: An older reprint Simplicity #3688 (a 2007 issue of a Simplicity #3935, year 1941) for the trousers and Simplicity #1089, year 1944, for the top garment (the pattern was kindly traced out for as part of a pattern trade with ) , the blogger of “Flashback Summer”
NOTIONS: I used up a lot of thread, two packs of bias tape from my Grandma’s stash, and a zipper from on hand to finish the pants. The vest top needed a special visit to the fabric store for its separating zipper, but other than that all I needed was thread.
TIME TO COMPLETE: The pants took me only 5 hours to make and they were finished on January 17, 2019. The jerkin took about 15 to 20 hours (what it normally takes me for a dress), mostly on account of the hand-stitching I did and also due to dealing with the thick fabric. It was finished on February 5, 2019.
THE INSIDES: My trousers are cleanly bias bound inside while the vest’s innards are hidden, sandwiched between the two layers.
TOTAL COST: The vest cost me no more than $20 to $25 dollars (both from Joann Fabrics), while the pants are from my stash, bought several years back from when Hancock Fabrics was closing so I must have bought this for a few dollars per yard. My total outfit probably is only $30!
Even though this set was made using 1940s patterns, I have this weird sense that it almost appears to be something from the 1970s era. Perhaps it’s the colors, or the wide leg pants, or even the combo of turtleneck (a RTW piece) and headscarf (true vintage). Have you ever had a project that ended up exactly as you hoped only to possess a whole different ‘feel’ to it than what you originally intended, but you love the result nonetheless? Well, that is the case here, and I can’t really say that has happened before to me in my sewing, excepting maybe a time or two where I had to vary a bit mid-construction to salvage my work when it came to fit or aesthetics.
Both pieces fit great straight off, and I didn’t really have to do any major tweaking to make them as you see them…but I had my previous knowledge to help me make my projects a success. When it came to the jerkin, I have made so many true vintage 1940s Simplicity patterns before I can kind of predict the fit. They are pretty true to size, however, sometimes the shoulders are roomy and the hips run small. Thus, I knew how much to size up with my grading. The pants are something I have tried before, so I had greater confidence about the result this time. The sizing to my first pair of Simplicity #3688 seemed to not have a lot of wearing ease, and while I still enjoy sporting them, I know that they do not have a true 40’s fit, nor would something snug be ideal for something as bulky (and shrinkable in the wash) as an all-cotton corduroy. Thus, I chose two whole sizes bigger than what I had made my last pair in from this same pattern. I also gave myself extra room in the jerkin pattern grading to account for the bulky quilted lining I planned on using. My hubby was doubtful all of this was good idea – but look! I have a perfect, comfortable fit (that is still tailored) for both garments.
Sewing with bulky fabrics is definitely tricky, and there are a few tips for success. As I mentioned in the paragraph above, add extra ease to your garments. Treat it as if you are an inch or so bigger than you really are, only it’s the garments and not you gaining the pounds. Choose a lighter weight fabric where you will have more than one layer of fabric. I chose fashion printed cotton as a covering over the front and back of my jerkin, then a basic matching color cotton went for the inside half to my pants’ waistband. Do a lot of clipping of the seam allowances, any darts, or pleats. For the jerkin and the trousers, I mostly only trimmed the chunky fabric (the quilted padding and corduroy) down to ¼ or 1/8 inch away from the seams and left the lightweight fabric there for support.
Hand stitching gives the best finish. If you stitch puffy material (like on my jerkin) or fabric with a nap (like a velvet, faux fur, or corduroy) with a machine stitch, it will either end up looking like there is an indented gutter where the stitching is, or you fabric’s loftiness will awkwardly look smashed down…maybe both. I was lucky that the corduroy was such a large wale version because I could ‘hide’ some of my machine stitches in between the rows. For the neckline and side zipper of the jerkin is was able to loosen the tension of my stitches on my machine, and set the length spacing to almost a gathering stitch situation, so as to not overly, tightly bind the two layers together. I also ‘hid’ the stitches in between the plaid print. The hemming to both vest and pants were done by hand after clipping the bulky excess beneath the turned under edge. Finally, remember to iron on the wrong side of any plush fabric, but don’t neglect pressing either…it helps flatten those seams (as does using a rubber mallet, too).
As much as I absolutely love the 1940s fashion, it is great for making dressing more difficult and frustrating than it needs to be. The era’s frequent use of side closures in dresses and tops is getting to the point of frustrating me to no end. The jerkin pattern called for a side buttoning closure placket. Really? How is anyone supposed to button something bulky and close-fitting on the side or their body all the way up to the underarm?! Do they expect women to make dressing a circus trick of agility?! No – I am not that hardcore with my love of vintage fashion to not modernize where needed and make things easy. So I added a modern plastic separating jacket zipper down the side.
This was challenging in its own way because there is so little variety when it comes to modern notions – there is a lack of versatility in finding a good color and size combo of zippers, buttons, and buckles to complete the grand ideas of sewists like me (which is why I often have to resort to vintage pieces). I did not have time before our trip to order anything special as I would have liked so I had to settle for a tan khaki colored zipper in a length which would require a slightly shorter hem than I had planned. Oh well – as long as I can get the jerkin on an off easily I am happy. The side zipper also streamlines the fit of the jerkin so much better than a button placket ever could. The trousers also have a left side zipper, which I am proud to say I stitched by hand. I believe it is almost as good as an invisible one the way I wedged it in the corduroy!
One of my biggest complaints about winter dressing is the feeling that I cannot move and become a “Michelin Man”, like an otherworldly Yeti. Being so bundled scarily reminds me I am claustrophobic in certain circumstances. But on a note of self-health, the worst part is frequently being all bundled up and only still cold to the point of not being able to feel my extremities, which is freaky bad for me because I have a mild case of my mother’s Raynaurd’s Syndrome. I did have painfully chilly toes and nose at Winter Park, but I’ll admit I did forget to wear (or bring) warm socks and a decent scarf. However, I do NOT ski, I was only there as an observing tourist and with so many places to jump inside and warm myself, and a toasty main body that still felt free to move, I am pleased with how wonderful my snow day outfit was for the occasion.