A little bit of necessary and unselfish sewing which had been finished in time for the arrival of cold weather is my new pride and joy. After all, it is worn by my little pride and joy! The fall and winter holidays are all about family and appreciating those in our lives, after all! My son needed a warm yet dapper winter coat and I more than stepped up to the challenge. By using a vintage pattern with scraps leftover from other projects, I came up with a no-cost classy children’s coat unlike what any store has to offer with all the benefits of vintage and the longevity of brand new. When a utilitarian garment like a coat can be as much as a fashion piece as a great shirt or a nice pair of pants, then outerwear is no longer an unwelcome covering merely necessary due to the weather.
It rather alarms me how successful my project was because of how grown-up this new jacket makes him seem. Being that I see him on a daily basis, it takes something out-of-the-ordinary on him in a photograph for me to see our son in a different light. I think kids’ clothes are way too casual in general today – kids are underestimated. Dressing nicely in no way hinders them…rather the opposite. Children can be so cute all polished up and put together in something nice and halfway grown up. It’s a good practice to get them in the habit of doing so every now and then, anyway, it gets them in a good frame of mind. Sadly though, it is hard to find them dapper and somewhat fancy clothes in the ‘normal’ RTW circles.
Children’s clothes lacking attitude, lettering, and brand logos are hard to find today; however, letters were popular in vintage kids and teens clothing too (30’s to 60’s, peaking in the 50’s), with a different purpose. Back then it was all about school pride, name initials, and occasionally movie stars like Roy Rogers (for one example). Most of this lettering went on outerwear, like the well-known Letterman jackets and sweaters. This particular jacket I made is very much a combo of the youthful Letterman style mixed with the more grown up Gabardine style. A men’s Gabardine jacket is about hip length with little to no shaping at the hem (straight cut), regular set-in sleeves, and a collar (normally). It was popular in the 1940s. A letterman jacket for the youthful crowd often had two-tone colors going on with the sleeves – frequently raglan style – being a different color than the body, a banded bottom and collar. Both styles have front welt pockets. The pattern I used is a quaint “Father and Son” mini-me design after all, so I love the way the adult and the child features combine to make my son look like the little man that he is!
FABRIC: the plaid is a rayon suiting, the forest green accents are a vintage cotton corduroy from my paternal Grandmother, and lining is a combo of fleece quilted to a poly lining
PATTERN: Simplicity #7744, year 1968
NOTIONS: I only used what was on hand – thread, interfacing scraps, leftover fabric, and even a zipper which was cut off an old RTW sweater of his which has been long ago been thrown away after he wore out. I even had the snap system leftover from doing the placket on this dress of mine!
THE INSIDES: Full lining means “What raw edges?!”
TOTAL COST: Nothing, zero, zilch is pretty much the full cost. Leftover materials from several other projects plus using material given as a gift for the other half of it means this coat of his is as good as free! How’s that for a homemaker’s dream!
What I particularly love about this project is that because I am using up remnants for it, besides emptying my stash, my son and I end up matching each other just a bit. Let’s fluff off the “Father-Son” look the pattern advertises and give a big ‘yay’ for a not so commonly seen “Mother-Son” pairing! My 1945 Glen Plaid me-made skirt suit set left just enough leftover – one yard – to be more than just a scrap. At first I was thinking of using it for a purse, but rayon suiting it too nice for just an accessory I probably won’t use all too often. Great fabrics need to be seen, worn, and enjoyed! By chance I asked my son if he liked it – he sometimes likes to “pet” my softest fabrics and his opinion is normally quite thoughtful and interesting. His positive enthusiasm lined it up for something for him. A winter dress coat was the next big thing he needed, and one yard was just so close of a cut for my chosen pattern so it seemed like those two were meant to be together. It is not too obvious of a mini-me look (compared to my suit) for him to mind but it is still enough of a pairing that I am thrilled!
It also continues his mommy-made wardrobe sort of like a theme. If you look at the 1940s overalls I made him a few years back and his recent 1960s house coat, leftovers from both projects are in this coat – one seen and the other unseen. The forest green corduroy for the jacket’s sleeves and trimmings are leftovers from the overalls, which is already leftover from my Grandma’s stash. She used this corduroy to make things for my dad and his siblings when they were little so I feel all choked up over how special it is for me to carry on the tradition. The puffy lining to the inside of the jacket was made possible by the leftover “lily pad” fleece of his house coat. I mock-quilted it to the poly lining in angled lines that meet at the back center for a bit of a decorative touch to something very practically meant to merely keep our son warm and toasty.
It’s the details that make a garment standout and stand the test of time, just like all the vintage items that are loved by so many or like the high fashion items crafted by design houses for superstars and runway shows. There is something to the love for the beauty of sewing – or the love for the recipient, too – manifesting itself in the excess time which goes into fine details. Such details make creating in the first place have a bit more easily visible worth, sort of like a proof of time well spent, remotely tangible for those open to appreciating them.
Such reasoning is why I spared no amount of effort in my zeal for a fantastic, professionally finished coat. My first mission in this goal was to make the best welt pockets I have done yet. I normally am not adverse and stressed out by a sewing technique as I am with creating welt pockets, even though I know how to do them. The pressure was especially hard because of several irreversible steps before the pocket needs to be created and if I messed up, well…the coat would be no more. However, I happily feel that I succeeded in not ruining my project, but still failed in making the best welt openings ever. I am just overly critical on my own work, so to every other eye they are great welt pockets. Working with tiny and precise seams in corduroy is not by far an easy thing.
That fact also applies to setting snaps though corduroy. I had to make several “test run” tabs, complete with interfacing to mimic the thickness, and we failed with a few settings before we both realized we were running short of snaps and rather finding the right pressure to use on the press mechanism. These sort of things – much like welt pockets – get to a point where you just have to take a deep breath and just go for it! We made one ‘male’ snap on the hem tab itself and two ‘female’ snaps on the coat to give the option of pulling it in…or not, if wanted. Having options to one’s clothes is lovely!
We did not want to push our good luck with the snap settings, and I wanted something lower key, so I stitched down large, black, easy-to-handle snaps at the sleeve cuffs and neck closing. As much as this was mostly my idea, and my creation, I was thinking of him throughout the process. I made sure the large snaps were something he could handle all by himself. I made the front pockets bigger (they reach all the way to the front zipper and end at the bottom hemline) because I know all the things he likes to stash in his coats. The front zipper is recycled off of an older garment he wore out and grew out of so I knew it worked for him. Even the choice of green corduroy was really his choice – he could have chosen navy blue or burgundy cords, too. I did think ahead and made the sleeves just a few a few inches longer in the hopes of this jacket lasting an extra winter. The way he eats more food than us, though, and grows like a weed that thought is just a hope, perhaps.
Ironically, or maybe appropriately, the pretty fall backdrop for these photos is his school’s front entrance street-view grounds. This was soon after he went back into a new year of school and after class picture time. Sometimes, those school pictures are not always the best so we had a good excuse to take good shots of the jacket – going out and try to capture the real side of him in a much more ascetically pleasing look than a uniform.
For a jacket that resembles the symbol of the elite in a school, he really is nothing stuffy no matter how nice he may look. He is just an eager, individualistic little man who is still trying to get the hang of finding the words for everything he has to say (it’s a LOT lemme tell you!) and the letters that form such. Thus, he has no logo inscriptions. I appreciate the fact he does seem to be forming another sphere of his life at the same time – a rather dapper, fun style for himself in his non-school-uniform clothes. Sometimes we have to remind him on weekends to reach for the printed tees in his closet and not his plaid dress shirts! If I can encourage and help him along in this sphere (especially since, for the moment, he likes my taste and I enjoy his), than my sewing is very worthwhile to be such a means of expression for one of the most important people in my life. Never underrate the power of a boy and his mother.