As this is a follow-up to my Disney-inspired Pocahontas outfit, made for my “Pandemic Princess” series, it is aptly tied to the songs from the 1998 sequel “Journey to a New World”. To Pocahontas in the sequel, that new world is Britain, specifically London – “What a Day in London” song. With her visit (following her marriage to John Rolfe in real life), her history became even more deeply linked to both Britain and America – “Between Two Worlds” song. I couldn’t think of a more glaringly ironic match (in many ways I will address later on in this post) than for me to make a trench-style coat made of cheap but iconic English Burberry plaid fleece. Yet, the logo plaid must not have been out of place in the forest as a wild deer was photo bombing me throughout, totally edging in on my spotlight – “Things Are Not What They Appear” song. Beyond adding a watermark, these are real, unaltered pictures! How can I brag about my coat when the deer has an even prettier, more useful one on her back?!?
This was yet another one of my many remnant stash-busting projects. I only had one yard of Burberry plaid fleece, half a yard of black fleece, and leftovers from other projects to help me finish this one off. Yay for a smart use of fleece, the fabric I love to hate, in a print I very much enjoy! This coat is a very versatile and a breathable weight of warmth. It was a quick undertaking which ended up looking much better than I imaged it might. My projects which use up scraps really make me inventive in a way for which I am proud. In conjunction with that incentive, my “Pandemic Princess” series is also inspiring me push my Disney dreams farther than just one outfit per leading lady. Oh, what have I started!
FABRIC: the exterior black and Burberry plaid fabrics are polyester fleece, the inside lining is burgundy polyester crepe (leftover from sewing this 1930s lounging robe), the inner layer is pre-quilted cotton covered batting, and the under collar together with the front facings are cotton sateen
PATTERN: Simplicity #1320, year 2014
NOTIONS: I had everything I needed on hand already – interfacing, a few buttons (ornate brass ones, leftover from this historical skirt), and lots upon lots of thread.
TIME TO COMPLETE: This coat took me about 25 hours to make. It was finished on February 19, 2021.
THE INSIDES: any raw edges inside are cleanly concealed by the full lining.
TOTAL COST: As I have had the two fleece remnants on hand for the last 10 years, and the all other supplies were leftover from past projects, I’m counting this coat as free!!!
The prestigious Burberry Company began in 1856, but found its home in London by 1891 when Thomas Burberry opened a shop in London’s West End. Thomas Burberry is credited invented and patenting gabardine in 1888 – the breathable, weatherproof and hard-wearing fabric revolutionizing rainwear – which up until then had typically been heavy and uncomfortable to wear. Then, its fine, waterproof outerwear happened to make the term “trench coat” an anchor in fashion history by having an adapted version of his “Tielocken coat” the standard issue for officers during World War I. The recognizable Burberry logo plaid was then introduced in the 1920s. Afterwards, in the 70’s and 80’s, the brand’s tartan print suddenly was no longer solely worn inside their garments as a lining when it turned into a preppy U.K. elite symbol (aka, the “Sloane Rangers”). It became a visible status symbol. Yet by the next decade, it was also one of the most widely counterfeited brands of the turn into the 21st century. Over the years, Burberry has evolved and today it’s much more of a lifestyle brand that you can see on catwalks and fashion shows – no longer just known for making a trench coat.
In the late Nineties, the Burberry print began a trendy revival courtesy of the “logo wave”, which was all about sporting Gucci belts to Chanel bags and Louis Vuitton wallets. As a teen at that time, I was one of the biggest fans of the tacky, over-the-top usage of the knocked-off Burberry tartan on anything under the sun. (Oh, what was I thinking!?!) Now, I am much more restrained but still enamored by the fashion plaid print. All I ever bought of the Burberry brand as a teen was an expensive Pashmina Burberry neck scarf at a fine retailer and the brand’s classic eau de toilette. Now, I am breaking out of that shell by making of this coat. I’m returning back to my teenage fascination and half reliving something I never got to do growing up…only half because this is not a true, trademarked Burberry material.
I am not one for brand flourishing myself – of course not, when I sew my own clothes. Yet, a Burberry plaid is my long restrained weakness. At the same time, however, it is so gaudy in my mind that I never knew what to do with it or how to pair together with a pattern. I figured to tone it down with a darker contrast remnant on hand and – even though both cuts are only cheap fleece – treat them like a finer coat fabric to hopefully end up with something which might not be tacky. At least the coat turned out better than I expected while being nicely tailored and cozy warm! This was a successful experiment and yet also a weird one to see finalized after all these years.
I sort of blended the lines between a trench and an over coat, just for practical purposes. A trench coat is designed to protect you against rain while an overcoat is designed to protect you against the cold. A trench coat is lightweight while an overcoat is heavyweight. For my coat, the fleece outside is fluffy polyester, so it really doesn’t get wet easily even though it is not waterproof. I tested this truth out later the night of our pictures when I played in our son’s snow fort, which was beginning to melt. I stayed warm and dry and most of the wet snow either rolled off or could be brushed off of me. Usually one has to layer up to be warm in a trench coat because it is merely supposed to be waterproof appropriate gear for all seasons. Yet, I am a person sensitive to the cold so I upped the game on my version with the cozy quilted cotton layer between the exterior fleece and polyester lining. It is a coat which is in between lightweight and heavyweight, as all materials are pretty lofty load individually.
This is still double-breasted like a proper trench coat, with a large stormproof collar that can be turned up enough to completely protect most of my face from the elements, if I so need. However, my coat’s collar is wonderfully modern in the way it is asymmetric and the tailored princess seams and color blocking reflects the new fitting and color options which the new Burberry line has to offer. The length of a trench coat is traditionally to just below the knee. However, nowadays one can find trench coats in various lengths: full, knee, three-quarters and short. So I suppose I can call this a very personalized, updated version of a 90’s Burberry inspired trench coat.
Amazingly, this was a very easy coat to make, even with complicating the construction by fully lining and layering it. There are no darts, no chalk markings to make, and every seam is straightforward with first rate shaping drawn into the seam lines. The fit was spot on, too. I went up one whole size because I was planning on adding extra layers into the coat and that was to right move. I have full and unrestrained freedom of movement. More or less, I cut out 3 whole coats – fleece, quilted cotton inner layer, and lining poly – so I was happy the two pieces for the front (doubled into four) and two pieces for the back (double cut sides with one center on the fold) were simple. The facings and the under collar had sew-in interfacing to back them up as they were a thinner material in key areas which got double-breasted and needed structural support.
I did sew each layer to the coat separately, but hand tacked the quilted cotton inners to the eternal fleece plaid along their matching seam lines “in the ditch” to eliminate shifting of the layers. It was important remember to shorten the sleeves and the bottom hem of the quilted inner layer by cutting off 1 ½ inches. It is very difficult and bulky to hem quilted cotton and thus I wanted to account for the turn-under hemming to the fleece and lining only. I also had to make the seam allowances ¾ inch to the quilted cotton and poly lining so the inner layer fits inside as slightly smaller than the eternal coat layer. I found out some these tricks of how to work with pre-quilted cotton material (as well as how breathable but pleasantly warm it can be) as I made this 1940s jerkin vest for our trip to Denver, Colorado back in 2019. I also knew from making this 60’s cocoon coat how shifty fleece could be when you try to sew it into something structured. So, I combined both of what I learned from two separate winter past projects into this newest, latest, dare I say, just about the best coat I have finished so far.
I like the unusual and slightly easier route of making handmade chain stitched thread loops along the right front closing edge in lieu of buttonholes. The fact it is black on black color along the front is the only way I like this feature, otherwise I think thread loops would be too weirdly obvious. The instructions called for fabric loops. However, I know how those sort of things are fussy to add in a seam and more often than not pull out of a seam anyway if not anchored to a base of some sort (seam tape, bias strip, etc.) along the seam allowance. I used heavy upholstery thread for making my coat’s thread loops and attached the loop bases to the interfacing inside the coat edge, so these closures are definitely stable.
For some weird reason, my last Pocahontas inspired outfit finally gave me a decent idea as to what to do with long hoarded, one yard remnant of Burberry looking fleece. Luckily, I was able to sew it together quickly enough to take advantage of the same photo shoot against the breathtaking backdrop of my favorite creek after the most recent snowstorm. This coat’s earthy colors pair nicely with my Pocahontas separates (in the previous post), but also work well as an item from the era of the release dates to the Disney films. All the elements I desired for this project were fulfilled, only Pocahontas’ Disney story is the opposite of everything this logo plaid stands for. At the same time, it suits her aesthetic so well at the same time. Let me explain.
I like using irony to drive home a point. Pairing an overworked fashion print with the raw, pure beauty of nature is amusingly contrary enough. Yet, modern fashion is synonymous with the throwaway culture severely detrimental to our world of today, threatening the very existence of living things, and fleece is one of worst offenders being a petroleum-based product which will not break down. Thus, I only use fleece when I do because it is already on hand in my stash from before I became more conscious of the environmental impact of what we wear. For many years now, fleece is something I will not buy and love to generally hate (ugh, plastics). However, I am a firm believer in making use of what one has, and doing that effort well enough so that item lasts. I believe this is the most sensible thing to do with questionable products such as fleece.
Hopefully what I have done here would be Pocahontas approved if she knew where I was coming from with my reasoning. It does have colors I believe she would like – after all, a deer I met out in the wild didn’t seem to mind one bit!!