Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Strategic Coat

A year or two ago I was thinking about winter coats and tried to define the number and kind of coats I would need in order to always feel that I had an appropriate coat to wear. In the end I concluded that ideally I would have three winter coats: a parka, a short wool coat, and a long wool coat. The parka would go with very casual clothes, such as jeans or yoga pants and hoodies. The short wool coat would be worn with trousers and my more casual skirts and dresses, and could also be worn with jeans when the jeans have been "dressed up" by pairing them with a nice top, jewelry, and heels. The long coat would mainly be worn with skirts and dresses, or with wool trousers for maximum warmth on cold days. Each of these coats could be worn for a good five years each, which would mean I wouldn't be buying new coats very often.

While it would be possible to get by with only two of these coats, there would be drawbacks. If I had only the parka and the short wool coat, there would be very cold days when I felt the lack of a long coat and/or when the short coat looked too casual or was an awkward length to wear over some of my dresses and skirts. If I had just the parka and the long coat, there would be days when I wanted the dressiness factor of a wool coat, and yet wouldn't want to be bothered with the weight/warmth of a long coat. Long wool coats don't tend to look good over jeans, either, so I'd lose the option of being able to dress up my jeans somewhat. I didn't consider doing without the parka, as I am Canadian and parkas are all but compulsory in Canada. We need something to wear down to the rink, yo.

Test it as I would, my three coat strategy seemed to be a comprehensive and satisfactory approach for me. I decided that once I had those three specific coats I would institute two rules: no buying new coats unless one of the three needed replacing, and (equally importantly) no acquiring any new winter outfits, boots, hats, scarves, or gloves that didn't go with one of those three coats.

Since I came up with this plan I've been working towards acquiring the three winter coats. In 2016 I bought the materials to make a short brown wool coat, though I didn't get it made until the spring of 2017. In early fall 2017 I bought a new teal parka to replace my rather worn and sad-looking old green parka (I had bought the green one secondhand at a Value Village for $25 in 2002 and it owed me nothing). Then in late 2017, when I saw some brown and cream tweed on sale in Fabricland for $6/metre and a plush dark brown faux fur available for 50% off the regular price, I snapped up enough of each to make the long coat I had already planned to make in 2018. I later bought some dark brown kasha lining that was the same shade as the faux fur.

As for the design, I chose Vogue Pattern 8346, and opted for view E made in the "one inch above the ankle" length of view C. I do love the look of a lush faux fur collar, and I wanted my long coat to go nearly to my ankles so that it would cover even my longest skirts and dresses completely, with no awkward inch or two of dress or skirt showing below the coat hem. I cut the pattern in a size 16 up top and a size 14 from the waist down, and added four inches of length to the bodice as I always must with long garments (I'm well-endowed and my chest takes up a lot of fabric vertically, which would pull the original waist line right up under the bust line if I don't lengthen the bodice). However, rather than take a corresponding four inches out of the skirt as I would usually do, I simply cut the coat to the shorter length of view E. The resulting coat had the nearly ankle length of C as I had wanted.

It took me three and a half weeks to make this coat. The pattern is rated easy, and while I'd agree that from a technical perspective it is easy, with no darts or gathers or detailing or even buttonholes, and I put it together with no mistakes or frustration to speak of, it is still a lot of work as there is so much fabric and such long seams to contend with. I must have spent six hours on the two layers of the bottom hem alone. My chronic fatigue support cat Trilby was exhausted for me. This project also reminded me of how exasperating faux fur is to work with, because when it is cut, those fibres fly everywhere, including up my nose. I kept a broom and dustpan handy until the collar was completely sewn.

Here's the finished coat. I was not at all sure of my button selection when I was working on the coat. There was very little selection at the 32mm size and as the time to put the buttons on the coat neared, I was kicking myself for not going with a smaller button in a dark brown. But once I'd finished the coat by finally sewing the buttons in place, I decided these were the best available choice after all. They're both a more subtle and interesting choice than dark brown buttons would have been.

As you can see from these side and back views, this is one well-cut design. The fabric falls in graceful folds (and let's remember -- this is a heavy tweed fabric) and swirls beautifully when the wearer makes even a quarter turn.

I'm very pleased with this coat, which is a relief, because I do have sewer's remorse over the short brown coat I made, but given the state of my finances and hatred of waste, I'm stuck with it for at least three more years yet. Happily, I love my new parka, this tweed coat is one I will wear with satisfaction and confidence for years to come, and I suppose two out of three isn't bad.

However, Trilby, who has one gorgeous and genuine fur coat and is perfectly satisfied with it thank you very much, is much more concerned that I have hung the tweed coat away in the hall closet rather than leaving it lying about for him to nap on.


  1. Absolutely wonderful coat! I love the swing of the hem too. I wonder why there aren't many commenters on Modwardian? I love checking in to see what you have made, I believe I've read the whole blog (actually all 3 of your blogs but honestly I'm not a stalker or anything)! People I have met who have Chronic Fatigue say that it is utterly frustrating and it is hard especially when loved ones don't understand. I think you're amazing and I don't know how you knit and sew and write so much! I can barely manage to knit a pair of socks, a sweater and a shawl in a year. I should get back to quilting too, and it's a dream of mine to be able to follow a sewing pattern. I can sew simple shorts, skirts which I got the pattern off an existing garment (underpants were fun!). Thanks for blogging, I'm really enjoying it.

  2. It's gorgeous! It hangs so beautifully. If I didn't live in Sydney (Australia not Canada) where I have never worn a full length coat in my entire life, I would want one too.
    I love your blogs too!

  3. I'm a bit late to this game, but I have recently been exploring your blogs (I started with Knitting Needle and the Damage Done-Yes, I am a fan of Neil Young!).
    This coat is beautiful! And unlike Pip in AU, I grew up in Erie PA (lots of snow) and now live in western MN (lots of cold). So I know my coats!!

  4. I love your stuff. I saw a Chanel inspired off white, black trim sweater jacket with the bow in the center snap closure, so beautiful...saw it on Pintrest. Is there a way I could order one?