Presenting A Coat From 1925

A few years ago, I decided I wanted a 1920s coat. The goal was to make it for an event, but I ran into some construction problems along the way that caused me to give up work for awhile. In January, after letting it sit for about two years, I was tired of looking at the half finished project and worked up the determination to actually finish it.

Though I’ve only worn it once so far, I’m very pleased that I finally finished this coat! It is quite decadent and elegant to wear (and it’s nice to have completed the project so I can put it away)!

My inspiration started with the pattern below. I was intrigued by the flared side pieces and overlapped closure. I enlarged this pattern and did a little adjusting for my proportions.

With the pattern ready to go, I purchased the exterior fabric of the coat and got to work. The exterior is made out of fleece backed velvet upholstery fabric from Fabric.com. Thankfully it isn’t super stiff, like some upholstery fabrics are. The fleece backing is actually quite soft and the exterior has a low pile and lovely sheen. It shows every little brush against the nap though, so I was super careful while making it, transporting it, and wearing it to keep the pile brushed the right way.

The inside body of the coat is lined in tan silk shantung. This was a remnant I purchased years ago from a local discount fabric store. I’ve never found a good use for it until now, when I managed to just squeeze out the pieces I needed for the coat.

Unfortunately, that’s also where the problems started. I cut the sleeve linings on the cross grain of the silk (because I was running low on fabric). I know that grain and cross grain can behave differently, but these were drastically different! The sleeves were so constricting!

Also, I hadn’t widened the sleeves enough to actually move in even without the silk lining! I could get my arms in the sleeves but there was no way I was going to bend them or use them for any useful purpose. Oops!

What to do???

Well, with the event I had intended this for fast approaching… I gave up. I put the project on the back of a chair (so it wouldn’t get marks in the pile!) and moved on.

Two years later, I decided it was time to finish the coat. In the spirit of forging ahead and in order to make things work, I changed a few things from my original vision.

For the sleeves, I scrapped the silk linings, opting to just leave the arms of the coat unlined. This worked because of the softness of the fleece backing. In addition, I was able to cut cuff facings and binding for the armhole seam allowances out of my failed sleeve linings.

I thought I could let out the under sleeve seam and it would be enough extra fabric to make the sleeves comfortable. The needle holes had left scars on the fabric, but I figured no one would see it. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough!

So, I ripped out the let out seam, dug out my fabric scraps, and pieced a section down the entire length of the arm. The piece is about 1″ wide at the wrist and 2″ at the armsceye. What was I thinking with my original pattern??? Thankfully the added piece is not obvious, since it’s on the underside of the arm. And I suppose that if you didn’t know where sleeve seams should be it wouldn’t look out of place!

As well as actually fitting my arm (and allowing for movement!), the bigger armsceye on the sleeve allowed me to move the sleeve up on the shoulder a bit, too, which helped the coat not look oversized.

In addition to the sleeve changes, I also changed the front edges of the coat from that nice jag with buttons to straight from collar to hem. I realized there was no way to do buttonholes I would be happy with in my very thick velour and that the angle I had very carefully sewn just would not lie flat. A slight tug line at the inside corner really bothered me.

I looked at these two pages from a 1925 Sears catalog to help with the design choices at this point.

These helped me decide on the button closure. There is one button and corresponding thread loop on the hip and another below the collar.

The Sears images also helped me decide on the location of the fur trim. The bands and collar are made faux fur leftover from my 1814 Wizchoura Ensemble, also from Fabric.com. The collar is especially warm and comfy when buttoned shut, though it’s also a lot around the face… so I think wearing it open is more likely! This combination of red pile exterior and tan fur shows up multiple times on my 1920s Outwear Pinterest board and it was nice to use fur I already owned instead of buying more.

I decided against fur trim on the cuffs and instead kept the French cuff look, set off with two buttons. This was a feature from the original pattern that was supposed to mirror the jag on the front edges that I eliminated.

I didn’t change the flared side pieces of the pattern and I’m very pleased with the end result. They give a 1920s flip to the otherwise very straight shape of this coat.

The six buttons on the coat are from Farmhouse Fabrics. They’re big, about 1 ¼” across, and they have a wavy pattern on them that helps make them interesting looking without being distracting. They match the velour so well!

All together, the materials used on this coat are: 2 ½ yards of the fleece backed velvet, approximately 2 yards of silk shantung for the lining, scraps of faux fur used on my 1814 Wiztchoura, 6 large buttons, and thread. The total cost of these materials is about $70, including shipping.

I didn’t keep track of the number of hours spent making, altering, and finishing this coat, but I would guess that it is around 30-40. There was some serious frustration in there (or despair, as Anne of Green Gables might say!).

As you can see in all the photos, when I finally wore this coat in January 2020 at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel, the Christmas decorations were still up. I loved (and still do!) how festive the coat looks with the decorations, but by the time this post was written it seemed a bit late for the holiday look here on the blog, so I decided to save this post for this 2020 holiday season. Now, after many months of missing fabulous indoor spaces and events, I’m particularly pleased that I have these photos to share!

HSF/M #1: 1895 Hug-able Skating Costume

This is one of my favorite outfits of all time. I just want to hug myself, with all the fur, and I love the trim on the back! The whole thing is so cozy and so hug-able and the skirt has such a nice drape and the accessories work so well… and I actually got to go skating in it! I am just utterly chuffed (to use a British word) with the whole thing!

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I was on the fence about whether this outfit would apply to the Historical Sew Fortnightly/Monthly Challenge #1: Foundations, but then I read Leimomi’s teaser post about her foundation entry in which she reminds us about different interpretations of foundations and the intent of this challenge to create loose guidelines open to interpretation.

I was convinced (or pushed off the fence, if you prefer to think of it in that amusing way). I’m claiming my all new 1895 skating outfit for the first challenge of the new year! It does rather stretch the idea of foundations. Is the skirt a foundation because it is literally worn below the jacket, thus being a foundation as you would think of one in a building? Or is the bodice a foundation, because my direct inspiration is a lonely jacket without a skirt and therefore it is the foundation of the outfit because I wouldn’t have made the skirt without having the jacket? Either way, there is an element of a foundation in there.

Just the facts:

Fabric: 5 yds of ivory wool, about ⅓ to ½ yd of dark brown faux fur, probably about 3 yds of scrap muslin for flat lining the jacket, a bit of scrap canvas to stiffen the collar, and a bit of ivory flannel to line the inside of the collar.

Pattern: Made by me and based on my inspiration jacket as well as patterns published in Authentic Victorian Fashion Patterns (a Dover book).

Year: c. 1895.

Notions: 5 yds of brown braid, thread, a bit of high loft polyester batting to keep the sleeves puffed out, about 1 yd of ivory hug snug to finish the bottom of the jacket, hooks and bars for the skirt, and thread.

How historically accurate is it? Pretty darn good. Definitely recognizable by someone in the 1890s. The construction is accurate, aside from the use of hug snug instead of bias and faux fur instead of real fur. So, 95%.

Hours to complete: Um… As usual, I did not keep track. I definitely spent at least 15 hours the few days before the event sewing on my braid and fur trim… Plus full days of pattern making, fitting, cutting, and sewing. Maybe 30-40 hours? I care so much more about the finished project than the time it takes to get there! And I loved sewing this, so I didn’t mind that it took time!

First worn: To a skating party that was part of the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers‘ 1890s weekend in January.

Total cost: $75 for the wool, probably about $8 for the fur yardage I used for this project, $4 for the braid, and the rest from the stash = $87

My accessories were a matching fur muff that I made a few years ago and wore once for caroling (with my as-yet-undocumented 1860s winter cape) but more often with my 1917 winter ensemble and a revamp of my 1883 wool hat. I didn’t have time to make a new hat because of all the last minute fur and trim sewing, so I pinned a fur scrap around the 1883 hat and added some feathers to stand up a bit more like 1890s hats and called it good. My main inspiration (and the reason I feel it was an acceptable looking style to have the squashy fedora hat look in the 1890s) was this image.

For good measure, here’s my Pinterest board for the entire project. And here are pictures of us skating (with ice skates: all our snow and cold weather does occasionally come in handy here in Boston)!

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Yes, we just crashed a local outdoor ice rink on a Sunday afternoon. One of the attendees even wore vintage skates! Turns out they can be hard to skate in because they’re not very supportive… but they looked fantastic! We got lots of comments from people asking what we were doing, why we were dressed up, and that we looked good. I was asked by multiple groups of young girls why I was dressed up and one group in particular asked what the swirly thing was that I had, which I got to explain was a muff to keep my hands warm!

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Here’s our skating group. People came in a variety of late 19th century and early 20th century winter outfits as well as modern clothes.

With my skating ensemble I wore fleece lined tights (modern, but warm so I didn’t care), knee high bamboo socks (modern again), my 1903 silk petticoat (super useful for the 1890s, also), a modern tank top (instead of combinations, because I needed to go to work later in the afternoon and change out of my outfit in the back seat of my car without being indecent…), my 1895 corset, and a long sleeve modern waffle tee (mostly to shield my skin against the wool seam allowances and also for warmth). And I was perfectly warm wearing this out for skating on a day that was sunny and right around freezing. In fact, with the muff and wool hat I actually was too warm at times.

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Pleased, chuffed, and smiling all afternoon! So fun! Maybe we will get to go skating again this winter!

Project Journal: 1822-1824 Ensemble Part VI: Muff and Tippet

One thing I actually did finish for the recent ball was the muff and tippet. For visual reference, the picture below shows the garments I’m discussing.

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1822 walking dress with muff and tippet (and a bit of the 1824 ball gown peeking out).

What is tippet, exactly? Merriam-Webster defines it, thus:

1: a long hanging end of cloth attached to a sleeve, cap, or hood
2: a shoulder cape of fur or cloth often with hanging ends

 

So, how did I make my tippet? First, I cut a piece of high loft polyester batting the length and width that I wanted. (I know they didn’t have poly batting  in the 19th century… but it’s super warm and sometimes just worth it!) Then I cut a piece of my faux fur that was double the width of the batting plus an extra 3/4″ or so on each side as well as about 1″ longer on each end. I centered the batting on the wrong side of the fur, wrapped the fur around to the back, turned one edge under, and pinned. The ends of the fur I just turned up and under the other pinned bits. Then I whip stitched that folded edge down using pretty large stitches. The stitches disappeared in the fur… and voila, tippet! Too bad I didn’t take pictures of the construction!

The muff was slightly more tricky, not because of construction details, but because I agonized over what color lining to use! (To construct the muff, I made two tubes, one out of fur and one out of silk lining. I stitched one end of each tube to the other, turned the whole thing right sides out, inserted a tube of poly batting (warm!), pulled the lining through the middle, and pinned the open side of the fur to the silk, with the fur edge turned under. Then I simply whip stitched it like I did the tippet.

But before I could make the muff, I had to pick the lining color! Did I want it to match my walking dress trim (and be lavender?) Did I want to pick a color from a fashion plate? What colors were used in fashion plates? So many questions! I determined that of the muff linings I could see in fashion plates from that general period, there were three recurring colors: pink, blue, and white. Here’s what I came up with, image-wise:

PINK

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January 1823 Walking Dress. La Belle Assemblee.
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December 1822 Promenade Dress. Ackerman’s Repository.
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January 1826 Promenade Dress. Ackerman’s Repository.

BLUE

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March 1823 Walking Dress. Ackerman’s Repository.
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December 1825 Carriage Dress. Lady’s Magazine.

WHITE

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1825 Promenade Dress.
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1829 Walking Dress. Ackerman’s Repository.

UNKNOWN/OTHER

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c. 1810 Redingote (and muff!). KCI. (Also a tippet, though they call it a “palantine”: which M-W defines as a fur cape or stole covering the neck and shoulders.)
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November 1814. La Belle Assemblee.
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November 1817 Walking Dress. Ackerman’s Repository.
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1823 Carriage Dress

So pink came in with 3, blue and white tied with 2 each, and then there were an assortment of unknown/other. But I didn’t like the idea of pink with my dark pinkish wool (you can see what that would look like in the December 1822 fashion plate: that’s the inspiration for my walking dress), so I settled for the light blue, which I think is delicate and softly Regency. Also, I had just a small amount of that color silk, and it’s a color that doesn’t really complement my skin, so I wasn’t likely to use it for a bonnet or something similar… but with a muff most of my skin is hidden! You can see the predominance of white fur for the muffs in these fashion plates (one of the reasons I chose white fur for the muff and tippet). There are brown, too, but a lot of white! 7 out of the 11 I included are white. Well, there you go. That’s my rationale for the muff and tippet.

All of these images are on my Pinterest pages with lots of other beautiful garments. Specifically, these are on the 1810s Inspiration1820-1824 Inspiration, and 1825-1829 Inspiration pages.