There are only two weekends left to catch Balenciaga: Master of Couture at the McCord Museum. Anne St. Marie’s look (above) was inspired by Balenciaga.
From the inside note: “The new straight-coat fashion favored by Balenciaga, fall and winter coverage for its own sheath dress and everything else in your wardrobe. In colorful Anglo tweed and coordinated red wool, interfaced with Armo hair canvas to hold its line. Earl-Glo Sanitized taffeta lining; B.G.E. buttons. Emme hat; Mark Cross bag; Superb gloves.”
As part of its current exhibition, Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is sharing a pattern for a one-seam coat designed by Patrick Kelly in 1984. (See my post on Patrick Kelly’s Vogue patterns here.)
After Kelly moved to Paris in 1979, he worked as a costume designer for Le Palace nightclub while also selling his coats on the sidewalk of the Boulevard Saint-Germain. When he secured a stall at Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, the famous Porte de Clignancourt flea market, his raw-edged jersey tube dresses caught the attention of his first backer, Françoise Chassagnac of Victoire. Thanks to Chassagnac’s connections, Kelly’s entire collection was featured in Elle magazine:
Although the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s coat dates to 1985, the design is the same as those Kelly sold on the Boulevard Saint-Germain.
Kelly’s one-seam coat would become a recurring feature in the designer’s work. A rethinking of Cristóbal Balenciaga’s iconic 1961 one-seam coat, it may have been inspired by Issey Miyake’s cocoon coat—Kelly was once the house guest of Miyake’s publicist, Victoria Rivière, in Paris.
The original coat is a quilted cotton knit. It has a simple revers opening in front, box pleats in the back, and batwing sleeves formed by the shoulder seam:
These technical drawings show the coat front and back:
Fabric requirements: About 3.5 yards (3.2 m) of 60″ (~150 cm) fabric
Recommended fabrics: Fabrics with a good hand and drape, e.g. double knits and double-faced fabrics. The original is a quilted single knit.
Finished length: 52″ (132 cm)
Pattern length from top to bottom: 57.5″ (146 cm)
Tips, caveats: No separate instructions; scale and seam allowances are not marked. The coat must be cut on the cross grain. The original coat has a simple turn and stitch finish, with a sleeve binding piece for the sleeve openings.
A Parisian friend of Kelly’s has posted instructions to make a doll-scale version based on her Patrick Kelly original.
Thanks to Monica Brown, Senior Collections Assistant, Costume and Textiles, for answering questions about the project, and Paula M. Sim, Costume and Textiles intern, for drafting the pattern.
I made our little niece a vintage ’30s coat as a Hannukah gift. For the pattern I used Pictorial Review 6128, a double-breasted coat with optional back belt and pockets.
Here’s the diagram and description from the envelope back. It’s a unisex coat for small children, and was available only in sizes 1 to 6:
The recommended fabrics were flannel, camel’s hair, piqué, velveteen, cheviot, and serge. We had a length of purple Woolrich tweed that felt the right weight for a coat. (Established in 1830, Woolrich is North America’s oldest woolen mill. Today, Woolrich tweed is a wool-nylon blend for durability.) I cut some leather trim for the welt pockets from an old pair of leather gloves, and my modest button stash yielded a set of one-inch vintage Civil Defence buttons for the front and belt.
Since the pattern is the old die-cut type and needed no alterations, I tried cutting using the original tissue pieces held down with weights.
I’m new to tailoring (and coat-making), so throughout the process I referred to Paco Peralta’s tailoring tutorial and my 1970s Vogue Sewing Book on tailoring techniques. The coat collar gave me the opportunity to try out pad stitching. The pattern even gave instructions; the undercollar is to be interfaced with muslin and pad stitched, with the collar stand first worked with a running stitch:
Here are some progress photos of the pad stitched undercollar:
This is the undercollar attached to the coat body:
You could call my approach to the coat half-tailored—somewhere between the pattern’s Depression-era muslin collar interlining and modern tailoring’s padstitched hair canvas interfacing, all catch-stitched along the seam lines. As a compromise between vintage and modern methods I used a sew-in interfacing on coat facings, belt, and pocket welts. (None was called for in the pattern.) To handle the heavy tweed, I had no tailor’s clapper, so I pounded the steamed seams and edges with a small cedar block we had on hand. Paco’s tip of making a few stitches across lapel corners worked wonders for my first-ever lapels.
I bagged the lining and added handworked keyhole buttonholes—fanned at one end, with a bar tack at the other. Partway through making the coat we decided against the convertible collar, so I omitted the lapel buttonholes. (As with many vintage patterns, there were no button/buttonhole markings.) It was my first stab at handworked buttonholes on heavy fabric; I love how the hand stitches create an edge that curves out to the ridge of knots that lines the buttonhole opening.
Here are some photos of the finished coat:
I think of Civil Defence buttons as ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ buttons since the font and crown are similar to those on the WW2 propaganda poster originally produced by Britain’s Ministry of Information. (More on the Keep Calm font here.) Some closeup views of the buttons and buttonholes:
And the little back belt:
Our loft’s walls have some mysterious industrial hardware that proved useful in showing the scale of the coat:
Cutting straight from a die-cut pattern was an interesting experience, but I still prefer printed or traced tissue for cutting and marking. An oft-cited drawback of unprinted patterns is that the notches and other markings don’t always line up. This was true of the coat pattern, but it wasn’t hard to correct.
It’s always a pleasure working with wool, and I really enjoyed the challenge of trying out tailoring with a heavy fabric. The finished coat is something our niece will grow into, especially in the shoulders. But she does love the pockets! I see more coat-making in our future…