Sew, Wear Are They Now: Coats and Jackets

Continuing on with my Sew, Wear Are They Now series, today I’m taking a look at all of the coats and jacket’s I’ve made over the past several years.

2010-2011

I actually made a lot of coats in my first two years of sewing; mostly because I come from a warm climate so the idea of having “coats” is a bit weird and often challenging to find in stores. I also decided to jump right in with non-costume sewing, so the first “everyday” garment I made was actually a brocade coat. Because, you know, that’s totally an everyday thing. Or something. Anyway, here’s what I made when I first started out:

  • Butterick 5295 was my first non-costume garment that I ever sewed! Yeah, I… tend to go to the deep end. Honestly, it could have been a lot better, but it also could have been a lot worse. I didn’t know which sort of sewing resources to start with (things were rough back in the early days of the internet), so I was working out of a couture techniques book. I drafted multiple additional pattern pieces for back and sleeve stays, attempted bound button holes, and generally went all in. Some things (the sleeve heads and back stays) are techniques I still use on garments that need more support in the construction; the extra time is worth it! But I will admit it would have been better had I gone with machine button holes on the round. I also had no idea how to select interfacing, so that wasn’t optimal either. I still have this garment, though I don’t wear it anymore. I’d love to re-visit this pattern at some point, and actually give it the sort of construction treatment it deserves, because it really is a lovely design.
  • Burda 8292 was a coat I made to wear to a wedding. The whole thing was a disaster. The internet: use good natural fibers; me: I’m going to use poly everything! I botched so many aspect of making this coat, it was sad. And there was some emotional trauma around that wedding, so I didn’t ever really want to wear this coat after the event. I salvaged the buttons and tossed the coat in a fit of emotional rage. Not my best moment to be sure, but regardless it didn’t last long in my wardrobe.
  • BurdaStyle 08/2011 #113 was a cape I made for my sister after completely roasting the pattern when it came out in the magazine. She wanted a garment that could act as a “third carry-on” for international flights, so I made this… essentially a blanket with giant pockets. I can’t say that it became a fashion statement, but it certainly did its job of being a transportation travel garment. I don’t think she still has this (the cotton fabric had worn down quite a bit), but she did use it quite often for flying in 2011 and 2012.
  • Vogue 8626 was another coat I made for my sister. Since she was going to school in a place with “real weather” for a year, I made her a coat that utilized all the warmth tricks – lining, interlining, underlining, and a wool fabric on top! Every layer was natural fibers (silk, cotton, and wool), and it was warm – perfect for places that actually have actual winters. The only downside was that the wool I bought was a bit more loosely woven than would have been optimal, so it hasn’t really lasted well over time, but I know it got daily use for a decent period of time, and it traveled all over Europe, so it was time well spent. It also was the garment that convinced me that there was indeed a big difference between sewing with natural fibers and synthetic fibers. It was so heavy it may have flipped my sewing machine off of the table at one point, but, in general it was a great learning experience.
  • Burda World of Fashion 01/2001 #120/121 was a short coat I made for myself using wool that I bought while at skating nationals that year. It’s not perfect (the hem in particular wasn’t super great), but I did wear it a lot. I never really loved the sleeves though; I didn’t catch stitch the seam allowances down, and so my arm would get really itchy (even through the lining) if I wasn’t wearing a long sleeve shirt. At this point I think it is much too small, but it’s another garment that I am loathe to part with.
  • Burda World of Fashion 01/2006 #101B was a trench coat I made because I was really enamored with the idea of animal prints at the time (it was… sort of a trend going around in 2011). I think that this coat is actually still one of my best pieces of early sewing. The fabric pressed really well, so everything looked super professional, and the busy print hid any topstitching issues. Sadly, I didn’t wear this as much as I could have. Something about wearing the animal print just felt really awkward for me; even though it really should act as a neutral, it always just seemed loud. This sort of tan brown color also isn’t one of my favorites, it turns out, so I never wore this as much as I should have. I do still really love this pattern though; it turned out much better than I had expected it would.

Considering these were from my first few years of sewing, I’m still really proud of these garments. The things I sewed for my sister tended to be much better than the things I sewed for myself; I definitely bought more expansive materials for her pieces, and I think it shows in the results. Most of the fails here are from using cheap materials (bad poly for lining, bad interfacing, polyester organza as interlining), attempting techniques I wasn’t really ready for (looking at you bound button holes), or generally not knowing my own sense of style (had the trench coat been in a solid cotton twill I’d probably have worn it all over the place). Overall though I learned a lot about sewing and construction and different techniques from these projects, so even though I probably wouldn’t wear any of them today, I’m still grateful for what I learned from making them.

2012

I didn’t make as many coats and jackets in 2012, but some of the ones I did make have been favorites to this day.

  • Simplicity 3563 was a total disaster of a project. I completed the garment, but I felt frumpy wearing the jacket, the hem was a wiggly wonky mess, and the fleece fabric just sort of looked cheap in real life (it looked worse in person than in the photo). I tried to figure out a way to style it and make it useable, but I never really felt good wearing it, so I didn’t I eventually gave it away.
  • Burda 7360 was raincoat I had made because I’d been so long without a raincoat and I really wanted one. Of course, upon completion, the area I live in has had a notoriously long drought, so I didn’t get to wear it as much as I had planned. Aside from learning that my sewing machine controls the weather, I did learn a lot about how to waterproof seams, how to sew on weird sticky sorts of fabrics, and how to combine patterns to get the features I wanted (like a removable hood). I really really loved this raincoat, but I only wore it occasionally. I still have it, but the sleeves are a bit tight now, so I probably need to make an updated raincoat for the future.
  • Butterick 5685 was a short coat I sort of made on a whim because I was obsessed with the pattern. While the shetland wool I used wasn’t the most comfortable (it was sort of itchy), I did love this short coat and I wore it a lot, especially on really cold days when I could wear it with a scarf or a turtleneck top. I did a proper full bicep adjustment on this pattern to allow for an added layer of interlining and it made the sleeves so comfortable and cozy. I really loved the style of the collar, and the fit was just perfect. I’ve work it so much the areas around the pockets have started to tear, and I still need to see if I can mend them. I’d love to try making some of the longer versions of this pattern in the future, because I think they would be super fabulous. I still have this short coat, and while I haven’t had much occasion to wear it the past few years, I’m still surprised how much use it’s gotten.

I didn’t make as many coats in 2012 (probably because I’d made so many in 2011), but at least 2 of the 3 I did make were very well used in the wardrobe.

2013

I didn’t make as many coats in 2013, but I did make a lot more light weight jackets, which actually makes more sense for my particular climate.

  • BurdaStyle 12/2012 #139 was a sweatshirt I made because I really fell in love with the “trendy hoodie” in the Burda magazine. The neon green fleece was really supposed to be more of a mock-up, but I never found a good fabric to make a “real” version later. I wore this a lot, despite the color being too bright and the fabric being super cheap. I’d love to make this again in some better fabric; I think I’d wear it a lot. I still have this but the fabric is pretty gross at this point, and it really should probably be replaced.
  • BurdaStyle 12/2012 #138 was another coat style that I was really intrigued by in the magazine. I wanted to play with the color blocking trend and this was an inexpensive way for me to test it out. While the finished garment turned out better than expected, I never loved wearing this. The fleece fabric always looked cheap, and I never felt comfortable wearing color blocked prints out in public – it just seemed so loud. The straight shape of the coat was also not my particular favorite. I think I eventually gave this away because I just never wore it that much.
  • BurdaStyle 07/2011 #119 was a blazer I made. In hindsight, I didn’t do that great of a job; the photos show a lot of issues with construction and some general weirdness from my attempts at over-fitting. However, I absolutely wore this to death. I wore it everywhere, with everything. I loved it. The fabric wasn’t great quality and the lining completely shredded beyond repair, and even the outside garment fabric didn’t hold up super well. But I did really love the color and the style. I need to make another version of this, in a better fabric, with better efforts at fitting.
  • Burda World of Fashion 08/2006 #101 was a jacket I was obsessed with in the magazine. This pattern suffered a bit from over-fitting, and eventually got too small. I’m a bit sad because I used some really lovely and special fabric for the lining, and I didn’t get to wear this jacket that much. I still have it, but I should probably give it away because it is very unlikely that I will be able to fit into it again, since it was sort of tight to begin with.
  • BurdaStyle 06/2012 #121 was a jacket I made twice. I made a blue linen version because I was enamored with the image in the magazine, but also a copper fake leather version because I really loved this pattern. I actually wore both of these quite a bit, though I think the fake leather version saw a bit more use (the linen version was just slightly too heavy to wear in summer and too lightweight to wear in fall or winter). This was another jacket style I really loved, and these saw a lot of use in the wardrobe. I still have the linen version, but I think the fabric on the copper version gave out, so I eventually go rid of it.

I think there are several key take-aways from 2013’s jacket sewing. (1) Fleece is fine for mock-ups, but I’m never going to want to use that as the primary garment fabric in the future. (2) I really need to be careful of over-fitting – I tend to try to get a really close fit on jackets, and it ends up backfiring because then they don’t actually fit over other garments. (3) I don’t like anything that it too short or too straight. Basically, I should listen to Kibbe’s recommendations on this. I’m much more fond of asymmetric details, a bit more length, and a bit more relaxes drape. (4) I need to pay attention to colors. Especially in coats and jackets, which are meant to go with multiple other wardrobe items, I should probably focus on building out a wardrobe with more neutral or subdued colors before jumping into the lime greens.

2014-2016

I didn’t sew nearly as many coats or jackets from 2014-2016, partly because my sewing output wasn’t so large then, but also because I was using a lot of the garments I had already made, so I just didn’t really need to make that many new things.

  • Vogue 8626 was a re-make of my sister’s black wool coat. By this point her original coat had started to wear thin in some places (the outer wool layer was a really loose weave), so I made her an updated, less thick version that would work well for a non-snowy winter. I think she still has this, though she hasn’t used it as much the past few years because she moved somewhere with snow.
  • BurdaStyle 03/2013 #135 was a piece I made at an attempt to do a “casual cosplay” from one of my favorite book series. It doesn’t have the best construction but I do really love this jacket. The style and color are awesome, and I like the patch makes it a bit nerdy. It needs pockets, but otherwise it’s great and I would definitely make another one of these.
  • BurdaStyle 11/2014 #109 was a coat I made as part of the round 2 challenge for the sewing bee that year for the challenge of “Bias Cut.” Although I put a lot of word into the coat, I never wear it. It is cool in theory and it does make me really appreciate the masterful drafting of some of the Burda designs, but it’s really just not my sort of garment.

There’s not much to be learned from this period of sewing, but, in general, I really need to learn to stay away from these super geometric coat styles. I always think I will like them because they are so modern and cool looking, but I never do. They are fun projects to make, but I don’t use them, and at this point I’d rather put my time and fabric into projects I will use and enjoy.

2017

Ok, so this year was a bit of mixed bag in terms of successful projects. Most of these garments were made for sewing competitions, and they had varying levels of success as actual wardrobe garments.

  • BurdaStyle 02/2013 #106 was a jacket I made for the Pattern Review Wardrobe Sudoku contest. In theory this should have been a great jacket – the style and construction were great, and the fabric was awesome. But, I sort of hated it. I tried to style it, but I never wore it. I still don’t really know why; maybe I didn’t have enough other pieces to wear it with (despite being made as part of a wardrobe sudoku…), or maybe I just made it at the wrong time in my life (it was far more formal than the job I was in at the time). Either way I ended up giving this to my sister, who I think ended up giving it to someone else? It was a good bit of sewing, but ultimately not a go-to wardrobe item for me.
  • Simplicity 8418 was a reversible jacket I made for the third round of the Pattern Review Sewing Bee. I loved this thing! It had such a fun print on one side and fun embroidery on the other side. I’ve actually worn this a lot, with both sides as the outside. I wasn’t that into the whole bomber jacket trend, but after having made and worn this, I think I need an updated bomber style jacket in my wardrobe. Sadly, because I made this jacket a bit more fitted, it’s a bit too small for me at the moment. I’m not quite ready to part with it though; depending on how post-quarantine life goes I may be able to wear it again.
  • Simplicity 8178 was a jacket I made for the fourth round of the Pattern Review Sewing Bee. Since it has a giant anteater on the back it’s a tad less versatile, and because it’s all shiny fabrics it’s also a tad formal. It’s intended as a statement piece and not as something functional, but because of that I haven’t had any real occasions to wear it out. I still have it, but given quarantine life I don’t really have anywhere to wear it, and I think it would probably be a bit small at this point as well.
  • Vogue 8940 was a wool coat I made for my dad. He wanted a heavier winter coat and it’s pretty thick, with wool outer layer and flannel interlining. He’s worn this quite a bit when he traveled for work during the winter and he still has it. Sewing menswear has interesting and unique challenges, but I think it was worth the effort for this garment.

Overall this year was about 50/50 in terms of successes. Interestingly, the majority of these garments were made for Pattern Review contests, which definitely changed the complexity and visual design features I was using. Construction wise, I’m really pleased with everything I made this year, but I think there are some valid points to learn about how to choose better patterns and styles to begin with. Anything too fussy or stiff and formal just doesn’t feel like me, and I’m not that comfortable wearing it.

2018-2020

I’ve made about 1 jacket per year from 2018-2020. They are all much more casual in style and are probably closer to being on the right track of styles I should continue to explore.

  • Burda World of Fashion 03/2003 #109A was a lightweight jacket I made with some acrylic fabric I found at JoAnn. I actually really love this jacket, and I still wear it. It’s more like a slightly elevated hoodie, and it’s really cozy. It doesn’t have a closure, so it’s best in fall and spring as a layering piece, but even then I’ve worn it repeatedly over the past few years. I even wear it around the house in quarantine!
  • McCall’s 8029 was an experimental attempt at making a stylish cape. I laughingly call it the “unintentional Jawa” cape because the hood has a certain shape seen in a galaxy far, far away. I’ve worn this out once, but since it was made near the end of 2019, I don’t think that gives a very good statistical sample considering what happened at the start of 2020.
  • Burda World of Fashion 09/2006 #103 was my forever UFO. I’d found the inspiration in 2012, bought the fabric in 2013, started working on the pattern and construction in 2016, and finished it right at the beginning of 2020. Clearly, this is the sort of project that was meant to stay as a UFO because its completion brought on the start of the apocalypse. Remember when I said my sewing machine controls the weather? Apparently it also controls international health crises as well. Who knew. All joking aside though, I was really happy to have finished this project, but it sort of made me realize that I had evolved somewhat in terms of my own sense of style and my appreciation for really high quality garments. While in 2012 I wanted to copy all of the metallic, beaded, flashy trench coats Burberry could offer, by the time I actually finished this project I sort of realized that I had stylistically outgrown the super bright, cheap-ish faux suede I’d made it out of. In 2013 it was the best I could afford, and I think if I’d gone ahead and made this project back in 2013 or 2014 I would have loved it, though the construction would have arguably have been not nearly as good. I think this is the garment that made me realize that I needed to reassess my sewing and style preferences, because while I still love the idea of the original trench coat, I’m realizing there is a difference between appreciating the design of something and wanting to actually wear that in real life. Though, granted, I haven’t exactly had an opportunity to wear this in real life, so perhaps my perspective on this garment is a bit skewed.

Overall these years saw a more experimental mix of styles. While some aspects, such as the more relaxed fit, are things I definitely want to consider when choosing patterns in the future, other things, like the general impracticality of wearing a cape, probably don’t need to be the central focus of my wardrobe. I do think the more muted, deeper colors of the first two garments work particularly well for me, as do the fabrics with a bit more drape.

Conclusions

Looking at all of the coats and jackets I’ve made over the past few years has given me a few insights…

  • I live in a pretty warm climate but I sew a lot of coats and jackets. I should probably focus more on jackets or toppers and less on proper winter coats, but I actually do need to update all of these things in my wardrobe at this point, so maybe it’s fine.
  • I’m drawn to fabrics with shiny fibers, bright colors, or interesting textures. In general, I think the textured fabrics and occasional metallics seem to work well; the brighter colors are a bit hit and miss.
  • I should stop making things out of cheap fleece unless it’s a mockup or being used as an interlining. Aside from the Kermit-green hoodie, I never wear the fleece garments and it’s sort of a waste of time.
  • I tend to use a lot of almost good tailoring practices, like using back stays and sleeve heads, but not doing even more basic things like thread tack marks or using twill tape to create lapel roll lines. I would very much like to do a proper tailoring job on a coat at some point and use all the good tailoring and hand-sewing techniques to make it really fabulous.
  • As much as I love the really structured, tailored garments, I tend to wear the more relaxed, looser styles. I should definitely focus more on these sorts of patterns, but belts are always good though.
  • Although I think my construction has improved a lot since that first coat, I actually think my sense of how to pair fabric and patterns has been pretty solid in the coat category, plus or minus one polyester disaster. I think that now I need to think more not only about which fabrics will be good for a pattern, but also which fabrics are the kind I want to wear.
  • I think a running theme in these posts is that I’m so over things being too stiff or fussy to wear easily. While the coats and jackets don’t have the same sort of issues as tops and dresses in terms of coverage, I do need to be mindful of not over-fitting, and actually doing proper fit adjustments for full bust and full bicep, as well as adjusting for fit at the hips.
  • As much as I already have a lot of jackets in this post, I think I need more jackets. Most of the jackets in this post are too small, and I would like some more options for casual and semi-professional looks.
  • I really like asymmetric details. Must look for more asymmetric details.
  • I like big collars and lapels; I should look for more patterns with these sort of details.
  • I do need some waist definition on longer or heavier coats.
  • I’ve long had the desire to make a fancy coat to wear to special events, but I still haven’t made one. Probably not high on the priority list, but I know I have the fabric to do this, so maybe after working on some more every-day items this could be on the less immediate radar.
  • I need to remake a few of the styles that I really loved and have worn out. I’m thinking specifically of the teal blazer and the berry wool coat, because those really have been favorite go-tos for me.
  • My color palette has been a bit all over for the coats and jackets – I’ve ranged from light to deep, warm to cool, muted to bright. I have to admit that I’ve tended to prefer more muted, mid-toned, cool colors. I think that in general I should focus on these sorts of colors when putting together future wardrobe plans, though I’m not opposed to the occasional pop of color once I have more general wardrobe staple items pinned down.
  • Overall I think that Kibbe’s Soft Natural recommendations also work really well for me in this category. The best styles tend to show the waist through shaped seams or belting, or be more open and flowing to reveal the silhouette underneath. Anything too heavy, stiff, or geometric just never ended up being my go-to favorite. Kibbe is also a fan of textured fabrics as well, which is definitely something I’m also a fan of using for coats and jackets.

I think that, in general, I’ve probably learned the most about sewing techniques from coat and jacket making. The skill difference is definitely most apparent between my very first coat and what I was making by the end of the following year. Even though I live in a warmer climate, I still have the use for a mix of jacket and coat styles in my wardrobe. I do think that, overall, the coats and jackets I have made have gotten a decent amount of use, although looking back, I can definitely see where there were a few missteps and things I only wore a few times or hardly at all. I think that the important thing for me to do right now is to make a plan for coats and jackets moving forward, seeing what I really need, and focusing on making those items first before jumping into making more fun wardrobe pieces. Since most of my favorite or go-to coats and jackets have worn out over the years I should really focus on re-using those patterns or finding something similar to make some new replacements for things like a casual colorful blazer and a nice winter coat moving forward. Overall though, looking back at everything I’ve made in this category has really highlighted things that I like and things that I don’t like, and this should really help me focus my attentions on hopefully successful projects moving forward.


8 thoughts on “Sew, Wear Are They Now: Coats and Jackets

  1. Wow what a thoughtful analysis, I’ve made a few coats too, though mine tend to be simpler than yours. Although I do have a coldish climate I basically wear RTW outerwear mostly and not my homesewn coats – hmmm.

    The dressy coat I made for a wedding worked really well though – its McCalls 4394 and in what I think is an upholstery fabric.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s really interesting to see the progression of your coat making. I have made alot of jackets over the years but have yet to make an actual coat. I entered the sewing bee twice and while it was a great challenge, the rushed nature meant that the things I made didn’t get worn much afterwards.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Inspiring post, all the amazing creations over the years. Well done! Insightful reflections, you have me thinking about my wardrobe likes and dislikes, and why. Thanks for sharing your sewing journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love your “Sew, Wear Are They Now?” posts. They always get me thinking… (dangerous)! I know that this year has taught me that I crave clothing-comfort. My husband and I chuckle that jeans ‘just ain’t comfy’ anymore. (The item we used to crave putting on at the end of the workday…ha!) My, how things change…
    Interestingly, I’ve been wearing clothes (I made and dislike) because I don’t care if they get ruined by baby drool. (Yes, real life!) My husband has been telling me how much he likes these clothes. (WHAT?) Weird but true… And I never would have worn them in the before times!
    Can’t wait to see what you make next!

    Liked by 1 person

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