The “50s Does 20s” Jacket

The Facts
Fabric: Two yards x 60″ aqua double from an estate sale, $2.00
Pattern: McCall 1524 from SCRAP, $0.50
Year: 1950 pattern; vintage (1970s?) fabric
Notions: Ribbon $3.00; button supplies ~$0.15
Time to complete: I’m going to say 23 hours, but I’m sure it was more.
Sewing soundtrack: Dirty on Purpose and the Distillers
First worn: Today
Wear again: Maybe?
Total cost: $5.65

A few years ago, I was watching The House of Eliott. It’s a BBC show from the early 1990s. Set in 1920s London, two orphaned and (initially) broke sisters, the Eliotts, become couturiers. Someone must have recommended it to me, because while it sounds vaguely like something I might watch if bored, I’m really not at all into the 20s. Most of the clothing in the show is, well, not exactly ugly, but certainly not anything I would want to wear or make for myself. But there were a few things I liked.

One of those things was a jacket Evie (the younger of the two sisters) wears a few times toward the end of the first season. Unfortunately, by the time this challenge rolled around, I had logically forgotten what episode(s) the jacket appeared in (and since the show is so old, I suppose, there aren’t many pictures online, either). So I rewatched it all. The jacket wound up being in the 32nd of 34 episodes (I did the first season last; I was sure it was in season two), and I almost gave up so many times–especially since Evie, I had forgotten, spends about 98 percent of the show being an insufferable brat. It got really hard for me to watch at times.

Due to the unfitted nature of the garment, I was looking forward to cutting out my fabric without grading and redrafting all the pattern pieces for once. (No, of course I was not going to cut the original pattern, either. But a simple trace is a lot easier than all that other stuff.) But then I got out my intended fabric and realized I had a yard less than what the pattern called for. So I slimmed the pattern down quite a bit, especially the sleeves (I’m glad for this, honestly–if I’d left them as is, I think I’d be able to get my entire torso inside). It’s still pretty voluminous; while I do really like the finished jacket, I still can’t help but feel a little bit like I’m wearing a maternity garment. You see?

So, the construction was a breeze. (The fabric is knit, but very stable, and I didn’t need or want it to stretch at all, so I treated it just like a woven–worked a charm.) All the tracing and cutting and machine sewing took maybe three hours of easy going. But you’ll recall that I said this thing took twenty-three hours to complete (which is, I’m sure, a conservative estimate. I don’t even want to think about what it’d be if I included all the time spent rewatching the show so I could screencap the jacket). Yeah, those other twenty hours were all sewing on the ribbon trim. Just under three yards, all sewn with tiny, invisible stitches, by hand. This is what Evie would have wanted. (In fact, she probably would’ve insisted that the entire body of the garment be sewn by hand, too. Totally unyielding. …And, when I look at her jacket more closely, I wonder if that’s not actually embroidery adorning hers, rather than ribbon. I hope not. Nobody should have to embroider that much.)

I knew this would take a while, but I had no idea it would take such a while. Fortunately, the Dorset buttons–my first attempt–did take much less time than I’d expected, but still not enough. I thought I’d have this finished and ready to wear on Monday. I did almost nothing else in my free time this week, and I just wrapped it up last night.

I can’t believe I spent so much time on something I don’t know if I’ll ever wear again.

A couple more detail photos, because I am pleased with it. It’s just really not me.

You can’t see in my screencaps, but Evie’s cuffs have the trimming, too.

Evie again. You can see her trim and buttons a lot better here.

My trim and buttons. (I thought about putting another set at the collar, but I’d never fasten it there.)

Author

Z.

Z. has, much to her surprise, been sewing since 2007. She lives in Portland, Oregon, and uh 1955-fantasy-land. In addition to sewing, she likes words, music, and old things. Her life is a story.

12 Comments

  1. The jacket is gorgeous! I think it looks lovely on you. I like the way it skims the figure. Lovely , lovely buttons and trim. And a great phone!Thanks for persevering.

  2. Awesome job! I’ve never see this show. I’ll have to look it up now! Well done!

  3. Oh I adore House of Elliot, I’ve been desperate to rewatch it since starting seeing but unfortunately haven’t been able to find a way yet in the USA….I wish Netflix had it. I’ve got it on my wishlist of dvds for friends & family to buy me from England (I have region 2 dvd players as well as 1). If anyone knows how to still view I’d love to know….and any Downton Abbey fans would love it, the fashions are spectacular! As are your buttons Z, wow! LOve them and the fit. Beautiful.

    • Hi, Tempest… The copies I had were just from the library here. Catalog info says they were put out in the US by a company called Acorn Media, in 2005/6. Maybe they’re still available to buy?
      As to the buttons, I think they wound up being my favorite. Thanks.

  4. Hey Z, great to see you post again. Love how you pulled details from the inspiration and made it your own.

  5. I love HOE myself and the fashions they started to create when they were more well know were amazing. I am blown away at that button you made it looks so difficult. I have seen instructions for those and think now maybe I should try one you did so well! Sewing by hand that trim I bet was rewarding I like doing touches like that myself. Nan

    • Thank you! The buttons were not so bad to make; give them a try. I had a few false starts, but then they were quite enjoyable. I actually put the back side forward, too, which is why they look different from the more wagon wheel-type you usually see.

  6. I think this looks great! That color is very pretty and the hand-sewn ribbon and buttons are such nice touches.

  7. Wow! I love all the detail in this coat. That show is one of my alll time favorites. You did a fine job of creating this piece to look exactly like that era.

  8. This is lovely – what a colour. Good choice of button placement

  9. I clicked through all your sewing posts, and I have learned one important thing: Feeling like SCRAP might have something for my new sewing hobby was right on the mark . Love that place. I am going tomorrow!

    • Yep, SCRAP’s definitely always a good stop for sewing supplies. Maybe not the best if you’re looking for something specific… but I always come away with something, anyway. (If you’re into vintage sewing things, try Knittn’ Kitten, too, on 78th and Glisan–they’re great.)
      Thanks for looking through everything!

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