Hot! The “Empty Pockets” Vest

Just to let you know, my camera fell to the floor and broke as I began taking photos today, so the quality is even worse than usual.  Who knew that taking iPhone photos of yourself inside on a thunderstormy day would produce such grainy images?  (haha)  Ah well…at least I have an excuse to go out and buy that DSLR I’ve been wanting…..silver lining and all that.

Here’s where I prompt you to open up a new tab and listen to my inspiration for the week while you read:

The Facts

Fabric: Black linen and synthetic lining from stash
: Style 1983 from Mom
Year: 1980
Notions: none
Time to complete:  3 hours in fits and starts.  A lot longer than it should have, but I’ve only had snippets of time here and there.
First worn: August 2012
Wear again? Yes, once the weather cools down.  I can already feel it in the air.
Total price: Rien!


“…subsequently, and furthermore

I’ll sleep right here, on the draining board.

I’ll never be paroled.  I like to drink them while they’re cold.

All I’ve got is empty pockets, now.”

Tom Waits is a f***ing genius. Put on Hell Broke Luce, his latest release about 23 year old Iraq veteran Jeff Lucey, who killed himself after returning home from war suffering with PTSD and telling a story that conflicted with the official military reports.  Warning: definitely not suitable for work.

I know Tom’s not everyone’s cup of tea.  He’s one of those singer-songwriters who can write lyrics like no one’s business, but whose voice isn’t pitch perfect.  To use some Canadian Content for comparison, he’s a Leonard Cohen rather than a Celine Dion (shudder).  I’ve always been a lyrics-over-melody kind of music listener, so he’s MY cup of tea…..or more appropriately my cup of whiskey, so I knew immediately that I wanted to use Tom for my music inspiration.

Frank’s Wild Years is my hands-down favourite song, but I couldn’t really think of how to turn that into a garment, so I decided to go with album covers instead.  Rumpled T-shirt, hat, cigarette, vest.

I admit to wearing a lot of vests back in the ’90s.  Didn’t we all?  They have been off limits fashion-wise for the past 15 years or so, but I’ve been seeing a comeback.  So far I’ve only seen black, but it’s the thin edge of the wedge.  I’ll be happy as long as these beauties don’t creep back into style: appears they are.  Damn.

Anyway, I didn’t really want a men’s wear style (high back in lining fabric, low pointed front).  I wanted more of a short bolero vest to wear with skirts and dresses that hit the natural waist.  I found this old Style pattern of my mother’s, and when I opened it, she had cut the same style as I had chosen.  I used some black linen and some mystery synthetic lining from the stash.  I have no idea where either of these fabrics came from, so I’m assuming they were left-overs from some ancient project of mine or my mother’s and I’m calling it free.

There were no pockets in the pattern, and frankly, who puts anything in a vest pocket other than a fob watch?  But in keeping with the song Empty Pockets, it was simple enough to add a tiny patch pocket to the lining.

I’ll leave you with two final, blurry, iPhone out-take self portraits:  One with my attempt at a serious, moody Tom Waits-esque face….

…and then the real me.




Vicki used to sew when she was young and free, but then raising young'uns and bringing home (some of) the bacon took up all her time. Now her closet is full of skinny clothes, maternity clothes and post-partum clothes, none of which fit properly. Maybe that's why she started sewing again in 2010.


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  1. Oh for the love of all that is holy, please tell me those ridiculous cat vests are NOT real! Vicki, I love that you chose Tom Waits, he’s been a touchstone for me for more than half my life, along with Leonard Cohen. Your vest needs to have an inside pocket or two– where else will you stash your pack of smokes and flask? Well done, and you have inspired me to try adding a vest or two to my wardrobe this fall.

    • Unfortunately, those tapestry-style vests were a reality back during my early 20s….I remember lots of guys wearing those vests over white T-shirts (or sometime nothing. uck.)

      I’ve never smoked, but I do sometimes need somewhere to stash some candy. That’s my weakness. ;)

      • I remember them from the late ’80s and early ’90s on women, not so much on men. I can’t believe they’re coming back though– what’s next, parachute pants? Just because it’s “vintage” doesn’t mean it’s good…

  2. Yes, another black vest! I also made that tentative step back into the world of vests. Hoping I won’t regret it.

    • I know Erin! When I saw your post go up on Tuesday, I thought “Oops. I’m too late. Mine’s going to look exactly like Erin’s!”. Ah well; everyone needs a basic black vest. I can’t play the guitar like you, but I used to play the piano quite well (Conservatory exams up to grade 8), but I’ve let it slide for years now. I’d rather pick out songs on the keyboard with my kids while they bang out an improvised bass line (a.k.a. random noise).

  3. Oh no! The Sew Weekly gremlin strikes again! My camera also fell to the floor photographing a Sew Weekly challenge (my Song of the Sea blouse). It was a very sad day but Canon managed to fix it. I’m glad yours has a silver lining in terms of getting the camera you want ;-)

    I LOVE Tom Waits. There is something perfectly imperfect about his voice – he really means what he is singing about, which makes all the difference. I’m not so sure about the return of vests, but I did recently add one to my wardrobe, and yours really suits you. I think it’s one of my favourite of your outfits – it’s so different.

    And even that cat vest….well….men’s wardrobes could use a little interest ;-)

    • Thanks Leomomi – I was really hesitant about making a vest, because a lot of women my age are *still* wearing those awesome cat vests and I was afraid of being lumped into that group….

      I meant to tell you that I’ve had Iz on rotation since your Song of the Sea post – I’d forgotten how great his voice was.

  4. Oh Vicki, the cat vest is a little scary. Love the style of your bolero vest, it’s a great accent piece to a lot of different type of outfits. The iPhones set a good mood for the Watts.

    • Yeah, I guess graininess worked in this case, hunh? I don’t yet have a replacement camera, so I may skip this week / post late / resort to iPhone photos again!

      • Don’t skip, it really about the sewing journey. Blurred iPhoto’s And all. I finish posting my collar project last and I’m about have through the Children’s Book Challenge, ther lost of hand sewing involved so I will be busy on my lunch hours.

  5. Very well done and nostalgic to boot. I have fond memories of my corduroy vest and skirt I made back in the early eighties.

    • I had a corduroy set as well: burgundy straight skirt and vest with HUGE brass snaps (I didn’t make it though). I remember wearing it with a ruffly Little House on the Prairie style blouse and loving it.

  6. Ah Tom, my favourite drunkard along with Bukowski and Dorothy Parker. Love that you chose Tom, love the waistcoat, not too sure why people are so down on it, the tapestry vest! yeah sure hideous but the black or pinstripe…I guess it’s how you wear it.

    One of my favourite songs -Barn from Real Gone.

    Hope you get the DSLR you’ve been dreaming of.

  7. I LOVE THIS. And I love that you love Tom Waits. Have you heard the Cookie Monster do “God’s Away on Business”? Google it if you haven’t – you’ll love it. Love the vest with the little pocket tucked away on the inside! The cut is especially good – I like it much better than a long men’s vest. You are rocking the necktie as well :)

    • That Cookie Monster video was GREAT, and I forwarded it to all my cool friends (because the uncool ones wouldn’t get it!)
      I’m liking the tie too; I think I’ll wear them together with my wool trousers in the fall and pull an Annie Hall.