The ‘Win in Black and White’ jacket

For your listening enjoyment, the title of this post comes from ‘Run Runaway‘ (the lyrics actually say “Dream in Black and White”, but I like to sing my own version).  I’ve linked to the Great Big Sea cover rather than the Slade original, because everything is better done by Great Big Sea. For another song, I kinda have to share ‘Loyal‘, a Kiwi classic that comes up whenever anyone wants to evoke a deluge of nationalism and sporting fervour (or, more accurately, shame the athletes who have decided to go abroad for more money fervour).

Just the facts, Ma’am:

Fabric: 3ish metres of mostly acrylic, slightly wool blend, 3ish metres of mallard teal acetate lining, both inherited from Nana

Pattern: Advance 4916.

Year: 1949

Notions: 3 white plastic buttons (inherited from Nana), thread, 1 metre interfacing ($9)

Hours: 8

Make again?  Probably – but in much better fabric.

First worn: Wednesday for a photoshoot and to teach a class.

Wear again? Yes, with slight reservations, and more as an indoor jacket.

Total cost: $9

Dear Readers, it may come as no surprise to you that I’m not much of a sports follower. Up until a decade ago I couldn’t give a fig about the Olympics, and my grasp of other sports was ‘the one with the ball with hexagons’ vs ‘the one with the pointy ball’ vs. ‘the one with the hard little ball’.

Then I came to NZ, and met Mr D. NZ is really into athletics. Mr D is really into athletics. Partly out of a desire to fit with my adopted culture, partly out of proximity to Mr D, and partly out of self defense, I now know a lot about sports.

Or, to be more precise, I know a lot about 3.5 specific kinds of sports: cricket, rugby (both league & union – hence the .5), and running. I’m still pretty vague on that sport with the pointy ball and the yard lines, or that one where they stand around and don’t hit the hard little ball with a round stick a lot.

There is no cricket or rugby in the Olympics (though Rugby 7s has been added to the 2016 lineup), but one of the best runners in the world is a Kiwi, and all the Kiwi athletes will be wearing uniforms that have their basis in the garb worn by the first NZ rugby team to tour England: the 1905 All Blacks, so called “by reason of their sable and unrelieved costume.”

The original All Blacks probably wore all black because it was cheap and looked tidy even when it was dirty, but they started a pretty awesome tradition of wearing black and white (and occasionally silver for the fern emblazoned on the uniforms) and naming the team after the uniform colours. The national Rugby Union team (current world champions) is still the All Blacks, the soccer team (the one that was the only undefeated in the 2010 World Cup) is the All Whites, the cricket team is the Black Caps, the field hockey teams are the Black Sticks Men & Women, and the badminton team would have been the Black Cocks if the IBF hadn’t shown a distinct lack of humour and disregard for a longstanding national tradition and vetoed it.

It’s a fantastic tradition : it’s hard not to look chic and elegant in black and white, giving Kiwi athletes a distinct sartorial advantage on the field (and really, even though I now know some of the technicalities, I only watch the Olympics to comment on the uniforms).

So, in honour of the Kiwi athletes in London this year and the seven Kiwi athletes who travelled to the last London Olympics in 1948 by boat (the formal wear of the 2012 NZ Olympians is a direct homage to their attire) and in honour of the glory days of NZ rugby, when rugby really was a home-grown sport, and the All Blacks were not professional athletes but farmers and businessmen who trained by lugging bales of wool, I’ve made a late 1940s swing coat in black and white tartan out of Advance 4916.

Advance 4916

It’s the sort of thing I imagine a fashionable supporter at the 1948 Olympics wearing, or, the same woman a few years later (hey, NZ was a bit behind the times sartorially speaking) wearing on the sidelines during the famous 1956 Springbok tour of New Zealand.

For my photoshoot we went to the Basin Reserve: the Wellington cricket grounds, and also home to the NZ Cricket Museum. The Basin Reserve also serves as a sort of glorified roundabout: with all the traffic from the CBD going out to the suburbs flowing around it.  It’s a gorgeous setting: old bleachers in an Art Deco building, newer bleachers in a dreadful 1980s building, sloping hills where people sit and have picnics during cricket games, a little classically inspired pagoda, and all of it fringed by pohutakawa trees.  The awesomest thing is that when there aren’t games on you can just wander through it.  People use it as a shortcut on their walk too and from work, and kids hang out on the hills and treat it like a park.  It’s not often that you can just wander through a major stadium or athletic ground at will!

Unfortunately for our photoshoot they were in the midst of re-doing the field, so it was a bit dug up and muddy rather than serene and green, and there was a distinct smell of fertilizer in the air.  We spent a lot of time wrinkling our noses and giggling rather than taking pictures.  On the bright side, after days of rain the sun peeped out and gave us some glorious light for the shoot.

The jacket isn’t quite right: I meant it to be a stunt version of the pattern, so I used the cheap nasty acrylic fabric. I didn’t quite have enough, so the back pieces are cut off grain, which is doing terrible things to the hang of the coat. I had to omit the cuffs because I didn’t have enough fabric left. And I want to play with the sizing of the jacket on my next version. So there are things to be tweaked. But I’m generally happy with the jacket, and inordinately pleased with my bound pockets (do you know how hard it is to get perfect bound pockets in acrylic? hard), and the lining.

Because really, a brilliantly mallard green lining makes everything better!

So, here is to black and white, and copper and silver and gold!  Here’s to the Kiwi athletes doing my little adopted country proud!   (and here’s to the marathon of this jacket FINALLY being done!)

Author

Leimomi Oakes - The Dreamstress

Leimomi Oakes learned to sew as a child in Hawaii, and hasn't spent a day without doing it in the-more-years-than-she-would-like-to-admit-to since. When she was 18 she was nicknamed 'The Dreamstress' and bought the domain name, and now she's stuck with it. After getting degrees in Art History, Costume Design and International Relations she worked in a number of fabulous museums before going freelance as a textile and fashion historian and historical seamstress. She lives in Wellington New Zealand with a lovely husband and a world-famous cat.

16 Comments

  1. Stunning, as always!

  2. This is beautiful..Love the black and whitel.. Looks great on you.

  3. Great photos, I’d wear that jacket for us!

  4. You look terrific in that jacket. In the pics it looks very expensive, and well made. I certainly can’t tell that it’s made from cheaper fabric. Your photos are really lovely and add to the regal look of the jacket. Interesting story about the Kiwi’s. Thank you!

  5. Loved reading this post. And I love it when you link to songs for us to listen to while reading. I popped over to see the band singing that song on YouTube and thought, “this must be from the ’90s” when I saw their hair and attire. But maybe it’s much more recent if NZ is truly that far behind the curve! :) Great coat. It would be fabulous in wool, wouldn’t it?

    • Thank you!

      Great Big Sea isn’t a NZ band – they are from Newfoundland. And it’s definitely a ’90s song. Loyal dates from ’88 (and Dobbby’s sweater from ‘please burn it now’), though it was the anthem for NZ’s 2003 America’s Cup defense.

      These days NZ is actually a little ahead of the fashion curve – stuff shows up at NZ fashion week, and then 6 months later, on the European catwalks for the same season (inverted seasons).

  6. Gorgeous Jacket Leimomi, she works well with your new skirt. Love reading your posts.

  7. You know I never really paid attention to such jacket patterns because I prefer tailored jackets but this looks really good on you. Such a nice vintage silhouette. And I agree with Barbara – it looks expensive and well-made in the pics. And the green lining is terrific.

    • Thank you! I understand what you are saying about the silhouette. I used to prefer much more form-fitting jackets, but I’ve come around to volume. There is such a casual elegance and sophistication to a good swing jacket. It says ‘I don’t need to show off my body to know I look great’. I’m a convert! I still love my ‘fitted to within an inch’ stuff though. ;-)

  8. I think the jacket looks great, love the lining! That pattern is fabulous, wouldn’t mind making one in red for myself : ) I’m also loving these little bits of NZ history. I can’t WAIT to see what you do with this pattern next!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *