Last weekend I posted my first toile for Gus, made up from a 1940s Sports jacket pattern: Weldon 2253.
It wasn’t very good, as you can see below. But I had lots of confidence that I could work on the pattern to create a nice, vintage looking jacket for my boy.
Then I got this message from a professional tailor who makes up vintage menswear for the stage. Terri writes:
Well, I applaud your endeavours but….
I am a tailor and I think there are so many problems in the toile that you might want to start over with another pattern.
It helps when making a suit toile, to put some fusible interfacing in the fronts, as a finished jacket should have a chest canvas and some structure.
His shape is a challenge to fit, broad developed upped back with very sloping shoulders /built up trapezius which is one of the causes of the back skirt pulling up and fluting. Small waist and fairly narrow hips show in how much excess there is there in the toile.
You can see the diagonal pull lines from the neck point to the underarm, so not enough distance between these two points, and as you noted, the jacket is one size range smaller than he is.
The body shape of the average man of the 1930’s and 40’s is quite different from the modern young man’s shape.
I wouldn’t do anything with the sleeves until the body fits properly, and yes, having two sleeves in a toile will make a difference in assessing alterations. One sleeve does tend to pull the garment off to one side.
She advised me to jettison the pattern and start with a more modern one – one more suited to a contemporary young man. I have a nice Burda pattern (7406) that I have tried before, that I could certainly revisit. But I nevertheless wanted to see if I could tamper with the vintage pattern to get a better fit, without losing the essentially historic feel.
In the meantime Mary Funt and Manuela also offered their incomparable professional advice, including suggestions for better patterns, and a range of invaluable resources. If you follow either of them on Cloning Couture or Artisan’s Square (Manuela) you will know that they both produce the most exquisite garments, and they seriously know what they are talking about. I am so lucky to have met both of them in real life, and I am always grateful for any feedback or advice I am offered.
But I felt a little bit deflated.
I though – I’ll give it a try. I made some adjustments that I thought might help. I took a picture of the jacket, worn by Camilla, my size 12 ladies’ mannequin. And I posted it on Instagram with the message
“Second toile for my son’s 1940 jacket. Lots of serious tailors on my blog saying the project is doomed. Oh dear. Let’s try it on @GusOne and see how it looks”
I wasn’t looking for sympathy or encouragement. But Marilla Walker cheered me up “Nothing would make me more determined than someone saying it’s doomed. You go for it!”. Then Vera Venus joined in too “Ditto what Marilla Walker said!”. Please don’t take sides. I love the pure enthusiasm and cheerleading and I love the expert advice.
Gus tried on Toile #2, which is better than it was. Significant issues, however, remain, especially in the front upper chest. I will have a go at correcting them and then take a view. The thing is, even with Burda 7406, it will need altering to fit Gus with his overlarge trapezius muscles (!), broad chest and slim waist.
For the third toile I will
- add even more width across the front chest
- try to do something about the pull from the front neck (using Terri the Tailor’s advice)
- deepen the armhole by about half an inch
- increase the shoulder slope
- buy some firmer, larger shoulder pads
- bring back the waist shaping (I had more or less removed it from the back, but Gus liked it)
Discussion of the style
Gus asked if I could narrow the lapels and turn it into a two button jacket. And get rid of the pockets.
I said not really as then it would be a modern jacket and I would, as Terri and others suggested, be better off with a modern pattern. We talked about this as being a vintage jacket and how it would be unique and different. Personally I feel this jacket, if I can improve the fit, will suit Gus rather well, and flatter his figure.
Between Gus, the professionals and the enthusiasts, I feel this jacket is a bit of a minefield. With pattern cutting, fitting and sewing I can be fearless – I will often give something a go. If it doesn’t work out what has it cost me? A few hours of my time and some cheap calico? I find I learn quite alot, even when something doesn’t work out. I am having lots of fun. Bear with me. One more toile. If it doesn’t look good I will go back to Burda.