Vogue 1977 Late summer jacket – the pocket challenge

As you may remember I am making a linen jacket, based on this wonderful 1937 Chanel jacket, modeled here by Coco herself. I am using a 1990s Vogue pattern by Ungaro – Vogue 1977 – which is not a perfect match (the collar and darting in particular), but it works well enough.

Chanel was a woman who knew how to accessorise.

In the marvellous photos below, taken in her Paris apartment, Coco Chanel wears an interesting hair band. Her widow’s peak is emphasised as her hair is pulled back and decorated with a bowed, black satin ribbon.  Her earrings are round and bold, floral, with a large pearl lighting up the middle. She wears more than one necklace – one that includes pearls, or maybe poppers; another is basically a chain with various attachments. The jacket is embellished with two brooch clips that look like little hands. On her wrists she wears bulky plastic (or maybe ivory) bangles, with a chain bracelet, and cigarette. But the nicest accessory of the lot is unobtrusive and really perfect. Have you spotted it?

It is the handkerchief she has popped into her top right hand jacket pocket. This detail is borrowed from menswear, but in this case is utterly feminine and beguiling. And it draws the eye to the tremendous pockets, which is what this jacket is all about. Despite their origins in work or military wear, on this jacket the four pockets are essentially decorative. The upper pair are slightly slanted upwards giving a sassy look.

I have been staring at these images for a few days now. Just like the Napoleon Six challenge I have been trying to interpret a look from a few photographs. Oh for a technical drawing, even if I can’t have the pattern!

I enjoy interpreting vintage or modern designer photographs, working out how the garment was made. While I have got a basic jacket constructed, the key element of this Coco jacket is the pockets – four patch pockets artfully placed and beautifully attached. They have an unusual, stand out quality to them and I assure you they are not easy to interpret.

The lower pockets are short and rather wide, wrapping around the side body, but standing proud and slightly open at the top. The effect is to create a little width at the hips, making the waist appear smaller. The upper pockets are widely spaced too, almost covering the breast and creeping under the arm. These pockets are soft, not interfaced, probably applied by hand. Pattern cutter Jay helpfully wrote:

I’m seeing the Chanel jacket as fairly unstructured. There’s shaping, but it doesn’t read as having the typical array of inner canvas pieces. My favourite features in it are the pockets (quite soft, bluffed on), the high buttoning with rounded revers and collar, and waist shaping…Bluffed on is just the way of stitching patch pockets from inside the pocket, but now I think about it Chanel probably hand sewed them on – either way without top stitching. Isn’t the top pocket interesting, both for position and shape?

I wish Jay was here to help me with this task, both the pattern cutting and the bluffing (lovely word). And thank you to Annie, and Elle and others who have given me pocket advice. I love the tip from Make it Anywhere – to make sure your pockets match stitch them both together with a basting stitch, turn and press. The pressing marks ensure that you have identical pockets!

Having got the jacket made to the extent of setting the sleeves in (but as yet unhemmed), no shoulder pads, unlined and unbuttoned, I auditioned several pockets.

Firstly I used pattern paper, running back and forth to consult the photos. I tried various sizes, depths, widths and angles. I pinned them on and gazed at my efforts. Eventually I made up pocket toiles in white cotton and pinned these in place. I then, second picture, tried on the jacket with the pinned pocket shapes (and my son’s swimming shorts…). At this stage I was feeling a bit exasperated, mainly because my jacket has a narrower front than the original. As you know my husband is a bit of an expert is wardrobe design! So I got him to consider the proportions and give me a second opinion. The original pockets were discussed at length. Nick even screen shot and magnified the photos and peered at them intently. At this point we admitted  my jacket is rather different to Chanel’s – my buttoning is less high and  I have two prominent darts in the front which I owe to Ungaro. So, inevitably, (like the colour) it is a compromise.

I have decided to have the lower pocket standing away from the jacket, lining it up with the grain of the jacket. Looking at my photograph above I think the pocket may need to be shallower. You can see the sleeves are rather long – deliberately so – I am hoping to unbutton them and fold them back to create the cuff similar to the one you see in the Chanel picture.

Jay and Annie both suggested bluffing my pockets on. This involves machine sewing them on from the inside – it is not a technique I had even heard of before. And while Annie suggests it is easier than it looks and sounds, I went with the hand stitched option. Although the stitches are obvious I like the effect. Now all I have to do is line the jacket and do the buttons/holes. I am thinking dark brown rather than black, and maybe getting some 1937 (or thereabouts) buttons.

Vogue 1977
With pockets (and loose threads) attached

I hope to be wearing this very soon!

How do you feel about colour or style advice?

posted in: Colour Analysis | 35

There are some people who like feedback and information about their performance at work, or how they are doing as a parent. I am one of them – provided the feedback and critique is offered in a kind way.  I feel I can learn a lot from how others see and perceive me.  But many people – probably the majority – do not really appreciate a critique of their behaviour or appearance. Even a polite request to not talk loudly in the Quiet Carriage of the train, or to please prevent their children running around in an art exhibition, are treated as an unacceptable violation of our freedoms.

So any kind of feedback – at work, to family and friends and to strangers – needs to be very carefully posed. It can only really help us when it is aimed to help us, rather than put us down.  But most especially in matters of style and dress I would always move with great caution. While I can’t help thinking certain things (inevitably having been trained as a colour and style analysis ), I have to be exceptionally careful not to offer gratuitous advice eg your hair colour is really too deep and has an aging effect. Some people really want a trained eye and a second opinion, but many people are perfectly happy with their image and style and I wouldn’t dream of challenging that. Ceci writes:

I always enjoy these color posts…..so fun to imagine starting over with the right colors! I suspect actually doing it would require some self discipline.

When I do a colour consultation I offer my client the information on what I believe is their best colour palette but I always try very hard to help them see for themselves the impact of my choices and opinions. As they look at themselves in the mirror most people can appreciate, with their own eyes, that some colours enhance their colouring and others do not. Usually they then wish to replicate this effect. The best (let’s not say “right” Ceci!) colours will take away shadows and make any lines and wrinkles less visible. They will calm a reddened complexion, brighten a sallow one, make your eyes look whiter and your skin tone fresher. This is not hyperbole – I have seen it hundreds of times and the best shades just make a person look younger and healthier.

Sometimes my advice conflicts with people’s personal opinion. I find this comes from three places.

  1. But I love mustard!

Firstly we all have a range of colours we like. I really love the terracotta, peach, light orange, ballet shoe pink shades. I also love strong, vibrant orange! But these warm, yellowy shades don’t suit me nearly as much as the bluer, purpley reds and pinks. If I try an orangey lipstick it really looks nasty, whereas even purple looks quite acceptable (although a bit much for everyday). I therefore avoid wearing coral, tan and orange but I find other ways to use them in my life. My logo at work for example is an energetic, youthful orange and I love it.

2. Half my wardrobe is navy!

The second reason why people reject certain advice is that they have got used to wearing a certain colour – for example black – even though it is not their best colour. Again I usually try to show the impact of black on their complexion. In short when we are doing colour analysis we are looking for naturally occurring colouring in the face/hair/eyes. Black hair is sometimes nearly black (or very dark brown) and people with this feature will generally look good in black and should consider it as their best (but not only) neutral. Usually they will look just as good in the darkest navy, charcoal and brown and sometimes choosing these shades is more exciting and stylish than black. But they will look sensational in black.

On the other hand a very fair or red-haired person will rarely look their best in black. But sometimes we want to wear black and why not?

Although I feel Nicole Kidman looks better in lighter shades, she also looks sensational in a black dress.  Her darker make up (lipstick, blusher, eye shadow and mascara), worn with silver jewellery support the icy look she is cultivating and she absolutely gets away with it.  However I think she looks even more wonderful in lighter colours. Actresses have personal stylists, make up professionals and hairdressers that help them change their look and image as they take on different roles. And models will be chosen for a range of reasons and sometimes they are paid to model clothes which markedly conflict with their natural colouring and the clothes works well in terms of impact.

3. I would never wear lemon!

But the third and most important one is we probably don’t want to be wrong. We don’t want to be told what to do. We may think this colour analysis stuff is like crystals or homeopathy – hocus pocus for the gullible.

In fact change of any sort involves loss, and generally calls forth resistance. This is why learning new things is hard and can be scary. We don’t necessarily want to change our opinion. This is why most of us struggle with criticism which is often perceived as an attack.

So when I give colour and style advice I always try to show how someone can suit say emerald-green rather than pea green, or ochre rather than lemon. All colours are available to all of us but there are usually better and less good versions. When I am showing people colours they often say – I never wear yellow, or I don’t think I have any pink in my wardrobe. And I usually reply – this shade of that colour suits you and maybe you could try it? When I first took advice on what colours suited me two were put forward as being “flattering” for my cool-light-bright direction – lemon and mauvey-pink. I had never worn either of these shades and didn’t instinctively gravitate to them. But I went into my local charity shop and pulled out a couple of second-hand t-shirts and blouses and, in exchange for a few quids, took them home to try. And now both these shades have a place in my wardrobe.

The issue I find often is that many people restrict their wardrobe to just a few colours they feel confident with. A colour analysis can open your eyes to new colours that you may not have considered before.

So back to Ceci’s point – I offer advice for those that want and welcome it – but only when asked or specifically commissioned. I trust the process I use, and my own eye, but at the end of the day the information is only what you want to make of it. Some people (me included) do this with conviction and never wear the less flattering colours again (I admit I have black underwear and a pair of trainers). Having a wardrobe full of cool palette items means everything coordinates and blends together nicely. No discipline needed. I do have one peach dress which I wear occasionally.

Others just change the emphasis a little, or gradually.

Late summer jacket; adapting Vogue 1977

When I decided to make a version of a 1937 Chanel jacket I covet,  I chose a “modern” (1997) pattern as my starting point.

The best thing would have been to draft a pattern from scratch, using my personal blocks and working carefully to create all the design features I love in this jacket. Another idea would have been to start with a vintage pattern from the era and make changes to that. In the end I went for the 1997 Ungaro pattern. It is somewhat dated, of course, but it is a well drafted, old-fashioned, fairly classic, but relatively simple unlined jacket without lots of tailoring, padding or structure and I thought it had a “feel” of the original. By the 1990s the pattern companies were creating easy to construct items that were not yet fully dumbed down (as I feel a number of modern patterns are).

The punch line is I really, really enjoyed making this jacket. A nice straightforward pattern, clear instructions and a really quick process. They suggested using nylon knitted fusible interlining throughout, except for the sleeves. I didn’t do this. I only interfaced the collar and facings, and I am so glad I didn’t over structure the jacket. It is fairly firm anyway, as a result of using a meium weight inen fabric. The dying project adds body too (I have always found this – do you agree?). The collar (with a stand, an upper and lower collar with slightly different dimensions so that the seam is hidden perfectly) is nice. The cuff is well designed and straightforward while also requiring proper button holes. Just a great pattern.

Of course to get it to look more like Coco’s surgery was required.

  • I reduced the length of the jacket by 3 inches to take away that 1990s look
  • I recurved the hem to resemble the 1937 jacket
  • I slimmed it down through the waist and torso by relying on the size 6 or 8 cutting lines (I mainly made up the size 10)
  • The front bust darting on V1977 is rather distinctive – two long shaped darts and a little easing at the side seam. I thought about this for a while. Chanel has one short underbust dart in her jacket, but I left the darts in. I wanted to see how they came out. They get the bust fullness into exactly the right place – giving a blouse-like quality to the jacket.
  • I redrew the button positions increasing from three to four and placing them, more or less, as on the Coco jacket
  • I knew the sleeves would be too long for me, but left them as designed (regulation length!) so I could fold them back
  • I didn’t cut out the collar or pockets initially as I knew I would want to toile them. To do this I use a firm cotton or calico and attach the piece with a basting stitch.
  • When I toiled the original collar I just really liked it on me and felt the proportions were right. It isn’t that similar to Coco’s but I thought her slightly oversized collar (and very high break) might look a bit weird on me.
    Vogue 1977 Ungaro collar
    Toiling the collar

So in summary by retaining two of the original Ungaro features – front darts and collar – I have a hybrid look. But one I really liked. I may make a further jacket and change the collar and dart to make it even more similar to the inspiration picture. This would also give me a chance to produce a lighter pink jacket, or maybe white or light taupe/stone/grey instead.

The sewing instructions rely on flat felled seams throughout with decorative top stitching (nooo!). The armholes and various other seams are bound with bias binding. Vogue suggest covering the shoulder pads (mine are grey!) in the lining fabric and attaching them.  I will be lining the jacket (I am sure Coco would have lined hers) with the pink viscose I dyed simultaneously dyed.

Once I have done the collar and sleeves I will have to tackle the patch pockets: Chanel has four whereas Ungaro has just two. I am not very good at patch pockets and always find the construction problematic. I will leave them until the whole jacket is made so I can get the size, shape and placement right. Then it will be a matter of adding the shoulder pads, lining and button holes. Give me a week.

Elizabeth Zimmerman yoked sweater knit along – the stunning results

I have been waiting, with a huge sense of excitement, to reveal the results of the knitalong.

First let’s start with Sue Stoney. Sue is a master knitter, and highly productive across a range of craft interests. I love her blog and her work. I met Sue in the flesh last year and she really is the kind of person you would love to have as a friend. Open, generous, funny and creative.  A true artist and expert she created a pattern in the yoke (having quite enough colour in the sweater itself). I love how she got her sleeves to coordinate and the jumper is roomy enough to wear over other clothes for walks or camping. My only disappointment was that she didn’t pair this with her lime green flared cords (only joking – her grey skinnies are perfect!). All the details of her experience on her blog, of course, over in Perth, Australia.

Sue in her Opal Fruits EZ sweater

Karen @super77karen is based in Scotland (I think), and is a very witty person. She chose a grey yarn, although she swears this is a departure from her usual colour, which is navy. “I am navy, with navy, accented with a spot of navy. I’m a bit colour clueless. Mostly I would like to look invisible, but a bit stylish”. While she shied away from doing the colourwork, she did consider a band of light grey at one point. She nevertheless created a really nice jumper. She says her’s is “the polar opposite of Sue Stoney’s ‘fabulous, joyful sweater'” (above). Karen isn’t quite sure she has finished yet, but wanted to be included in this post. She is thinking about the ribbing at the neck and if she should redo it (why? it looks fine to me!). She is planning to leave the cuff and hem unfinished, allowing a little roll. But she is not finally decided. I think this is a nice finish and want to try it myself at some point. She worked really hard on those underarm seams, providing five close up shots on her instagram account (she only has 18 posts overall). She said that the “current, underarm, fresh air arrangement is quite comfortable” and I think she has done brilliantly.

Karen’s blue-grey-green EZ yoke sweater

Now let me introduce you to Felicia. She is an intermediate knitter from Vancouver, Canada – very able but needing a little reassurance. I was so glad to be able to show her how to do an EZ “make one”. She also found a great solution to the neckline by increasing less than every other stitch on the final round. Well done Felicia. I know you are pleased with your jersey. I would be too. I really like the way the decreases become a simple but dramatic design feature. I also love the garter stitch finishes at neck, hem and cuff. She is already making progress on a second one!

Felicia in her beautifully simple sweater

Helene, who is also in Canada, is another expert knitter. She also sews wonderful clothes and has excellent taste. She is kind, generous and active on Instagram. Here is her lovely sweater. You can’t go wrong with the primary colours – red, yellow and blue – but the touch of toffee really gives an extra bit of interest. The moss or seed stitch and red edging also shows a woman very confident of her style. Lovely work!

Helene at home

The next one has never been seen before on the internet, but it is a beauty. Michelle writes “the interaction and involvement have been fun…it’s interesting to see people’s different interpretations – I’ve stuck fairly closely to the original”. I just love this sweet pink sweater which I know will be fun to wear with so many different skirts and trousers. I think Michelle’s colour scheme is great. She has used just two colours with her pink – a deeper red and white. The combination of deep, medium and light is always successful and she looks so pretty in this shade of pink with her gorgeous grey hair, don’t you think?

And one from me. It actually looks better with jeans than gym kit, but I love this. I am not sure about the neckline which doesn’t really work – the pattern is a little light for a hem finished edge, but I am leaving it like that for now and may go back to it. I have worn this jumper alot as it is both neutral and lively. Personally I love the strong teal, with the red and lemon – but I think the red needs to be more dominant and defined. Nevertheless it came out nice and I am enjoying it. I really like the strong line around the shoulders – reminiscent of all the off the shoulder and Bardot style tops that are in the shops at the moment, without the embarrassing slippage or bra strap reveal.

Kate in beige EZ colourwork yoke sweater
Kate in beige EZ colourwork yoke sweater

We have more sweaters in the works. I am looking forward to hearing from Giorgia, Maggie and Kerry. There will be a part two to this post. One or two lovely people are thinking about it – Kim, Helen, Nina, Shelagh, even Lois who gave me the idea of a knit along! If you would like to make something like this – really it is not difficult, everyone even beginners managed it, and it is fun to knit – here are the instructions.

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

Late summer jacket – getting to the right shade of pink

I am looking for a medium weight pure linen, in pink that is both very light in shade, and cool (blue undertones). For a summer jacket.

I have found lots of nice smokey pinks, shell pinks and bright pinks. And even a few good (for me) pinks in blouse weights. McCullough and Wallis has a heavy “jacket” linen in pink, and I dropped into examine it. It has a nice weight and I liked the colour, but it was too grey in reality. And, as Jenny suggested there is nice one at Merchant and Mills – third picture. I think this one might be a bit peachy – it’s always hard to tell on a screen, but my experience of linen tells me that the underlying yellowness will come through if the fabric is not first bleached. As ever, even when you make your own clothes it is a compromise – I found nice light greys and other neutrals, and a light jacket in taupe or stone would be very useful, but I still had a desire for pink.

So I considered getting the right weight in white and dying it.

Simply Fabrics of Brixton had some pure white heavy linen that I planned to buy. But when I got there I realised it was probably more suitable as a furnishing fabric. Luckily Leo located  some lighter weight white linen, and a couple of metres of white viscose lining. As you probably know, because viscose is made from cotton it dyes in a similar way. I wanted to be able to dye the lining and fashion fabric together.

The next thing was to take advice from my friend and dye expert Marijana of Sew2Pro. Marijana often makes wonderful clothes in inexpensive plain cotton and then dyes the garment. Although I love the dying process I have only ever done it in a bucket or a sink – by hand. I have got fairly even, but not perfect, results. When hand dying I put the garment in the machine at the end and it does get rid of the remaining dye, and often evens it out. Marijana swears by the washing machine method. Have you ever tried it? I had of course wanted to, but my husband was against it, believing that some residue would remain and would ruin his shirts or whatever. And as dye stains permanently, and in its powdered state it is very concentrated, you can probably understand Nick’s anxieties.

In our conversation Marijana was very reassuring. She said that if it dyes your next load they give you your money back (£3.89??), “or a new washing machine or something”. And that she hadn’t believed it either, but that she had done it many times. So I ordered the dye, and the salt (which is just salt really), and washed my 4 metres of fabric to remove any finishes. I didn’t consult my husband I just did it!

You put the powder in the bottom of the washing machine drum, and cover it with the salt, then you put in the clean damp fabric. With the 4 metres I had more than the package suggested could be successfully dyed (one pair of trousers). It suggests if you are dying a duvet cover two packs are needed. I figured my two fabrics were about equal to one duvet cover but decided to risk it. I was after a light pink so I hoped this would work for me.

I glanced inside the machine while it was dying. (Observant readers will know what I was wearing that day!) It looked fairly pink. A fact that was confirmed when the fabric came out. I laid it, damp, on the floor and while the process was very successful – strong, non-streaky look – I think the colour is a bit deep. Even after drying off in the sunshine it is a shade or two deeper than I had planned. All the pinks in these photos are different, as is the light, and none of them is “true”. The viscose is a little deeper than the linen. Even though I wanted very light pink, I much prefer these to the yellowy Merchant and Mills, and the muted MacCulloch and Wallis.

I now have two options. Procure or produce some lighter pink linen (I am sure the lining would be OK) or use this medium pink – which is a colour I like very much. But it may be a bit too pink and girly for a work jacket. Although men do still wear pink shirts sometimes they seem to be out of fashion at the moment.  If I used half a packet on the same amount of fabric I might get the colour I want. But it takes all day and four cycles on your machine – washing the fabric, dying the fabric, washing out the dye and washing out the washing machine. Then drying and pressing the fabric. As I haven’t toiled the jacket I might just go for it and see what happens. Sometimes I spend so much time trying for just the exact right shape, colour, design etc and then end up disappointed in some way.

Have you ever tried to get a colour you want by dyeing?

Andrew Wyeth, his New Zealand sweater and my efforts

This story starts with Andrew Wyeth one of the most famous American artists who died a few years ago. His most well known 1948 painting – Christina’s world – depicts his disabled neighbour crawling towards a house. It’s an extremely well know picture and I admit to liking his work which has a brilliant, restrained sparseness to it as well as being incredibly realistic.

Christina's World by Andrew Wyeth
Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth

Now I had also seen a few photographs of one of America’s best loved artists in his wonderful Shaker style home, and in many of these pictures he is wearing what look very much like hand knitted sweaters. His personal style seems to be somewhat Beatnik with narrow trousers, with a tunic length jersey over a closer fitting polo neck.

Anyway you may want to know more about him!

Helga, above, was also a subject, clothed and unclothed, in dozens of his paintings. One of my favourites is of her is wearing a brown polo neck jumper. It looks well worn and comfortable. Her hair looks a bit greasy and plaited for convenience rather than looks. Her face, in repose, is sensitive and reflective. I love her colouring. Don’t you find this a stunning portrait? So soft and restrained. Every hair and line of her face individually rendered. And the construction of her jersey – the knitting, the neckline and shoulder seams – is so accurately recorded you feel this man knew something about knitting.

Helga by Andrew Wyeth

So to get to the punch line.

I was rather taken with this 1996 photograph of Andrew Wyeth by Harry Benson “wearing one of several New Zealand sweaters knitted by his wife Betsy”.

Andrew Wyeth wearing an Elizabeth Zimmermann sweater that his “went with his eyes” according to his wife.

It is a wonderful pattern and looks great on Wyeth.

Zimmermann’s book Knit One Knit All describes how to make it. Some of the photographs are a bit fuddy but this is a jersey with enormous potential. The knee length version includes a Guernsey motif on the body and sleeve, and was knitted by Mrs Wyeth.

I pounced on the pattern as it did something I had been imagining – knitting a jersey in stocking stitch in the round, then separating for the armholes and continuing in garter stitch so that purl stitches could be avoided. And of course Elizabeth had already invented this jersey but with a wonderful detail. Inspired by the Rangitoto volcano of New Zealand, she decreases the front and back down to a single stitch. For front and back we then pick up stitches along the gently sloping edge and knit back and forth in garter stitch, using short rows to make the jumper fit well around the neck both back and front. The neckline is very nice.

Rangitoto volcano, New Zealand

I really like this jersey, which has lots of possibilities. I think a sleeveless version might be nice. Or even a short sleeve version. In the end I just knitted it up, more or less as described, in my bargain cashmere/merino wool from Colourmart. I finished it last weekend and wore it for work – and I love it. But I want to play with the basic pattern a bit. My yoke is much more modest that EZs, and my short rows are not done very professionally so there is an inadvertent lacey look. It has gussets which I don’t really approve of. So there will be another one.

Next time I will make the sweater a bit closer fitting so the front column is neater with lesser overhang on the dropped shoulders. I think this DK yarn is better with 4.5 mms needles rather than the 5 mms I used. I like the sleeveless look. Maybe a version with shorter sleeves. I am going to play with this pattern a bit and try a couple more versions. It has the wonderful clever design that I so enjoy. I am wondering if any of the men in my life want a blue, cashmere version.


Menswear – Why are your trousers getting shorter?

I often stare at menswear in shop windows. And look at mens’ fashion shows. And there is something that I have noticed that makes traditionalists (like my husband) get rather angry. Do you know what it is?

Here is a random selection of TopMan, Moss Bros and Paul Smith suits.


Short trousers!

Nick’s traditional advice on trousers is that they should break at the shoe.  None of these suit trousers come anywhere near. In fact the most expensive suit here (the Paul Smith) would reveal the ankles if the wearer was not wearing socks.

At one point I would have agreed with my husband but slowly a new aesthetic has crept into menswear and it has affected women too. My recent jacket purchase (from Jigsaw) has a feeling of being a bit shrunken – the sleeves are short and at a glance appears to have come from John Lewis school uniform department.  Ladies trousers too are much shorter than they used to be. Remember how your jeans got all bedraggled at the bottom? Not any more. All trousers seem to be a sort of 7/8 length, or “half mast” as we used to say. In fact my friend Marijana wears her son’s school pants to work. Here are a few examples.

I have been wondering how we progressed from the idea that short trousers on tall boys were a sign of poverty, to the idea that long pants are passe.

Back in 2001 Thom Browne challenged the accepted notion of good style by offering flat front trousers, exposed ankles and sleeves that hit mid wrist.

Thom Browne in his “uniform”

And with marketing nouse, or even with a sense of irony, they produced their own style guides.

I am not writing this post about Thom Browne New York designer specifically. I just wanted to work out where this look – of altered proportions – was coming from. If your jacket and trousers are getting shorter, if you wear shoes without socks, if you wear tight, tailored shorts to work, or even sports shoes with a suit then you are being influenced by Thom Browne. He doesn’t design hoodies or oversized T shirts with graffiti on – his inspiration is less “street” than the 1960s Mod Suit has been taken to a logical conclusion – these suits remind me of Ray Eames, mid century furniture, Kraftwerk, Japanese precision, architecture and clean, minimal modernism. Some of the designs make me think of the Russian revolutionary wear. It’s like the traditional suit no longer had anything to say to the fashionable youth – it was tired and traditional and overplayed. So Browne introduced fresh elements to ensure the suit would talk to youth; the popularity of Mad Men helped do the rest.

Of course the designs he produces are, like most designer fashion, far too extreme for the average person.

But they are appealing and challenging at the same time. His most recent collection put men into “non-bifurbicated garments” ie dresses. In a time when gender specific labels are being challenged I think this is a good design initiative and I hope it may catch on in the next decade or two.

At the same time there is a version for the masses. Even Mrs Obama wore a nice Browne coat at her husband’s second inauguration. Browne has been doing womenswear since last year. “Women’s is fun but it’s more of a challenge because there’s so much that has already been done,” he says. “Men’s is easier because if you push it a bit, it’s a lot.”


Late Summer Jacket – finding a suitable pattern!

It’s nice to be sewing again. I enjoy the whole process – the planning, the selection of materials, altering patterns, getting a good fit, and the sewing process, although my construction skills are a bit mediocre I must admit. But most of all I like “designing” a look – taking inspiration from fashion history or great designers and literature and art – and putting my own spin on it.

Coco Chanel white inspiration jacket

So I decided I wanted a summer jacket in a light colour, preferably pink, with darker buttons (more than one). Ideally in linen and with a soft, relaxed feel while also being fitted in the waist. I did actually start with ready to wear as if I can find what I want I will usually buy off the shelf. Also if you have an idea, even if you intend to make it yourself, trying on something similar can help you work out what you want. This Joules jacket was quite nice and I got them to order it in, in s6 (really I am size 8 or 10 in a jacket but the 8 was quite big, especially the sleeves). Initially it was a ridiculous price – around £150 but I knew it would go down in the sale, and eventually it was available for about £55, but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. I found the real life pink a bit too deep (the swatch is more what I had in mind), the fabric was linen/cotton mix and I had this idea of five buttons not just one. So I passed.

I asked for pattern suggestions.

Sue N suggested the Gertie/Butterick 5962 pattern, allegedly based on the Bar jacket. In fact on her own blog Gerite writes:

I’ve spent many an hour on the internet looking for a pattern that would replicate the structure of the Bar Suit, to no avail. So I decided it would be the perfect starting point for one of my Butterick patterns!

My view is that it looks a bit like the Bar in the first photograph but I am not impressed with the technical drawing. The shaping in the front appears to be made by some nasty long darts that finish before the hem. The short sleeves make it look a bit like an overall.


Here are some of the other kind suggestions made by readers.  I love the cuffs on the Maia but otherwise the convertible collar is not what I want. I discounted the Simplicity 8461 as it didn’t have a collar.

I prefer the first three all have something going for them, and any would allow me to make a few alterations to make it resemble the Chanel jacket.

I have searched for all V 8087 and V1721 but they are out of print and while I could probably get a second hand copy from the US I guess I already own the V8333 and have been meaning to make it up for years.  Ruth suggested this would be a good basic design. In fact I have been meaning to make up this jacket ever since i bought it (about three years ago!) but didn’t know what fabric to make it up in.  I am so influenced by pattern envelope photographs that I  could only envisage this in a dark neutral! But I have some beigey yellow fabric that I could use for this jacket – as a wearable muslin just as it is. Then if it works well in terms of fit I could try again with some design variation.

Now the second idea is to use a 1997 Ungaro pattern. Ungaro worked for both Cristobal Balenciaga and André Courrèges before setting up his own house in 1965. He provided patterns for Vogue from the 1960s to the 1990s, and I have one that I rather like. The styling is certainly a bit dated, but I think I bought this because the jacket is cream!  I don’t like the sweetie pie, ice-cream look, especially against a pink background, but this jacket with a darker skirt or trousers maybe the one. You can see the context for this look, with many versions of the jacket, on a nice video of the SS 1997 Ungaro collection available on You Tube. 

Vogue 1977 Ungaro
1997 Vogue 1977 Ungaro


So here is what I am planning to do.

Idea One

Make up the Schaeffer in a light colour.

Vogue 8333 is not exactly the right design in that it is a more formal and structured than I had planned. But the lapels are wide, the front curves attractively (and this shape is flattering for women with curves) and I really love the little pocket pleat detail). It has three buttons but could be adapted for four.  I already have a dirty yellow-beige in my collection that includes linen – perhaps with silk or wool or both – that I bought when I was planning a light coloured jacket for my son Gus (the terrible, unfinished SWAP of 2017). I have a toning piece of yellowy linen that I thought would make good summer trousers or shorts (which he didn’t veto – “I would wear shorts in any colour”). Anyway it is lovely fabric if slightly greyed off for me – but not a warm shade of yellow so it should suit me too (although I suit brighter shades than my muted son Gus). I am going to toile the Schaffer jacket in this fabric. Just cut out my size, without alterations and sew it up fairly fast. Usually I prefer a proper tailored jacket, but I am going to try a quicker construction with fusibles etc. Maybe I can do bound seams rather than lining it – I will think about this. If it fits well I may make it up properly as a tailored work jacket with matching skirt or trousers for the autumn. I just want to check the style so I plan a quick soft-tailoring construction approach. But it might satisfy my craving for a 1940s Coco.

Idea Two

Adapt the Ungaro to make it more Chanel like.

  • shorten the jacket by about 3″, from thigh length to hip length,
  • slim over the waist on the front, back and side pieces
  • develop the cuff
  • create four rather than three button holes
  • change the outline shape of the collar
  • ignore decorative top stitching
  • change the shape and placement of pockets
  • add two breast pockets
  • add dark buttons

By then I may have sourced some appropriate linen fabric!

Making a cardigan

posted in: knitting, Style advice | 33

I wear cardigans.

Or “cardis” as we say in Lancashire. In fact the cardi is essentially a bit of a sad item. Workwear of black trousers, a teal T shirt and a black cardi with plastic gold buttons. A white cardi for your holidays “in case it gets a bit chilly” (it always does in Blackpool or Abersoch). A school cardi in maroon acrylic, worn with a polyester pleated skirt – if the static doesn’t get you, you may go up in flames. A man in a cardi – often with a pipe. Something bedraggled and misshaped in a drawer or damp on a camping trip. For me these associations are drab, dreary, baggy and unstylish.

Apparently the cardigan is ripe for a comeback!

Historically the cardigan was a military garment, knitted up to keep the army warm. It was said to have been invented by James Thomas Brudenell, the seventh Earl of Cardigan, although the idea of a jersey with an opening with buttons down the front is probably older. The Earl wore a sleeveless cardigan and made them available for his men. They became fashionable and associated with the man who led the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War. (I will have to do a post on balaclavas one day!)

Then of course, the cardigan was popularised by Chanel who made it into a fashion item rather than a practical extra layer.

And then there is the handknitted cardi. If you look at Ravelry there are a quite few examples of lumpy, bumpy and grotty.  Below are Zimmermann specials – nicely knitted I give you – but which leave a little to be desired on the style stakes.


A cardigan is actually a great alternative to a jacket in that it covers (to keep us warm) but also reveals (the blouse or top underneath).

So we need a stylish cardi. A colourful, snappy, shapely cardi. In my wardrobe I have a few nice, cashmere cardis that work well for me – turquoise, yellow, pink. If I wear something plain like a navy dress I find a colourful cardigan can be a nice contrast. These Boden cardigans are the sort of look I prefer.

I am going to make one. So far I have made the Purl Alpaca jacket which isn’t a true cardigan, but does have two buttons. I want something like this, but I don’t want to use a pattern. Elizabeth Zimmerman has proved to me that I find a pattern that tells me exactly what to do, stitch by stitch, is not for me. And although it sounds arrogant I know I don’t need one. I can make it up as I go along and even if it goes wrong with knitting you can unravel and reincarnate it!

My idea is to knit a seamless sweater – basically from my Zimmermann book – then slice it up the front and knit on a button band and stand. Would this work? Has anyone tried it? This feels pretty scary, not least the idea of cutting into knitting. But I suppose the great advantage is that it allows me to continue developing my circular knitting skills and I know I have a shape and style I like.

I am feeling anxious about the cutting, known as steeking. I shouldn’t be, but of course this renders any unravelling impossible. It is an irreversible mistake if I get it wrong. I also think the button bands on hand knits can look a bit terrible and I don’t know the best way. I will need to research it. Although ribbing is a great finish to provide solidity I like the look of moss stitch (like deliberately uneven ribbing if you don’t know much about knitting). So lots for me think about, and maybe you will be generous with your advice.

I bought some yarn in the Colourmart sale. I love this violet colour. It is merino with 30% cashmere. It is not as soft as the pure Merino, nor as expensive as the pure cashmere at about $13, around £10 for 150 grms, or less than £20 for the cardigan. I think I was inspired by that violet evening coat! I have tried some co-ordinating shades next to it, but I think this time I may try what Sue Stoney and Aida have done and put some patterned stitches into the yoke rather than using colour. Plenty of cogitating time!

And in other news (you may have seen it on Instagram) my dear daughter in law Melanie gave birth to a little boy last week. He’s called William Dexter and he is adorable. So much so that he got 389 likes on Instagram! More than I have ever had, even for the swankiest outfit. So welcome little boy! We are delighted to have a fourth grandchild and very much look forward to meeting up IRL, as they say.

Thinking about a late summer jacket

One of the books I recently read was Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’urbervilles. In the book there are many descriptions of the clothes worn by farm workers in the 1880s. I was taken with the description of young women in white summer dresses, and also one brief evocative mention of Tess in a pink jacket. I have searched for images from film and TV. The jackets here are really sturdy blouses, worn over other clothes but not really made for taking off. And in using light colours they were very much summer outwear.

Throughout the summer I have been thinking of making a close fitting jacket with obvious buttons, in a delicate shade of pink. I wanted a top that would go with my work trousers – summery, feminine and flattering. Generally I am not particularly keen on historic, Victorian looks as I am not keen on corsets.

What do I like about this look? Close fitting bodice based on a blouse, large, obvious buttons, clear waist line, light pink.

I want to marry this idea with a favourite Coco Chanel jacket. This is the jacket she designed and wore in 1937, long before the 1954 Cardigan jacket that she is more well known for. And although I have made the “classic Chanel jacket” (and I loved learning the techniques) I have barely worn it. With both my versions I added much more waist shaping as it is, essentially, a boxy jacket. And I feel, currently, that the French jacket is rather hackneyed and jaded and looks pretty dated, especially on an older lady (such as myself). Whereas the 1937 jacket is shapely, revealing the waist by a deep curved cut away at the front, which echos the flamboyant, curved lapels. The shoulders are padded but not excessively so – the sleeve heads also – probably with cotton batting. And I don’t know for sure but I think this jacket may be made out of linen. The jacket has three patch pockets – two lined up with the hem and a breast pocket that may be artfully misplaced. It certainly has a nice white hanky in it, and what looks like a couple of costume jewellery clips. The sleeve is particularly nice with a relaxed, fold back cuff – making it a bit shirt like. Although I expect this jacket is lined it looks very soft and unstructured. I wish I knew more about it! The fourth picture is, I think, of a different but similar jacket, constructed on this occasion without a revere, or collar. Summing up I love this jacket as it is shapely but not tight, a little bit drapy but also with enough of a character, light coloured (natural linen, or possibly wool or silk) with darker buttons, great pocket detail.

Finally I want to reference another great jacket – in some ways the greatest jacket ever – the Dior Bar jacket. This also has two iterations – the original post war New Look jacket has a very neat, petit shawl collar, whereas the later version has a more important notched collar. Both have a pronounced shoulder, a highly stylised tiny waist which is emphasised by significant padding to the hips. The newer version is buttoned to the waist. The natural creamy colour of shantung silk is matched with large but toning buttons. Like the Chanel jacket this one is invariably worn with a full black skirt. Again to summarise what I love about this jacket – light colour with a darker skirt, summery fabric, subtle but important buttons, waisted shape, nice high neck, softened shoulders. Although I love looking at this jacket I would not want to wear something that involved a corset – this jacket is heavy and stiff. 

So I would like to make a jacket that is light weight, very soft and easy to wear, flattering, in light pink linen. The Chanel is pretty close to what I have in mind but now I will have to find both pattern and fabric. The only thing I am worried about is a previous attempt to make a jacket with high break. I didn’t care for it at all when I put it on. I have just noticed that Coco has her buttons undone to just below the bust. The jacket style that actually suits me is the third one – a single button simple, slightly shrunken jacket. I am going to have to give this some thought.

I have a couple of patterns that might work – but I would love any suggestions. Most patterns from the contemporary Big4 companies are very unstructured and drapey. Even Burda which are a bit more fashionable are not really talking to me. And also any good UK or EU linen suppliers? Thank you.