1950s jacket finished – just in time for Christmas

Christmas Eve already! I can’t believe how quickly December has whizzed by. We are up early and on our way to Lancashire this morning. So what could be more appropriate than a Red jacket?

Red rose of lancashire
Lancaster (then Lancashire) Red Rose

The Red Rose of Lancaster dates from 1485 and, when matched by Henry 111V with the white rose of York, became the Tudor Rose, which is now the symbol of England.

"Pink" hunting jacket and side saddle lady
“Pink” hunting jacket

The Red jacket (referred to as a pink jacket) is also the chosen outfit of the Boxing Day hunt, which remains very popular in Lancashire. The issue of hunting is very contentious but most country people like it for the jobs it creates, their fondness for the horses and hounds, and the fact that following, on foot, is a good way to use up calories after an indulgent Christmas.

I managed to finish my “wearable toile”. The brooch, incidentally, is made with four small pom poms in maroon, orange, dark green and navy.

Simplicity 100 red jacket
1950s jacket

Unfortunately it is a big disappointment. I will take it with me, and I will wear it when we go out tonight to one of the best pub restaurants I have ever been to. In my Mother’s tiny village of Wiswell lies the Freemason’s Arms. It serves wonderful food and Christmas Eve will be very special.7O1M_H

I have not enjoyed making this jacket. And the problem was not the one I had anticipated. I thought shaping would be the real challenge, given the fitted nature of the garment and the fact that it was a small (32″ bust) pattern that would need alteration. The actual problem really came down to the fact that the fabric was not suitable for the job.

I bought the toile fabric it because it was obviously a “wooly” type fabric designed for a skirt, jacket or winter dress, I liked the colour and it was inexpensive (£4 a metre – barely more than calico). And of course it is possible to tailor in fabrics other than wool. My SWAP last year used a blue linen, and a pink cotton for the jackets, and my Chanel style jacket tweed is a wool-free mixed fibre (which would not shrink). But I had not used polyester/nylon before and I will not do so again. It doesn’t tailor well, mainly because it does not respond to pressing in the same way as a natural fibre.

With a classic wool (or wool with a bit of something else in it) you can use the iron, moisture and pressure to make the fabric take up a shape that fits the body. While this is not the case with cotton, linen or silk, they will all stand high heat and can at least be pressed and stitched to create a firm, shaped garment. I found with polyester that it stretches, and it doesn’t like getting too hot. What this meant was although I was able to press all the seams as we went, it kept getting creases in it, that became semi-permanent as I pressed in other areas.

Now we come to the key question.  Should I drop this jacket because (according to my family) the style doesn’t suit me? The following feedback has been received.

  • it’s too Mrs Thatcher
    Mrs Thatcher in 1958 suit
    Mrs Thatcher, 1958 (aged 33)
  • nasty colour on you
  • don’t like the pockets
  • comes up too high at the neck
  • you need to be taller with long legs for a jacket like that
  • too tight
  • Simplicity 100 jacket in red polyester
    Simplicity 100 Finished toile

Or, is the style good, it is just that the fabric (being polyester or nylon) shows every flaw, will not lie flat and appears to have been through the washing machine? It has taken hours to get this far, so this is a depressing outcome.

The other problem area was the pocket bags, which are too obvious, as you can see above. I carefully stitched the facings to the seam allowances of jacket and pocket and you can tell this is what I have done. With wool, sweet forgiving wool, these “behind the scenes” activities would be practically invisible. I was in despair so wrote to Mrs Mole. She came back with excellent advice:

“Fingers crossed the toile starts behaving itself and soon you be happy enough with it that you can cut the real thing. Good things take more time. You know that!”.

I think that is the point. I don’t need to be happy with it, just “happy enough” to progress to the real thing. It was always intended as a dry run and trial outfit. It doesn’t have to be good enough to wear. Stop stressing about it, and move on. I feel making the real thing would get me over my disappointment.

However given the strong reaction of both my daughter and husband, and my own doubts about the jacket, I have to decide whether to make this suit – Simplicity 100 –  in 100 per cent wool, or to go for a different style. I have at least half a dozen suit patterns that I like as much as this one. But I am keen to hear your views before I make a final decision (please be honest rather than kind).


18 Responses

  1. Lynn

    I am unconvinced by the shape of the jacket. It seems very stiff and not terribly flattering. I do not think the problem is just the fabric, though the sewing gods know just how wrong the wrong fabric can make a garment. It looks matronly rather than chic to my eye.

  2. Jenny

    I agree with Lynn – neckline definitely too high and it looks 50’s without looking ‘vintage’ – old fashioned. I also don’t think it is your colour – although that is not the fault of the pattern.

  3. Kristy

    I quite like that picture of Margaret Thatcher, so I don’t think a comparison is a negative! I find patch pockets on tailored jackets to be a bit outdated and bulky, I prefer welt pockets on my tailored jackets instead. I like how you’ve styled it with a belt to give shape, but if you’re not 100% loving then don’t waste anymore time or fabric on it when you have so many other choices

  4. Patrice Bravo

    I think you look great in anything you make. But, I do think the neckline is a little high. Also as you pointed out, wool might be a better choice.

  5. Stephanie

    Kate, It’s obvious you did a really good job on the sewing, so I can understand why you are disappointed that the fabric didn’t always co-operate. I honestly think you look quite nice. I guess I can understand the high neck comment, but that’s the style. My advice would be to wear it a bit and see how you feel in it after a couple of wears. Then you’ll know if you’d enjoy having another in a nice wool. Merry Christmas (pub looks terrific)!

  6. Alli

    I think it looks really cute on you! Only because you pointed it out, I can agree that the neckline is a little high. The belt you had on makes it have a nice shape, but maybe you wanted to be able to wear it without a belt?

    I don’t have good jacket-appraising credentials, though, since I live where most people only get as formal as aloha shirts. :}

  7. maryfunt

    It really dosen’t look bad in the photo. I know what you mean about synthetic fibers not tailoring well; probably why natural fibers, especially wool, are best. I think the lapel needs to break a little lower. The collar also looks a bit too narrow. You will find the right solution.

  8. Caroline

    This is probably not in the least helpful if you have made your plan, but, in contrast to everyone else, I like the neck line on you. I think it’s a really interesting collar: with its stand away shape. I really like the way you wear it with a belt and the brooch lifts the whole effect. I think the overall shape is fine. In honesty, I don’t like the colour on you and from what you say the material itself sounds awkward.

    If this were my jacket (as an up cycling project) I would be inclined to jazz it up a bit with more buttons and button holes down the front – at least as far as the waist. I think I might use a more contrasting colour for the buttons as well, and style it with a belt in a similar colour. On the theme of buttons I might even try out buttons at the cuff and play around with buttons on the pockets!!! But I think I would have exhausted myself with the very idea of all these rescue remedies and end up deciding that it wasn’t worth the extra effort. The only other thing I might consider is to wear it with a longer slimmer skirt mid to low calf and a pair of heeled (not too heeled) brogues. But that is just me – and fortunately we are all different.

  9. amaryllislog

    I think I’d go with Mrs. Mole’s advice…good things take time…I would simmer on the jacket and if a brilliant fabric and approach came to mind over time I would move ahead. Personally I don’t “dislike” it. The fabric sounds all around unfriendly and unworkable. I admit the red is just too red, if that makes any sense? But I do like the body line, the way it contours to your body and I also like that it has a vintage vibe. So for me, I’d say it has potential but is it worth another go…that’s where the simmering comes in. Looking forward to seeing how this evolves!

  10. mrsmole

    It is OK and you certainly have put plenty of work into it. If you didn’t have you hands in the poofy pockets they might catch on things like bathrobe pockets catch on kitchen drawer handles and make you spill your tea/coffee. It might look way better with black pants to draw the eye all the way to the floor. We are not used to seeing such fitted jackets with narrow lapels and wider shoulders so that could also be the problem along with the higher neckline but it suits you delicate frame. The buttons need a little jazzing up but I do like the added belt feature. I’ll bet with a winter hat and gloves you would get a few compliments. But in the end if YOU don’t just plain love it, it’s a great muslin to ponder over for the future!

  11. Brenda Marks

    I wonder where you ended up with this project. I like it (aside from I agree that the color is not your most flattering). The comments from your family seem to be about the style points that the designer chose at the time. It’s a vintage piece, but I think it translates well to a contemporary wardrobe. You’ll style it with existing clothes and it will be just right.

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