Making clothes for men – Weldons 1940s Sports Jacket

posted in: SWAP, WIP (work in progress) | 30

I bought a lovely old jacket pattern on eBay. Weldons (“For a wide choice of simple styles”) was formed in 1879 and was Britain’s first major pattern company. It seems to associate menswear with pipe smoking, but these nice patterns will produce a genuinely vintage jacket. I bought the Weldon 2253, on the right, for a fiver. I was keen to buy avoid US Men’s patterns for a tailored jacket because of the predominance of the sack suit as a standard US design. I wanted a more fitted Saville Row type shape for Gus, although the ideal is actually an Italian style (the different cuts of men’s suits is covered here)

This pattern has been around since the Second World War – it’s about 70 years old. I don’t think it had ever been used and it was with a sense of great excitement that I unpacked the pieces (most of which seemed to be to do with the pockets), looked at the scant instructions, and decided I had best make a toile.

The size is chest 36″ whereas Gus is a couple of inches wider. But he is slim, and likes a slim fit look. I decided to make it up straight from the packet and then see how it fits on Gus. Adding additional width isn’t too difficult, although this particular pattern has “no side seam”, with the actual side seam moved towards the back, as you may be able to see on the technical drawing. . At the side seam position is long dart. The CB seam is curved creating a distinctive waisted look that I think may be nice on Gus.

Making a toile for a jacket can be fairly quick. One back, two fronts, the upper collar and one, two-piece sleeve – just six pieces. You don’t need the front facing or the under collar for fitting purposes. Leave off the hems. And thankfully the three pockets. When I make a toile I just mark with a felt tip – no need for tailors’ tacks at this stage.

Mens jacket making a toile
Making a toile

Making a tailored garment in calico is a bit challenging as there is not much give in the fabric. With a decent wool the collar (under collar cut on the bias and pad stitched) and the sleeves (which are shrunk and eased in) work beautifully. With calico not so much. Nevertheless with a little imagination you can see how these features will work in woolen cloth, and at this stage we just want to check the size, the fit,  the proportions and the style.

Here is the toile. I was worried that the collar and revere might be on the large side but I think, once constructed, this will be just fine. I am also concerned that the sleeve is a little full. If Gus doesn’t like it I will re-cut it much higher and redraft a slimmer sleeve. The slight gathering at the sleeve head is due to this being made out of calico rather than a wool jacketing cloth.

Gus tried on the jacket, which is one size too small for him. “Didn’t you measure me first, Mum?” I did indeed. Gus 38″ Pattern 36″. However I thought it might work. It didn’t.

However I could easily see what alterations would be required to make it fit. The jacket is too narrow across the chest – you can see the pull at the back shoulder and armscye. But the shoulder length is quite good. I propose to split the front up the princess line (what is this line called on a man?) and add an inch of width at the front. This will extend the shoulder by an inch which is probably OK so long as I get the pitch right. In terms of the back i am going to add a similar amount of extra width. I may add a little at the CB and side seam too, but I also need to get that inch in on the back “princess line”. Then I will review the shoulder at the next fitting.  Overall this adds four inches to the chest giving sufficient ease. I hope.

At the moment there is too much in the “skirt” of the jacket (again there must be a better word). I am tempted to leave this for now. I  will add a little to the length above the waist, maybe an inch. The rest of the jacket fits reasonably well, eg the sleeve and the overall length are quite good. I also like the waisted look and the size/shape of the collar. I will make up a second toile with these alterations as I feel this pattern has lots of potential.  I was particularly pleased that Gus could see it too. I was worried that the sleeve might be too full, but it is actually cut very high – I may have to drop it just a little bit, although I think this will right itself when we get sufficient fabric into the width across the chest.

Any other thoughts or suggestions?

In terms of fabric we are considering a light grey herringbone which I will show you next week. Incidentally I am sorry about the horrible dark corner I am getting on all my photos at the moment. I will have to get a new phone, and have one on order.


30 Responses

  1. Elaine Sabin-Simpson

    Interesting! [And I hadn’t noticed the ‘horrible’ dark corner until you pointed it out]
    I like the waisted look, and the shape of the sleeve, as you say, will probably alter quite a lot when you add in the required ease. Have you looked on ‘Male Pattern Boldness’ at all? He uses vintage patterns a lot, and may even have used this one for all I know.
    Following the development of Gus’ wardrobe with bated breath. Not baited. I’m not an angler fish…

    • fabrickated

      I have looked at his site over the months, but will now study carefully. Thanks. And I am so impressed at your erudite comments that are not just about the maths. Thanks!

  2. Elle

    I like the cut in waist on Gus. Seems like a lot of fabric across his rear end–a bit puzzling for a slim cut pattern. I’m glad you avoided the sack suit look.

  3. Esme

    This is exciting. I agree that the ‘skirt’ looks flappy in high contrast to Gus who is clearly made of steel (you know, he is sooooo strong!) I would be careful with that curvy back – though it may have been of its day to have a clearly defined waist on men’s clothing, I wonder how contemporary this is? PS I love the actual fabric.

  4. Jenny

    It doesn’t look too difficult to make it fit and the collar and lapel is fine. I wonder what you mean by “sleeves are shrunk and eased in”. Do you mean shrunk or just your way of saying gathered?

    • fabrickated

      No I mean that in tailoring you can shrink wool (slightly!) with steam and heat in order to supress fullness. This can be done with the seam allowance of the sleeve head to make it fit better. The gathering of a sleeve head with stitches to help with the easing is not a technique that I use, but I know it is popular. I guess if done carefully and precisely it maybe OK, but I prefer to work with pins, easing over the back of the hand, repinning, basting, trying on, rebasting if necessary and sometimes hand sewing. And pressing carefully around the seam and seam allowance. I hope this helps Jenny.

  5. Joyce

    Looks a good pattern! I love working with wool and sewing tailored jackets. There are only a couple of things That come to mind looking at the toile. One is that there is only one sleeve. I did this once, thinking it wouldn’t matter but it did. When I made the ‘real’ jacket, it was too tight across the shoulder and upper back. That second sleeve does make a difference to estimating the finished fit. The second thing is, are you going to add shoulder pads to the finished jacket? If so, I’d add them to this toile just to see what difference it makes to the circumference of the armhole. That’s me finished! Looking forward to seeing the real jacket.

    • fabrickated

      Yes, there is a shoulder pad in there Joyce. However I think you are right about only one sleeve. I intend to do a second toile so I will take your advice. Many thanks for your suggestions.

  6. Jenny

    I’m afraid I can add nothing technical other than to cheer you on. Gus is a real sport to stand patiently whilst measurements and refinements are made. I hated that bit of clothes fitting. OK I know he’s going to get a tailored jacket out of it so it’s not entirely altruistic but still lovely of him.
    Your last post’s patterns were great fun and reminded me of the fashions of my youth, which I know with your skill you can update. But I can see why you’ve selected this one to start with, although clearly vintage, I agree it has huge potential for a young man of today’s jacket.

  7. Jay

    I’m seconding Joyce’s comment about shoulder pads. These can affect the slope of the shoulder pieces you need and the underarm fit. From the back there look to be some drag lines from the armhole to the shoulder that make me want to lift the shoulder point and tuck a shoulder pad in, possibly deepening the armhole as well (though this is sometimes hard to judge in calico, especially if the seam allowances haven’t been snipped to the stitching on the underarm curve.Good luck!

  8. Chris

    I’m never sure about commenting on fit photos – it’s much easier in person… So feel free to ignore /disregard! I’m not sure about the waist shaping – being too defined is exaggerating the broad shoulders to hip ratio. If you’re using even light shoulder pads, then include them in fitting – there is some bunching at the back neck which could be due to the angle of the shoulders and might be fixed with pads. This might mean altering the armhole too, as it looks tight from the photos. Best of luck 🙂

    • fabrickated

      Thank you Chris. I agree about commenting on fit. I find it relatively easy in real life but a photograph sort of paralyses me. I need to touch and see, and even using words to describe what I am doing is a bit of a challenge. I find fitting a bit instinctive.

  9. Stephanie

    This is so exciting! I love it. I enjoyed the fitting comments from others and have nothing really technical to add other than I agree that from here it looks like the armhole needs slight deepening in addition to the extra ease. But what do I know. I wish I had your jacket making skills. I’m going to make a couple of simple jackets for SWAP but have been wanting to learn tailoring for another jacket so am reading books and will enjoy watching your progress.

  10. Joyce Latham

    I will be watching with great interest (as I do with all your projects). It seems a lot of adjustments to me, but no doubt you will manage. Great advice from the comments above. It will be fun for him to have a vintage jacket, tailor-made by his mother. Be sure the keep a good record of the adjustments, because I have a feeling he will be back for another. The grey will be wonderful. Fingers crossed!
    Joyce from Sudbury.

  11. Ellen

    Enjoying this series of posts! In part because I am making a shirt and vest for my 9 year old at his request (for a Halloween costume–he wants to be the muffin man from Drury Lane) and it’s fun to imagine a more grown up sewing project in the future. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Ttailor

    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 shaoe 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.

    • fabrickated

      Terri – thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your professional expertise with tailoring vintage menswear. I really, really appreciate it. I am going to persist, for learning if nothing else, and it maybe that I cannot alter this pattern to fit. I have very little experience with menswear.

      Would you suggest an appropriate pattern, or type? Or would I be best to draft from scratch? If so who would you recommend. Thank you again! I am now a dedicated follower of your fascinating blog.

      • Ttailor

        Hi, I was going to generally suggest a modern men’s jacket such as one from Burda as a better starting point.
        I’d have to say that traditional mens wear can be more challenging because there are limited areas for fit modifications.
        One thing that will help is to take balance measurements. So make sure you have a twill tape or elastic at the waist (navel level) and measure nape to waist at the back, and (I use this though there are other methods) nape to cf waist at the tape. You can then compare his measures to the pattern.
        With body shapes similar to his, I have also found that a back shoulder dart is useful, especially if you cannot shrink the fabric well enough in the back shoulder and/or don’t want huge shoulder pads.

        On this toile just for fun, take the collar off and release the shoulder at the neck point keeping it attached at the shoulder point and see how far it spreads apart.
        cut the toile horizontally mid back and let the lower part sit into the waist and see how much of a gap opens up.
        This doesn’t deal with the lack of circumference but is a interesting experiment nonetheless.

  13. Manuela

    Kate, as much as I admire and understand your passion for vintage patterns, I agree with Ttailor here. I’d recommend to look at a fitted jacket pattern like Burda’s B6871 as a starting point. I’m really looking forward to seeing your progress on that project.

  14. Mary Funt

    I agree with Ttailor. His assessment is spot on. I follow his blog and he posts some very valuable information. Men’s tailoring is a whole different animal than women’s, although there are some crossovers. Men’s garments are usually much more structured than women’s and have a chest canvas made up of several layers inside the jacket front to give shaping. Try another toile in a soft canvas with fusible interfacing; that might give you better read of the fit. Two sleeves, along with appropriate shoulder pads are really necessary.
    Check out He has a great video series in the gallery tab highlighting the process. Also http://www.cutterand is another great resource. It’s geared towards professionals but you can pick up quite a bit of valuable information. This will be a project!

  15. Alex Hills

    That is a cracking pattern! Let me know if you ever consider selling it. I collect 30s and 40s men’s wear, and have branched out to patterns too 🙂

    Many thanks

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