Gus’s 1940s Tailored jacket – a second toile

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.

38 Responses

  1. Elaine Sabin-Simpson

    More complicated than it looks! The chest canvas is pretty clearly essential [I’ve also used it in the last three women’s jackets that I’ve made, and the whole upper fit changes for the better. Maybe for toile purposes you could make up a separate canvas piece, to sort of sit over the shoulder under the jacket toile, rather like a horse blanket? [!] This might give the upper part of the jacket something to hang off. It will change all the fit around those shoulder-to-armhole drags…
    Just wondering. lol I don’t know a thing about men’s tailoring obviously!
    I do agree though that with Gus’ little waist and very exaggerated carrot shape, a modern design might be better. Can you find a pattern with more seam lines, a sort of men’s princess line? [A Prince line?]

    • fabrickated

      I love the horse blanket suggestion – and your carrot comment. Your use of the English language always impresses me E, even if you don’t know much about making for men (that makes two of us). I don’t think I could technically produce the canvas until I have a better idea of the fit.

  2. Jenny (the lilac cat)

    I guess Terri’s angle is producing a beautiful jacket in the most efficient way possible without compromising fit and style. I see yours as a very different objective; you want the same beautiful jacket but with the creative and intellectual challenge of adapting something that inspires you. If you are having fun and learning I’d keep at it and if your wonderful son doesn’t mind the fitting sessions and has no requirement for this to be done on any particular timescale then go for it. I’m no tailor but I wonder whether incorporating canvas into the toile now may give you a more accurate idea of fit and maybe it might resolve or lessen some of the fitting challenges. Must find you on IG.

  3. eimear

    Well done for your progress and patience, fortune favours the brave! I agree with Terri on the vintage pattern – the fit can often be so different. One of my favourite vintage makes is my least favourite dress to sew in, as it allows no arm movement, and also vintage patterns were often made for different fabric weights so the odds are rather stacked against from the get go. Making a jacket from a contemporary pattern would be useful, as it should have a better fit – also looking at mens tailoring in the stores could be useful as sometimes the cut on contemporary patterns can be a bit plain……… While not related to jackets and tailoring but does relate to contemporary cuts – I work in a sports store and notice that there are some interesting darts placed in some expensive hoodies this year – one hoody has darts on the inside arm between elbow and pit which would counteract the potential elbow sag, and the other dart is above the pockets in the front to counteract sag there. You do seem to be making great progress – currently I am in the process of taking apart a mens tuxedo to see if I can tailor it down for myself….. the tuxedo including pants was 6euro in the charity shop (its worsted wool) – so if you are looking for better toile fabric, you could see if you can locate an oversized suit!

    • fabrickated

      Oh you have covered some very interesting points here Eimear. I think Terri is right that men’s bodies (women’s too) are different today compared to the 1940s. Even on the envelope the fellow looks rather slight and weedy. Gus is well nourished and works out. He loves his biceps!! But once Terri had drawn my attention to this fact I have been wondering how are modern men different? What has changed? She has an interesting piece on making a jacket for a man with a very rotund tummy.

      I make alot of vintage for myself and I agree that these clothes are not as comfortable to wear as modern stretch, sportswear type garments. For comfort I like stretch jeans, clingy T shirts, soft jumpers and lightweight down jackets and squishy trainers. They can be sort of stylish, but not really. For me my work wardrobe is smart and a bit formal, but not actually uncomfortable. I rarely change in the evening.

  4. Stephanie

    Very interesting comments. Ultimately it is your time so you need to do what you enjoy doing! I learn by comparing things so at this point I would be tempted to work on a modern jacket toile at the same time and compare side by side.

    • fabrickated

      Yes S – comparison is wise and a good scientific approach. I actually have the Burda pattern already and of course Gus has jackets I can look at. I think I will do this and post my findings. Thank you!

  5. Mary Funt

    I’m so happy to see that you are persevering with this project. If told how difficult and complicated something was, I would be even more determined to make it work! This toile looks better but there are still some fitting issues. Do make a chest canvas and use it for the fittings. Tailor supply shops sell several varieties ready made and you don’t need to sew the canvas into the toile until you get closer on the fit. A man’s jacket needs to hang from the shoulders and you can’t really do much until that part is right. I agree with you that I like a little more waist shaping. The front chest looks tight and the front edges of the jacket are gaping open. I would forget the sleeves for now. Perfect the jacket body first. When I was studying Chanel sleeve construction, I spent months researching sleeve drafting. A well fit sleeve is drafted to fit the armseye and if you are planning on lowering the underarm, the entire sleeve draft will change. Once the fit is right you can incorporate the vintage style details you and Gus want. Keep going!!!

    • fabrickated

      Lovely comment, dear Mary. Very wise advice and while I will never get to your level of expertise I am keen to learn. I didn’t know you could get ready made canvases (maybe not in the UK – you have much better resources in the US)! I will research.

      Your Chanel sleeves (and shoulder pads) are things of beauty.

  6. Joyce Latham

    I have never tried anything like this. I have enough trouble with basic adjustments like , full bust adjustments! Keep going….you will get there eventually, one step at a time.
    Joyce from Sudbury

  7. Cherry

    I too am a lifetime sewer who enjoys a challenge. I also have two sons and the elder is built just like Gus, although a little older. I have also made vintage costumes for the stage.I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but based on my experience this is what will happen:
    You will eventually get to a toile which looks something like a fit, although Gus will still be pushing for more modern lines. You will go ahead and buy expensive tweed, sew it up to your best standards, pad-stitching and all the rest. Gus will allow a photo shoot and it will look great, in a vintage sort of way. After that you will never see him wear it again. If challenged he will say “it feels weird” or “I never go anywhere I can wear it”.
    If you feel like making a vintage jacket, all power to you. But accept it is for you!

    • fabrickated

      Very wise words Cherry, and you could well be right. I have made clothes for family members before that have been quietly stored then taken to the charity shop. I have made things for myself that don’t feel right and are too formal for my lifestyle.

      At the moment I am at the stage where I am trying to open his mind and get him to try something a bit different. I may well end up with a more modern pattern – maybe not something tailored at all. I have some not very valuable light grey herringbone I planned to use.

      It would help if he put a Pinterest board together so I could see what he really likes!

  8. mrsmole

    Study your drag lines and use the same padding and restructuring products you would use in the finished product. Pin them inside the jacket and then see more drag lines. I’m with Cherry that you can put a lot of good work into this garment and in the end it may not be Gus’s favorite. If it is not modern enough to feel comfortable, it may feel more like a vintage costume than his go-to jacket. The same goes for brides, wearing a formal dress requires formal underwear along with boning etc and as much as the garment is beautifully made, it represents a moment in time, not for everyday wearing. We women make and wear clothes for compliments from our friends. Once given, we feel special and wear the garment until it falls apart. Men are not quite like that, rarely do they comment on their friend’s clothes so Gus may not get enough good feedback to convince him that all your work was worth it. But…I DO wish you good luck and enough time to enjoy the experience!!!

    • fabrickated

      Bless you Mrs Mole. This is a great insight, and one obviously often noticed in your line of work. I will persevere for a while but I may drop a formal jacket altogether. I am beginning to think about a Japanese workman’s jacket very similar to the one’s you pointed out to me the other week. Thank you as ever for stopping by.

    • fabrickated

      I know you didn’t Terri – in fact you have given me great advice that has helped me stick with it. I was trying to explain my own feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness by using what is a bit of a joke phrase here. I don’t know if you have seen Dad’s Army (probably not!!) but Private Frazer always says “We are all doomed”.

  9. GailB

    Your ‘Gus Project’ is very inspiring and is producing great information throughout the postings and comments! The discussion on chest canvas, drag lines, challenges with body shapes, discovering new blogs (Ttailor – A Tailor Made It) make me giddy! Thank you for pursuing this great project!

    • fabrickated

      Thanks GailB. I know that menswear is not everyone’s cup of tea, or need. But it is a new area for me so maybe others can learn from my stumbling progress and the wonderful expert advice I seem to be able to elicit.

  10. Lynn Mally

    Well, I guess there are many reasons to sew. But it is such hard work to make a jacket I think I would want to make sure that the person I was making it for really loved the style. On the other hand, you are letting us learn through you. BTW, I though you were supposed to leave the arms off of a muslin and then pin them on later…but you have certainly had a lot more experience than me at this.

    • fabrickated

      I didn’t know that Lynn – I may have known once, but had certainly forgotten. A few commentators said you cannot fit without two sleeves so that is what I did… It’s all learning…

  11. Kim

    However this turns out – and knowing your ability I’m sure it will turn out well – you will learn a vast amount that will transfer to other projects. Anything tailored is going to be more difficult and time consuming than basic dressmaking but you will be more proud of conquering the problem.
    Keep going. I’m sure the next incarnation will be very close, but I agree with using the chest canvas and any other structure so you can see its effect.

  12. Manuela

    I agree with Mrs Mole here. When I made Mr Manuela’s Sherlock Coat, I had a very similar problem with the pattern I intended to use. I laboured on Muslins for 3 weeks, until I walked away from the pattern, took my drafting books out and drafted the pattern from scratch.
    I am rooting for you to succeed whatever your approach is, but also think making a muslin using a modern fitted pattern is worth a try.

    • fabrickated

      Thank you so much for telling me this Manuela. I hold you in such high esteem that I assume you just magically produce great clothes from run of the mill patterns. I am now thinking seriously about drafting my own.

  13. ceci

    I don’t have the sewing skills to play in this league, so no suggestions on that front. From the mother of sons front, I am afraid the end product will not be worn if it is too different from the modern style he is envisioning no matter how adorable the end product looks on.


    • fabrickated

      I know this Ceci. Certainly my experience with my daughter has been a bit on the negative side. I think my son might be a bit different (more open minded and tolerant, and also a bit more desperate for clothes…)

  14. pia

    I like Terri’s blog too. If I recall correctly that’s where I first read about FBA being done for men. You know, men with well developed chest from workouts or manboobs? Maybe that should be FCA.

    While I do admire your ambition, perhaps as a first jacket a pattern that’s already drafted with your son’s build in mind would be an easier path to many more successful jackets of various styles. Kind of like sorting out a basic sloper first before going wild & creative. I presume costumers wouldn’t necessarily resort to real vintage patterns to recreate a vintage look for a modern body. The jacket has to fit the body no compromise while period details can be simulated.

    In any case have fun exploring & what a lucky son you have! Hope he is grateful! 😉

    • fabrickated

      All very good points and thank you for taking the time to comment my dear Pia. I may decide to draft one – it would be fun. Also to maybe try to cling film T shirt on him – although my trousers were a disaster so I don’t have much confidence doing that without your expert help! I know nothing about designing for the stage but I suspect you are right. The garments will also need to be very robust and to allow an even fuller range of movement eg sword fights….

      He is grateful and has agreed to do some posts about the process etc from his POV as we go along.

  15. Cherry

    This may be relevant too: I had the privilege of accompanying my husband on his first visit to a custom tailor. They do not start with cotton toiles. They take careful measurements, then fit him into the nearest stock-size jacket. Every aspect of fit is then looked at methodically, from neck fit, shoulder slope, chest support, back width in several places, etc. etc. Once they have all the fitting notes then they discuss the style, lapel width, number of buttons, silhouette. From the notes they adjust their stock pattern to accommodate all changes. This approach means that all the inner support is already there and accounted for, shoulder hang can be assessed precisely and so on.
    The fit at his second visit was basically perfect, a tribute to their years of experience in knowing exactly what works.

  16. Cherry again

    This may be relevant too: I had the privilege of accompanying my husband on his first visit to a custom tailor. They do not start with cotton toiles. They take careful measurements, then fit him into the nearest stock-size jacket. Every aspect of fit is then looked at methodically, from neck fit, shoulder slope, chest support, back width in several places, etc. etc. Once they have all the fitting notes then they discuss the style, lapel width, number of buttons, silhouette. From the notes they adjust their stock pattern to accommodate all changes. This approach means that all the inner support is already there and accounted for, shoulder hang can be assessed precisely and so on.
    The fit at his second visit was basically perfect, a tribute to their years of experience in knowing exactly what works.

  17. Jay

    Cherry’s comment crystallised this thought – how about taking a pattern from a jacket which fits Gus well, and comparing this to your pattern? You could still keep the vintage features, but bat off the existing jacket for the shoulder and sleeve head area.

    • fabrickated

      Good idea. The thing is Jay he although he is a bit longer than average he seems to have no difficulty in buying RTW jackets. Obviously different companies use different blocks, and he has found that Zara (Spanish) and COS (generally a looser, geometric fit) are ideal. But he recently bought an M&S suit that fits brilliantly (from their Italian range).

  18. Brenda

    I’m impressed with this project! Good for you for taking it on. I wonder when you sleep. 😉

    My thought is similar to others’- make sure he likes the style, unless this is just a fun exercise for you. I was wondering if you could get him to a store to try a few styles on. I have tried on a toile and been shocked at the difference between the toile lapel style and the finished size/shape. For Gus, this may also be a large leap for his visualization.

    • fabrickated

      This is true. I think this is the strongest argument to stop with this design. Gus’s own feedback is fairly negative – but as ever I am trying to convince him to try something new. This is a stupid idea as most of us are very averse to trying something new – we know what we like and like what we know.

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