MANSWAP #1 The Jacket pattern

Before the SWAP rules were announced I had a rough idea of a capsule wardrobe for Gus, consisting of 11 items:

  1. Shirt
  2. Long sleeved T shirt
  3. High waisted jeans
  4. Corduroys
  5. Smart shorts
  6. Casual trousers
  7. Tailored jacket
  8. Bomber jacket
  9. Alpaca “Lore” jumper
  10. Polo neck jumper
  11. Coat

Since the rules were published I have had to rethink my plans a little, mainly because no more than eight patterns are allowed. The obvious thing to do is make shorts (6) and trousers (7) from the same pattern, which I think I will do. The long sleeved T (3) and the bomber jacket (9) could share the same pattern. I may drop the T and do two shirts – one with long sleeves and the other short. Also I am tempted, if I get a good fit on the tailored jacket, to do it twice – once in a wool and once in linen so that Gus’s wardrobe has both a winter (7 plus 3 and 4) and a summer set (to go with 5 and 6). This would mean leaving out (11) the coat.

I have also been thinking a bit more about patterns, especially the jacket. Thank you for your advice on sweater patterns – I will come back to the pullover in a later post.

The jacket

So back to the jacket.  I had another go at the 1940s jacket, and I think I made good progress with altering the paper pattern. Then I thought about another toile, and doing the sleeves later, and trying to get some canvas and shoulder pads that were  just right for a 1940s jacket and I felt a bit fed up. The wise words of caution of Ceci and Lynn Mally came to me as I was working away. And mostly what Cherry said:

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!

I realised that Gus had not really signed off the pattern. Despite expressing enthusiasm for the vintage project his desire to have a different shape may be worth responding to. During the second fitting he requested narrower lapels, two buttons, and no pockets. But I had no idea what sort of jacket patterns he really wanted. Is he sophisticated enough to really understand the options? When I make for myself I more or less know what I can have, and roughly how to make it. I often get what you might call “indirect” inspiration – in the case of Hila it was the graphic design of a penguin book. Other times it is more direct – say the copying of the Sache silk design from a Schiaparelli dress, and combining it with the Dogstar Napoleon Six design. Other times I directly copy an existing garment.

I have learned that making for someone else is a challenging area. You can either do more or less exactly what they tell you – ie copy this, or you can use your skill and judgement to create something they  might have never thought of. I prefer doing the second as it is much more exciting and uses more skills. But you run the risk of creating something inappropriate that wont be worn or loved.

When we designed our new holiday home our architect took our ideas and changed them quite a lot. She didn’t want us to do the design – she wanted us to say what we wanted and how we lived. She did the designing. She said “My job is to give you what you didn’t know you could have”. I loved this.

So I having chosen items for Gus, and apparently getting his sign off, I now feel a bit flat. Have I got the designs right? How much leeway can I have? Gus is fairly tolerant, but I would like to create a wardrobe he loves as much as I do with my SWAP set. So I am thinking again about more modern patterns.

Karen suggested MakeMyPattern which is a brilliant site. Joost has digitised some basic Winifred Aldrich men’s patterns and included an algorithm to size them correctly. How brilliant is that? I have decided to give it a go with a pair of trousers. MMP also has a shirt, and tie, but no jacket yet.

I asked Gus for an image of the jacket he would like and this is what he sent. It is actually a suit and rather more formal than I had envisaged. It has peaked lapels and only one button. I think I know why Gus likes this; the colour, the subtle, smooth look of the fabric, the close-fitting waisted look and the one button which actually emphasises the slim waist line. I am not sure how important the peaked lapels are. It has pockets which he says he doesn’t want (he never cuts them open, preferring instead to stuff things into the trouser pockets). Maybe no pockets is a modern, sleek look – maybe worth a try? It is possible these pockets are fakes – at least the breast pocket.

Reiss jacket in light grey
Reiss jacket

I found a Vogue pattern that might work. However it is much more casual – it is unlined and appears to be made up in searsucker. Which is strobing and hurting my eyes. Also it is more boxy and looks like an American sack suit (compared to the Italian look of the Reiss – an English brand – suit). Can I taper it in a bit to get a closer fit?

Here is a modern tailor-made jacket with the peaked lapels. I have asked my male work colleagues what they think of this look, and I got a mixed reception.

English Cut
English Cut



19 Responses

  1. Giorgia

    I had a similar issue when helping my bf shop for formal wear. However much easier ( I didn’t have to actually sew up anything) it was still a painful process. He suddenly needed formal wear (as a work-from-home employee this was a new thing) and was adamant he was going to hate anything we bought. Since he couldn’t come up with any “I would like” statements I started from “I hate business wear because…”. This led us to find out:

    – In his head suits = uniforms; he perceives a suit like a personality jail.
    – All his previous suits made him feel very short. Trousers hemmed wrong, sleeves too long, hems too low (wrong size/cut all around)
    – tailored clothing feels more restrictive that what he is used to and he just doesn’t like it

    Knowing what I had to avoid at all cost, and using my personal knowledge of his taste in colour/shapes together with an eye for his proportions, it was a bit easier to find something that could work.

    This massive intro is to say: do you know what he doesn’t like? Together with what you already know it might help zoom on one style. I might have missed a few episodes here, so this is possibly redundant 🙂

  2. Anne

    I found it a bit of a nightmare sewing for one of my daughters (I won’t say which but you can perhaps guess!). I came to think very much the same thoughts as Cherry. Now if I sew, it’s for me to practice techniques etc and I sew for my daughters as I don’t have to fit on myself and I’m less upset if the items don’t get worn. I don’t even know if they get worn or not! Possibly not as another daughter had left a bundle of clothes, including unworn ones made by me, requested by her. Benefit of the doubt – happened during a move.
    I’m still trying to make a pleated skirt for Helen (requested by her) and judging by progress so far (vetoing style features even after apparently going for them) that won’t be any time soon! I might end up giving her the fabric and telling her to get it made in London. I’d pay for that – cheaper in the end!
    So, I feel for you. I say go for a modern pattern. Mock pockets. Does Gus have a partner who might have an opinion? I like the idea of the two different weights of jacket. Would he actually wear a coat? Not living in London and driving quite a bit, I don’t find coats useful here. Maybe better in public transport and cold commutes. Though it never gets that cold in London, does it?
    Good luck with the MMP trousers.
    Sorry, that’s too lengthy a comment but I’m going to post it anyway

    • fabrickated

      I love long comments, and yours are always on the money and rather succinct dear Anne. Sewing for others is a minefield. I sewed lots for my daughter but always seemed to fail to meet her expectations. I am hoping that Gus is less critical/more desperate for clothes/more willing to take some advice.

      At the moment Gus doesn’t have a partner – I only meet the girlfriends by accident – he keeps them to himself….I think we have dropped the coat in favour of three jackets. Incidentally the MMP trousers are amazing. I will write up soon.

  3. Lynn Mally

    Thanks for the mention, even if it was my words of caution. I think making a men’s jacket without the pockets is a great idea. It might start a new style! Personally I envy the pockets in men’s clothes and always add pockets to anything I sew. But if Gus doesn’t use the pockets, why go to the hassle of making them. If he likes sleek, then give him sleek. And why not just ask him about the ideal shape of the lapels.

  4. Martina

    Did you look at Bootstrap patterns? They have a two button jacket that looks like a pretty exact match for the jacket Gus likes.

  5. Jenny (the lilac cat)

    I always feel with your blog you get twice the value, firstly from your reflective and interesting posts and then the fascinating input from your commentators. Cherry’s words did ring true – I can see a vintage jacket being a creative success but not necessarily as a staple for Gus’ wardrobe. I can understand how you feel torn between wanting a new and adventurous sewing challenge but beginning to feel that something with broader appeal may be safer but for you less exciting. A tough one but take heart from the very successful grey jumper you knitted Gus. There seemed to be a good balance there.

    • fabrickated

      Hello Jenny – yes I love the discussion that happens here. Everyone is so thoughtful and generous with their time and advice, critique and encouragement. I always like to think that the blog is an extension of my social life – I try to make it feel like a party where you can talk to everyone, or just drop in occasionally. I wish I could provide hospitality in real life – food, drink and introductions as well. But you and everyone else are welcome to visit me at home when and if the opportunity arises. Thank you for your kind comment.

  6. Cherry

    How gratifying to see my words given such weight! I think all sewers succumb to the “climbing a mountain because it is there” syndrome. I was caught by it last year and made myself a leather moto jacket, only to find that my leather sewing skills did not quite meet my personal standards. So it hangs in a closet, too good to give away, but unlikely to be seen in the street.
    My sons and Gus have a current silhouette, (aka the parsnip shape!) and would never be convincing in a 1940s style when men were smaller, especially round the shoulders. Not to mention the baggy pleated pants which would have to be worn for authenticity, but unlikely to be accepted.
    I would get hold of one of those “men’s style” wardrobing books and show him the different details such as lapels, pockets, vents and so on. Then let him show you the websites of some current retailers appealing to younger men. It could be a learning experience for both of you!

    • fabrickated

      Well your words were rather beautifully written – I love the Debbie Downer expression – and put in words what I was actually thinking but trying not to. I have tried to get him to do a Pinterest page, but he is inherently lazy and just wants me to know and understand by osmosis/observation. Over the next six months I hope I will understand him better!

  7. Jay

    Making a tailored jacket for a man is def. a labour of love. I drafted the pattern for the one I made, long ago. You have several hurdles to overcome, the ‘making for someone else’ problems, and the technical difficulties as well. Given how much work goes in to making a jacket like the rtw example, you’ll want to make sure it hits all his style requirements. The alternative approach, sticking with the vintage jacket, accepting that it’ll be an also ran in his wardrobe but will be more fun to make has a lot of appeal. Those very smooth sculptured silhouettes need great inner structure, they don’t so much fit the body as form a shell round it, especially in the shoulder region. Any chance of finding an example in a charity shop and pulling it apart?

  8. Kate

    I think it would be a mistake not to add the lower pockets even if Gus never cuts them open. The pocket flaps are part of the lines of the jacket and without them there would be something “off” about the overall look and Gus might feel it but not realise what it is.

    • fabrickated

      I agree with you Kate. I think it would look odd without pockets. But one brand he likes is COS and they often seem to strip down a design and minimalise it. I sort of want to try it, but you can’t really add pockets later.

  9. Stephanie

    The plan for Gus is sounding very much like my plan at this point, to meet the 8 pattern rule: two shirts, two bottoms and two jackets using the same patterns. On the other hand I am struggling a bit in regard to mixing seasons. You’re making me think it’s a reasonable thing to do. I wish I could include early birds but I don’t work as quickly as you do.

  10. karen

    Kate, the jacket that Gus picked is vaguely reminiscient of the suits worn in the early to mid 60’s. At the time, the style did not seem odd to me, (I was 8 to 12 years old), but now that style seems ill fitting. I don’t know if you watch Elementary (American television program featuring an updated version of an addicted Sherlock Holmes), but the main character wears a suit jacket like this. It cracks me up all the time, he looks like PeeWee Herman. Make sure that your son’s jacket sleeves are long enough and that there is a bit of room to move. The modern jackets I’ve seen do not move properly on the body. If the young man lifts an arm, the whole jacket lifts. I have always thought it was just choosing a suit that was too small, but I may be wrong.

  11. Manuela

    Kate, you mentioned at the Stitcher’s Guild that you are not sure what jeans pattern to use. Have a look at Vogue 8801 – I made it up in black denim for my husband, he was very happy with it (they have a sale on at the moment).

  12. Seamsoddlouise

    I think the vogue pattern might work, has Gus seen that? Although I would be wary of slimming it too much as it might make him look top heavy. I personally prefer the vintage jacket, but it is silly to sew something he wont wear. This could be a good compromise. On the subject of SWAP, why do they limit the amount of patterns you can use? That feels unnecessarily restrictive.

  13. Alli

    Your posts are always amazing to read! I enjoyed Cherry’s comment — it was so vivid, and I could totally see that happening.

    Oh, I wanted to mention that I love that I learned about American suits’ sackiness from you. I actually think of your suit styles post whenever I switch between watching Korean dramas (where even gangsters wear perfectly tailored suits, heh) to American shows with actors wearing our sack suits. 😀

    • fabrickated

      Thank you for your very sweet feedback Alli. I wish I knew more about Korean culture. We have a small Korean community in South London, and a nice selection of artifacts in the British Museum, but I have never seen a drama. One day….

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