This December I went home to Oregon for Christmas, which was the first time I had been home in a year. I love my family and I missed them very much so I was really looking forward to the break. I had ten days with my family before my boyfriend Adam joined us and met my family for the first time, which I was very excited about and he was very nervous about, but of course it went really well. Over those ten days I actually did not spend very much time with my family as I spent any hour I wasn’t working locked in my mom’s sewing room making Vogue 2768, which is a 1972 Bill Blass pattern from the Vogue Americana pattern line. (In fact I still spent plenty of time with my mom and my youngest sister but only because they were nice enough to hang out in a small somewhat stuffy room with me and our two dogs.)
Bill Blass, like Claude Montana, is such a classic American designer who has pretty much been forgotten in all but name only, but he did a lot to define American style. He took part in the Versailles 1973 competition which pitted five American designers who favored more casual clothing against five French couturiers. Robin Givhan wrote a book about this event called The Battle of Versailles. Basically Versailles 1973 ended up legitimizing American fashion, and the American designers invited to participate were Anne Klein, Halston, Oscar de la Renta, Stephen Burrows, and Bill Blass. The Americans basically put on this weird Broadway-style show with music and dancing and they “won” in the eyes of the press and public, which for a designer like Blass who was very commercial and sporty and had never apprenticed in Paris was a huge deal, and ultimately it changed the fashion landscape forever. I listened to a Dressed podcast about this at one point but I can no longer find the episode. Liza Minelli performed, it was all very 70s. All the American clothes were probably made of jersey.
Anyway, all this to say I have a lot of admiration for Blass’ work, and I thought this jacket would be good for Adam since we both find the 70s to be very cute but I don’t always like the very crunchy, crumbly, synthetic feel of 70s clothing that’s now 50 years old and made out of what pretty much amounts to plastic fibers or jersey or something. But Blass loved the 30s and 40s, old Hollywood clothes with old Hollywood kind of modesty, made for a serious person in the 70s and 80s, and I think you can read that in his clothes. I definitely think you can see that in 2768, which is a very classic looking jacket and pants set, but the jacket has many interesting details: an oversize collar (by modern menswear standards) which is tailored in a very sincere semi-couture way, buttoned epaulets, two piece sleeves, a back yoke, and top stitching throughout. I thought it would be nice, kind of neutral, and an interesting first try at menswear since I make so many jackets already. I referenced the Threads article Inside a Well-Made Jacket many, many times as I built this coat. And I quickly realized that tailored menswear is totally not like womenswear.
Based on the recommendations from “Inside a Well-Made Jacket,” I bought a wool fabric with a bonded backing, a polyester organza for the underlining, Pellon Thermolam for interlining and for the sleeve heads, a pair of shoulder pads and some horsehair canvas for the collar. I also bought collar felt which I ended up not using and just used the wool fabric as the undercollar. I got a Babylock Victory serger as a gift from my parents and that made all the finishings on the underlining really simple, because I would just baste it to the fashion fabric and then serge the organza and the wool simultaneously, to both attach them into one piece and to finish the raw edges. At one point I didn’t do a good job paying attention to my new serger and I serged a chunk out of the back of the jacket, and then I had to wait three days to buy new fabric for the back and side panels and I came very close to a breakdown. It’s very rare for me to make anything on any kind of a time crunch and also very rare for me to make clothing for other people so I felt very stressed out the whole time I did this, and jetlagged from my 6 AM work meetings.
One of the most interesting parts of this jacket was padstitching the horsehair undercollar. Horsehair canvas is used to stiffen collars in mens tailoring (and actually it’s used in a narrow roll form in some skirt hems to maintain a more bell shape to skirts) and it has to be lightly stitched to the fashion fabric while it’s being hand-shaped in order to create a “roll line” for the collar to fold down. Here are some progress photos of my pad stitching.
It was really cool to see the horsehair change the collar shape. I initially started off using a woven interfacing then redid all the stitching with the horsehair since the woven interfacing didn’t do any shaping at all. When I pressed the collar around my tailor’s ham it really created a defined roll line and the purpose of using horsehair and spending several hours making invisible stitches in the canvas finally clicked for me. In the photos you can see the undercollar (with the white horsehair), the collar band (black interfacing), and my yellow organza interlining in the body of the jacket.
Adding the lining, etc was straightforward. I decided not to do the front patch pockets and added pockets in the front seams of the jacket instead, which was also pretty simple. Somehow after reading and rereading my Well Made Jacket bible I still forgot the interlining and had to add it in through the collar hole even after the lining was sewn in, which required some careful finagling of internal stitching the soft padding (similar to quilt batting) to the interlining but ended up not being too hard once I made sure the sleeve holes of the interlining matched up to the existing sleeve holes. I did not interline the sleeves (too bulky), just the body of the jacket, so it was basically just adding a puffy vest to the internals and making sure everything lined up okay. I also had a great time inserting the shoulder pads and sleeve heads, which I took no photos of but it was a really easy process and just took some slip-stitching. This project overall took more hand stitching than I expected, between the collar, the shoulder pads/sleeve heads and my silly mistake forgetting the interlining which otherwise could have been machine-basted to the lining.
Lastly, I suffered through even more buttonholes, which of course were challenging to sew into so many layers of fabric. They turned out fine, not great. At some point I would like to learn how to insert metal snap buttons, which might be easier and even end up looking a lot neater because it’s not some awful mess of buttonhole stitching.
I enrolled in a couture sewing class at FIT once this jacket was done. It got me really interested in sewing tailored menswear which involved a lot of new to me old-world skills. Possibly I will blog about it.
Here is the jacket on. The sleeve holes are too high for Adam (as can be seen by the drag line on Adam’s right side chest) and the sleeves are too short. Thinking about it now I could just rip out the sleeves then re draft and lengthen them for a larger armhole, but I wanted to ask my FIT teacher. I have some extra fabric and I definitely worked really hard on this jacket over many days so I would like Adam to wear it. This is what I get for not using him for a fitting beforehand, but I suspect the Pellon interlining might have added armhole bulk I didn’t expect anyway, and I wanted it to be a surprise.