Tuesday, January 22, 2013

40s Jacket Deconstruction

Cool news: I have an exciting new job teaching fashion part time at Marist College. The class is for juniors, and it focuses on the development of a tailored collection. And you know how I love my tailoring! Over winter break, the students had a really interesting assignment: to find and deconstruct a vintage jacket, making a pattern and several new designs from it. I didn't want to be left out of the fun, so I decided to get in on the deconstruction action myself, which I shall document here.

First, the jacket. I found the perfect candidate at great shop called Bygones in Richmond, VA, over my holiday break. It's dated from the 40s, has a great tailored silhouette, but wasn't in great shape to wear. The fabric was corroded in spots and the lining was in tatters around the armholes. (You know I couldn't stand to completely take apart a stellar vintage garment!)

Bonus: it fits me perfectly so I can use the pattern I make from it.

It has a lovely crisp notched collar, classic two-piece sleeves, princess seams, a strong shoulder line, and double flap pockets.




There's a side panel under the arm for extra shaping.


It has a felt undercollar (which is traditional in fine tailoring), and very crisp roll line on the lapel--you can see the dimples from the pad stitching on the back.



The lining is a pretty rose-colored silk.

 Not in great condition in places.

There's a nice little handsewn hook at the collar. There's no designer's tag, but later clues have led me to believe it was custom-made by a professional.

Another cool detail: open vents at the side seams of the lining, where lots of wear and tear usually happens.


I could hardly wait to start taking this thing apart. (It felt wrong, but oh so right.) As you can see, the lining was entirely sewn in by hand with a slipstitch.


Once I got the lining out, I could see the jacket body's inner construction. The front revealed two different weights of hair canvas, and some thin batting for upper chest padding, all stitched together with diagonal basting. The shoulder pads were handmade with wadding.

 See labels below!
The pocket bags are made from tightly-woven pocketing fabric.
The back has padding to give a smooth line to the shoulder blades. There is no shoulder stay or reinforcement.


The seam allowances are uneven all over, and especially large at the fitting seams, indicating that this was a custom-made piece.

Next, I removed one of the facings for the Holy Grail of tailoring. There's twill tape on the edges and a wide strip of some sort of interfacing on the roll line. The whole thing is neatly pad stitched.

 I had to cut around the machine-made buttonholes to remove it.
Now I could peek under the collar to see the pad stitching there. 


A few other notes, if you're still reading at this point:

  • Lining: seams and darts on each individual piece machine sewn, then hand stitched into jacket separately with a fell stitch. The handstitching tacks the lining down to jacket interior in several places. Lining sleeves set in by hand.
  • Hem is pressed up and held in place with large catch stitches. 
  • Delicate hand pick stitches all around jacket front, lapels, and collar for crisp look.
  • Felt undercollar applied by hand with fell stitches--felt undercollar has no seam allowances; raw edge is aligned with turned-under seam allowances of the upper collar.
My next step is to completely deconstruct the pieces to make a pattern from. More to come!

55 comments:

  1. This is fascinating! Can't wait to see next installment.

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  2. I suspect you may have seen it, but this chap pulls apart donated bespoke / made to measure men's suits on his blog.

    http://tuttofattoamano.blogspot.co.uk/

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  3. Wow! I'd be scared to death! (I am looking forward to the day when this might not be out of my league!) :) Can't wait to see whats next!

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  4. Wow amazing... cant hardly wait for you to get the pattern... love the idea of double flaps on the pockets... the only part I was expecting bound buttonholes lol!!!

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  5. you had me at "interesting assignment". Can't wait to see how this project unfolds and would be really interested in seeing how the students fare with their assignments too.

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  6. What a great subject for your teaching! Can you show the results of your class too?
    Hollie

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  7. Thank you Gertie for this post! I have goosebumps of excitement from this kind of stuff.

    Miriana- thank you for that link! I would LOVE to see that movie.

    Personally I am head over heels in love with my new book - Vintage Couture Tailoring by
    Thomas von Nordheim, which I can't recommend enough.

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  8. What an exciting new job you have! Good for you! And what really interesting assignment for your students!

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  9. Wow! I can't wait to see the rest! This is so out of my league but I always love to read your experience and hope I'll be that good some day :)

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  10. It's so interesting to see whats underneath the outer layer of a tailored jacket. What an amazing work. I love how they had padded the shoulders blades to get a sturdy look of the back.

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  11. WOW! this is fascinating! I wish they still made garments like this.. I can't wait to see what you'll do with this!

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  12. Thanks for the photos inside this lovely little jacket. Peeking inside is the best:) Fun project and a great teaching tool.

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  13. This is beyond exciting...what a terrific idea with so many possibilities...the techniques used are a cavalcade of superior workmanship to be admired and tucked into our sewing repertoire of ideas. You are the best..and I can't wait to hunt down a couture garment of my own to inspect.

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  14. Wow! At some point that must have been a well-loved piece. It makes me sad to see such a carefully constructed garment in a thrift store. However, a really nice piece for your students to see.

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  15. Thanks for posting. I, too, adore tailoring and got to re-line, re-face an replace the upper collar on a hand made 1930s tailcoat for work a few years ago and did this exact same photo trail -- partly so I could put it back together the same way and partly to keep as research. I love this!

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  16. Wow! Thanks for sharing your knowledge and adventures. This is a work of art. And you know your stuff. Impressive!
    Now we know why people don't wear this kind of gorgeous clothing anymore - beautiful, but a lot of work and expensive.

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  17. Ooooh Thanks for sharing. I would never have guessed all that wadding at the shoulders was in there. I love to see the innards of vintage garments. Can't wait to see more!

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  18. wow. this treminds me of my Grandmother's clothes that I have seen in photographs. My great grand mother probably made all of the clothes for her daughters. Five of them.
    This is a beautiful peice of sewing history. thanks for sharing it. I wish i could have taken classes with you when I was in college! what a great way to learn!

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  19. Really good step by step tutorial. Beautiful, classy jacket. Makes me want to be in an old movie with Cary Grant!

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  20. Omg, I was about to hyperventilate when you said that you were deconstructing a jacket from the 40's. But then I remembered that you are ridiculously meticulous, and you said it was well worn. Whew!

    I am still beginning to sew, and I can in no way claim that I can tailor my clothes well, but seeing the details is so eyeopening! The open vents at the side seams of the lining because there is more stress there? Never would have known!

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  21. Oh, I love this type of thing! Do you know the blog, Made By Hand - The Great Sartorial Debate: http://tuttofattoamano.blogspot.co.uk/. Jeffery does some really fantastic deconstructing of men's tailoring.

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  22. This is like reading a good book! Each chapter reveals something new in the plot. The punch line will be your patterns. Thank you for sharing.

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  23. ooh, i love those double flap pockets! looking forward to seeing what you and your class do with it!

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  24. That jacket is a work of art - the person/people who made it were like sculptors. Maybe they had to put the shoulder padding in because the customer had round shoulders?

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  25. It is sad the jacket was at a thrift shop, but how ever would it have found just the right buyer (you!!) if it hadn't been there? Kismet! Really exciting account of the deconstruction. Very interesting.

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  26. What a fantastic project for your class and for us as well. Can't wait for the next instalment. Loving your work as always.

    Steff

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  27. Very exciting! You are so smart!

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  28. Thats exiting! And you just reminded me I forgot the hand pick stitches when I made my boyfriend's tailcoat.

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  29. this is fascinating! knid of frightening, but the death of this jacket will mean many new more jackets!

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  30. wow! I would love to be taking that class, sounds like so much fun!

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  31. The double flap pockets are amazing! I would be tempted to make the jacket a bit longer for better proportions.

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  32. Very fascinating, makes me think of how far away I am from constructing a tailored jacket hahaha

    www.becstitches.blogspot.com.au

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  33. Wow, that is very interesting! I have not attempted a jacket yet, so when I finally do it won't be so scarey as I will know what elements make one up!

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  34. ooooh.....those double pockets.....my heart beat a little faster.

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  35. I've been reading Claire Shaeffer's book on Couture Sewing Techniques and all the things you are finding are in that book. Your project reminds me of the way I was taught to make a tailored jacket in a class I took back in the early 80's from Krakowers, a fabulous store that used to be in Poughkeepsie.

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  36. If after the students assignments are done and they've created their designs and tailored them, there is a site called www.simplyyourdesigns.com where they can action off their works for free. they can also buy memberships which include photo editing tutorials and templates. and they get 10% off any membership if they use this discount code, BRADF-0003

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  37. The late 30's and early 40's are my favorite fashion era and my 2013 plan is to focus my sewing on styles from or inspired by it. A princess seamed jacket like this is definitely one of the pieces I hope to make, so I will love seeing your process. You've shared lots of information already--thanks so much!

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  38. Really cool! I'm in the middle of making my first fully-hand tailored jacket (using one of Claire Shaeffer's patterns V8333) and am relieved to see that padstitching is supposed to leave those little dimples.

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  39. Ooo, this is like tailoring crack. Looking forward to seeing the sequel!

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  40. I recently finished reading "Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion" by Elizabeth Cline. When I saw this post it immediately made me think about this book. She talks much about construction of garments today. Take almost any "average" priced "tailored" jacket today and you will NEVER find this kind of construction anymore. We really have lost the true value of well made clothing. Thank you for showing us what tailoring is suppose to look like.

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    1. I read that earlier last summer - her accounting of the garment industry's decline is excellent and sad. My great-grandmother was a tailor at a department store - she taught my mom everything about construction and tailoring. I'm glad I know these same techniques, but it makes me sad to think that my great-grandmother's skill is devalued to the point of vanishing.

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  41. Awesome post! I am loving tailoring more and more and am terribly hungry for every detail I can get. The effort that goes into a well tailored piece is really worth it. The past few years I've begun to move further away from fast fashion towards investing in higher quality fabrics and spending more time on construction and tailoring. The clothes that have more inner construction techniques look better throughout a long day at the office (then to class!) and seem to be staying in better over-all condition. This does mean I don't have as many new items each season but I'm enjoying the process and the results more.

    Thanks again Gertie, this is like a peak behind the wizards' curtain for me!

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  42. I've been looking for something like this for so long. I recently tailored a donated overcoat down to size, but I admit that my "just wing it" approach is not the best. Love to see how someone who actually knows what they're doing works!

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  43. I LOVE Bygones! Its right around the corner from where I live. Carytown is an awesome place to shop and eat :)

    Congratulations on the new role!

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  44. Wow, this is a fantastic resource. Thankyou for sharing Gretchen, and congratulations on your new job.

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  45. Thank you from this soft-furnishings seamstress! I am just getting "into" making clothes and as with many things I find myself doing-jumping in feet first and having hundreds of questions. Your blog is an excellent resource for someone in my situation: knows how to sew but needs to learn the language of engineering clothes.

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  46. I'm catching up after a couple of weeks of furious work, and i see you've been in town! as a Richmonder (and Fan resident), i LOOOOOOVVVVVEE some Bygones!!! that's so cool that you visited!! if you come back this way, give a shout out, i'd love to grab a cup of coffee or a cocktail and have a VA sewing meetup!

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    1. oooh and i forgot to mention, i ADORE this 'deconstruct to learn more' theme you've started. simply brilliant!

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  47. Very good and interesting site with very good look and perfect information I like it
    sohbet

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Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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