1940’s Copycat Coat

Circa late 30’s or very early 40’s I think…

The original coat doesn’t look all that fab here but it was just one of those things that you try on and go Wow! So over two months last Autumn I made a version for myself.

-First step was a re-drape of one side of the coat in muslin directly on top of the original to give me the basic shape and style lines. There was a lot more shaping under the arm than you can see in this photo and some tricky cutting near the pocket and I wouldn’t get that accurately if I worked on the flat from a modern coat block. Re-draping is fun anyway and I always learn something new when copying old garments with this method.

-Second step I transferred the muslin pattern onto paper and made corrections from measurements I’d taken from the coat then sewed up a toile from the corrected pattern. After fitting it on myself I decided to add an extra pleat on each side of the centre back pleat and to have them start right at the waist instead of a bit below the belt.

Third step etc- All seemed good enough to get on with my real fabric finally, a sturdy wool cavalry twill. The body went together reasonably easily though the curved dart that goes into a little horizontal seam at the top of the pocket was a real fiddle to do. The sleeves were a twisted disaster however… never did quite figure out what went wrong but had enough fabric (phew!!) to recut them. To get them correct I did finally use one of my own modern basic sleeve patterns altered to the proportions of the original coat sleeves.

I like a snazzy lining in a coat and found this silk twill fabric that still makes me smile on the grimmest of days.

To build up big enough shoulder pads I used one and a half of a mens suit pad in each side.
I didn’t like where the top two buttons hit my chest so left them off as well as leaving off the arrows on the end of the front darts.

The waist buttons holes are self-welted and though the sleeves are done with a proper button vent on the back seam I never actually did the buttonholes on them… and have been roundly told off for laziness by a tailor friend. I will do them …some day. All the under stitching on lapels and fronts was done by hand . I am lucky to have the use of an industrial steam iron as the cavalry twill is tough stuff to press and don’t think I could have managed with my home iron.

Just as a last note on the pleats: the back of each pleat is a seam which though making for a lot more pieces to cut out and sew together really helps the back of the coat keep its shape. The lining is not pleated however, it is just an A-line shape in the back.

I absolutely love this coat and consider it one of my most successful makes to date. I’ve worn it a few times this June even, can you believe it? Not the warmest summer here so far…

60 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. marysiap
    Sep 19, 2016 @ 20:25:44

    What can I say, other than totally sublime. In awe of your skill in pattern drafting and making up the clothes. Thanks so much. Must check out the pattern and challenge myself to make it. So, so stylish.

    Reply

  2. sdaven5191
    Jul 14, 2016 @ 21:49:38

    This is the most exquisite design for a coat I have ever seen!! I have always loved the 40’s, clothing, music, movies, everything about it – except that horrific War, of course – but I think the side effects of that War gave us some of the lovely designs we admire so much today! Its kind of a Catch-22 situation – the War gave us the need to design the clothing we had to wear, which turned in to some of the loveliest things ever, AND it basically yanked us by the neck out of the Great (?) Depression by establishing almost 100% employment, with a booming economy then and after, but it took so many things away from us and the rest of the world as well. Which would you have?

    Oh dear – I seem to have been derailed by another subject, so let me get this back on track again! The “reefer” style coat and the Princess lines have always been my very favorite style of all. It is so feminine and flattering on just about every body, including, and i think especially, us “fluffy” girls! It gives us a defined waistline, and that hourglass shape that is supposed to be the ultimate shape to achieve. I am tall, with long legs, and a lot more Coke in the bottom of my bottle than in the top, which has always been the case to some degree or another, but this style has always balanced me out!

    After I got married, (I was much more “well balanced” than I am now at 59,) almost 40 years ago the end of this month(!), at the tender but still mature age of 19, and was finally able to shop and buy for myself what I wanted and for how much I wanted to spend (this was NOT how I grew up, btw) the first thing I did as soon as winter coats hit the racks, was I went shopping for the most beautiful coat I could find, and put it on lay-away! I gave my old ugly sacktype brown blah coat to the Goodwill. And I had the most beautiful deep Navy and gray with a touch of burgundy plaid wool winter cost with a hood and fluffy fur around the hood and cuffs. It made me feel like a queen, and I couldn’t WAIT to get it out of lay-away and for cold weather to hit, which I normally despised! But in southeastern Virginia, right on the Chesapeake Bay, sometimes we have a white Christmas and sometimes we get nothing all winter.

    Well, that winter and the following several winters, I got my wish! I made excuses to go out in my new winter coat and matching navy knee high boots! My husband probably thought I was a little barmy, as they say, and maybe I was just a bit. But unless you’re a woman, and have had little control over your wardrobe or your spending all your life, there’s no way you could possibly “get it.”

    Following that first winter, all subsequent winters have been spent in the blustery Midwestern state of Indiana, and my coat got quite the workout! After three hard winters, including the infamous Blizzard of ’78, I had my coat relined with a heavier fabric, on the sly, by my very talented (and sneaky) seamstress of a mother-in-law! She presented me what had suddenly become my “missing” winter coat a few weeks prior, all dry cleaned and pressed and completely relined in a more durable, good quality fabric I cannot recall the name of right at this moment. But it was all ready for several more winters! Eventually, and sadly, I wore it out, and had to finally buy myself a new one. By then we had a couple of children, about 2½ and 9 months, so money was a little tighter than BK (Before Kids). My coat wasn’t the grand affair I had started out married life in, but it kept me warm, and my husband was congratulated by his pals for having such a frugal wife who didn’t need to.go out and buy a brand new coat every winter!

    I saw this originally on Pinterest, and started to repin it into my 40’s board, but something made me stop and check it out, which isnt that unusual for me. But something about this just said “Stop!” and check it out. After reading your story about its creation, and many of the comments made since it first got posted, the only thing I can say (after everything ELSE I have said!) is that you have an amazing talent that i can only sit back and admire from a distance!

    I won’t ask you anything about a pattern, because this is obviously so far above my inadequate abilities and sewing talents that I wouldn’t know where to begin! And i am too disabled now to learn. The only thing I can ask you about is “do you make such things for clients?” The coat I mean! But I’m sure the amount of work this requires, obviously (you gave a three day time frame) it would be quite out of my budget and, per one other young lady’s comment here, quite out of my size range! That’s a real shame, as I’m sure we could probably provide you with a goodly chunk of your income for doing such things! There are no tailoring establishments around here which cater to us “fluffy” gals that I’m aware of, and I am certainly not up to hunting any down at this point in my life!

    My goodness – this has become quite the novelette, hasn’t it? It’s amazing the effects one garment can have on someone’s life, isn’t it? I will find a good place in which to repin the image that brought me here, so that I can find it whenever I want to look at the most beautiful coat in the world!

    My Best Regards…

    Reply

    • VeraVenus
      Jul 15, 2016 @ 19:08:41

      Well what can I say but a big thank you. I’m so pleased my coat has inspired you to write. Your 70’s outfit sounds wonderful… knee high boots and all! I’m the same age as you…. and had a lot of fun dressing in the 70’s. What a lovely thing your mother-in-law did for you too.
      I think is it rare that clothes get the extended life by dint of re-lining or reworking as they did in more frugal times- which actually seem to be on us once again both sides of ‘the pond’. At least it seems more people are learning to sew again so that’s a good thing.
      As to sewing for others I’ve recently stopped virtually all my private bespoke making and just do some costume making due to arthritis in both hands which has become quite bad in the last 6 months. Pattern drafting is less of a problem in terms of my hands so I am turning more to just doing that for both costumes and my own patterns, more of which I hope to be selling fairly soon.
      Thank you again for all you wrote and my best regards to you too…

      Reply

  3. kalli
    Feb 11, 2016 @ 13:55:24

    I absolutely love this!!! I would love the pattern if there is one, I know how to make patterns and alter them for size but this style is perfect!!

    Reply

  4. Megan
    Dec 06, 2015 @ 16:25:43

    I adore the lining – so cheerful on dreary days! Out of curiosity, what fabric did you use for your muslin?

    Reply

    • VeraVenus
      Dec 06, 2015 @ 18:11:38

      Thanks, Megan, something other than a solid colour matching lining just adds that much more pleasure to the wearing doesn’t it.
      As to what I use for muslins- in general just a tightly woven unbleached cotton but for a coat toile I like to use heavier cotton drill.

      Reply

  5. Alison
    Jan 14, 2015 @ 21:38:39

    Did you ever produce a pattern for this for ale Vera, it’s amazing! You’re so talented. I love it

    Reply

    • VeraVenus
      Jan 17, 2015 @ 18:21:35

      Hi Alison, thank you! There is a pattern but not yet for sale.

      Reply

      • Hannah
        Oct 28, 2015 @ 11:05:14

        This coat is incredible! Absolutely STUNNING! Did you put the pattern up for sale anywhere? I’d drop everything to buy it if it’s available!
        Beautiful work!!

        Reply

      • deborchi
        Nov 29, 2015 @ 18:16:14

        I would be interested in a Pattern also.

        Reply

        • VeraVenus
          Nov 29, 2015 @ 22:06:35

          It’s almost ready…. have checked through the pattern and made some tweaks and corrections. The instructions just need to be typed and a few line drawings done. Finished end of this week I think

  6. sewitwell
    Nov 22, 2014 @ 23:46:17

    Hey Vera, Maybe you could get some deposit orders to see how viable this would be. As a pattern maker I could have a go at drafting it but honestly Id rather pay for a pattern these days. Im sure you would sell heaps of this coat as it is a classic and I think the response you’ve had attests to this. I posted it to Pinterest and its been repinned 3 times so far 🙂

    Reply

  7. Kimberly Aker
    Oct 19, 2014 @ 03:18:43

    Hello. Is the coat the same used on Outlander. Claire Randel wears?

    Reply

    • VeraVenus
      Oct 19, 2014 @ 06:26:14

      No it’s not the same coat. I made mine almost 3 years ago. But they do look very similar don’t they!

      Reply

  8. patricia
    Sep 26, 2014 @ 05:21:16

    Another echo for the pattern for sale if possible Its beautiful,with the same lines as a Burberry. Love it

    Reply

  9. Donna
    Aug 30, 2014 @ 20:05:45

    love this coat .. will you have the pattern for sale

    Reply

    • VeraVenus
      Aug 31, 2014 @ 16:43:10

      I will and aiming hopefully sometime this Fall … in it’s current form it is proving a challenging make for the few people I have let try it so far. I need to do a slightly simplified version!

      Reply

  10. Gretchen Mastrogiannis
    Nov 26, 2013 @ 06:39:12

    I love this! I have read through many comments and join the chorus of wanting the pattern. However, I have the advantage of having learned flat pattern drafting. Sadly, struggle with draping. I know how odd this sounds. I think I may attempt this one, perhaps after Christmas. I can’t wait! Have I mentioned, I love this?

    Reply

    • VeraVenus
      Nov 29, 2013 @ 18:41:01

      Hi Gretchen, well flat drafting a coat like this would probably be a chinch for you. Over the years I’ve met quite a few cutters similar in that flat drafting/not draping respect. I took to draping like a duck to water and adored my draping instructor but went to my flat drafting classes only enough to barely pass- that teacher was scary! It took me a few years of being on the job to finally get my head around flat drafting. Now I comfortably use a hybrid of both but still turn to working on a mannequin when I need to figure something out.
      In regards to the 40’s coat pattern- my reticence in putting the pattern out is mainly because writing the ‘how to’ for a 27 piece/3 day make is something I personally find quite a daunting prospect!

      Reply

  11. Ai
    Sep 28, 2013 @ 20:38:31

    I really love your coat. I was wondering whether you have a free pattern that I could use to make one for myself.

    Reply

    • VeraVenus
      Sep 28, 2013 @ 21:28:10

      Hi- I’m sorry but no, this pattern isn’t one I’ll ever be giving away.

      Reply

      • Tulle and Tweed
        Sep 29, 2013 @ 08:22:27

        Does that mean you will have this pattern on sale? I for one would be only too happy to buy this – though I suspect a tutorial might be needed, that pocket looks a bit tricky! No pressure 🙂

        Reply

        • VeraVenus
          Sep 29, 2013 @ 09:15:44

          Lol yes the pocket is tricky 🙂 it’s a 28 piece pattern and definitely needs good instructions. Its another one I plan on going commercial with … if my grand pattern plan ever gets further than that one bra pattern!

  12. Tulle and Tweed
    Mar 12, 2013 @ 20:55:42

    perfection, yep I would push all else aside to make this! love the styling too.

    Reply

  13. Anna Dorthea Aasbjerg
    Jan 12, 2013 @ 20:29:54

    This must be my dream coat! Great job and fantastic details!

    Reply

  14. Jamie
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 19:40:44

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this jacket. I am in awe of your talent. It’s too bad there isn’t a curvy girls version-I’d love to rock the heck out of it 🙂 Hooked on your blog now. Seriously beautiful work!

    Reply

  15. Eva
    Sep 05, 2011 @ 15:37:18

    Might be a copycat, but it does look stunning!

    Reply

  16. Johanna
    Aug 13, 2011 @ 17:59:09

    I think that this is the most gorgeous coat i have ever seen. Ever. Is it in any way possible to bribe you into sending me a paper version of the pattern? 😉

    It’s been a long time since i’ve felt this inspired to sew something (for my self that is). Thank you! I’m off to the construction table! If I by winter have managed to make anything, i’m going to call it my Vera Coat 😀

    Reply

  17. elationcreations
    Jul 20, 2011 @ 14:59:11

    what an amazing make! Those pleats are beautiful and if i witnessed you wearing this whilst walking down the street I would have to come and tell you how much I loved it! I bet when you say you made it peoples mouths drop open. 🙂

    Reply

  18. zilredloh
    Jul 13, 2011 @ 17:04:48

    This is probably the prettiest coat I’ve seen in a long time. I think it looks even better than the original!
    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!

    Reply

  19. fredericaknits
    Jul 09, 2011 @ 21:47:19

    That is one beautiful coat! I can only but dream of the day I’d be able to make something this amazing.

    Reply

  20. VeraVenus
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 17:25:04

    Wow, with such fantastic encouragement I may well figure out how to get some of my patterns out there commercially sooner rather than later
    Thank you all 🙂

    Reply

  21. Shannon
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 14:17:47

    Absolutely beautiful! Your attention to detail is amazing. I look forward to the day when you have the requisite time, knowledge, and software for sharing your patterns 🙂 Best wishes

    Reply

  22. Molly
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 04:13:53

    This coat is amazing!!! Excellent work!

    Reply

  23. Lucy
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 03:14:49

    I’d buy that. I LOVE the back of it – the lines with the pleats look quite art deco. And the lining is gorgeous, too.

    Reply

  24. Nina
    Jun 28, 2011 @ 14:52:13

    Yep, want one too! Really well done!

    Reply

  25. daisydonut
    Jun 27, 2011 @ 21:41:57

    Your coat is stunning, and if you ever get round to producing a pattern, I would very much like one.

    Reply

  26. evie
    Jun 27, 2011 @ 16:12:48

    This coat is absolutely exquisite (yet another person who prefers your version to the original even)! I would wear it in a heartbeat. Truly stunning garment. Lovely work!

    Reply

  27. Lisa
    Jun 27, 2011 @ 12:36:25

    wow. that is absolutely gorgeous.

    Reply

  28. VeraVenus
    Jun 27, 2011 @ 11:20:12

    Thank you all for leaving lovely comments 🙂

    I do actually hope some day to be selling patterns for vintage styled garments like this… but don’t anyone hold your breath as I can’t see it happening all that soon.
    Time, knowledge, CAD software – all currently in short supply.
    But it is my dream goal….

    Reply

  29. Nathalie
    Jun 27, 2011 @ 10:38:45

    Yes, I can see why you wouldn’t want those top buttons! The result is absolutely stunning – the back of your coat falls so beautifully and it all looks so chic. I’ll add myself to the chorus of people who would buy that pattern in an instant. You have done a truly amazing job (and that lining is fab too!).

    Reply

  30. Lauren
    Jun 27, 2011 @ 10:15:20

    Wow, just wow.

    Reply

  31. Eva
    Jun 27, 2011 @ 09:09:05

    It’s absolutely gorgeous and I echo Sarah saying that I definitely would buy that coat pattern if it existerd.

    Reply

  32. Sarah Latchem
    Jun 27, 2011 @ 08:14:41

    Your coat is fantastic! It really looks beautiful, I love the regular pleats in the back and can see why you left the top buttons off! The colour is very beautiful and a snazzy lining does brighten up the day.

    Reply

  33. Portia
    Jun 27, 2011 @ 07:14:47

    Gorgeous!
    I am a beginner at pattern drafting (although hooked already!!) and so far have only been taught the flat pattern method of drafting from blocks. I am in awe of your skills here! I really fancy having a go at draping as I think it will definately help me with the transition between 2D and 3D thought processes. At a beginner stage such as I am, it can sometimes be difficult to visualise the 3 dimensional garment from a flat draft. For some reason I suspect my brain is more wired towards the draping method….shall definately be following your future projects with interest!
    Much koudos for that beautiful coat. You are right to be proud!
    Portia
    xxx

    Reply

    • VeraVenus
      Jun 29, 2011 @ 16:31:00

      Portia, I still cringe when I think back to my first flat pattern drafting class- I barely passed it!
      I took to draping like a duck to water though. Now after years I can do quite credible flat patterns without draping first but still struggle to draft a basic block from scratch. It’s just not how my brain works. For flat pattern I work mainly from blocks I’ve developed over the years, from things I’ve draped and fitted on real people. My work flow now generally uses a back and forth combination of both methods.
      Learning draping on the stand definitely improved my flat pattern visualisation skills.
      I hope you do try it out soon.. you may well find you love it!

      Reply

  34. Catherine
    Jun 27, 2011 @ 06:52:35

    This would be my dream coat.I do not know that I could ever make anything so complex from a regular paper pattern with instructions let alone to take a copy from an original.Your sewing is very inspirational.

    Reply

  35. Isis
    Jun 27, 2011 @ 04:02:14

    What a wonderful transformation!

    Reply

  36. kittysdrawings
    Jun 27, 2011 @ 04:01:31

    Wow what an amazing coat! I wish I had your skillz – A 40’s coat is right on my list of things to obtain.

    Reply

  37. BJ
    Jun 27, 2011 @ 02:37:57

    Just found your blog from Sew Retro. Everything you have made here is awesome! You are some talented sewer! I will be back for more visits!!

    Reply

  38. Sarah
    Jun 27, 2011 @ 02:01:16

    Actually I would buy it in a HEARTBEAT, lol.

    Reply

  39. Sarah
    Jun 27, 2011 @ 02:00:47

    That is absolutely stunning – and I agree, I like your version better! If a pattern existed of a coat like that, I would buy it in a hearbeat.

    (speaking of patterns – I just glanced to the right and was stunned to see a little image of the McCall’s Galanos pattern I used to make the skirt of my wedding dress – that thing was crazy!)

    Reply

  40. Rachel
    Jun 27, 2011 @ 00:44:51

    I think I like the back of your coat better anyway! It looks fabulous… I want one too!

    Reply

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