I completely understand that this jacket will not be most people's thing...but I've always been so curious about how a garment like this is constructed.
I started this in Baltimore at the beginning of April and have been working on it on and off since then...
It's been a long process to get to this point because I really was making most of this up as I went along but I've learn so much about foundations, stability and manipulation that its been worth every minute.
(and apologies for the excess of pictures and the jeans, but the skinny black pants I had on just merged into the jacket and I lost the hem details....and boy is this hard to photograph clearly)
I knew that for the initial shape of the jacket I wanted a sleek silhouette, so I started by using Marfy 3635, removing the lapels and collar....I cut both a underlining of Silk Organza, and a upper layer of heavy, very thick cotton sateen.
and once we had the initial fit, Susan suggested that I increase each of the seams by an inch from the waist down, which gave it the flair I wanted but still kept the drama at a fairly subtle level.
Building the shape turned out to be fairly easy to achieve using 3" horse hair joined in layers on a machine and then sewn at the top and bottom of the base jacket to the hem using a 2.0 stitch.
and finally I added a 1" Grosgain ribbon waist stay sewn to the outside of the base jacket and gathered on grain by creating small pleats where necessary, so the fit would be snug and the weight of the lace would be supported by my waist.
and then after all that prep, it was time for the star of the show...
The lace itself is simply gorgeous, hand beaded from Switzerland and in the darkest of hues. I had looked at it for a long time before I bought it, not knowing if I could do it justice.
There were a couple of ways to sew this lace onto the base jacket, and the easiest might have been to cut each pattern shape and sew as normal but the lace really is so intricately beaded that it would have been awful to join on all those long seams invisibly.
and because it had such beautiful scalloped edges, we chose to drape it from the hem up leaving the entire length intact.
Susan started by pinning the hem all the way along and then feed the lace upwards towards the shoulders in the straightest line possible.
Luckily with this kind of fabric there are no grain lines but there were some patterns within the lace we had to be careful not to clump together...
and then it was simply a case of gathering and pining folds so that the shaping could begin.
and at that point, it was over to me for the long process of fitting and sewing.
I found the easiest way was to gather two or three inches of excess, cut directly through the middle and then remove sequins one by one along along with the undernetting until I could snuggly re-join the two sides again leaving no extra lace.
Often, I would have to add extra sequins and sew over obvious joins to make them invisible....hence the on and off weeks of sewing but it was interesting and peaceful work, if a little laborious.
Overall, almost every inch of the lace has been sewn to the jacket lining, using a double thread and a tiny Japanese needle. I found I had to work fairly randomly within sections as some sequins were easier to get the needle through than others which is probably why the insides look like more of a hot mess than usual.
The shoulders were padded quite significantly in order to both support all that lace and balance the large peplum at the bottom.
I actually spent quite a lot of time experimenting with padding and horse hair, and eventually settled on nine layers of the horse hair, trimmed down to shape the shoulder area and then I carefully added lots of boucle and wool left overs to pad up to that shoulder pad, to help keep the line smooth and subtle..
and once the shoulders were in place, it was just a case of sewing up the rest of the lace.
The fronts of the jacket were a little tricky, as I could not just tuck the lace to the inside without creating bulk, but thankfully I had just enough of the scalloped edging left from the hem.
I cut a straight line a inch from the center front and hand sewed the scallop to the cut edge very slowly adding beading as I went.....and I have to say it was absolutely worth every minute as its completely invisible.
At that point I could start to see that the base jacket was just not enough support for the weight of all that lace (the finished garment feels like a very heavy leather jacket) and so I started opening up areas of hem and inserting boning..
I added along most of the front center seams, lapels and center back hem.. as well as large upholstery weights in the hem at the center front to keep the jacket pulling down nicely (white squares) and a large 6" single layer of horse hair sewn directly above the original multi layered hem.
and once the hooks and eyes were all sewn on, it was time for the lining..
Which is simple black silk Charmeuse, that I have lightly sewn to the seams using a quick fell stitch. I'm waiting to see if the jacket needs anymore adjusting, if the lace will move or if the horsehair will work its way through before I close it up properly but it's cut and in at least for now.
So overall I'm really happy with this, but I can see from the pics that there are still a couple of loose areas that could do with a few more millimeters removing, (always funny how pictures highlight it more than it shows in real life)..... and happily even though I won't be wearing this jacket much, its definitely going to be one that I love when I do.
I'm thinking a black cashmere version might be perfect for less formal occasions!
Up next is a midi skirt with some amazing Coach Cotton Sateen from Alice you might have seen on Instagram . I can't wait to get started on that now that I have finally painted, cleared and planted the yard back to submission after that horrendous winter from hell.
Cynthia recently sent me a lovely email, with this fascinating link for me to share from an exhibit of Nineteen Century clothing...all the guts, stitching and details. I just loved it and have gone back often to browse in quiet moments (thank you again!)
David Page Coffin recently released a new book which I was excitedly pre-ordered months ago, and then forgot and bought again...
It's a really great resource book for anybody who does or will make shirts, albeit a little different than a normal sewing book and is filled with photos and options as well as downloads (but no actual construction per se)
(and if anyone would like my second copy, I would be very happy to send it your way. Just leave me a comment and I will randomly pick one at the end of next week -12th)
and the very lovely Helen Haughey has recently opened an Etsy Store and I offered to share the link. I've been hanging out with her at Mendel Goldberg as she occasionally flies up and meets clients there...Its been so interesting to watch someone fit and sew for a client on site.
I've also been reading lots recently...
The Long Way Home - Louise Penny. The latest in the Gamache series. I have to say as much as I love these, and this was enjoyable it was a little contrived to say the least.
Do the Kind Thing - Daniel Lubetsky. I'm always interested to know how these businesses start, and this was really a well deserved success..
Tim Gunn - The Natty Professor. I mean how could this not be fabulous! (and it was)
Gods and Kings - Dana Thomas. Highly highly highly recommend...seriously! Just an amazingly insightful and very interesting book on Galliano and McQueen and more than a little sad (great photos as well)
Chess Men and Lewis Man - Peter May. Two and three in the trilogy following on from The Blackhouse, which I know lots of you loved as much as me. Really wonderful books.
Vivienne Westwood - by Vivienne Westwood and Ian Kelly. (and narrated by Paula Wilcox - anyone old enough like me to remember her?!) One of the absolute queens of fashion and incredibly good.
I'll probably be back in two weeks, as the schools are wrapping up for the year and we have lots going on...... including both a Senior and Eight grade graduation, end of year parties and projects, College boy moving into an apartment close to school and work today, and the day to day stuff...
Have a lovely week everyone!