50s topper coat for spring: the supplies

Back in September, I planned a coat for spring. I ordered the main supplies, but I never got it off the ground. I think mainly because I knew I’d need to make some changes to the pattern and possibly do a muslin, and I put off pulling the pieces out long enough that I talked myself into working on something else and put it to the side.

I didn’t pick it back up again until I was all set to sew the Charm Patterns swing coat this week, except I had to wait for my interfacing order for that project. But I was still really in the mood for a coat making project, so I set off with this one, so many months later! When I’m done, I’ll just hit the ground running with my swing coat. (Don’t let me not, that one is ready to cut out!)

The pattern for this topper (and I’m using the term from the pattern envelope) is vintage Simplicity 3541, from 1950:

I’ve made it before. Here’s a photo of me wearing it in Moreton-in-Marsh in the Cotswolds, in the Before Time when you could travel:

I love that cropped version, and I wear it a lot. But there’s one gap in my outwear wardrobe in spring and fall, which is a slightly warmer jacket that I can wear with pants. Not jeans (those get any number of plaid Pendleton 49ers or my 49er-inspired plaid coat), but cigarette pants. So I needed not only a jacket that’s a little dressier than those but also in a solid color. So I thought a longer version of this pattern would be perfect.

Here’s the muslin, which was lengthened 7 3/8″ and tapered out about 1 1/4″ on each side from the underarm to the hem, to make sure it hung freely around my hips and over my rear. I also added welt pockets, so the muslin helped me make sure I didn’t put them in a totally weird position. I had to kind of wing their location by comparing other coats and photos, and it worked fine.

Never mind the lack of sleeves by the way, I didn’t need to waste muslin for sleeves I already knew were fine.

Rewind back to fabric colors, now that you’ve seen the shape. The black flecked cropped version is great with dresses and not bad with cigarette pants, but not particularly warm, so that’s in large part why I was envisioning something a bit longer, but also interlined with lambswool for a bit more warmth.

But I went back and forth on color. What would ‘go’ with the most things? Well the obvious was black, but my cropped one is black (a tweedy fleck) and the winter coat that I made exactly 3 years ago is black. I never blogged it, but I found one photo of me the week I finished it. Don’t believe from the look of it that this is a light coat, I had my ankles bare only because I get sick of winter by February, but that coat is thick bouclé wool interlined with Thinsulate and is the warmest coat I own!

But for this one… I just didn’t want to sew another black coat, ya know?

Next obvious color was white or off white but that scares the daylights out of me. I feel like I’d look at it cross eyed and stain it. So I settled on pale yellow. And granted… it doesn’t really scare me much less than white! But enough that I thought I could handle it. (Erm this remains to be seen.) Plus, I often use yellow as a neutral, so it seemed like a good choice.

Finding light yellow coating fabric? That was another story. I spend days looking online and got a few samples and none worked out. Eventually, after I basically had given up, I finally found this double sided Japanese coating (now sold out) at the Fabric Store… so it came all the way from New Zealand! It’s a lovely color, really just what I was looking for, though I’m a bit concerned how it will hold up. It has a brushed texture and I already worry it might look a bit ragged after awhile. Only time will tell.

Once I had the wool settled, I needed lining, and I thought it would be fun to get a custom print from Spoonflower. Ohhh what a good idea this was! I don’t know how exactly the lightbulb moment hit on the subject matter, but I thought to look up Nancy Drew prints, and found a great one of the book covers. I ordered this in their polyester satin and it’s going to be such a fun lining! (And makes me really excited that I ordered a different custom lining for my swing coat, can’t wait until that fabric arrives.) My favorite lining material is silk charmeuse, but how can I argue with this?!

My love of Nancy Drew is well documented around here (see my epic sweater and earlier wrap dress), so of course I was up for incorporating my favorite childhood hero into another project. In fact, it was only too perfect—the light yellow wool color reminded me of the spines of the era of books I collected as a kid! I love when something comes together in multiple ways. So satisfying.

As I mentioned, I decided to interline this coat. I’ve had some lambswool on hand for ages and thought it would be perfect, because it’s light and lofty and the jacket shape is very relaxed, so I knew it would fit as an additional layer inside. It’s interesting looking stuff:

To interline, you basically just underline the lining and then treat them as one, with a few minor tweaks like pinning out the back pleat. I rarely think “my jacket is too warm” so I’m sure I’ll appreciate the extra layer.

Then, it was onto the pockets. I hate silky pockets! Winter dry skin and cold hands and worrying my gloves will slip out of the pockets when I take my coat off somewhere and no thanks. For my unblogged winter coat, I lined the patch pockets with fleece, which was brilliant. But fleece would be a bit stretchy for these pocket bags. So for this spring coat, I decided to use flannel, just some leftovers that I had.

Last but not least, I needed a button. This coat has bound buttonholes—well one bound buttonhole, since I decided I only wanted one for this longer version, after looking at a ton of examples of similar 50s coats. Bound buttonholes have to be sorted in the beginning since you make the buttonholes early in the sewing process, and you need to make sure they’re the right length for your chosen buttons.

Since I’ve been on a resin kick (mentioned in my last post), I decided to make a mold from a vintage coat button and make my own!

I wish you could tell it’s pearly other than super close up, but it’s kind of lost in the pale yellow color. But I love it all the same! Just need to work out a shank on the back. I made a sample buttonhole (a tad wonky since I didn’t go for perfect accuracy in my test) to make sure the button fits. I actually may make another sample buttonhole 3/8″ tall rather than 1/4″ and see if I prefer it. I’d always rather spend more time testing things to be sure I’ll happy, than be disappointed later.

Honestly you know what, I’m kind of scared of doing the welt pockets even after two samples in muslin, so I may make one in the wool too, just to be on the safe side.

Sooo that’s where things stand with the main supplies for this project. It’s always amazing to me how many supplies and planning go into a coat! I’ve been cutting out and preparing all my pieces, and pretty soon I’ll be ready to start sewing!

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Golly, 7 Comments!

  • I love wearing pale yellow, and the yellow will be nice and cheerful/bright for spring when you’re super tired of winter lasting forever. The lining is so clever and fabulous and the button is lovely!


  • I saved my Nancy Drew books from when I was young (I’m an ancient). My cousin and I used to read them all the time and looked forward to the next book. For some reason my daughter didn’t like them, but my granddaughter loves them. I was more than happy to pass my collection on to her. My daughter and I went to a used book store that was in an old barn and had an amazing collection of Nancy Drew books. Yeah, I bought a few more for my granddaughter. I’m looking forward to seeing your coat.


    • I cannot wait to see the finished coat (should you choose to blog it. I’m loving seeing you appear in my blog feed again.) The lining is a stroke of genius. You’ll have to wear the finished coat with your knitted Nancy Drew sweater for a double Drew hit.


  • I cannot wait to see it! I love and admire how you seem to think about everything, from pockets, to special lining, to homemade buttons. You are my sewing hero. ♥


  • […] took another week to make the muslin and get all the pattern pieces ready (I talked about that in my last post). Sometimes I forget how labor intensive the prep is for coats! Lined things have so many pattern […]


  • I get lost in your site. I love it.


  • I get lost in your site. I love it.


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