This coat construction seemed a bit too simple compared to my previous coat making experience. That was, until I tried to make it. The pattern omits fabric suggestions for the coat and lining material. The suggested materials for the Patou coat called for "cotton outing-flannel" for the interfacing, and a thin muslin for the back stay.
There are no other details on this coat. There are no pockets, buttons, or lapels; therefore, if we follow the instructions, we won't be using traditional tailoring techniques. I'm not sure if the house wanted a structured coat or a coat that drapes, so it’s a bit difficult to decide which materials to use.
I debated between using traditional cotton muslin for the back stay, or, instead, replacing it using traditional hair-canvas to create more structure and form. The coat photo on the pattern cover looks a bit structured to me, but, then again, it also looks loose and drapey. At first, I was paralyzed, trying to decide how to construct this jacket.
I ordered a viscose flannel from Mood Fabrics without swatching. HUGE mistake! The viscose flannel drapes a bit too much and it does not have the similar structured features of a cotton flannel. It also feels cold. I'm not sure how much warmth viscose will provide. Am I setting myself up for failure by using viscose?
In case you are new to tailoring, back stays are used to help prevent distortion to and stretch of the outer fashion fabric. It was traditionally layered inside the coat and never intended to be seen, until recently, where you may spot them in designer coats and jackets. You may also have noticed that jackets have become edited down, and are missing full linings. There are two reasons for this. First, manufacturing costs, and, second, it is lighter weight, especially for the warmer months. We can see that even if the jacket is stripped to its essentials, the designer keeps the back stay to help prevent distortion of the garment.
You can even find back stays in high-end Italian jackets and suits, where the partial lining also behaves as a stay. (Notice the luscious Hong Kong seam finishes, too)!
Partially-lined jackets aren’t a new idea. Look at the jacket below from the 80’s!
I share these partially-lined jacket photos with you to show you how important a back stay is for the coat to maintain its shape.
The Patou coat I am making is fully-lined, so I have to account for the thickness and drape of the lining, along with the interlining and the fashion fabric. This is why I’ve been paralyzed, trying to figure out if I should use hair-canvas or plain, thin muslin as the back stay.
Here, because the viscose underlining and the charmeuse lining are so fluid and drapey, I may experiment.
I washed and shrunk the viscose flannel using hot water and high heat. It came out of the dryer looking thicker and more structured. There’s hope!
The construction is surprisingly simple, but the process is gruesome. First, all the pieces have to be hand-traced with thread, the fashion fabric first, then underlining, then lining, then front and back-stay. The fashion fabric and underlining are basted together and treated as one piece. All the pieces are hand-basted together before sewing! Then, the underlining is carefully herringboned onto the facing. This is an incredible amount of hand sewing, all done to make the stitching invisible from the outside.
I decided to build the jacket with the viscose underlining first, without adding any interfacing or hair-canvas, just to see how the jacket draped and behaved before making major decisions.
I’m surprised. A layer of viscose added some structure.
I don’t mind the soft drape. You see some structure, but I think this is supposed to be a softly-tailored coat. There is a big pleat-roll near the shoulder line that provides the structure, without the need for canvas. I may end up using cotton muslin afterall, for the backstay. The fashion fabric is a silk-wool from
Fishman’s Fabric in Chicago, and the lining is a silk charmeuse.
After herringboning the hem, the underlining, and the facing; and then slip-stitching the lining in place, the coat is finally finished!
This wasn't a difficult make, but, it was definitely a time consuming one. I’m so glad I used a thin cotton broadcloth for the stay. I think the gigantic pleat created enough structure without using traditional tailoring materials!
I think the house of Patou wanted a softly-tailored coat (not too hard, not too soft), and using the right materials helped bring about this vision to make it seem just right.