Winterwonderland – Make Do and Mend of a Vintage Velvet Coat

(auf Deutsch lesen)

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My mom gets a lot of old clothes and fabric from our grandma. Among grandma’s clothes treasures was an unworn velvet coat. The coat was not really her style, but I wanted to try it on – I like to try on clothes to see how well or badly the pieces look worn. And the fitting showed that the velvet coat had potential. He just needed to get a little shorter, a little tighter and more waisted so that he would suit me. By the way, the cape of the coat was my source of inspiration for the cape of the coat Emma.

So the coat traveled with me back to Switzerland to be properly reworked in the sewing course. “Make Do and Mend” was widely practiced, especially during the wartime, when there was a shortage of resources. There are instructions from this time on how to turn a men’s suit into a women’s costume or a silk parachute into undergarments and underwear. It is important to work carefully, because otherwise unsustainable and useless trash is created, which in the end is thrown away.

First analyses by my sewing course instructor showed that the coat – as can be seen from the label – was tailored in a typical men’s tailoring style. The tailor of the velvet coat was my grandfather’s regular tailor, who had to wear and therefor had many, many suits for his job. For ladies, the tailor only sewed structured clothes, i. e. costumes and coats. But he ordered suitable fabrics for blouses and dresses from the appropriate collection of fabrics on request, so that the ladies could then sew their own complementary blouses to the professionally tailored costume or coat.

What did I change exactly on the coat?

On the sideseams I removed 4 cm each. Sadly I also had to open a seam of the sleeves und sew the sleeves tighter. Because of this I had to open a wonderful handsewn seam on the armhole. After closing all sleeve and sideseams it was time for the final length. The final hem was again stabilized with waist shaper (and also glued up again, lazy I know). I made some stupid mistake with the linning, but luckily its not visible

The slice of hem (around 20 cm wide) became the belt. I used the already ironed in edge and folded over the other side. After hand sewing the seam the belt was finished. The seam is very visible but its the inside and I didn’t wanted to risk to turning the fabric.

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I also had to repair a seam under the collar – meaning re-stitching a seam by hand. I know now that I really need to learn to sew with a thimble. I avoided a blister, but my fingers hurt. My last try to use a thimble wasn’t successful. It ended with using every finger during the sewing, excpet the one with the thimble.

It took same time, but I think the time was worth it. And the project was also nearly a zero wast project. I reused most of the fabric. All my experience of working with velvet is collected in this post.


Conclusion: It takes time, but it was necessary to get something beautiful and wearable.

Time: around 1 month.

Material: Tailor-made velvet coat.

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