Sunday, July 11, 2010

McCalls 5525 - Trench Coat

I mentioned in a previous post that I have caught Trench Coat Fever that seems to be epidemic. I've never been interested in the classic Burberry-style trench coat, but lately trenches are everywhere, and some feature interesting details. I started thinking that I needed a trench coat too, and, suddenly, I was seeing trench coats wherever I turned.

I finally decided the time was now and I allocated the bulk of the July 4th weekend to tackle the project. So many great trench patterns are now out of print, but McCalls 5525 was voted one of the Best Patterns of 2009 by readers of Pattern Review, so who am I to argue with success? I read all of the 25-or-so reviews of the pattern before starting my own.

For my fabric, I used a cotton/lycra blend from FabricMart. It was from the Vera Wang collection and this fabric is a dream to sew. It is so substantial that, at first, I thought it was a twill, but it's a plain weave and it does ravel, but not crazily so. It is very beefy, but not stiff, and the stretch from the lycra is a bonus. This fabric sews like buttah. For the lining I used a synthetic from Fabrix woven with a diamond-shaped design. For the pockets and bias trim, I used a polyester charmeuse, also from Fabrix, using the shiny side for the pockets, and the dull side for the bias. The belt uses a black stretch pique from Emma One Sock.

The pattern is described as semi-fitted and it is definitely fitted through the bust. I made a size 22 and still added a hefty princess FBA.

I made view D (mid-thigh length), with the sleeve from view A. Because this is a very bold print, I left off all the regular trench details: epaulets, front shield, back yoke, button bands. (Question: if it lacks all that trench detailing, is it still a trench?) But, to be honest, I would have left off that detailing anyway. I did make a muslin, after performing a fairly hefty princess seam FBA (more about that in the alterations list), and then I made further tweaks.

I did not omit the belt. Why, you ask? Why would a waistless wonder who has no intention of ever belting the coat, go to the bother of sewing a belt and belt loops? Well, I plan to wear it tied behind the coat, and my thinking is that the contrast black belt would cinch in the back and help create a flattering line. And, if I decide I don't like it, it's simple enough to remove. :)

The following list details my alterations as well as my construction notes:

  • Removed some of the shaping from the front and back side seam at the hip. After the outer shell was constructed, I further tweaked the side shaping by removing about 1/2" from the waist at the side seam (for a total reduction of 2").
  • Narrowed the shoulder about 1".
  • A Princess FBA on the side panel. I followed the instructions in the Palmer/Pletsch Fit for Real People, page 151, Adding to the Side Panel, which are excellent!
  • I shortened the sleeve 1-1/2".
  • Various reviewers on Pattern Review have mentioned that the pocket is small. The pocket is ridiculously small. I think this was intentional – the pocket is inserted into the front princess seam, so they probably thought it was better to make the pocket small, so when the wearer has her hands in both pockets and the coat is closed, the hands won't "overlap". Me, I don't care. I redrafted a considerably larger pocket.

    Their pocket laid over my pocket.

  • I sewed the side seams, the center back seam, and the front and back princess seams with 3/8" seam allowance to give myself extra room. I tapered to a 5/8" allowance at the neckline and armhole so the collar and sleeves would fit without problems. Of course, I did this on the lining as well as the outer shell.
  • The instructions have you interface the entire front with sew-in interfacing. My fabric was quite beefy, so I didn't bother.
  • The instructions have you interface one layer of the collar and stand with sew-in interfacing. I used fusible. I did interface the outer collar, as directed, and but I also interfaced both the outer and inner collar stand, because I want the collar to really stand up and not become floppy over the life of the coat.
  • The instructions call for 3/8" top-stitching. I don't care for such wide top-stitching, so I used 1/8".
  • The instructions do not mention it, but I graded the seams where necessary – particularly the collar seams. I also allowed for the turn of collar, also not mentioned by the instructions.

    One of my favorite pressing tools, the Tailor Board, by June Tailor. No longer being made, you can still track these down and it's worth every penny. All the various edges let you press every little corner or curve you might ever encounter.

    A well tailored collar is a joy forever... or at least a joy when you wear the garment. :)

  • I made sleeve heads from muslin and Pellon fleece. I also used 1/4" shoulder pads - the shoulder pads were listed as optional.
  • I applied a 1/2" bias binding around the entire outer edge of the jacket and both sleeve hems. This was rather painstaking work, because there were two outer curves, one quite sharp, and an inner corner. The black binding gives the print some structure.

    The bias binding, isn't perfect, but if anyone starts scrutinizing me that closely, I might have to tweak their nose. ;)

  • I narrowed the belt to 2" and made it several inches longer. I used a black pique fabric and channel stitched it to give it some additional body.

    The pique belt with channel stitching completed.

  • I used a single column of buttons, so the closure is asymmetric. I think this is hard to see in the busy print.

What do I like about this pattern? It is well drafted. The princess seams go together well, the sleeve cap has the right amount of ease. Once I did the FBA, I was extremely happy with the fit, especially around the bust and armhole – no gapping whatsoever. I especially like the fact that there is one pattern piece for the front panel and for the front facing, as well as for the side front and the side lining. This meant I had only to apply the alterations once – usually I would have to repeat the alterations on the lining pattern pieces and hope I got them exactly right. This was a huge plus for me. The only separate lining piece is the center back.

What would I change next time? When you attach the lining to the outer shell, there is a 1" pleat at the bottom of the hem for wearing ease, which is what you would expect. But there is no similar pleat at the bottom of the sleeve. I think there should be, so the coat would be easier to wear and the sleeves would look better.

Progress at the end of the July 4th weekend.

By the end of the long July 4th weekend, I had the outer shell and lining constructed. I worked on the coat two or three evenings, but I spent this weekend finishing. The bias binding took me most of Saturday. I finished the coat at 2pm on Sunday (today), then took a nice, long nap. I took the photos, by myself, this afternoon. Can I say how much I love being able to take photos on my own? :)

Buttoned up

Collar up. So dramatic!

Unbuttoned. The general consensus of both daughters is that it's more flattering buttoned and unbelted. :)

Back, with the collar up, and the belt tied jauntily in back.

I know that most of the country, at least east of the Mississippi, is suffering from a heat wave. I wish I could send you some of my weather. Here, it is foggy and chilly – true San Francisco summer weather. I had to lighten these photos because it is rather dark from the fog, even though they were taken at 5pm. This trench coat will get immediate use!