Fitting Lady’s Coat- Pattern Alteration Hybrid

I love that scan.  This muslin has completely absorbed every last drop of my free time for the past several days.  Not entirely true, I’m secretly at work on the waistcoat as well.  Most of my free time goes to making this muslin fit.  I want to extend my apologies once more for the quality of my photographs.  They’re grainy and badly-lit, but I think they show my wrinkles just fine.


The Front- right out of the envelope
The Front after one round of alterations.
Remember the mess of wrinkles in my lower back?  I decided the coat needed more room across my backside.  I spent several days pondering just how to attack the alteration.  Because of the cut of the coat, adding to one of the seams looked like a bad idea.  The strange seams fit together perfectly as they are, and I don’t know that my skills are such that I could make them match again.

I also shortened the coat to just above knee level.  I’m sure I’ll play with the hem length before I finish.

While I thought about how to alter the pattern, I had a mini-epiphany- Why alter the pattern, make a muslin, alter the pattern, make a muslin until I’m satsified?  Why not alter the muslin itself in the same way I’d alter the pattern, the I can try it on as I alter without making seventeen muslins?

Generally, I make flat pattern alterations based on measurements and math.  Generally, this suffices.  I never liked tissue-fitting.  It seems to me a waste of an original pattern; I find flat pattern alteration quicker, more accurate and more accessible for simple alterations.

But what to do for more complex, nuanced cuts?

Answer: You slice right into the muslin.   Here you can see where I cut from the hem, up over the fullest part of my backside, and angled the cut into the seamline.  I left the seam intact.  Then I cut another wedge lower down, roughly following the idea of how to do a FBA.  The lower wedge is comparable to a horizontal dart wedge.

 Back- Right out of the envelope
 Back- After my first round of alterations

For this picture I spread each slash by 1/2″ and pinned some fabric behind it.  I can’t believe how dramatically the wrinkles smoothed out, and how much more comfortable the whole muslin became.   Basically, I did the tissue-fitting method on my muslin.  It worked amazingly; I think tissue-fitting has its place, but I don’t think that place is to help determine simple alterations.  I think it is more a backup technique.  The “big-guns” of alteration.

Side note- I realized I have a silky dressing gown about the right length and weight to approximate my lining.  I pinned my shoulder pads into the dressing gown and slipped it on under my muslin.  It also helps smooth out nasty wrinkles.

At this point, I knew I needed a little more advice on fitting my back so I took it to work.  Many, many of my projects are group efforts, made better by the advice and input of my colleagues.  After classes last night, my fellow teacher (to whom I take all my most confusing problems, and who taught me to perfectly set-in sleeves) helped me work out a laundry list of tweakings.

For one, I still have some wrinkles across the front that point to not enough hip room.  Ditto on the back.  I was on the right track with my slashes, but I could take it a little further.  I’ll spread them to 3/4″ and see if that makes things better.

We also decided to do a tiny FBA adding a little length on the front yoke, so the underbust seam hugs my ribcage.

Surprisingly, the addition of shoulder pads and dressing gown made the shoulders/biceps/sleeve fit even better.  The shoulders drag slightly when I reach, so I’ll address that.  I think I’ll do a small full bicep alteration because I usually need to do them on 30’s garments and it would be a little simpler than trying to lower the armhole with all of those complex gusset seams.

The bias sleeves are wonderful, I’ve decided.  In the picture they appear to have shortened, which would give me more room through the bicep.   They grow and stretch and accommodate in the most surprising manner- I don’t think I can bring myself to change the grain one whit.

Instead, I’ll pipe these seams.  I want the cut to really stand out, so I think I’ll use some inky black wool from Husband’s coat to pipe the Deco waist details, to pipe the top of the sleeve seam, and perhaps to pipe the edges of the front.

Also, I need to work out where and what kind of pockets I want.  I thought boring old flapped welt at first, but then I found an awesome electronic book on 1920’s pockets.  And I’ll put in a K.King secret lining pocket.

Patch Pockets- they’re not just unfinished squares anymore.


  1. What a mammoth effort! I know it will look great when it's done. I'm a big fan of ripping, slicing and drawing all over my muslins. I sometimes keep them for a while because the amuse me in a stupid way when they surface some time later in my sewing room.

  2. It looks like your muslin re-do is coming along very nicely. I don't like to tissue fit, either. I love the vintage sewing site, and the pockets you found are wonderful. Can't wait to see what you choose.

  3. Hey there, thanks for commenting about my coat! I saw your comment and rushed right over here to read your post about the wrinkles. (is this the post you meant?)You mentioned that if I reduced all my seams as much as I did, maybe I need to go up a size. I have retraced my pattern to incorporate a 1" seam opposed to the 5/8" seam that I started with and then had to reduce. Do you think that by using this pattern (the one with 1" seam allowance) but sewing the seams at 5/8" that would be about the same as going up a size? (I really don't want to retrace the pattern again. Some of the lines are so close together that you really need to use your imagination to trace them). If I use the newly traced pattern (with 1" seams) I will need to make another muslin – I guess I was trying to work around not having to do that – but oh well.Second question – you also mentioned that the problem causing the wrinkles really isn't that the waist is too long for me and needs to be shortened – but rather a result of there not being enough room for my rear. I noticed how you made the adjustment in that area of your coat. Is that type of thing what you think I should do?I don't mean to use a whole lot of your time, but your answers really will help me. If you do think I should adjust as you did above, how would I do that since the pattern has a center back and side backs sewn together with princess seams.Again, your help is greatly appreciated!

  4. Pingback: Coat Progress: Alternative Collar Instructions « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

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