I found a $5 Fijian Suit- Make Do and Mend Project

I bought Advance 2997 some time ago. It features in “You Have the Goods on Him,” a 1940’s Make Do and Mend-type leaflet on making women’s suits from men’s.  I’m fond of 1940’s “utility chic”- it’s generally pretty thrifty, wearable and often features severe lines and interesting details.

Since buying the pattern, I’ve kept my eyes peeled for a suitable men’s suit to chop up.  I don’t know how this project will pan out.  It’s an experiment.  I don’t want to try this experiment on a suit I like without first trying it on a crappy suit.  By the same token, I want to start with a decent enough suit that I can wear the finished garment if I like it.

Behold- a navy and gray single-breasted pinstripe suit found today in an op-shop and purchased for the princely sum of $5.  It’s 45% polyester and 55% wool.  The fabric feels hard to the touch, as I would expect from a decent men’s suit.  It is in perfect condition.  Notice the front opening- it’s slanted.

I think it was made fit to a rather short, broad shouldered man with a belly. The trousers are an almost perfect length for me in kitten heels- I didn’t discover that until I got home.  The slanting front opening on the jacket helps camouflage a belly, fooling the eye into seeing a straight line over a curved stomach, and allowing for easier mobility.  It’s the sign of a clever fitter.

The welt pockets with flaps are ok, I’ll probably re-use them.

I’m thrilled it has a single-welt breast pocket, just like the suit on the Advance pattern.

Speaking of pockets, this jacket has more pockets than any other I’ve ever worked with or made.  (The photo is discolored, but the garment is not.) I keep finding pockets inside of pockets on this jacket- I do that in my own jackets.  For now, the count stands at 8 pockets in the jacket and 5 in the trousers.

The maker included a double layered gusset to re-inforce the underarm area.  When I unpick the jacket I plan to reverse engineer this gusset and use it in future jackets. The underarm lining seam in a jacket is often the first seam to wear out, long before the rest of the suit is dead.

The vent, the CF opening and all hems are well interfaced, with just the right amount of body.  The trousers feature slanting side pockets and a neat little coin pocket.  I will decide later whether to cut up the pants (which fit frighteningly well) or keep them.

Another small oddity- only one back welt pocket buttons.  Why?

What is that?  It’s a tiny hanging loop at the CF of the trousers, but I don’t know what it is for…?

Not bad for $5.  This will be a long-range project I work on steadily, but in small chunks.   I’d like to post an update on progress each week but I don’t want this project to take over my life either.  First I should prepare the suit the way the leaflet suggests.  Then I’ll muslin the pattern for fit and proportion.  Once I marry the suit to the pattern and figure out which design details to keep and which to jettison, the sewing should go smoothly.  Should.  We’ll see.  I’ll be documenting what I do along the way.

If you haven’t already, do check out the Merino Fabric and Kimono Wrap Top Pattern Giveaway.  It closes after dinner at my house on Saturday.

Thanks for all your kind words about the “I Choo Choo Choose You” t-shirt.  He wears it constantly!

Edit: I took the jpg scans from “What I Found” and assembled them into an easy to print pdf.  Click here to download.


  1. The one button pocket was to protect the wallet. The loop is where a chain for a pocket watch would link.

  2. The small front loop is made to slip over the belt buckle prong, essentially attaching the belt buckle to the pants. This ensures that the front of the pants stay up without sagging. Probably particularly important if the original owner had a belly. So says my spouse anyway. He was shocked that I didn’t know what it was!

  3. I’ll be watching this project! I acquired a men’s suit from a good friend of mine (it’s in no-longer-wearable-in-public-conditon) that was planning to take apart purely to see what’s on the inside of a RTW suit jacket. Your project sounds far more ambitious than my deconstruct job!

    • Ooooh.. I love to take clothes apart that I didn’t make. There’s always so much to learn…

      I just want to see how useful the leaflet is… And to see what happens… :) Fingers crossed I’ll have a nice 40’s suit at the end.

  4. That looks like a great find. I’m looking forward to following this project. It’ll be interesting to deconstruct the jacket and see the inside details.


    I ADORE the pictures of you in the suit. You look like you belong on The Sopranos!

    • I know! I wish I’d had the presence of mind to clip on a red fabric rose brooch. Hehehe.. Or maybe a used car salesman. I kind of dig it.

  5. I’m really looking forward to seeing you do this project – I have an mens airforce trenchcoat I wore everywhere as a teenager that I’ve been thinking about unpicking and resewing into a jacket that actually fits me properly.
    And the pockets – where are all 8 on the jacket? I counted 5 and its got me so curious!

  6. Wow, what an amazing array of pockets, no wonder none of those blokes need handbags! Didn’t know that trick about the curved front hiding the belly. Will watch with interest as you progress.

  7. I’m looking forward to seeing how this project pans out. I often see wonderful suits that no one I know has any use for. The same with ties – they are often too lovely to leave in the op shop.

    • I like to use ties… They’re usually a great addition to a tailored jacket. The tie interfacing is great as a sleeve head padding, and if you stretch it just so while basting it to the armscye, it will ease in the sleeve as well… And I like to use the tie silk for piping between the lining and the facing…

  8. Phew! Glad to hear that you are chopping up the suit. When I first glanced at your pictures, before reading your text, I started fretting over how to tactfully say that the suit wasn’t the most flattering thing you’ve made! I can’t wait to see what you do with it. This should be fun:-)

  9. That´s a lot of pockets! I am really looking forward to seeing what you do with this as I often see suits in our local charity shop but have never thought about doing anything with one!

  10. Interesting answers about the mystery features – actually I was going to suggest the back button was to stop the weight of the wallet pulling the welt pocket open. I have made back welts and found unless I add a loop and button feature they are virtually unusable.

    • Hmmmm… I think there’s value in that, too. We’ll never know unless I could magically track down the tailor… But I’ve found that to be the case, too.

  11. Cor Steph you’d make a tasty geezer! hehehe. Very interesting project! I’ve made over men’s uniforms – converting surplus Swiss army pea jackets into German uniforms for Allo Allo and it was really good fun, interfering with the tailoring. It is so liberating, crossing the rubicon of men’s tailoring in such a subversive way!

    • Tasty geezer!!! ahahahaaaa… We thought if I slicked my hair back I’d look a little butch and I’m always interested in playing with style and sexuality…

      When I used to do theatre, we’d almost always end up with a batch of costumes chopped and remixed from old prom gowns and wedding dresses, or bits and pieces of suits… Yes- very liberating.

  12. My eyes and brain did not know how to connect on that first picture of you in the suit. The proportions were all so distorted I wasn’t sure if you suddenly had tiny legs or stuck a kid in a jacket or what. It was very strange.

    That’s a great project, I’m looking forward to seeing your progress. Someone certainly took care in the original construction of the suit.

    • Beeehehehe… I do like a little cognitive dissonance… ;)

      I’m pretty stoked about it, too. It’s been a while since I did a nice over-involved refashion or a project from a random old book…

  13. Hahaha! Love you in the massive suit! I can’t wait to see what your project turns out like.

    I also like that I’m not the only one who is intrigued by clothes made in unusual places. I had to stop myself from buying a pair of jeans that didn’t even remotely fit me, but were made in Chad, once.

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