Design Inspiration for June’s Hack: 50’s Suit Jackets

I know it’s summer up North, but down here it’s finally drizzly and cold!  At last it’s time to make a Jacket-Hack!

Click for source. I wish Vintage Patten Wiki would let us pay a subscription to opt out of those awful ads.

This Advance 51 pattern has been on my Hack Board since the beginning of the year, and I’d like to riff on this basic shape for a zip-front sweater/cardi.  This particular collar treatment may be outside my drafting/teaching skills.  How does that work?  The back is a shawl collar, and what’s that on the front?  I think I’ve seen something similar in Pattern Magic

Click to trace it back…

When I saw this Anthropologie cardigan, I recognized a collar shape popular in the late 40’s/early 50’s.  It’s a similar shape to the first jacket, but the drafting and the sewing are simpler.  I like the little details- the pockets, the buttons, the tiny ruffle and the wrist cinchers which are almost undoubtedly unnecessary but still kind of cool.

Click for source

Very, very similar.  This is the first tailored jacket I ever made for myself, years ago.  While I was too inexperienced at tropical tailoring to love the final jacket, I do still love this pattern and collar shape.

Click for source

This one wins for quirk-factor.  Again, similar collar shape- but with a sort of lapped and shaped upper collar.  What do you suppose that pattern piece looks like?  I wouldn’t mind some capacious pockets, this jacket is strangely innocent of them.

Click for source

At first glance, this cut bears no resemblance to the jackets that came before.  It’s actually rather similar- just button the collar over the front instead of leaving it open and collar-y.  I like the buttonholes set into the binding, that would translate to a knit very well indeed.  The cuffs are cute, too.

Click for source

This is the same story as the blue Vogue above it- similar cut, but with the collar buttoned over the front.  I’d have to draw the front opening quite carefully so it breaks up the bulk I carry uptop.  I’m almost completely sure a cut like this would look terrible on me, but I’m tempted nonetheless.  Is the lady in the black gingham using her mind rays to convince me that a suit like hers is *actually* a good idea?

I know I tend to use fabrics that can be hard to source depending on where you live.  This month, I’m using something relatively ubiquitous and cheap- a red Polarvide throw I picked up from Ikea.  I thought I could use it as a crafty batting; at $5 for a biggish throw, it’s way cheaper than actual craft batting.  Yay!  Polar Fleece Jacket!  I don’t have a fleece jacket, but Stephen wears them all the time.  I might as well see what all the fuss is about.

click for source

When I was looking around for suits with triangular collars for tonight’s post, I stumbled over this lovely thing.  Doesn’t it look like it would work perfectly with polarfleece?  The back neck, the simple front opening, the big buttons and asymmetry.  This is my “wildcard” inspiration shot.  It’s way different than what I thought I’d make this month, but I find myself drawn to it more and more the longer I stare.

What do you think?  Do you like the open collar, or buttoned over the front or the wildcard?  Which would you wear?  Which would translate best into polar fleece?

(By the way, I know I set a sort of “blog schedule” a few weeks ago, but it wasn’t working for me.  Now I’m trying something else- two days on, one day off.  This seems to work better with my life.  I can’t blog every night, but I don’t like going more than one night without writing.  Thanks for putting up with me while I sort that out!)

Next: facts on polarfleece, sourcing, and whether or not it’s suitable for shapely garments.  I also want to share some other design inspiration (not for this hack) from Harajuku.  And I’m busting to post about an event coming up in August!


  1. One vote for the open collar jacket here! I love the inspiration anthropologie cardigan/jacket, it looks so comfortable and wearable.
    I can’t wait to see what you put up, polar fleece is so easily available here but I do tend to associate it with those zip up early nineties jumpers! I did make my daughter a jacket from McCalls 5714 out of polar fleece though and it came out surprisingly nice!

    • Cool! I haven’t worked with fleece before, but I do know the types of sweatshirts you’re talking about… Not really my cup of tea, but I might be able to make something interesting from this blanket… ;)

  2. I have made a few Polar fleece items. The key, keep it simple. My first coat (I still wear it for dog walking) was a button front, spread collar and patch pockets. I will probably make it again. The Anthro cardigan would work well maybe using the pre-cut trim on your throw as the pocket trim rather than the tabs that are on the example. Seam finishes can be very simple. My one “always” is that I line the sleeves.

    • Thanks for the advice, I’ll keep it in mind. :) I should have “Keep It Simple, Stupid” tattooed on the back of my drafting hand… I hadn’t thought about using the scalloped edge, but that’s an idea….

  3. I really like the wildcard inspiration Stephanie! The other sources are great too but as you have said, I can see the wildcard working with polar fleece. I own one polar fleece jumper that I wear around the house at home. It is so warm and cosy (I’ve got it on right now) but I’ve never found a polar fleece garment I’d be happy to wear in public without looking like a soccer Mum or someone my mother’s age! I look forward to seeing what you do with this hack. You may very well make polar fleece look stylish!

    • Yeah- that wildcard looks like it was drawn with polarfleece in mind… I have some super duper daggy ugly wool sweaters I only wear around the house for the same reason… So snuggly, so hideous… I’ll do my best with the fleece, if it’s terrible we can all have a good chuckle at my expense. I don’t mind. :)

  4. If it were me personally, I’d do the last one, because I love its simplicity, and I can see the polar fleece draping quite nicely. But my favorite is the first one. I just can’t see it working in polar fleece. But I know you work miracles, so I wouldn’t be surprised mif you pulled it off! A good middle ground would be the Anthro jacket. But my vote is for the last one, and I can see using that lovely scalloped edge for the edge for the collar.

    It’s fun to use unusual sources of fabric. I bought a pair of drapes last week at the thrift store, and hope to make a suit out of them. I couldn’t come close to finding the quality of fabric at a fabric store for what I paid, and they were fully lined, so I have lining material as well! And I’ll have the fun of calling it my Scarlett O’Hara suit! (Or, to paraphrase Carol Burnett, I saw it in the window and just had to have it!)

    • Well- if I wanted to work out the pattern so I could make the first one in a gooorgeous fabric, I’d muslin it in polarfleece anyway… Even if I don’t end up using the design from the first one for this hack, you can bet your boots you’ll see it sometime in the future… That lady has lived inside my head for far too long for me not to play with her.. ;)

      Aw, thanks!

      I would *love* to see your Scarlet O Hara suit. Hehehe. :)

  5. Great idea–I’m looking forward to seeing what you do. Never made or owned anything with fleece myself, but I bought a quantity of high quality heavy fleece last Fall. My original plan was to make something like a typical fleece jacket for running to the grocery store, etc. Then I started thinking, why should it look like a typical fleece jacket? Never found an alternative, so the fleece is still taking up (bulky) space in my closet.

    • Well- I’m pretty sure you could just use fleece anywhere that a coating type fabric is called for. Why not? Who said polarfleece sweaters had to be boxy? :) That’s what I figure, anyway. I may get my hand in and find out precisely why polar fleece is almost always made up in a square shape…

      • Yes, I think you are right. It was the typical boxy shape that was turning me off. I hadn’t found a solution yet and then the weather got warmer…

  6. O! I love all of those collars!! but that first-one- what!?!!?!? I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to reach my hand down someone’s jacket front before- what happens down there just between the shoulder and the rever/non-rever?

  7. “The back neck, the simple front opening, the big buttons and asymmetry. This is my “wildcard” inspiration shot.” Ohhh, this! I would put the pierced edge of your fabric at the hem, falling at mid-to high-hip, but it would look pretty at the collar edge also. I’m just not sure how well it would work at that back neck split thingy. And you MUST keep that back neck detail!

    Looking at the picture again, the pierced edge might work along the opening edges as well, if you could work out the collar’s short edges.

    I hope you would keep the kimono sleeves, and add a long sleeve section below. I would love this as a light summer jacket, maybe as a soft topper for a dress to wear to a church weeding – it could be removed for the reception.

    • I hope I don’t disappoint, but I think the scalloped edging would probably end up looking very ratty. Especially along an edge… I may use some of it as an inset or something, but I’m hesitant to put it in a high-stress area like the CF or the hem…. But if it were stronger, it could be quite a pretty detail! :)

      Undoubtedly will keep the back neck detail, it’s not terribly difficult and if I go with that very simple cut, it will be the only “spicy” part of the hack and pattern… Also keeping the kimono sleeves… Last month I did one type of long sleeve for the 9 Lines sweater. This month I’ll introduce another way to do long sleeves with Kimono lines. I don’t feel like I’ve exhausted the cut quite yet. :) My sleeves are likely to be elbow/3/4 because I don’t like my sleeves dragging and my climate is mild.

  8. I vote for either the Anthro coat or the last picture! Seriously, I can’t wait to see you get your magic hands on that Polarvide throw…I have often thought that the cool edge deserved to be on something more exciting than a blanket.

  9. Can’t wait to see what you come up with! One word of warning about the Ikea fleece, it baubles and looses its body really quickly so maybe not up to jacket quality. I have made cuddlies, dress up clothes and lined trousers with it in all the colours and it looks scruffy really quickly.

    • I don’t really expect much from this throw… It’s just what I have to hand, it’s a good way to experiment with fleece without investing much $$…. Which is good for me, because fleece lies outside my personal-style “comfort zone…” ;) Thanks for the heads up!

  10. I love that blue dress with the white…binding? and the split cuff detail. But for actually wearing I’d go with the last one in polar fleece – I’d love to see how it comes out and maybe try one myself!

  11. Bck in 1992 when fleece first hit the market, I bought a length in a vibrant colourscheme. It became an Issey Miyake coat, lined, with welt pockets and everything. It was a dream to work with and the pride and joy of my wardrobe until a few years ago when I just got too little for it hehehe. That Walden mill polar fleece cost me $40 a metre, 20 years ago! The price of being an early adopter! But it did show that decent quality fleece can sub in for a coat weight wool.
    As for the amazing 1940’s pattern drafting, I’d drape it in separate pieces and work out from them where to lose the seams. It’s very liske an Issey Miyake pattern in that one feels as much like a master in origami working it out!

    • Wow- sounds like a great coat, and it goes to show that polar fleece doesn’t have to be a boxy sweatshirt… $40/m- that’s lightyears away from my polarvide throw!

      Aw… I don’t actually drape. I can, but it’s a space issue. I don’t have room to drape anywhere….

      • Well it was a pretty boxy coat. Can’t find reference to it online yet. In the past few years there have been interesting garments made in wool felt and I have looked at them and loved them for themselves, and also speculated on how well they would render in fleece. Similar performance. I suspect the lack of styly fleece gear is an assumption issue; about perception, ubiquity and viability. Inaccurate assumptions, I am sure!

  12. I love the wildcard, too. I’ve made a few polar fleece garments over the years and I believe you get what you pay for. You can buy cheap fleece for garments you want only for a season or, like Mrs C above, you can pay a lot and get stuff that lasts. I am still wearing a polar fleece vest and jacket that I paid hundreds of dollars for at one of those expensive outdoor stores about 15 years ago and neither of them have pilled, whereas the wear-around-the-house clothes I made from $10 a metre Spotlight crap last winter are all ready for the bin. I’d love to see if you can figure out the first pattern. If it’s a two part sleeve, the front looks like it includes the shoulder, shawl collar and chest area, perhaps even the facing of the collar, while the back half is pretty normal. I keep going back and staring at the picture and changing my mind about how it works. I must go and do some work …

    • I think the wildcard wins. For sure. Which means I need to go find some closures that will work. Or maybe I’ll use the separating zipper… But the buttons are cute…

      I know! That first jacket has had me staring and scratching my head for months and months. I’ll have to just set aside a few days and draft it to satisfy my curiosity sooner or later.. ;)

  13. I gotta vote for the Vogue 4308. And that dark haired in gingham woman? I totally think she’s trying to use her mind-powers to convince us that her hair style is the forerunner to the Farrah Fawcett afghan hound hair style of the ’70s? Am I crazy?

  14. I think that the first pattern, the Advance suit, looks like they’ve done a sort of pocket on the top of the front, but took the band-that-acts-as-a-hem-for-the-pocket and wrapped it around to be the band-that-acts-as-the-top-of-the-collar. Very interesting detail — I’ve never seen anything like it, but it should be simpler to execute than it looks at first glance. Am now thinking of other ways to use this “traveling band” application.

  15. Pingback: Sexy, Sexy Polarfleece « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

  16. Pingback: Trouser Legs: How Wide is Too Wide? « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

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