I am the type of person that is always up for a challenge. This applies to all manner of things from finishing the ‘serves 6’ packet of crisps all by myself, to running a marathon. It also applies to my sewing. I’ve read a fair few sewing forum posts about the holy grail of the Vogue ‘Advanced’ patterns, and the inevitable questions that come along with them such as ‘how do I know when I’m good enough to take one on?’ and ‘if I complete it successfully, does that mean I’m an accomplished sewist?’ So I started to browse through the catalogue of advanced patterns that were out there.
The dear husband wanted a new winter coat, and I saw Vogue V8940 which fitted the design requirements: nice collar? Check. Double breasted? Check. Vogue Advanced level? Check.
There are no less than 32 pieces of fabric to cut out and 82 steps to complete this bad boy. This pattern is definitely for those in the Go Big Or Go Home camp. I completed this coat over a week that I had off work, and it took me almost the whole day to cut, interface (by hand) and mark up all the pieces. That’s before I had sewed the first seam or even thought about reading step 1 of 100 million.
All this cutting out does have its upside though – it means you get a more tailored and polished look, and a better fit. The pattern also goes down to a chest size 34, which most mens ready-to-wear coats seem to be unavailable in – this is the size I made, which resulted in a coat that fit perfectly rather than one that gives off the impression of a child that has borrowed his dad’s coat. Standard adjustments of shortening sleeves (by three inches) and shortening length (by two inches) were made as well.
The fabric of choice was a purple Pure New Wool number by Abraham Moon. They have a lot of really nice colours on their website, but the photos aren’t that great (or representative of the actual colour in some cases) so I would definitely recommend ordering samples. You can have 10 really decent sized samples sent for 99p, so I chose the full ten and will keep them to reference against for future makes. The lining was one I bought a few months ago which was just waiting for its moment of fame – I love how well it goes with the coat and if I’m honest the whole thing is prettier on the inside than it is on the outside 😀
The official description of this coat from the back of the pattern envelope is ‘semi-fitted, lined jacket has collar, collar band, shoulder pads, back yoke, forward shoulder seam, side panels, no side seams, welt pockets (inside), button tab, back vent and two-piece sleeves’. Phew. I do think it’s quite a classic style though and will probably end up making more of these in the future. There aren’t really that many designs for men’s coats out there (or any men’s garments for that matter) so this one is definitely a keeper.
I bought the recommended three metres of fabric for size 34 (well, 2.7 metres) but found that the cutting layouts could be reworked to use less. Overall, including the lining, thread, interfacing, buttons and shoulder pads I reckon the materials cost around £170 total – while this does sound a lot, the coat will last for a fair few years and if you were to stroll into Hugo Boss and buy something similar they would take around £450/£500 off you.
A word of warning – you will need A LOT of thread for this coat. Expect to sew and then topstitch nearly every seam. And of course then there’s all the buttonholes too, which eat thread like the cookie monster eats cookies. In fact I’d start making friends with any cotton field owners that you know before you begin, just to make sure you’ve got yourself covered. All your efforts are worthwhile though, as it does make the coat look pretty fancy.
This is definitely not a quick sew, and requires time and patience to complete to a good standard. When you’re on step 25 of 82 and it feels like astronauts have been to the moon and back while you’ve been working on this, and they are telling you to pin, hand baste, and ONLY THEN AFTER ALL THAT sew that sleeve onto the coat with the machine, they mean it. Do it. This is for your benefit. They are not trying to sap your life force. Take the time. It will be worth it. Just look at this sleeve seam, all neat and pretty 🙂
The welt pockets were definitely the most challenging element of the design, as I’d never done these before. The first attempt at it saw me sew the little thin strips of purple on the wrong way around. Unpicking a seam on purple fabric, which is sewn in purple thread, while trying not to rip a hole in your expensive fabric is not fun. It was all a bit confusing as you sew the welts to the right side of the fabric, then flip them around to the inside through a hole that you cut. The corners are a little messy and not as sharp as I’d like. In hindsight, now that I have subsequently attempted bound buttonholes using the ‘patch’ method, this would have been a much easier approach to these pockets rather than the method suggested in the instructions. Also I feel that a patch would have given a little more structure to the pocket opening in the lining fabric, as it’s quite flimsy and seems to suffer from Droopy Pocket Hole Syndrome. Perhaps I should have interfaced the lining before I cut the opening for the pocket. Maybe, as this is an ‘advanced’ pattern, they didn’t tell me this in the instructions because they are assuming I’m not stupid enough to cut holes in lining fabric before interfacing and/or strengthening. Oh well.
The lapels of the collar are also somewhat of a sticking point. They just don’t quite look like they do on the pattern envelope. I’m not sure why. They don’t quite sit flat against the coat, and for some reason mine are more pointy than I feel they should be. After I sewed and pressed them, I felt they looked good enough to not unpick and redo them, but they are definitely an area I would try to improve on for next time.
Buttons, as usual, came from McCullough and Wallis in London. That place never disappoints me when it comes to buying buttons. They are metal shank buttons with a nice fancy design on them, and cost the earth just for one button but as they are a wholesale shop you get a considerable discount for buying ten and it works out cheaper to buy ten than it does for eight or nine. This coat uses eight buttons so I’ve now got two spare, for free. Win.
Overall the husband is pleased with the coat (as he should be, if he wasn’t then I’d point him towards the sewing machine and tell him to make his own one next time), and I feel like I’ve earned my Advanced Sewist Gold Star. Yay me.
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