After finishing my 1960’s movie-inspired Butterfield Suit, I wanted to squeeze one more self-made-for-self winter project in. A friend had posted a photo of herself online, all rugged up in a very plush and glamorous vintage velvet robe, which had reminded me that for yeeeears I’d been wanting to make a glam 1950’s housecoat for my own winter swanning about the home. I’d bought a vintage 1950’s housecoat pattern in preparation, but had never decided on what style or colourway I was most keen on. I was surprise-gifted a free weekend of time soon after mentioning to said-friend that I was going to maybe make a housecoat this winter, and so with little excuses to be seen, I dove right in.
Coincidentally, July just happened to also be a month of Vintage Pattern appreciation. So I was right on the mark with making this garment from an authentic 1950’s pattern (or at least, starting it in July!). Soft weathered envelope and everything!
As I already have an extensive collection of fabric at my disposal, I had a hunt through my stash, and came up with two striking flannel options. One was a deep cherry red plaid pattern with black and electric blue, and the other was an orange-red and white gingham. I could see them both fully materialised in my mind, and was feeling the darker plaid fabric as more ’me’. With the plaid I could see rich black velvet accents, and it all started feeling very Vivienne Westwood, and if you know me, you know I love her. Not a hard sell.
And so, The Dame V Housecoat was born!
I wasn’t 100% on how much of the housecoat I was going to get out of the piece of fabric I had, as I was mixing up the style shown on the envelope. If you’re familiar with sewing with patterns, the back of the pattern will show you how much fabric you need for each style, in each size. I was taking the long sleeve option, but adding the short skirt, and actually making that skirt shorter (cos I’m little). So, in theory, I was going to be using less fabric, but then because I had chosen a plaid, I then had to match the pattern across seams, and that can end up wasting a whole lot of fabric, depending on how ‘big’ the repeating pattern is. So I had no idea how I was going to go, but I made sure I laid pieces of the pattern as tightly together as possible, and I got everything important that I needed out of what I had. Phew!
The only extra pieces I saved for cutting in velvet was the front lapel facings and back neck facing. I also cut a little bias binding in the lush silk velvet to trim the sleeve cuffs with. Mmmmm, opulent detaiiiillls. And as learnt when making the custom Vintage Fur Comforter recently, I used a rotary cutter to cut the velvet, which made it super easy! To finish the plush velvet details off, I just so happened to have two big black velvet covered buttons, left over from that time I made a 1940’s-inspired suit for Miss Victory Violet. How convenient! I love how the silk velvet lapels feel against my skin; they’re so soft and gentle, but also thick and comforting at the same time.
Seeing as I was making this in soft brushed flannel, I knew I would want a smooth cling-free lining to stop the full skirt from catching on itself and sticking to my legs. I’ve made one other vintage-style dress in a flannel fabric before, and know how much it likes to fold in on itself rather than swish outwards and stay full. This pattern was not made to have a lining, but handy that I know how to make patterns, because I just whipped up a full lining pattern myself. I found a nice smooth and light-weight cotton fabric in a complimentary red to line the housecoat with, and once I’d sewn all the body and skirts together, I let the garment hang for a day or so before finishing the hem. This is recommended as softer, looser weave fabrics are likely to ‘drop’/stretch in the areas where the skirt hangs on the bias. The straight and cross grains are nice and strong and hold their shape, but the bias is soft and stretchy and can like to do its own thing.
And sure enough, after a couple of days the hem dropped a full 5cm at each of the side-seams. I measured out an even length from the waist again, trimmed off the excess and finished both the lining and main hems off, before pressing the whole garment nice and crisp (but keep those irons away from velvet!). Oh and did I mention this housecoat has POCKETS…? Nice fluffy side pockets, to keep your hands warm on those cold winter mornings. Love!
One thing I did learn from this project is that even if you sew with patterns and vintage patterns all the time, reading the instructions/annotations is still mighty important every time. I got tripped up by what I thought were markings for seam allowance, which actually turned out to be this pattern’s version of ‘cut-on-the-fold’ markings, making my centre back 3cm too narrow, yikes! Some creative cutting and sewing came into play, and all was fixed, but not wholly how the pattern originally intended. Read the instructions,especially before cutting! As the old saying goes, “Measure Twice, Cut Once”. A mantra worth keeping nearby, as it will save you some face-palm, eye-rolling, foot-stomping moments.
Obstacles aside, I’m really pleased with how the Dame V Housecoat turned out, and I’m really enjoying snuggling up in it at home, like the fancy bitch I am! It’s so soft and luxurious!
Want one too? Get in touch!