Monday, 20 October 2014

Coat of many compliments: Veste Chloé

Spot the deliberate mistake - go on, let's just get it out of the way:




Yes, not only am I so rubbish at hand sewing that the lowest press stud unattached itself within about four wears, I also completely forgot to fix it before taking pictures. AAARRGHH IT'S ALL I CAN SEE!! That'll teach me for being sloppy.  But ok, fastened like this it's invisible and you would never have known:





Anyway! This is the Veste Chloé, the first piece of outerwear I've ever made, and the first pattern I've tried from Belgian sewing mag La Maison Victor, which launched about this time last year. In my opinion it's perfectly pitched at today's home sewists - good looking and accessible - and I was so excited about it that I immediately took out a subscription. However, I've only now been so grabbed by one of the patterns that I had to try it immediately. The Chloé jacket is on the autumn edition's front cover, tooted as quick and stylish, and it is. Judging by the number of them popping up on instagram (and blogs, see Jolies Bobines) I wasn't alone in my enthusiasm either.

This lovely red fabric is a slightly nubbly kind of faux-bouclé, which I presume to be entirely man-made as it was 4 euros a metre (thank you, Berger). When I bought it, it was lightweight and drapy and I was envisaging a sort of half-cardigan-half-coat scenario. Was, you'll have noted - because I chucked it in to pre-wash without even thinking about it, and it felted. One return trip for another metre later, because wow felting fabric shrinks it something awful, I had a heavier weight jacket on my hands. And in fact, it's all the better for it.


I'm getting quite good at derp pictures, no?


The fabric now holds and shows off the structure of the coat really well - and I firmly believe that it's this, together with the loud happy red, which accounts for the phenomenal number of compliments this jacket has received.  Several friends (individually, on separate occasions), my son's class teacher, helpers at the after-school club, a random bloke on the street - and this was all in the first three times I wore it.  There's nothing like spontaneous flattery to make you appreciate your own sewing brilliance, really, is there? :-)  And in fact, I've been not only astonished but also highly appreciative, because for a couple of reasons I wasn't feeling brilliant about this coat when I finished it.

First and most obviously, there's the basic fact of some lazy finishings. OK , they're on the inside, but coats flap open and I know they're there anyway.  When the fabric felted, it got so thick I couldn't think how to finish the seams without binding them, which I wasn't in the mood to do, because I just wanted to bash it out and be done. So, as felt doesn't fray, I just left them raw, and now I regret it because it's messy.  Plus, there's the press-stud hand-sewing fail too.




But ok, I can live with it - it was quick and fun make - and look, all the funner because yay contrast yellow pockets!  Which by the way are far too low on me, I need to take some length out at the waist if I ever make this again:






No, the real reason I was slightly insecure about this jacket ran deeper than seam finishings and some dodgy stitching.  It went back about 10 years, to a coat I bought that felt unnervingly just like this one. Thick fabric, too-low pockets and all - suddenly but unmistakably, this jacket dredged up coat memories I didn't really want to have.

The coat-of-10-years-ago had been bought in desperation, in the depths of winter, because I finally had to face the fact I'd gained weight beyond the scope of my clothing. The shopping trips to find it were awful: everything in the larger sizes was sold out or, like the coat I eventually settled for, irredeemably unattractive. As I saw it at the time. Now, I think that of course it was me seeing myself as irredeemably unattractive. That feeling of despair at paying good money for a coat I hated, for my shape that I hated, is what drove me finally, after literally years of procrastination, onto a healthier diet and into the gym.

Now, I'm still about 10 kilos lighter than I was then. I'm also about 10 kilos heavier than I was at my lightest (pre-kids, obviously).  But what I like to think has really changed in the last 10 years is the way I see myself. I was impressed when my body produced and squeezed out two small people - I like it better looking 'worse' now than I did before - and sewing my own clothes has liberated me from wardrobe angst almost entirely. Plus, y'know, older and wiser and less giving of shits. So it was a shock to unexpectedly get this jolt of memory, experienced very physically and as close as the coat I was wearing, back to a time when that wasn't the case.






I don't really know if I'm trying to say anything here. I'm just telling you, because that's the deal with this jacket.  It makes me appreciate who I am now, and the shape I am now, and the many wonderful sewing patterns people make now, which allow us to all sew up whatever we want, in whatever crazy colours and textures we like, and to look fabulous in them, because we're OURSELVES.

OK yes, that's what I'm saying :-)

Does the ability to sew your clothes how you see yourself and your shape? Do you think it makes us more likely to accept our little (or big!) shapely quirks and irregularities? Or is that just a natural consequence of growing up, and nothing much to do with our clothes at all?  These things have been on my mind since I made this, and I'd love to know what you think too.


And P.S. - if you'd like your very own Veste Chloé, you can get the current issue of La Maison Victor here, or keep an eye on this page where the patterns all eventually appear for sale individually (Dutch and French only I'm afraid, but with decent diagrams).


36 comments:

  1. It's lovely Jo. For me as I've gotten older ive definitely become more accepting of my physical quirks. I care far less now about my shape in my mid 30's than I did in my 20's and I think it's just knowing my own style rather than necessarily sewing for myself. Wish I could go back and tell Past Sarah what I know now!

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  2. Love it. I had a big red coat when I was younger and you've made me yearn for another one.

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  3. Was it in the Autumn edition of the mag? I'm tempted to take my rusty French for a spin!

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  4. Friederike NitschkeOctober 20, 2014 1:39 pm

    It's amazing, the colour blows my mind! I really like the "La Maison Victor"-pattern, they are very stylish.
    And your coat, I just can repeat it, is awsome. :) Great job!

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  5. Yes, totally agree! And I think you're spot on about knowing your own style, that really does make all the difference. I suppose I mainly discovered mine through sewing which is why I tend to presume they're one and the same!

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  6. Thanks - and do it! Red coats are the best, especially when the weather turns grey!

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  7. Yes, it's in the autumn edition - it's the one currently for sale on the page I linked to. I thought the patterns in this edition were mostly really good, some nice designs for women, kids and men. Definitely some good bang for your buck!

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  8. Thank you! It's a really good pattern, I think they really pulled it off well with this edition.

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  9. Are they with or without seam allowances (it's the kind of thing that's often buried away in lots if text - my French can probably cope with construction instructions, but not with ploughing through paragraphs). I'm much too much of a beginner for coats, but your version is lovely, and it's rather tricky to find one to fit my six foot frame (with it's long arms!) in the shops.

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  10. Ah yes! Well the sleeves on this one are 3/4 length so you might find yourself colder than usual :-) But it's very easy to sew because it doesn't have any particularly coat-specific things about it. Unfortunately seam allowances aren't included, and the pattern pieces are printed all together over a few sheets (like Burda). This was definitely the most difficult part of the whole thing! The other thing with the seam allowances is they recommend different ones on different seams: 1.5cm at the shoulders, 1cm elsewhere. Although I ended up using 1cm everywhere because it was easier and I kept forgetting which ones had to be different :-) But yes, that's something to take into account.

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  11. Gorgeous coat! I absolutely love the shape and colour. If I wasn't already dreaming of two specific coats (one more than I rightly need to make this year) then I'd be hunting out this pattern right now.

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  12. Thank you! Can't wait to see your coats too! And I may have a couple more planned too, even though technically I didn't even need this one...

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  13. Love this! I think age and less time on the high street has definitely had a positive affect on how I see myself. I think that started to happen in my late twenties though really. Hey, if you fancy making another coat and pattern testing for me let me know! X

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  14. This is absolutely stunning Jo! It looks amazing on you.
    I get what you are saying for sure and I've been there. Sometimes memories and feelings get trapped and triggered by the strangest things.
    I am becoming better at accepting myself and my body for all its flaws and imperfections. It (my body) does so much for me and it allows me to do so many things, and that's what I try to remember when I am feeling down. I think it's a combination of a number of things that contribute to feeling better about my body: sewing and not being constricted by what's available for sizing in stores, getting more comfortable in my own skin, being married and just becoming more mature. I definitely still have my moments of insecurity especially with blogging - it can be so liberating sometimes and other times I can't help but compare myself to others. I do like seeing that there are so many different shapes and sizes out there but it's hard not to compare myself sometimes. And those insecure moments are coming less and less as I get older. Anyway I'm sure this is mostly babbling and im not sure I'm getting my point across, but those are my thoughts anyway. Thanks for opening the discussion.

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  15. I really like what you said :-) I also really, REALLY like your new jacket!

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  16. I adore this coat! It is a fantastic colour and looks amazing on you! Yes, being able to sew my own clothing is definitely a huge, defining part of me. Since I started seriously sewing my clothes (lo, these many years ago!) I feel more comfortable in my own skin and don't even pay attention to RTW clothing.

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  17. Yes, the absence of welt pockets, bound buttonholes, zips, pad stitching, collars, lining et al is rather appealing.

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  18. Ha! the wonders of Berger fabric, I bought some "wool" there winter before last, when I asked the composition the woman assured me there might be some wool - if a sheep had ever stood next to the roll of fabric. I really like this coat, and it looks great on you, I have been contemplating this pattern, but the lack of collar and 3/4 sleeves make me think it might not get much wear by this always freezing person!

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  19. I love your coat!! The colour looks great on you & I love the style. For me I'd say getting older probably played the biggest part on making me happier in my own skin but sewing definitely played a part.

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  20. Jo, another great make and post. Clothes for me as well sometimes have the an ability to completely transport me emotionally to another time and make me remember... But yay, for sewing up what we want and in gorgeous red wool like this. You look fab in it. The shape and colour with those boots looks so great that if I saw you on the street I'd be saying how great you look as well!!

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  21. Hmmm - I think you're onto something there!

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  22. Oh yes, time away from the high street, especially when it was your only real option, makes a huge difference. Good point! And very tempted by the coat testing... except I'm trying so hard to not commit to more than I can realistically do! Will have a think and email you :-) Thank you for asking!

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  23. Hi Heather - didn't come across as babbling to me! I know what you mean about blogging, you make yourself really vulnerable putting yourself out there on the internet. And I've never been/felt like one of those people who put together great outfits or look/feel particularly cool/stylish. I'm just normal with lumps and bumps (at the best of times - let's not describe the worst ones!) and sometimes it's like you're voluntarily putting yourself up for comparison with others who are. But I've actually found the blog hop posts really good to read for that - the question "why is your blog different" is only ever really answered by: it isn't, it's just *mine* - and I think it's so true. In the end comparisons of these things are pretty nonsensical anyway!


    Anyway, I'm so glad to read you're finding acceptance comes as life goes on. I definitely think that age has a lot to do with it - as well as sewing and stepping away from all that judgmentalism in high street changing rooms. And fwiw I think you look great! Your makes are so you!

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  24. YES comfortable in your skin is the thing isn't it - and it's so much easier when you can fit what you wear to yourself, not the other way round. High five!

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  25. You can only be referring to one woman and she's my favourite reason for going there :-) And no, it's not a deep winter coat. I think with long sleeves and a scarfy it'll be fine till it snows - but if you're susceptible to the cold you may think otherwise!

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  26. Thanks Kathryn! Getting older rocks (really - no sarcasm!)

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  27. Aw thanks Kirsty! It's funny how clothes can link us so specifically to times and places isn't it? The night after I wrote this I had a dream which basically featured all my past favourite items of clothing, from my student days onwards - it was amazing how many I'd forgotten, and I woke up wishing I still had them all! Not that I could still get in them, of course :-)

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  28. Good ! All good! The coat, the acceptance. Sewing is such a wonderful acceptance tool.

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  29. What a sincere and lovely post! And a great colour on you!

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  30. And probably the best -at least for me- they released this edition in german. ;)

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  31. Ooh I love it! The red is fabulous and I want to completely copy it. Do you think it would work in a boiled wool? I've got some red in the stash when it was ridiculously on sale ($5 a metre!!!??). And I love that you love your body and appreciate everything it can and has done. Age and perspective are a wonderful thing :)

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  32. Yes, I think boiled wool would be great! Red coats are the best!

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  33. I love that saturated red color and that coat's shape is perfect! Also thanks for sharing your words on body image. Bodies change and I think with sewing, measuring one's body frequently and seeing the sizing on patterns can sometimes impact us for good or for ill. In fact I've seen my measurements change pre-kids and post kids but have realized that a good fit does wonders for your shape. Also, I agree that when your body grows and births people you have to give it the proper respect it deserves instead of disparaging it! Thanks for sharing- both the sewing and reflections.

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  34. Jo this is an AWESOME coat and an AWESOME post. I agree with you wholeheartedly about having my more forgiveness (and less shits) regarding my body now that it has produced human life! I'm actually thinner now than I was pre-baby, but not for 'good' reasons. I'm trying to do too much and not taking care of myself as I should. I'm actually looking forward to putting the weight back on because A) it'll mean that I have a better balance in my life, and B) that I can sew things for myself that will hopefully last longer when I inevitable get a bigger. I love that sewing my own clothes means I only have to know my measurements, not what size I am in each of the high street shops. xxx

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