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.
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).