But this regimen does require special gear. My dresses always, but always, have a slit at the back to accommodate the bicycle seat. I wear a rain hat because I haven't yet mastered the art of cycling with one hand while gracefully holding an umbrella against gale winds with the other (many of them do! Especially teenage girls, and it is amazing to watch!). Me? I wear waterproof outer clothing. Notice that I didn't say "a raincoat". That's because the Dutch typically wear a plastified poncho/henley and matching plastified over-pants. Yeah...
When I wear pants to work I wear these too and they sure keep me dry. But now I wear skirts or dresses 99% of the time and bunching my skirt inside the plastic over-pants is neither pretty nor comfortable to say nothing of the wrinkles. I usually wear my beloved Michael Kors raincoat, but it is sorely lacking a few improvements. So I have longed for "The Perfect Raincoat". One that is long enough to cover beyond my knees when I bike. That magically stays closed despite the wind. And that has sleeves that are long enough to still cover my wrists while my arms are outstretched to reach the handlebars.
Meet "The Perfect Raincoat, v. 1.0".
The pattern is Sewaholic's Robson coat, so beloved throughout the sewing blogosphere. I have been wearing it regularly since last November and it does its job very well thanks to the few simple adjustments I made to turn it into the perfect biking-in-the-rain gear.
I lengthened the sleeves by a good 4.0 cm so that my wrists will stay dry (and warm) even with outstretched arms. This makes the sleeves too long when I'm not on the bike but that's ok. I just fold the hem to the inside when I'm not on the bike. That's why I left the tab placement at the original point on the sleeve. It looks weird when the sleeve is at its full length but that is only when I am biking and hopefully I go by fast enough that nobody really notices.
To keep my knees fully covered when I am biking requires two different things. First, I lengthened the coat to bring the hem about 5cm below the bottom of my knees. The Robson is already pretty long, so I only added 4 cm more. To lengthen it I simply continued the seam lines in the same shape, meaning that the A-line shape continues to a larger hem circumference (mine is 185cm). I thought about redrawing the seam shapes to keep the original circumference at the new hem, but more room is better when cycling.
The second adjustment is a very little addition. So little in fact that my camera refuses to focus, so I cannot show you pictures. It is just a simple hook on the right side of the coat at the hem. This hook grabs a small thread tab sewn along the seam of the left side of the coat. This simple little addition is all it takes to keep the bottoms of the coat from flapping in the wind allowing rain to sneak in.
On the inside the coat is underlined throughout with a B&W Vlisco cotton. The outer fabric is coated on the back with some rubber-ish layer that is very sticky. When I iron the cotton over this rubberish layer (with a very cool iron!) the two layers stick together almost as if they were fused. Although this is not permanent it still helps the pieces keep a nice shape together. Instead of finishing the seam edges with bias binding as per the instructions, I just cut the cotton pieces 3/4" wider on the vertical seams and encased the edges of the outer fabric with that. This treatment looks nearly the same as bias bound edges but it saved me the effort to make bias tape. Still it was a tedious process because each seam edge required two passes with the machine and there are lots of seams on this princess coat! I then ironed all the seams open and skipped the topstitching which would have made additional holes in my waterproof fabric. (I did topstitch on the edges of the fronts, flaps, tabs, hems and collar, since I figured those places have another layer of waterproof fabric underneath.) Under very heavy rain water does come in through the seams, so it would have been even better to cover them in some waterproof polymer. Note to self for v. 2.0.
In addition to giving the thin outer fabric some nice body, another advantage of this cotton underlining is that it helps the coat "breath" a little, which is very welcome while biking, especially if I am running late and need to "step on it". As a final bonus the cotton is definitely not slippery so it keeps the coat fronts from sliding too easily from my legs as I bike.
The one disadvantage of the cotton underlining is precisely that because it is not slippery it is a bit difficult to remove the sleeves when taking off the coat. Especially if I wear a fuzzy sweater underneath I end up flipping the sleeves out just trying to take off the coat.
I am very happy with my Robson trench coat. It is a practical garment that does everything I wanted from it without sacrificing style. All in all however, for my next raincoat I won't be using this pattern for two main reasons: first, the princess seams to the armhole at the front of the coat create some tight curves that require serious easing. As you can see from all that puckering, my ability to ease laminated fabric leaves much to be desired. Even if I get better at it, the fabrics used for waterproof raincoats will never ease as nicely as a wool. I think it is better if I just find a raincoat pattern with princess seams to the shoulder.
Finally, I leave you with a picture of the buttons. It doesn't always happen that I find the perfect matching buttons already in my stash! Unfortunately I only had 8 of them, so I had to skip the buttons on the shoulder tabs and at the back flap. In fact I also used different buttons under the front flaps, since nobody sees those even when the coat is closed. Hoooray for making it work with what you have!
My review of the Robson coat is here at Pattern Review.