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13 February 2016

I made a snake print coat, can you believe it?

Let me start you with a photo of said coat before I offer my apologies for being away for over a year (gulp!).

Okay, here I go... Life has been difficult this past year. Sewing has been a refuge, so there's been plenty of sewing going on, but blogging has always been difficult for me. In trying to give myself the room to be able to cope with the challenges in my life, I didn't want to push myself to blog. Then, this week, dear, sweet Ruth from Core Couture left a comment on my last blog post and it made me so happy to hear from her. And this made me realize one thing I had forgotten: that being part of a community is also a great source of strength and support. And so here I am.

It would have been even better if I had finished the coat in time to join Anne's fabulous annual Jungle January event, but tiny steps, peeps, tiny steps...

So, about the coat... the fabric is a lovely and warm plush beige on the inside, laminated with "scales" in a wonderful imitation of snakeskin. As you can see in the photo below, the fabric is relatively thick and full of body, so I needed a pattern with few seams and minimal darts.

Enter Vogue 2590 by Claude Montana. He is one of my favorite designers from the 90's and I especially love his coats because they can be quite dramatic and somehow still timeless.

This particular pattern has minimal shaping so it seemed the perfect pairing for the fabric.

The only modification I made to the pattern was to narrow the bottom half of the sleeves. The technical drawing seems to imply that the sleeves are simply straight. The model in the red coat on the envelope front has her arms folded such that it is easy to miss the fact that in fact the sleeves open up into somewhat of a bell shape. Luckily this was very obvious in the muslin and very easy to change. I just tapered the pattern from the elbow to the wrist by 3.0 cm on each seam (6.0cm all around). I was careful not to eliminate the extra ease on one side of the seam that gives the sleeve a nice curve to match the natural arm shape.

I also did some things differently than indicated in the instructions. All these changes were adaptations for the special fabric that I am using. The most obvious difference is that I used lapped seams. Both because I wanted to minimize the bulk and also to add a bit of visual interest to the coat. The fabric doesn't ravel, so I cut the edges of the fabric at an angle to expose the hairy underside and offer a nice contrast to the dark snakeskin print. I was also worried about bulk so I pondered a while about whether or not to keep the front facings. In the end I kept them and I tacked them to the pocket linings to force them to stay folded to the inside. I also eliminated the lining since that gorgeous plush side of the fabric had to remain exposed.

For the collar I made two major changes. The snakeskin print is a bit scratchy because of the plastified "scales" and I didn't want to have that against my skin. So the inside under collar is sewn with the plush (hence reverse) side of the fabric facing out. For the main collar piece I decided not to make it of double fabric. I thought two layers would be too stiff so it is just a single piece of fabric. Oh, and I just realized that I forgot to cut the seam allowance off at the bottom of the collar. So the collar you see is actually 5/8" longer than it should be. Hmmm... I'm not sure that I will cut that off, I kinda like this "tall" collar.

I also eliminated any hems at the sleeves and the coat bottom. I simply cut the edge carefully with my sharpest scissors and left the edge raw. I considered doing the same angled cut as on the seams to expose the contrast fur side, but I decided not to do this in the end. I worry that the edge will be too fragile, plus the contrast wouldn't always be visible since the hems are not always seen against a darker background.

You might have noticed that there are no buttons or snaps to close the coat. Well, the thing is... the coat doesn't close over my bum! The muslin was just right, but it was in a wool fabric which obviously has some give. This laminated fabric has zero give and it looks obviously strained if I try to hold it closed below the waist... So I'll just have to pretend that I am super chic like those fashionistas that are always getting photographed with their coats open...

The back has an inverted pleat to allow for movement. The fabric obviously doesn't make crisp folds, so I had to edgestitch the pleat folds to keep them nicely shaped. This will probably reduce the life of the coat since I expect that the plastic film of the "scales" will start peeling off at this sharp edge. But leaving the soft fold didn't look nice, so I chose to sacrifice longevity for looks.

One last thing I want to mention is the darts. The coat itself is only shaped via the seams, but the sleeves have darts at the shoulder. This dart is absolutely necessary to give enough fabric at the upper arm yet not have too much of this thick fabric to ease into the armhole. Can you imagine? It would be impossible to ease this thick, unforgiving fabric! Even with the dart I still have to ease a bit of the sleeve into the armhole and I was not always successful. There is some rippling going on on both sleeves. Infuriatingly the rippling happened on the front in one sleeve and at the back on the other. I think this happened because of the fur pile and the different sewing directions. The rippling seems to have happened on the side where I was sewing against the pile, which means the fabric was fighting the sewing machine. It now occurs to me that maybe I could have put some tissue paper between the fabric and the feed dogs to see if that helped. Oh well. Note to self for next time. Oh yeah, so back to the darts... overlapped seams and darts don't mix well. I thought about sewing the darts normally and cutting them open on the inside. But on the sample I made the fold that is created at a normal seam made the fabric lay funny at the sleeve cap. Plus there was an obvious difference compared to the two other seams at that point. So I went ahead with lapped-seam darts. I used the technique that I learned on my Donna Karan coat.

I leave you with a view of the inside of the coat. Don't you just want to run your hand up and down all that soft, hairy fabric? Hmmmmm...

My review of Vogue 2590 by Montana is here at Pattern Review.


  1. You've made a beautiful up-to-the-minute coat. I like the pattern I wonder if Vogue would re-release it? The drafting really is timeless. Regarding closures you could do a large hook and eye closures to the waist - like on fur coats - and let the bottom half swing free. Thank you or the tip about lapped seam darts.

  2. Thanks for stopping by Valerie. Your suggestion of fur closures that just bring the coat edges to touch is a very good idea. I have some left over from another project. I will try that, thanks! I do also wish Vogue would re-release some out-of-print designer patterns. Those first Vogue Paris Original ones from the 40's are to die for! But I read somewhere that the agreements they made with the couturiers themselves usually prohibit them from re-releasing patterns. Vogue would need to renegotiate new agreements I suppose... I'm working up the courage to learn patternmaking, so who knows, maybe one day I'll be able to whip myself a copy :-)