Hi, guys! I’ve been sewing for a while now, and one of the things that I’m focusing on these days is upping the quality of my work- I want a nice, clean finish, I want my clothes to hold up over time, and I want to use appropriate techniques for each garment. Since coats have been on my mind lately, I thought it would be fun to look under the hood at some RTW trench coats and see if there’s anything we can learn from them! Wanna take a look?
This is a BB Dakota coat that I’ve had for several years. I bought it in my pre-sewing days from Fred Flare in Greenpoint (now closed). It was originally priced a bit over $100, I think, but I kept checking in at the store to see if it had gone on sale, and finally my patience paid off and I scooped it up for a song.
I’ve worn this countless times over the years, and anything that could fall off, snap, or come unstitched has- the buttons fell off one by one, the pockets ripped, the chain loop for hanging ripped off, the belt prong broke… One of the first things I did with my borrowed sewing machine was re-stitch the torn pockets. I was so pleased when I figured out I could fix them! Since then I think I’ve replaced every single button. This has been a high-maintenance coat, but I love it, so it’s been worth it to extend its life with a little TLC.
The faux fur collar attached to the underside of the regular collar with buttons. There’s a little flap on the bottom of the detachable collar that the coat slides into and you can just button it in place. When the fur collar is removed, you can’t tell that anything’s missing!
The coat is faced with self-fabric (70% cotton, 30% nylon) and is lined with a matching polyester.
The lining’s been bagged- here’s the sleeve seam that was left open for turning right-side out. It’s just been machine sewn, and it’s not super tidy. Do you feel better about your own sewing when you see something messy in a RTW garment? :)
There’s a zipper in the sleeve that, when opened, creates more room for the wrist. So the lining has a sort of jump on the inside to accommodate this.
The lining uses the same pattern pieces as the shell in the back- there’s no pleat or ease in the lining. The back vent is lined, a trick I struggle to wrap my head around.
Vent, vent, vent… you confuse me. Anyway. So, although this coat was on the expensive side for my budget in those days, it seems like a good example of pretty low-cost construction methods.
Sample #2! This is a brand-new coat, the Everlane Swing Trench. I rarely buy RTW these days, but I like Everlane’s business model (they develop close relationships with their factories to insure that the workers are treated ethically and the garments are constructed well, and they only sell online so they can keep their prices down) and I had a gift card burning a hole in my pocket, so I decided to just go for it. The shell is 100% cotton with a very tight weave and a water-resistant coating. It retails at $138. Here’s a little more info about the factory where this coat is produced, if that sort of thing interests you as much as it does me. (PS- Everlane has an affiliate program where you can refer your friends for store credit, but the links above are not affiliate links).
There’s a front stormflap, and I guess you would call this one in the back, too? It’s connected at the collar seam, so you can reach your hand up between the layers all the way up to the shoulders.
Only the sleeves are lined (with 100% polyester). It’s faced with self-fabric, and all the buttons have a buddy button on the wrong side. Both jackets have keyhole buttonholes, which look nice. I can’t do them on my sewing machine, but maybe I’ll take my next jacket project to Jonathan Embroidery and let them make keyhole buttonholes for me. :)
This detail is actually really cool- the pockets look like regular welt pockets from the front, but the pocket bags are French seamed. The stitch lines you can see here are reinforcing the welt. Anybody ever seen this construction in a pattern? I’m the worst at visualizing how things go together to form the finished product, so I have no idea what the construction order would be for this!
The facings, as well as the side seams, are serged, turned, and stitched.
The overall effect is really clean and tidy, which surprises me in a jacket that’s not fully-lined. I usually hear “unlined” or “partially-lined” and shudder a bit, but I really like this construction and would definitely replicate it if I ever had the need for another lightweight jacket.
Here, the hem is pressed up and stitched, and then the front facing is pressed under and stitched down on top of it.
I can’t speak to how well-constructed this jacket is since I’ve only just gotten it, but it seems like a higher quality than the BB Dakota coat. Hopefully I won’t start immediately shedding buttons! I do wonder if there are any different construction tricks in a really high-end trench. I’d really like to snoop a fancy trench and a vintage one! Anybody have, say, a Burberry trench? Or one from the ’60’s or ’70’s? Is there anything different in the way they’re constructed? I’m also interested to know if anyone has sewn their own trench coat! If you have, what pattern did you use, and how does the finished garment differ from these RTW examples?
Hope you guys didn’t mind my geek-out! I can’t stop myself from peering inside garments these days… it’s so tantalizing to sneak a peek at what’s going on inside them! Anybody else have this problem?