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Jan 19, 2020

The 1980's Jacket Project

It's always interesting to me to trace the origins of my sewing projects.

This latest project -- my first in 2020 -- started when I stumbled upon a vintage 1986 McCall's pattern (2607) on Etsy earlier this month.  The white jacket in the upper left hand corner looked cool, and I thought the Eighties silhouette--wide shoulders narrowing to a trim waist--looked fresh.  Normally I prefer a natural shoulder but, as with most everything, after a while it's nice to try something different.

With the passage of time, the Eighties have begun to look good to me again--well, not everything from the Eighties but some things.  Many people I know with children tell me that Eighties fashions are popular with the younger set (in my day it was the Fifties).

The late Azzedine Alaïa made the exaggerated Eighties look his signature.

My concern about McCall's 2607 was that there might be too much wearing ease and I'd be overwhelmed by the exaggerated proportions.  I knew I was going to have to make a muslin.  After a cursory pin-fitting of the pattern, I decided to shorten the torso and sleeve before I even started sewing.

I shortened the torso by 1 1/2" -- breaking this up between the upper and lower torso both in front and back. To make the sleeve fit, since I took out 1/2" from the front and back upper torso, I took 1" out of the sleeve width and the cuff width.  I also shortened the sleeve length by 1". 

I was now ready to make my muslin.  Overall I liked the result.

My only concerns were 1) was the shoulder too wide; and 2) was the jacket too blousy?  I actually basted out 1/2" on both sides of the front and back to make the muslin narrower.  It did look trimmer but also less stylish to me.  And since I was going to underline the jacket, I knew that would take up some of the extra ease all by itself.

The next step was to choose my fabric.  I know from experience that the coats and jackets I wear the most are the ones that go with everything.  A print coat can look great but if it doesn't go with a lot of my wardrobe I'll rarely reach for it.  I went up to the Garment District to explore options.  I was pretty sure I didn't want to make this jacket in wool, which would have been a much larger investment of both time and money.  If you follow me on Instagram you know I considered a lot of different fabrics at some of my favorite stores including Chic Fabrics, AK Fabrics, It's a Material World, and Metro Textiles. 

At It's a Material World on 39th Street I found a blue-gray pants-weight cotton twill for just $6/yd.  I bought 2 1/2 yards as the bolt was 60".  The twill was a pretty conservative choice but, again, I wanted to be able to wear this jacket often.

Next, I hopped over to Sil Thread and picked up matching thread.

I pre-washed my twill and also did a burn test. When I purchased the fabric I thought it was a cotton-poly blend but it turned out to be all cotton--a nice surprise.  I decided to underline the jacket for warmth (and to give the twill a little more oomph).  I used a cotton flannel check I picked up years ago: I didn't have enough for a long-sleeve shirt so it just sat in my stash.

Aside from the aforementioned alterations to the pattern, I didn't change a lot of things.  I underlined the back, fronts, and pockets, and pocket flap with the flannel.  I added two inside patch pockets for my wallet, phone, and/or sunglasses.  One of the inside pockets is flannel lined with gray cotton poplin; the other is simply gray poplin, just to keep things interesting.  I used lightweight fusible interfacing on the wrong side of the flannel underlining to help support the pockets since the flannel is very soft.

The outside patch pocket is largely decorative.  I lined the inside of the flap just for fun.

The jacket has a lot of topstitching.  I sewed the entire garment on my vintage black Singer 15-91, for those who are curious about such things.  It's a great machine to topstitch with since it's straight-stitch only and can sew through anything.  I don't use edge feet but simply line up the "fingers" of the straight-stitch foot as guides.  I put true flat-felled seams on the shoulders but faux-flat felled seams on the torso and sleeve (simply serged the seam allowance and topstitched from the right side).

The original design includes two tabs that allow you to cinch the waistband a little if you choose to-- a nice addition and more elegant than elastic, imo.

I decided to splurge for professional buttonholes, which I had done at Jonathan Embroidery for $1 per buttonhole.  The vertical buttonholes are standard and the horizontal buttonholes (on collar, waistband, sleeves, and waistband tabs) are keyholes.  If this had been a nylon jacket I'd have opted for snaps, but for a cotton twill jacket, buttons seemed like a more elegant choice.

Sil Thread sells packets of 12 buttons for just $3 and, since I was only using one size, I opted for these.  Much less expensive than buying buttons singly, which is what I usually do. 

Finally, I purchased some medium-size foam shoulder pads.  I could have done without them but they really gave a sleeker shape to the jacket--and to me.

I'm curious to find out what you think of the finished look.  It's definitely a classic Eighties bomber silhouette.  Stay tuned for the big reveal.

In closing:

Are you a fan of the Eighties big-shouldered look?   Could you ever see yourself wearing those styles again?  I didn't think so but I'm changing my mind.

Have a great day, everybody!


  1. Peter, it's more 90s than 80s. They're calling themselves VSCO girls and are into all things 90s...

  2. Love your very detailed, perfect explanation of your process, Peter! Loving ho wthe jacket is turning out. Looks exactly right!

  3. Your jacket is a great interpretation/modification of 80s outerwear---your muslin looks very contemporary. I can't wait for the big reveal!
    There was so much bad 80s fashion, but it didn't get bad until the end, did it? I recall that, for a while, the shoulder pad & strong shoulder enhanced the wearer rather than engulfing him/her. And pockets---there were lots of cool pocket designs but maybe that happened because there was so much real estate to add a pocket onto? The era of excess, I suppose.

    1. such a relevant point! The difference between say 1981 and 1988 in fashion is significant. What started as nice, clean line became an exaggerated monster hehe.

  4. These kind of blogs are like my own personal episode of Project Runway, with a peek into the inner workings and products available to you. Fun!

    The Azzedine Alaïa picture made me think immediately: "AbFab!"

  5. BOY, do I wish we had the stores that you have in your area. We have one fabric/sewing store and it ran every other such store out of the area and then started selling stuff you would never want to sew on in a million years!! Also the last time I was in there I bought an item marked: 7.99 on sale for 3.99 and they charged me 10.99 each. I had two. And it wasn't the first time they did that!!!

  6. My 16 year old loves 70's, 80's, 90's...which covers most of my 9 siblings
    She wore one of my sister's 80's dresses with the Dynasty shoulder pads to school and was a big hit with the the football players.

    Glad you went with the buttons. The jacket seems to have a little of that 80's meets 40's workwear

  7. Your stitching is always so nice, Peter. Well done!

  8. STARS*BLINKING LIGHtS!! Oh, the keyhole button hole work was superb... envious of your NYC resources. Beautiful work manship on your part as well... Love that narrow foot on your 15-91.

  9. I will ALWAYS love the 80s. That jacket is very nice. The lines are very clean and your fabric is perfect. I actually just purchased some twill like that for a jacket and now I am excited to get started on mine. (I'm planning to make the Ilford Jacket by Friday Patterns.) Your 15-91 is making me consider hauling out my vintage Singer for my top stitching...Thanks for the post and happy sewing!

  10. You picked one of my favorite colors! I love blue-gray! That top-stitching is superb! Can't wait to see the end results!

    1. Scorp! It must be Springtime, because here you are!!!

    2. Yes, retired, happy and still sane!! LOL!

  11. Superb start to a wonderful new jacket. Lordie, those buttonholes are to die for!

  12. The cinch tab has come in handy with pants for a pal. Just needs enough for the difference between morning and after lunch. It's these nice wearable details that I love about menswear/patterns. Thank you so much for sharing them.

  13. I'm much more fond of the 70s than the 80s. Though, now I think back on it, the loose boxy styles WERE very comfortable.

    As a short-necked person, I suffered (literally suffered) from "Shoulder-pad-itis." My bra straps had extra pads. My slip straps had extra pads. My blouse/dress had shoulder pads. Vests/sweaters (sometimes both) had shoulder pads. Jacket had shoulder pads. Overcoat had shoulder pads. By the time I added a winter cap in the cold months, it was resting on the shoulder pad build-up.

    And I was choking for air.

  14. Hello! I just "met" you on an older podcast of Sewing with Threads. Love your blog, and can't wait to read more - I haven't sewn my own clothes for years, but I feel inspired! One question - when you make a muslin, what happens with the muslin? Do you finish it so it is wearable, or ? Thank you!

    1. Hi, Chris! If I've made the muslin from actually muslin, I don't do anything other than store it away. Sometimes if I'm pretty sure the pattern will fit I'll make a "wearable muslin" out of fabric that's meant to be worn, though usually nothing fancy or costly.


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