Dior knock-off coat

This coat has been a little while in the making, but it is finally finished. It’s not perfect, but I’m still really pleased with the result. It’s my first tailored coat. I realise that I probably set the bar a little too high for myself, by cutting my tailoring teeth on a self-drafted, Dior knock-off. Surely it would have been easier to stick with a more conventially cut, tried and true blazer for my first attempt? That would have made sense. But there isn’t always a lot of sense in the House of Iles.

A couple of months ago, I spotted an amazing, wine-coloured coat on Pinterest. A little bit of research lead me to the discovery that it was Pre-Fall 2012 Dior. But that was as much as I could find on it. I love the dropped shoulder style and those shoulder seam pleats. I love that it has the structure and style of a coat, but could also pass for a dress.

My first challenge was in finding a suitable pattern. I failed. In the end, I realised that I would be hacking so hard at any pattern I found, that I would be better off drafting the whole thing myself. I’m reasonably happy with how the bodice turned out. I think the armscye and sleeves could both be larger for the more oversized, unfitted look that you see on the model above. I’m also not entirely happy with the skirt. It just needs a bit more fabric to fill it out more. I did two muslins before I was happy to proceed with my special fabric and took photos along the way. But nothing compares to analysing photos of a properly finished item and comparing it side by side to the picture of inspiration, as I’m doing right now. Perhaps I’m a bit of a perfectionist too.


I had a lot of trouble finding the perfect fabric for this coat. I searched extensively online and had no luck in finding a decent wool coating in wine. Eventually, I found a wool and cashmere blend from Fabrics & Fabrics, a new to me store in NY. Their service was wonderful and I think the price was very competitive too. The fabric is gorgeous as you would expect from a cashmere blend. It has a lovely, luxurious surface and the most vibrant colour.

My cashmere wasn’t that heavy for a coating, so I decided to block fuse it all (except the sleeves) for a little extra weight and structure. I used ProWEFT Supreme Medium fusible interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply. It’s an interfacing specifically made for tailoring and is said to mimic the softness of hand-stitching. I’m sold! It is a beautiful interfacing with a lovely soft hand, and it gave the innards of my coat the perfect structure to display those outer pleats as I liked. I took care to cut my interfacing a little smaller than the pattern pieces to avoid having it cover the seam allowances. I have Cashmerette to thank for this. I was following along with her coat-making posts just as I was getting ready to sew mine. If it weren’t for her brainstorming the problem of her princess seam ripples, I probably would have gone through all that heartache myself. So I kept the seam allowances interfacing free, and there were no ripples in my coat.


I was also planning on fusing hair canvas (yeah, fusible hair canvas!) to parts of the bodice, on top of my block fusing, for extra structure. Well, the truth is that I did actually cut and fuse my precious hair canvas, but it gave the coat far too stiff a look and the pleats didn’t fall nicely. I hyperventilated a little and then decided to peel it all off. To deal with the rough and sticky residue left behind from the hair canvas, I decided to cover the original interfacing with some extra lightweight interfacing that I would normally use for knits and sheers. This added the perfect little bit of extra support to the bodice and it also covered the residue from the hair canvas disaster. It meant I could now attach my beautiful Caroline Herrera silk twill lining. Do you want the demure peak at my lining?

Or the big flash? It just so happened that my leather trimmed tunic was the perfect dress to fit beneath this coat.

I attached the body of the lining as one and the sleeves separately. I then hand-stitched the sleeve linings at the sleeve-cap. Because the design of this coat wasn’t of a traditional coat shape, I found myself with decisions to make at so many steps along the way. Initially, I wasn’t quite sure about the way the sleeves were hanging, so I added a soft sleeve head to each of the sleeve caps. I also toyed with shoulder pads, but decided against them in the end.


To keep the coat fastened, I used high-energy magnets that I encased in fabric before hand-stitching them to the inside of the coat facings. I placed one at the top of the bodice and one at the bottom. 

My intention has always been to cinch in this coat with a black belt, albeit a thicker one than what I had available for the photos. I can overlap the front of the coat left side over right, or the other way around. This is probably to my detriment though, since I somehow manage to always fasten it up the wrong way. Maybe I was left-handed in another life. This is how the coat looks without a belt.


I learnt a lot through making this coat, which in my books is a big win, no matter how the coat turned out in the end. I’m pretty happy with the end result. My only regret is that this has now filled my coat needs for the season and I simply can’t justify making any more. I’m just going to have to Pin and dream away the rest of the Winter.

Last minute Halloween: rainbow skeletons and fairies gone bad

I feel like I should confess something. I don’t like sewing costumes. I’m also not used to celebrating Halloween. But I’m nothing, if not prepared. I snapped up three out-of-season witch costumes on Ebay a few months ago, breathed a sigh of relief and hoped that I was off the hook. I’m a pretty good saleswoman when I want to be. What, you want to be a tiger, not a witch? Well, let’s put the striped top on underneath the witch dress and you can be an extra scary witchy tiger, yeah!

Middle child wasn’t playing this game. The day before Halloween, she decided that it was absolutely imperative that she become a skeleton. I told her that this need could be met, but only if she could make the costume herself. I helped her a bit. First, we drew some bones on white denim fabric scraps.


Then Miss Four coloured all the bones in with fabric dye crayons, which I ironed to set the dye. We have rainbow skeletons in the House of Iles.

Miss Four cut those bones out very carefully. It was a great exercise in practicing dexterity with the scissors. I then very hastily, and very roughly, basted those bones onto a pair of tights and a top that she already had in her wardrobe. Some of the stitching was done by machine and some had to be done by hand whilst watching the final season of True Blood. Admittedly, some of the bones are attached a bit wonky, but overall, the costume was a great success. It was worn for 24 hours straight.



My costume was a little bit more last minute. On the day of Halloween, while the little peeps were having a lunchtime nap, I suddenly had an idea to turn the muslin of my Dior knock-off coat into a Malificent inspired gown and cape. The fabric (if you can call it fabric) was the perfect colour for a fairy gone bad. I purchased the purple textile from Jo-Ann, specifically to muslin a coat. It was $2/yd, the price of cheap calico, but it had a sturdy, structured feel that I felt would give me a better idea of how the coat would drape. It was also 100% polyester, recycled from plastic bottles.



I’m nearly finished my real Dior knock-off coat, so you will soon get a better view of the coat beneath the cape. But for this costume, I simply gathered up the remainder of my purple polyester into a cape, and stitched on a big dramatic collar over the top. I cut a separate tie for the waist. None of the seams are finished because the fabric doesn’t fray. It’s like cutting felt. Perhaps I should have tried to iron it though!


TBT: Japanese pattern book wool cardi coat

Let’s talk about fabric shall we. Now I am definitely not an expert in textiles. Everything I’ve learnt has come from my experience with sewing. When my youngest was just a baby, and I was just learning to sew, we were living in Sydney, and not too far from what is historically known as the garment district. Anybody who has a small baby knows that mums need to get out of the house. Once I moved beyond foraging at Spotlight (the equivalent to Jo-Ann here), my favourite weekly outing with bubs became a trip to Tessuti Fabrics. Every now and then, I threw in a trip to the Fabric Store for good measure, but my regular haunt was Tessuti’s, and not just for the fabric, but also for the great staff, and of course, their most fabulous of fabulous remnants table.

I didn’t always walk away with a purchase, but I would walk up and down those walls of fabric, dreaming, feeling and learning about amazing textiles. I also spent a fair bit of time rummaging through their remnant table to find fabric gems that are were discounted by 40-50%. I picked up LOADS of amazing remnants during my time in Sydney; the softest wool jerseys, silks, printed linen, and lots of ponte knits. I also picked up this heavy-weight, striped, pure wool knit that I turned into a coat for Miss Six. 



I made this coat more than 18 months ago, well before I started blogging. I took these pictures a few days ago. Past Debbie didn’t know much about interfacing or turn of cloth so the collar could certainly be improved. But even so, the jacket has withstood the test of time. I used a pattern from one of my Japanese Pattern Books (Neat and lovely girl’s dresses by Yuki Araki). It is such a lovely design and Miss Six simply adores it. It’s probably the absolute favourite thing that I’ve ever made for her. She wears it every day in cool weather. If it weren’t so cute, I’d be sick of the sight of it by now. 

I wash it on a gentle machine cycle, as infrequently as possible, and it still looks and feels as good as new. The fabric wasn’t cheap but it is clearly robust enough to withstand the activities of a school kid. It hasn’t pilled like a poly blend wool. It hasn’t faded, felted, shrunk or stretched out of shape. It’s in such great shape that it will likely be passed down to my middle girl next. At nearly $60 a pop (or should I say metre) the price of this wool fabric will make some people cringe. I was lucky enough to pick it up for about half this, but it would have been worth every penny at full price too.


So thinking about this coat had me thinking about how I evaluate the cost of fabric. I’m going to disregard quilting cottons for a minute, because they are always going to be fabulous value for wear. I’ve also experienced some great longevity out of budget corduroy. But when it comes to knits and wool fabrics, there is something to be said for purchasing quality, natural fibers. Yes, they cost more, but in my experience, they are a lot more comfortable, they look better for longer, and they are often well and truly worth the amount spent. 

I’m still seduced by cheap synthetic blend fabrics on occasion and I probably always will be, but I mostly live to regret it. Sure, I might get a few wears out of the item, but within weeks it’s often terribly pilled or felted, and ready for an early retirement (in our house, this means they get sent to the dress up box, my clothes included). I can’t stand pilled clothes. I did a little stocktake recently and sadly, these dresses are already out of commission.

I’m guessing there’s at least $60 worth of fabric in all those dresses combined. If it weren’t for the enjoyment the dress up box brings and the fact that I enjoy sewing, I’d be thinking that this time and money could have been better spent.