Byzantine dreams

OMG, I can’t believe I’ve just finished not 1, but 2 sewing projects! Granted, both left a bit to be desired in the fitting department. But still, it’s unheard of. Almost.

London weather being dull as ever, no evidence of my minor achievements just yet. Instead you’ll have to make do with part 2 of my Gigli coat quest. Nope, you haven’t heard the end of it yet! :o)

While Gigli attempt no. 1 was hibernating, I stumbled across Folkwear 503 Poiret Cocoon Coat pattern. It’s vaguely Gigliesque. So I thought I’d try a store-bought pattern for a change as my attempts at copying designer garbs have been a bit of the luck of the draw.

The example on the pattern envelope is a bit ugly to be honest. But I thought with a classier fabric it might look glam enough. So I plucked for a gorgeous brown cut velvet with silver-gray satiny lining.

And here’s the result…

Well, the almost-finished result anyway. You see, the trouble is once it’s mostly made up I lost heart. It felt more like a dressing gown for Ladies who Lunch than a Byzantine Princess Coat. So I never put the finishing touch on it. Instead it’s been languishing for years in the TBA pile.

A real shame as I  even added some nicely finished welt pockets with almost perfectly matched pattern. And extra double-welt pockets in the lining as well!

(Why anyone would want to laden such delicate coat with dead weight is beyond me now, but I vaguely recall being obsessed about lack of pocket practicalities in women’s clothing back then.)

Here’s the not so graceful back view. The drapes just look wrong so low down. It reminds me of an oversized diaper: Squarish. Bottom heavy. Not very flattering no matter what shape you are.

Here’s a Poiret illustration for comparison.

And it gets weirder. Here’s the batwing. I feel like a flying squirrel. Or is it the sleeve equivalent of a Hammer pants? đŸ˜‰

If I were to do it again, I’d go for something a bit more like this:

But given my lack of success with the Gigli coat attempts, I doubt I’ll try this style of coat again. Especially with the advance of middle age spread where my already small frame subcomb to gravity and grow sideways!

Instead I think I’ll look to my old favorite Comme des Garçons for inspiration on refashioning this lovely cut velvet coat.

Comme des Garçons Fall 1996

Probably not another coat though.

Maybe a top like this sketch I drew of a lady in a CdG top at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I love the contrast between the austere muslin and the sumptuous cut velvet.

So maybe I’m not cut out to be a Byzantine Princess. But a Byzantine Peasant wouldn’t be too much to ask for innit?

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Taking the scenic route with Gigli wannabe coat

Unlike the Selfish Seamstress and her recent finished-in-less-than-a-day dress, I take the scenic routes with my sewing projects.

V 1159 is simmering along nicely. It only took me like 2-3 weeks to research, trace out & adjust the pattern, order & prep the fabrics, and finally cutting out the pieces. Still need to transfer the markings. And sewing up, that’ll probably take another week or two at 2-3 seams per day. All relatively rabbit-fast to the tortoise that is my Romeo Gigli wannabe coat from ages ago.

Here’s the inspiration…

At $4000+ back in 1989, there was no way I could have bought it. So I vowed to make a copy. Fortunately I was able to examine one in a store (though how good I was in analysing and recreating is a totally different matter). Here’s my rough pattern sketches from back then.

Even more fortunate was a runway report from Paper magazine which had this close up of the embroidery. I was able to trace and enlarge the pattern on a copier. It saved me from having to recreate it freehand.

So the flurry of activity started in 1989. But it took me another 13 years to finish the coat, partly because I got bored of all the hand applique and embroidery, partly because I moved across the pond so the project had to go into hibernation like forever.

Here’s the end result.

Unfortunately, it turn out to be a massive oops.
(That unlucky 13!)

Oop no.1: As usual, I didn’t check the scale and silhouette first. The coat swamped my frame. I eventually gave it to a friend who is taller and fuller than me. Her vivacious personality and socially active lifestyle really brought the coat to life. In my hand, it just languished in the closet. She wore it out, even for grocery shopping, and got compliments after compliments. Once she was in Harvey Nicols (a very posh London department store) and a gentleman asked where she got it. He wanted to get one for his wife. The other time she was at the opera in NYC and another lady also complimented the coat. Made all that effort so worthwhile, even if it wasn’t me wearing it.

Oops no.2: Cotton velvet wasn’t the best choice of fabric. It wasn’t as drapy as rayon or silk velvet, so looked bulky and too big on me. And although the coat looked like it should be quite cozy, it was actually not very warm. Again probably the cotton to blame. (Didn’t help that I’m a girl of the Tropics either.)

Oops no.3: I didn’t think through the button-hole choices and went for hand sewn ones. Turned out a bit wonky. Luckily I had some stretch brown cords which I was able to fashion into fancy loops that pretty much covered up the wonky button holes.

Not an Oops: The embroidery I’m quite proud of. The applique was made with China Silk, outlined with green embroidery cords. The embroidered parts were backed by wadding to give the collar and cuffs a bit of body, maybe a tad too much. Here are some close-ups.

Here’s what it looks like inside.

A fittingly Tragic Romantic Ending…

Sadly the coat was too delicate to withstand the fast paced lifestyle of my friend. Buttoned up the bottom is rather narrow. So one day one of the buttons came off, not being able to cope with her grand strides. It tore the fabric where it was attached to. I tried to repair it clumsily with fusible. Of course that didn’t work with velvet. So now you see the outline of the fusible patch where the tear was. My friend decided not to take it back as she felt guilty about the tear.

So like a faded grand dame it has retired back into my closet. But I’m glad it had gotten a good leash on life. Better to have lived and be torn than to be pristine in a sterile ivory tower!

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