Jack Trench Coat | A Self-Covered Button
Or, perhaps, Jacques Trench Coat?
I stumbled across Ready To Sew’s so-good-it-hurts patterns sometime earlier this year and, although I knew I needed to make pretty much everything the extraordinary French designer Raphaëlle has created, one of the standouts from her patterns was the Jack Trench Coat; I knew that Jack would be my first Ready To Sew make. It’s an almost classic trench, but with a dramatically large, but gently-curved, collar and lapels, an elegantly-shaped, lined storm-flap, and drawstrings in the collar (which I chose to leave out) along with a drawstring waist and wrist ties. It is worth noting the waist tie is the only closure on the coat.
Sitting in my stash was not quite enough of Blackbird Fabric’s luscious and fluid Tencel Twill in the Cedar Wood colourway. This colour is really so gorgeous: I’d describe it as a dusty, deep pink-ish brown. Now, back to the ‘not quite enough’ matter: by the time I had mentally committed this pattern to this fabric, there was no getting away from that combination, but no matter how I played pattern-tetris I couldn’t get the coat out of the too-short amount of fabric I had. I decided to order some more, but unfortunately Blackbird was out of the original batch I ordered from; although the second lot of fabric is a pretty good match to the first, it is slightly different. However, I decided to embrace the inconsistency of the two fabrics, using them both together. The effect is subtle and gives the coat something more like a patina than looking like two different fabrics.
To team with this tencel, I almost accidentally stumbled across some Atelier Brunette Viscose from Miss Maude Fabric. Having ordered a swatch for another project, I happened to place it on the tencel and couldn’t believe how perfectly the terracotta portions of the viscose matched the tencel—it is just so! These two fabrics were destined to be together.
Process and Progress
In July of this year I went on a sewing retreat out in the Wairarapa, and the Jack Trench was the project I took for it. (You can read more about the retreat here.) Starting the coat on the retreat was an excellent thing to do as it gave me a good chance to do the bulk of the work in a solid two-day period, before completing the coat in the shorter quiet moments between real life.
Using twill was a bit of a mind-bender at first as you do have to pay attention to the direction of the twill for consistency. (Or at least I have to because inconsistent twill direction buuuugs me.) At first I made s-o-o-o many mistakes. So many. The pockets were sewn and unpicked and resewn and unpicked and recut and resewn, and only at that point did I realise I had forgotten to interface the second pair of pockets; you’ll see in photos that they look very floppy—I actually quite like them as they give a nice little peek at the lining, but interface if you don’t want that effect!
By the time I made my recent Kelly Anorak using another twill I’d developed a system to get around the twill-direction issue: use a little washi tape on what you deem as the right side of the fabric. Washi tape is great because if you iron over it, as long as it’s a paper-based one, it won’t melt to your fabric (although please test this with your own tape on a scrap piece of fabric!!). Marking your fabric with chalk is another option, however I do find that the chalk rubs away over time—say if your project is being worked on over the course of a few weeks—whereas a good washi will just hang out there and occasionally give you a little wave to remind you which way is up.
To get the drawstring casings on the wrists and waist to sit exactly where I wanted, I was quite meticulous: first chalking onto the fabric where they would sit, then pinning and then hand-basting each of them into place. I know hand-basting may seem like a faff, but I promise you it saves so much time! The more I hand-baste things like this, the less time I spend on unpicking and repositioning, and also the less emotional energy I spent on being cross at myself for not getting it right (so-o-o-o-o much emotional energy expended on pockets, see above).
Notes on the Pattern
Regarding the pattern itself, I found that it was generally very good, mostly well-written, easy to follow, and is backed up with some useful click-through links to very good tutorials on Ready To Sew’s website, such as this one for sewing a tailored collar. Something I really appreciate about these tutorials is Raphaëlle usually uses a plain fabric with a contrasting thread in her photographs, which makes it clear and easy to see what’s going on. Where the tutorials use photographs, Ready to Sew patterns uses clear, well-drawn, colour-coded diagrams. Raphaëlle has really struck a good balance between her use of diagrams for some things and simple-fabric-photos for other things, and I AM HERE FOR IT!
There are also some lovely details to this pattern I haven’t seen elsewhere, like a playlist! I unfortunately wasn’t able to access the music at the time of sewing (there was very limited internet out at the retreat) but I’m so curious to investigate this lovely little feature further.
The pattern comes as a nested downloadable PFD, and something interesting about these patterns is they use different colours for each size instead of broken lines that I’m more familiar with. This makes for a lovely looking PDF, but I did have a few problems getting it printed at the copy-shop. For some reason there were some compatibility issues when sending it through to the print shop, which meant I had to convert and also compress it. This was a little worrying because I didn’t want to muck up the scale, but it seems to have gone fine. Also (being a bit cheap) I didn’t want to fork out for the colour printing, which did make it a little harder when cutting the pattern to be sure I was cutting the right size. Once again, it was fine, but it is something to be conscious of if you’re buying a Ready To Sew pattern.
Regarding the placement of the belt casing, I think there may be a slight drafting error in where the placement is printed on the pattern pieces—from memory they didn’t line up between the front and back pieces. As drafted, the casing sits right across the bottom portion of the vent, which I’m sure isn’t what was intended—but maybe it is what is intended? Anyway, this was the only part of the pattern that I felt confused by and a little unsure of how to progress. I just decided to place it where it seems to sit based on the photos and drawing—that is, with the top of the casing sitting on the seamline at the bottom the vent at the back, and the bottom of the casing sitting sort of inline with the bottom of the lapel at the front. However, it’s worth noting, and I only point it out for future makes :-)
But enough of this teasing! How about some result photos?
Fit and Finish
For this coat, I graded from 42 at the bust, to 44 at the waist, to 46 at the hips. I don’t know how necessary it was to do this grading as it does have a lot of ease, but because finished garment measurements are only provided for the bust I decided to err on the side of caution.
Although initially a bit unsure about the relaxed, oversized fit of this coat on me, I have grown to love wearing it. After many years of always been told that I should wear particular types of garments for my body (mostly: cinched waist, cinched waist, cinched waist) sewing has given me a larger sense of freedom and a huge desire to wear different shapes, and to enjoy being far more experimental in what I wear; this coat is certainly part of that experimentation and development!
It’s all the things I’ve been told I shouldn’t wear: drapier, relaxed fit, with the waistline sitting in the ‘wrong’ place for my body, but I actually think I look totally fine! It’s somehow a bit floppy and sloppy, but I still feel chic. I’m comfortable (cinched waists, y’all; not all-day-comfortable); I love the colour; I enjoy the drama of its lapels and collar; and its storm flap is just such a beautiful shape.
I think, like my Sapporo Coat, it’s a feeling of embracing a garment for reasons beyond the idea of whether it’s ‘flattering’. Now, I want to qualify this by saying that I also do love a flattering garment (yes, one that cinches my waist, like my lovely yellow Tea House Top in these photos), but I think that flattering can be too much about how the world expects a person (particularly a woman) to look, and is not enough about how you feel when you wear a garment. Like, if I could devise a ratio it would be something like 5:1, with ‘five’ being how I feel (am I warm enough/cool enough, do I love the colour, the comfort, the tactile feel, the way it moves, the way it works with the rest of my outfit, the simple joy of it?—especially when it’s a me-made) and ‘one’ being how do I look to other people: is it flattering?
Because ‘wearing a garment’ and ‘viewing a garment on someone’s body’ are two very different ways of evaluating garment, and I think I want to acknowledge my ‘wearing’ more in the equation. Because, frankly, where someone might evaluate how I look in it for a few seconds (or minutes if they’re a bit too critical and just need to settle the fuck down … or, indeed, appreciative, because that happens too, in which case: hey, thanks! [blushing face emoji]), I have to wear the garment for the-whole-day; I have to understand its functionality in relation to what I’m doing; I have to understand its effect on how I’m feeling.*
On a more practical note, this is a more spring/autumn/warm-winter-day coat, especially with its very minimal closure. The pattern calls for lightweight and fluid fabric, and you could perhaps interline it or something, but I wouldn’t expect this coat to be a bad-cold-winter-weight guy (unless you live somewhere Mediterranean… Hmmm, I could do that…). This coat really shone when we were in autumnal Canada as a lovely, fall-evening layer. In saying all that, however, because of its relaxed fit you can fit quite capacious jumpers underneath it, and I’ve really enjoyed layering it this winter with a big, warm, woven scarf.
*I wrote this little rant on ‘flattering’ last night, but then stumbled across this article, Screw the rules: Why I gave up on ‘flattering’ clothing this morning, if you want to read more about it. This idea of the problems of the term ‘flattering’ also nested in my brain when listening to this Stitcher’s Brew episode with Marilla Walker and Rosie Martin. I particularly liked this quote from Rosie, regarding that trope of ‘how to make your rectangle/apple/pear/banana/kumquat/pumpkin body an hourglass!’ from around 48 minutes in: “We all know how empowering it is to sew and just learn to love your body and all the irregularities of it and just recognise that we are not generic in any way so for me to see that in a sewing book to advise people in order to dress in this sterotype shape of a women that’s acceptable to society, you should be nipping in your waist, or you should be broadening your shoulders […] And that kind of thing made me angry because it’s like this is not what sewing is about”. I have tweaked the order of the quote for readability, but I’d highly recommend listening to the whole thing for more context.
I love my Jacques Trench Coat! I love how it feels to wear it and that its extended my ideas of what I can wear. Ready To Sew has produced a beautiful design, updating a timeless classic with some extra drama provided by the shaping in the collar and lapels. Both the shell fabric and the lining were joys to sew with and to wear. I’m thrilled with Jacques and would definitely consider making another, but for now this one has my heart.
*For another review that offers some really good tips and thoughts on this pattern, I’d recommend this post from Maddie Made This.