Pierre Cardin Coat — Construction Notes

I “cut my teeth” on men’s outerwear, and I still find it incredibly satisfying to make. It almost always involves wool, which is a dream to work with; and there’s the opportunity to have something that just isn’t available in the ready to wear market. That’s a huge draw for me.

I hope my journey inspires you to give it a go. That’s been the upshot of this blog from the beginning. All the lugging, tugging and swearing can pay off in the end. Truly, if I can do this, you can too!

Where to begin… there are usually a few key details on men’s outerwear. Not many, but what details there are need one’s full attention. They’re usually front and center; things like pockets, flaps, button tabs on sleeves, shoulder epaulets. If they look sloppy you’ll hate your coat and kick yourself forever. So I start out at a crawl, focused on the little details, knowing that the pace will pick up further down the road.

On this coat the main feature is the pockets — a welt pocket in a patch pocket. Dramatic and different. Sadly, Vogue’s instructions for making them are beyond horrible.

I hate when the directions can only lead to disappointing results on a project that will take hours and hours of work. It’s no wonder people give up on sewing. So instead of following the directions and creating a cheap imitation of a welt pocket, why not make a real one instead!

As usual I pull out my trusty Cabrera text on menswear tailoring. This pocket is really just a larger version of the pocket that would be found on the front of a suit coat. It’s simply a matter of making an oversized pocket bag, and then trimming it down to fit within the patch. Pretty simple actually. The stitching isn’t pretty, but it doesn’t have to be. (Please don’t see all the thread tension mishegas going on here!) It’s all concealed in the end. What matters is that it’s a real pocket, not just a cheap imitation that you’ll hate forever.

Lesson here…. if you can make something better, something that will give you more satisfaction down the road, take the extra time and do it. Worried that it may not work out? Do a “test run” with muslin. BTW, the black fabric here is Fashion Sewing Supply’s Pro-weft Supreme Medium fusible interfacing. I used it to “beef up” the welt strips. I don’t use many fusibles; but when I do, this is my “go to”.

More experimentation. My Janome Magnolia makes nice buttonholes, but I had serious reservations considering the loose fluffy weave of my fabric. I decided that bound buttonholes would be a safer alternative. They’re really not hard to make, and I love the way they look. They scream couture IMO. Plus, they’re a good example of one skill leading to another. If you can make a welt pocket, you can make bound buttonholes, and vice versa. It’s pretty much the same. I tried a couple different widths on some scraps, and decided the narrower welt looked best. The buttons are 1″ diameter, the buttonholes are 1.25″ long. They could actually have been even longer.

Whip stitching the “lips” of the buttonhole and the pleats that form at the back make the work easier. As always, I recommend Laura Mae’s outstanding tutorial over at her blog Lilacs and Lace. You’ll be fearlessly making bound buttonholes in no time!

Tools! I’m a notorious cheapskate when it comes to buying things that can actually make life easier. I can talk myself out of things very easily, figuring that I can “make do” with what I have. I finally broke down and purchased a walking foot, point presser and clapper, and I’m so glad I did. Without them I would never have been able to achieve the results I did. The clapper in particular was worth its weight in gold. Who knew a block of wood could be such a game changer.

I relied heavily on the few tailoring texts that I own. Edna Bishop may come across as a crotchety Home Ec teacher, but I love her use of traditional tailoring materials. Her section on making a coat inspired me to add some decorative stitching to the under collar. I also use her hemming techniques. Roberto Cabrera is all about structure, and I can honestly say I’ve never regretted any amount of structure that I’ve put in my makes.

Perhaps the biggest challenge of this whole enterprise was inserting the lining. I was not able to use the lining pattern pieces due to all the alterations I’d made. (Warning : should you consider making this coat….Even without any alteration the lining pieces would be skimpy at best). I had to improvise wildly, especially around the neckline. In many places I backed the loosely woven wool with bits of silk organza for additional strength. Otherwise, I felt that I was slipstitching into air.

Perseverance and abundant swearing are sometimes the only way to cross the finish line!

Backyard photo shoot soon. As always, I appreciate all the support I get from the sewing community.

19 thoughts on “Pierre Cardin Coat — Construction Notes

  1. I take my hat off to you yet again! You enthusiastically tackle things I spend my life avoiding…basting, bound buttonholes, sew-in interfacing…and it all pays off, the coat looks fabulous. I hope you enjoy wearing it very much, and look forward to seeing the photo shoot.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oooohhhh!!!!! NICE! The patch pocket looks great—excellent job on the topstitching & welts. And your inspiration tactics are working—I’m working on a coat (Deer&Doe, “Opium” style) and intend to execute as perfect-as-possible bound buttonholes. Thanks for referencing a tutorial link & posting nice photos. Did you end up using strips of hair canvas in the hems too?
    Looking forward to seeing the finished product being modeled!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “Perseverance and Abundant Swearing” would make an excellent motto. What would it be in Latin … oh! “Et abundat persever puriuret iurans.”

    I like better what came out when I typed in “Perseverance and Abundant Cursing: “Quod perseverantia et abundat maledictio.” You should have that put onto your clothing labels, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Stunning work! I’m in awe of your tailoring skills. Also trying to justify the purchase of the very expensive Cabrera book when I will probably only ever make one coat. Sigh. Can I consider it under “education“?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You might consider The Bishop Method of Clothing Construction. It’s kind of old fashioned, but very useful because it was written pre-fusibles. It’s nowhere near as expensive, and a great introduction to tailoring.


  5. This is really truly outstanding. From your beautiful fabric, the buttons, the work on all the buttonholes, interfacing and the list goes on, you produce some of the best old school tailored garments on the internet. Your work is what one would expect if I went to a bespoke tailor to have my clothing made. It is right up there with the suit that you made and that kilt, the kilt was a knock out project. You should start to design your own clothing line. Once again, great work, just beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you so much for this inspiring post. You really are a menswear designer first, then a tailor. Without the vision of an outstanding garment to create no sewing pattern can get you to your end product. I am working with a similar boucle wool on a current make and have spent hrs trying for a buttonhole design. One look at your coat and a bound one with a matching color smooth wool would be the solution for my jacket. Your coat uses French couture techniques at the same level as Francesco Smalto. Best boat and best coat award are yours this year.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m a newcomer to your blog (it’s great, thank you so much for blogging!), and came here to comment that the decorative stitching on the undercollar is fantastic. those are the kinds of details that cause a garment to spark joy for me. this is also good timing — i’m working on a jacket similar to your too-poor-for-dior one, and am puzzling over the collar. the undercollar in this coat you’ve made is two pieces, seamed together in the center, and appears to be cut on the bias. if i may ask, what is the reason for using two pieces? is the center seam shaped?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This Pierre Cardin pattern calls for all sorts of tailoring techniques that you would NEVER see in one of today’s patterns. The undercollar is actually pad stitched. I have come to love using traditional techniques and the materials that go with them. So it’s only natural that these “old school” tailoring techniques carry over into many of my projects.

    Regarding the collar on my toile jacket, again I fall back to traditional construction. The collar on a tailored suit jacket would be constructed this way (2 pieces cut on the bias and overlapped at the center), so why not on a casual jacket? What’s really important is that the under collar and interfacing must be cut on the bias. This allows the collar to conform to the neck better. Using a sew-in woven interfacing allows the fabric to move and will give you a much more professional look. I hope this helps!


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