Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Learning from RTW: deconstructing a jacket

As I've told you, I took apart my favorite jacket. This jacket comes from a Romanian designer and it fits me beautifully. However, the fabric is horrible. 100% polyester, with quite a cheap look to it (this designer usually has beautiful fabrics, I don't know what happened this time). The advantage is it never wrinkles and you don't even have to iron it. The disadvantage... I completely hate it!
Therefore I took it apart, to copy the pattern and learn from the construction as well.

This is what the pattern pieces look like:

I forgot to take a picture of the jacket before taking it apart, but here is a photo of the half left, still in one piece, except for the collar:

As I already knew from Kathleen Fasanella, seam allowances are 1 cm (3/8 inches), the allowance of the seam joining the facing to the fronts and the lining to the hem is 0.6 cm (1/4).

What I've also noticed:
  • The entire fronts are fused (but then I'm doing this all the time)
  • The side panel is fused too, even if it extends into the back as well
  • The back has a fused panel, covering the entire neckline and the armholes
  • All the hems (back and sleeve) are fused and the interfacing extends past the foldline (I was doing that too)
  • There are little cut slits instead of outward or inward notches
  • THERE IS NO EASE IN THE SLEEVE CAP! But then, Kathleen Fasanella says that sleeve cap is bogus - see her post about it here. There was also a discussion on PR - go to Message Boards, Creative Sewing, and then Making Clothes Look Less Homemade - the discussion starts on page 11 of that thread. The sleeve looks perfectly OK and suits me perfectly.
  • The sleeve cap is fused too! (I wasn't doing that nor was I ever instructed to do it) - see below what I'm talking about:

Also, I like very much the shoulder pad. It is the best I've ever had in a jacket. It gives shape without being too bulky (I have round defined shoulders and I really hate how I look with shoulder pads thicker than... let's say 1 cm).

See the pad below, compared to the best shoulder pads I can buy here (they are Italian and cost a bit more than 2 euros per pair, which is about 3 times more than "normal" shoulder pads):

Notice how the shoulder pad from the jacket doesn't have a symmetrical shape, like the bought one. The part going in the front is longer and thinner (lower part of photo), the one going in the back (upper part of photo) is shorter and fatter. Also, the pad is made out of three layers, assembled with pad stitching:

The bought pad is made out of foam, one layer and covered in soft knit mesh.

I'm thinking of making my own shoulder pads from now on. I must find foam for that. The foam piece in the picture above is thicker in the middle and thinner at the ends, but I can achieve this by layering several pieces of foam, in different sizes.

My houndstooth jacket from this pattern is coming along in a great way so far. I'm taking this opportunity to use all the tailoring techniques that I know of: shaping the lapel with an additional piece of interfacing and using stay tape for the lapel roll line; taping the fronts; adding a chest shield; adding a wigan strip to the sleeve hem; sewing the collar in a bulkless way etc.

When the jacket is finished, I'll post links to what I've found online about tailoring and also some pictures showing how I sew the collar to the jacket (a bulkless method, I think).

But... the International Salsa Congress starts tomorrow in Bucharest and it will keep me very busy.

Despite the pompous name, a salsa congress is an informal and fun event. You have workshops (about three simultaneous workshops in each time slot) the entire day, led by the greatest international instructors/dancers, and parties at night. People come from every corner of this world.

At the end of the congress (Sunday night) I'll probably be half dead, but it's definitely worth it!


christina said...

Well this is very informative, thanks for sharing the pictures. It's interesting that so much of the jacket is interfaced, I remember reading about that somewhere.

I am familiar with that Fashion Incubator post about sleeve cap ease being bogus, so it's really good to know that your RTW jacket didn't have ease. Makes me feel better about getting rid of it.

Summerset said...

Awesome post - very informative. I find the sleeve cap and shoulder pad most fascinating - interesting how things are different in RTW.

Rosemary aka fabricfan said...

Great comments on the jacket. I don't have the stamina to dance salsa but man, what an experience you will have. It is great fun to be able to take lessons from people of that calibre. Will you, one day make a swap featuring dance costumes?

LauraLo said...

Thanks, Christina, Summerset, Rosemary! I think that taking apart this jacket has been a valuable lesson for me (besides giving me a TNT pattern) and I'm very pleased how the houndstooth jacket is coming along. Hope to have some pictures to show sometimes soon.
Rosemary, it's funny! I AM thinking of a salsa SWAP. It's not going to have dance costumes (I'm not a professional dancer or instructor, just dancing for my own fun and to keep in shape), but just more elegant dancewear - you know, jersey skirts and backless tops stuff like that. Plus some yoga pants probably... (for workshops)

Tany said...

What a great post, Laura! I do most of the interfacing procedure you described but I never fused the sleeveheads... I also find the shoulder pads and the sleeve ease issue most interesting and I'm looking forward to see the construction details on your new jacket! Thank you so much for sharing all this information!

Vicki said...

Laura, great post. Facinating seeing what is inside RTW.

Katrin said...

Hello Laura,
I am still a new reader to your blog, but for some time now visiting very often. This is an interesting post about insights of rtw garments.
I seem to be lucky since I am able to buy those professional shoulder pads here in shop. They are far better than the simple ones.
I also attended in a 3 days dance festival 3 weeks ago in Düsseldorf, Germany with about 100 workshops in any kind of dancing. I guess some of the salsa-professionals you are meeting this weekend have also been there.
Enjoy some wonderful days and have fun dancing :-)

LauraLo said...

Hi, Katrin
And welcome to my blog! I'm a reader of your blog too (a recent one) and have been following your progress on the wedding dress. Can't wait to see the final result, your fabric looks so luxurious.
I agree with you about professional shoulder pads being a lot better than the usual ones. You're very lucky to find them in your shop. By the way, do you (or you, Tany) know of any good online notion shops and fabric shops in Europe? If I order in the European Union I don't pay the 30% custom taxes that I have to pay for things coming from the States...

Katrin said...

Hello Laura,

what an honour for me you reading my blog:-).
The shop where I buy my shoulder pads also has an online-store. This can be found here: then check our "Kurzwaren" and "Schulterpolster".

Best regards,

LauraLo said...

Thanks a lot, Katrin, you're a true sewing pal!

Linda said...

This is truly great information. I appreciate your sharing it through your blog for all of us to read and ponder.