I’m sure you’ve read your share of those blog posts and magazine articles with titles like “10 Pieces Every Woman Should Have in Her Wardrobe.” They always drive me a little crazy because I really think everyone’s wardrobe should be more personal than that. We each make our own individual choices about what our clothing essentials should be, and life would be boring if we all owned the same things. But I’ve also come to realize that, to a certain degree, they’re probably quite accurate. Most people would likely benefit from having some sort of white shirt in their wardrobe, as well as well-fitting jeans, etc. Your essential white shirt might be a very different white shirt than someone else’s, but on one level those basic items really do make sense for most people.
And that’s why it’s always annoyed me that the classic trench coat has never worked for me, personally.
I own a classic trench and often wear it, but it’s never felt right to me. It’s not one of those pieces I feel good about when I wear. But it wasn’t until I started to really think about my ideal trench coat that I finally realized why I’ve never been a fan. I don’t like the length and the belt, and the “classic” trench coat has always made me feel a little bit like I’m wearing a bath robe. There. I’ve said it.
So here’s my solution: it’s our Lisette for Butterick B6331, which was released last spring. I’ve sewn it with a few changes, which I’ll explain below.
Fabric: bonded brushed cotton. I found this fabric in a little shop on the outskirts of London when I was visiting with some sewing friends last spring and knew immediately that it would be great for the Lisette for Butterick B6331 pattern we were developing at the time. It’s a very heavy, stiff, bonded brushed cotton. No drape at all. So I also knew it would be challenging to sew.
Changes to the pattern: To start, I made a muslin and decided right away that I wanted less ease, since the fabric is so stiff. So I took in the muslin along the side seam and sleeve seam (underarm) quite a bit to slim the coat down and make the sleeve much more narrow. This is really easy to do with a raglan; you just pin the side seam as needed and transfer those changes to the pattern itself.
I also added about 1″ to the width of the collar for a more dramatic look.
And this part is a little more complicated. I added a banana stand to the back collar to give it more stand. I didn’t want the collar to sit quite as flat as it does without a banana stand, so this was a drafting change on my part that is probably too complicated to explain in a blog post. The difference is subtle, but I really wanted to include it. (Plus, I always prefer a little challenge.)
I also added welts to the front pockets. If you have our Liesl + Co. Cinema Dress pattern, it’s the same sewing technique and just emphasizes the pockets a little more.
And, finally, I eliminated the belt and casing. The fabric is too stiff to manage the belt, and this solved my bathrobe issue, too. Here it is.
Sewing it: I tried several different needles before finding one that worked well. The fabric was too heavy and tightly woven for an all-purpose needle, so I thought maybe a denim needle would be appropriate, but that wasn’t right either. A microtech needle did the job well.
Because the pattern is unlined, I used rayon seam binding to finish all the seam allowances. I have other high-end coats that are finished like this and I love the look. Plus the seam binding isn’t bulky at all. I even finished the seams that are hidden by the facing. It was so much fun I just couldn’t stop! In the photo below right I pulled the facing to the side so you can see the pocket and princess seam, which are completely hidden in the finished jacket.
And that’s how the trench coat works for me. Not the classic trench, for sure, and the fabric dictated certain changes to the pattern itself. But I’m thrilled with how it turned out, and I’ve been wearing it a lot since I finished it. I’m even planning to take it on my trip to Belgium next week! I think it’s a new core wardrobe piece for me. So maybe the experts are right about those key pieces, after all. You just need to find your own twist to them and make them work for your own preferences.