Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Make Do and Mend Suit

Last year we visited Bletchley Park, home of WWII codebreaking, and I was fascinated by the fact that a lot of men came home from the war to find their wardrobes empty. Their wives had 'recycled' all their clothes, including their suits, to make their own. This was a revelation to me, Australias WWII homefront experience being so different to the UKs.

I LOVE the pocket detail on her jacket!
I've never sewn menswear or tailoring but am completely drawn to it (I have a pretty good collection of charity shop bargain vintage coats). No only can you admire the quality and the hours that have been put into making them, but they also seem better at surviving from generation to generation. Nothing speaks of old fashioned glamour than a man in a good suit or a woman in an imaculate coat (with matching hats, gloves and shoes of course). At college I used to work at the now defunct Fine Wools Direct in Sydney which specialised in suitings and wool fabrics, and I'm sure handing the fabrics and seeing the elderly tailors (the last survivors of a one thriving industry taken over by cheap mass production) coming in for a chat and to buy a suit length has had its influence on me.

Ever since my visit to Bletchley I've wanted to try out making a 'make do and mend' suit. Today I was passing a charity shop and found this beautiful 3 piece suit in a navy stripe flannel. It's 100% wool and beautifully tailored enough that I want to rescue it, but not so much that it's a crime to reinvent it. There's something about pure wool flannel that is so tactile, strong and soft at the same time that is magical. I'm  hoping the 2cm chalkstripe (no its not a pinstripe. Pinstripe is a single thread thickness, chalkstripe is thicker) will give me a change to do some interesting design details with the stripe.

I'm going to start with the skirt, because its easier and less can go wrong. I'm thinking if I can make it fit into the trouser legs I'll do a six gore pattern, as my thighs are my most problematic area and six gores gives a much more flattering shape than the four panel skirts shown above. I want something like the khaki one below. I'm hoping there's enough length in the trousers to give me extra panels. Of course everything will have to be carefully patterned and toiled, there's no option to buy more fabric if something goes wrong, but at least the waistcoat should provide some extra help if needed.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a great idea. I'm interested in seeing the results. As someone who hand sews 99% of the time (when I'm in a hurry I sometimes resort to using the machine) I know I'm going to spend more time sewing on each than your average home sewer. so I've actually taken a leaf out of that 40's make do and mend spirit and when I hand sew a garment I do all the proper finishes to make sure it lasts...and lasts. Each garment should be a hierloom. I've put weeks worth of sewing into it so its going to get worn forever. lol!