The Briscoe Trench Coat - Vintage Dior for Vogue


Over the past few years, I’ve developed a pretty solid me-made wardrobe.  There aren’t too many holes or missing pieces that I need in my daily life.  I had a few summer pieces I wanted to sew for the upcoming season but after that I was planning on spending time this year on some more involved, time-consuming, sewing-skill-challenging projects.  The first one is a classic trench coat – or the Briscoe trench coat, inspired by ‘Law and Order’ Detective Lennie Briscoe, who rocked an awesome Burberry trench on the show (I often watch/listen to Law and Order reruns while I sew, mainly if I’m home alone).

I was cruising vintage patterns on Etsy and I found this 1974 vintage Vogue 1095 Christian Dior trench coat pattern, and I bought it for $31, which may be the most I’ve ever paid for a sewing pattern.  I just loved the back, and thought it was a nice variation on a classic theme.  It was a size 14, for a 36” bust, so pretty much perfectly sized.
Spoiler alert - I do not look this glamorous in mine.
For the fabric, I wanted something classic. I actually ordered two rounds of swatches from Mood before I found something I liked – it’s hard to accurately judge ‘tan’ and ‘beige’ online.  First I chose the lining – this preppy plaid cotton blend. 

I thought it was close enough to be an homage to the Burberry trench lining.  Then I tried to match the shade of tan for the shell fabric. I eventually chose a beige stretch cotton sateen – both of these fabrics had ‘trench coats’ mentioned in the Mood description, so I felt pretty confident with my fabric choices.
Not only did I order swatches, I made a muslin! I was serious when I said this was going to be some labor intensive stuff (I hate making muslins).  It fit well, and the only adjustment I decided to make was to lower the ‘waistline’ about 1.5”.  This is where a casing for elastic is installed, and it was a little too high on me originally, as I am very long-waisted. 
The construction is fairly straightforward, there are just a lot of steps (79 total!), and a lot of hand sewing (historically not my favorite). All of the seams are edgestitched and then topstitched.  The waist is gathered by stitching a bias tape casing on the inside of the shell and then inserting and stitching down elastic, which I thought was clean and clever.  
Waistline elastic casing from the inside
waistline elastic casing from the outside

For the lining the waist is just sewn with elastic thread.  Speaking of the lining – my plaids match so perfectly in the lining I can’t stand it. Of course they do, it’s a lining that isn’t prominently visible! I will never match plaids this well again in my life, and I’ve already accepted that.

plaid matching

 Some minor fails – I wish the lapels were crisper where they meet the collar. This was tricky to sew, I even hand stitched part of it. I’m not sure if it’s a result of sandwiching the upper and lower collar in between the front and the facing, or if it’s the result of the stretch in the sateen, or both. I will live with it. “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” is my current sewing mantra.  The inside of the cuffs aren't as clean as I'd like, although it looks fine from the outside. It was 4 layers of fabric and I was trying to wrangle the coat while I sewed it and it's not perfect.
button/cuff detail

I thought about doing bound buttonholes, but the more I saw RTW trench coats, the more I saw just regular buttonholes – and I started seeing trench coats everywhere while I was sewing this.  I just pop on some “Law and Order” for reference…..the buttons are also from Mood.



button detail
back yoke detail
the inside
the belt loops
All in all, I spent 5-6 full days in May constructing this, plus a little light hand-sewing in the evenings over the course of a couple of weeks/weekends.  I eventually found all of the hand sewing meditative. I think one of the reasons I dislike it is because I distrust it compared to a machine stitch, but after this project I feel more confident in my hand sewing. 

so much hand sewing...


The entire lining is hand sewn except for at the armholes. The sleeve lining is hand sewn at the shoulder.  
 
hours and hours of hand sewing.....

Wearing it!




with my mirrored detective sunnies





I'm modeling it with my Lennie Briscoe enamel pin! 



I love it.  I think it's a great piece to have in my wardrobe.  I'm pretty sure this is the most amount of time and effort I've spent on a sewing project, and I do feel like I've learned to appreciate taking time to construct something challenging instead of the instant gratification of a new skirt.
It’s not currently trench coat weather here in the SF Bay area, but I like having this in my closet ready for the next foggy fall day.  It's pretty substantial! The lining makes it fairly heavy, so I think it will be useful down to some much cooler temps.
Added to my to-sew list: a vinyl version inspired by Mood! Perhaps using the Deer and Doe trench pattern (which I’m going to try and modify to a zipper front closure….).




Comments

  1. That trench coat is fabulous....great job!

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  2. OH well done! Your coat is beautiful! Definitely worth the hours of hand sewing, I'd say. And the icing on the cake is your Lennie pin!

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