I have never owned a trench coat. Somehow it happened so. Have always wanted one, but they would be very pricey in stores and I’d decide to save instead of purchasing one. And so when I started sewing all the things, the plan was conceived to also make a trench coat. I bought this glamorous trench coat cotton by Oscar de la Renta last spring. Did not manage to start the project before summer unexpectedly starting last year. So the plan was moved to this year, and this time around I started the project early enough to be able to still wear and enjoy the garment this spring!
I had chosen this particular pattern a long while back, before even purchasing the fabric. My choice was mostly determined by the sleeves being regular sleeves, as opposed to reglan sleeves (spoiler alert – I now want a trench coat with reglan sleeves 🙂 ), and also because it had all the other necessary trench coat features – all those flaps, double breasted closure, lovely collar and looked awesome in general.
It was clear from the very beginning that it would be a tricky project, and it was indeed! I am fairly happy with what I managed to produce. However, I’m not completely happy, not as much as to declare it as one of my favorite makes. So let me share my reflections about this particular style and pattern, also what worked and what mistakes were made along the way.
This was not one of those cases where I would change opinions a number of times before even starting. This time I only had to think intensely about the buttons (very difficult choice, by the way 🙂 ). Despite this relative clarity about all the arrangements, I managed to procrastinate the start of this project for weeks and perhaps even months. Since the war in Ukraine started, I had a very hard time in going with usual life activities, sewing included. However, as April came, I realized that if I don’t start working on this project now, it will get moved one more year forward. And somehow managed to harness enough self-conviction to start.
Upon laying out all the pattern pieces on the piece of fabric I got surprised by how much fabric this trench would require. Luckily, I had purchased this fabric for specifically this pattern, and purchased 3.5 meters, as prompted by the instructions. 3 meters would not have been enough. Cutting pattern pieces out of fabric and preparing everything to get to the point of starting stitching was quicker this time if compared to my previous wool projects. The main difference was that there was less interfacing that needed to be done for the trench coat. It was possible to block interface smaller pieces, and large pieces were not interfaced much. So there was some interfacing, but certainly not as much as for the wool outerwear.
In preparation for the actual stitching, I made few testers with the chosen threads – the main thread and top stitching thread. And immediately it became clear that what I was looking at was a problem. Colors of these two threads differed too much for my liking. Top stitching thread had too much yellow hue. And so I decided to look for the top stitching thread in better matching color.
This immediately stopped me before I even started. Since I was unable to go to the store right away, that Sunday I decided to make all the small parts and prepare them for the top stitching stage. And so that day I only made pocket flaps, sleeves flaps, belt holders. Luckily, during next few days I found a bit of time to go and purchase better matching top stitching thread, and finally was ready to actually start.
Or so I thought. Retrospectively looking, from that initial tester I should have drawn another conclusion, but I was too fixated on color mismatch. I must have noticed that top stitching thread was also too thick. I was using Gutermann top stitching thread no.30. This thickness had worked just fine for my winter coat, and so I mindlessly decided to use it again, ignoring the fact that fabric weights of the trench coat and very warm winter coat were so different! I started noticing that my top stitching looked a bit too heavy too far in the process – then the collar had already been finished and attached, so there was no way of going back and so I had to continue with my initial top stitching choice until the very end.
Important NOTE – no.30 top stitching thread is too thick for trench coats, no.50 or even a regular all purpose thread should work so much better.
Another challenge that immediately struck me and that was a consequence of the wrong top stitching thread thickness, was that I could not seem to find thread tension settings that would produce a balanced seam, when using top stitching thread on top and for the bobbin. The wrong side of the seam was looking as though the top thread was not tense enough, and nothing I tried helped to remedy the situation. I increased the top thread tension to the maximum, and this did not produce any result. When I researched more, it became obvious that I was supposed to use regular thread for the bobbin in order to get more balanced seam. And that was what I did everywhere I could. But there were two seams for which both sides were important – front and lapels top stitching in one continuous seam where both sides show up, and also the belt. At that moment in time I did not know what I would do when I reach that point.
Anyway, when I found top stitching thread in better matching color, I was happy and hadn’t yet had any of the above considerations. I was ready to finally start. And start I did by installing the pockets. The pocket flaps this time were a bit peculiar, however not too complex. The main tricky part was to nicely stitch and then cut the opening of the pocket itself. As always, the stitching lines needed to be very accurate to make sure that all the proportions of the pocket were kept. Instructions were clear enough for the pockets, the only change I did was interfacing the silk piece of the pocket, thus adding stability to that very delicate fabric.
When pockets were done, I continued constructing the front by adding chest flaps (or whatever they are called) and then the back by stitching the yoke in. Then, after joining front and back at the shoulders, the time came to work on the collar. I like this traditional trench coat collar with a pronounced collar stand so much! And it is not too tricky a situation to pull off. Again – sticking to the stitching lines and then pressing each seam carefully was crucial in order to make a beautiful collar.
Next were the sleeves. I made them quite quickly, however, setting them in was a true hassle. It is not the first time I struggle to install sleeves of this particular pattern maker – maybe there is something with their sleeves design, I don’t know. This time around my fabric did not help either – this is a very dry and sturdy fabric, it does not give in at all, so each small pucker would be visible. I tacked and ripped one sleeve few times, eventually when it looked sort of fine, I ended up machine stitching it in place. But the sleeve looked wrong – there were puckers still. So I ripped the shoulder part once again, and yet did not manage to fully deal with extra fullness. The sleeve heads were not interfaced, maybe that was one of the reasons. Anyway, I really did not like the look of my sleeves at all. And so I decided to install felt sleeve heads to try and somewhat fix the look of the sleeves. This helped, the sleeves still aren’t ideal, but they now look much better. There was nothing else that I could do to them. The below slideshow demonstrates the sequence of events with the sleeves.
My coat was quickly gaining the shape. I was able to try it on, it was sitting on me fine. The only observation I had about the fit was the realization that the sleeves felt a bit narrow. However, I hoped that the lining would add wearing comfort when I attached it. But well, it happened not to be the case, oddly. Apparently, my choice of the lining fabric was just a bit off. I was determined to line my Oscar de la Renta trench with silk, and silk I bought. It was silk with an awesome print and ideally matching colors, I loved it so much! However, since I was purchasing it online, I could not touch it. Frankly, even if I was purchasing it at the physical store and had all the opportunities to touch it, I would still have failed to notice that this silk was actually not too slick. It was very light, flowing, but not as slick as the lining fabric should be. While lining is supposed to add wearing ease, my lining isn’t much. But all this became evident only much later – when the lining was in, and yeah, I’ll now have to live with it.
Constructing the lining was fairly simple and quick. I stitched it up, attached to front and back facings, then – to sleeve hems. The length of sleeves was fine, the lining was looking fine too. It was just at that moment in time I started realizing that the sleeves were probably a bit too narrow for my liking and the lining was not helping as my hands would not slide into the sleeves all that easily due to lining fabric not cooperating. It was a bit of disappointment, but well – there was nothing I would have been able to do with that, so narrow sleeves it would be now! Somewhere at that point I also realized that I had forgotten to attach the hanger loop (it was not mentioned in the instructions, so I blame the instructions 🙂 ). Yeah, mistakes were piling on top of each other.
At that time I had to attach the lining to the insides of the coat. From one of my previous makes I learnt a useful tip of attaching the lining to the underarm of the coat. It requires cutting a 1 cm wide and few cm long bias strip, attaching it to the lining underarm, and when the lining is in, stitching the other end of that small holder to the coat underarm point. It looks something like this from the inside:
With that I was slowly moving down the coat, as the last remaining stitching stage was hemming the coat and somehow dealing with the vent. I’ve written in few of my previous posts that when it comes to lining vents, I am each time confused. Instructions usually do not cover this stage all that well, and I end up making the vent “somehow”. This time was no exception. I was unable to understand the description of the vent lining stage, and dealt with it step by step as I saw fit. Eventually I had to conclude that most likely I did something wrong in that “somehow” stage, as the lining at one side of the vent was too short. But well, it was too late for considerations – I was eager to finish this project sooner rather than later. When the vent was done, I had to finish the hem of the coat.
That’s where I kept reading the instructions and couldn’t understand how I was supposed to first of all top stitch the hem and then make a hidden seam by attaching the lining to that top stitched main hem. My mind short-circuited. I was staring at the instructions and kept on thinking – I don’t get it, I don’t get it! At one point I had decided to skip the top stitching phase altogether. However eventually, after like an hour of deliberation I finally got it. In fact, it is fairly simple. You first of all top stitch the pressed hem, and then with 1 cm allowance all along simply attach the lining. And that’s what it is to it. This way it is possible to avoid all of that fancy method that is used for regular jackets, and that method was keeping me not understanding this method. Anyhow, eventually I did it, closed a small remaining gap in the hem by hand, and the coat was almost done.
The last remaining bit was to make button holes and stitch the buttons on. The choice of buttons was tricky. I ran a poll on Instagram about two types of matching buttons and received many votes that I very much appreciate! 70 pct of voters voted for the buttons that I ended up choosing for my coat. I almost always agree and follow the majority opinion that I get on Instagram polls! 🙂 As for the button holes, it was a nerve wrecking exercise, as it always is! I had to rip one buttonhole as it became too narrow, not leaving enough space to be cut. Otherwise, I managed to sweat through this stage and then the very last bit of work was to top stitch the front and lapels in one continuous seam, and also to top stitch the belt. I decided to ignore that slightly unbalanced seam in my thick top stitching thread – there was nothing I could do with it anyway. And finally, oh finally, my trench coat was complete!
For this trench coat I used 3.5 meters of pure cotton, I was told it’s by Oscar de la Renta 🙂 , and 2 meters of pure silk for the lining. I have decided not to share the pattern maker name of this particular pattern. Other notions for this project were: lightweight interfacing, medium weight interfacing for the chest area, quite a bit of interfacing tape, 9 buttons, 2 felt sleeve heads, and coordinating threads – no.100 for regular stitching and no.30 for top stitching. This trench coat cost me 186 Eur and is the most expensive project of mine so far. It was made in April, 2022.
I had hoped that it would be a nice and rewarding project, however, I struggled through it quite a bit. Mostly because not all of my choices were sound. On the other hand, I’ve learnt quite a bit too, so here is my list of what not to do next time:
- Narrow sleeves for the trench coat is certainly not a great idea. The coat may look really nice, however sleeves being uncomfortable will restrict arms movement, layering will be restricted, and that’s not cool at all. So from now on I should determine a comfortable sleeves circumference measurement and shouldn’t go lower than that! Another thought here, reglan sleeves should be a perfect choice for a trench coat. I believe I might want to make another trench coat in perhaps a bit lighter color and with reglan sleeves!
- Top stitching thread color must match the main thread color, and that’s because the top stitching will be close to the button holes and any contrast would be visible. And thick top stitching thread is a bad idea – no.30 is definitely too thick, no.50 or even thinner should work so much better.
- Sleeve heads should either be interfaced, or felt sleeve heads should be installed, or actually both. There is no other way to pull nice and sleek sleeves off.
- Every coat should have a hanger loop!
- I should always check my intended lining fabrics to be slick enough. This was completely new revelation for me, I had thought that all silks are slick. Well, apparently not quite.
Regardless of all these slight mishaps I really like my new trench coat! It is really comfortable to be worn unbuttoned. While buttoned, the lining gets stuck on the pants and tumbles around the legs, so yeah, slick lining would have helped. But I believe, that’s not a big problem – it is rare that we wear trench coats buttoned up anyway 🙂 As for the styling options, they will only be limited by the sleeves being a bit narrow – so no, I won’t be wearing it on the blazer, and perhaps I shouldn’t, as it should replace a blazer, right? So I should now stop whining and enjoy this timeless design and camel color of this smooth fabric. It is a very proper trench coat I’ve made!
Let it be peace in the world! 💙💛