What Works/What Doesn’t: Butterick 5542, 1930s jacket

Readers,

A 1930s jacket, paired with a contemporary skirt.

A 1930s jacket, paired with a contemporary skirt.

I wanted you to see some properly lighted and shot photos of my linen jacket, Butterick 5542, which is from the 1930s, that I finished in May.   Here’s the previous post about that project.

The skirt is from a McCall’s pattern, 3830, which is current as of this writing.

Jackie and me.

Jackie and me.

My mannequin, Jackie (she came with that name), and I are modeling the ensemble with a white t-shirt. I really want to make some simple cotton and linen blouses to go with the jacket, though. For starters I’m imagining shades of coral to go with the blue and white.

I’m also imagining spectator shoes, a smart hat and bag, earrings–all of which will come in due time.

But, to this jacket. What works? What doesn’t?

Overall, I’m very happy with my first rendition of this vintage pattern.

The buttons and fabric seem to have been made for each other.

The buttons and fabric seem to have been made for each other.

The Art Deco-era buttons I bought in Edinburgh, Scotland seven years ago have found a home. The cross-dye linen seems to have been made just for them.

The jacket pattern is from the same era, but doesn’t feel like a museum piece. It has a place in a contemporary wardrobe, and pairs well with a simple contemporary skirt.

The red flat piping inserted between the lining and facing brightens up the inside.

The silk organza underlining helps maintain crispness in a notoriously wrinkle-prone fabric, without adding weight or thickness. It was worth the expense and effort to underline the pattern pieces.

I’m happy with the choice of a Bemberg rayon lining and with the way the red contrast flat piping adds zip. It was worth learning and perfecting how to make and insert flat piping, and I’ll do that again.

I’m also happy with the fit. Thank you, Edith, for fine-tuning my muslin and transferring the changes to the pattern pieces. Readers, if you have doubts about whether making a muslin is worth the effort, here’s evidence that it is.

Lining, piping and facing.

Lining, piping and facing.

I confess I’m inordinately proud of my pockets. They both turned out well. One of the challenges of sewing is to be able to turn out consistently good results, like two excellent pockets, two well-turned collar points, five well-rendered bound buttonholes. It’s very satisfying when you can achieve that.

Judging this jacket in all the categories under the Individual column of my chart (Personality, Style, Fit, Silhouette, Color, Physical characteristics, and What I’m growing into), I’m giving this jacket a grade of Works.

Ready to attend a June graduation. (Truth be told, the hat was a prop. But this outfit does call for a hat.)

Ready to attend a June graduation. (Truth be told, the hat was a prop. But this outfit does call for a hat.)

Ditto for the categories under the Context column. This jacket works for occasions I’ll attend, activities I’ll be involved in, roles I’ll play. It will be fine in spring and summer weather; it will fit with the mood of the occasions; it will coordinate with other wardrobe items and with my stash, and it will continue to work with what occasions and activities I see in my future.

There are some slight technical issues that don’t work. That’s just the way it goes the first time you sew a pattern.

For one, I padded the shoulders a little too much. I don’t know whether that’s noticeable to you, but I can see it. There’s an ever so slight bulge in the shoulder line when it should be straight.

The shoulders are a little too padded. I will removed a layer of batting.

The shoulders are a little too padded. I will removed a layer of batting.

I need to undo some stitches in the lining to reach in and gently remove a layer of batting. It’s not my favorite thing, to go back and fix a problem in a garment when I’m so ready to be done with it. But, well, now I’ve made this public, I must follow through. I’ll take pictures and post the procedure. I suppose my rule of thumb for padding shoulders will now be when in doubt, pad less rather than more.

I placed the top buttonhole above the roll line, so the right lapel doesn't lie properly. I won't make this mistake next time.

I placed the top buttonhole above the roll line, so the right lapel doesn’t lie properly. I won’t make this mistake next time.

Another problem is not fixable. I placed the top buttonhole too high, above the roll line of the collar. See that? I was not exactly sure where the roll line was. I think I can go ahead and blame the pattern piece, but you’ve got to know when to overrule the pattern piece markings or instructions–when something looks fishy. Pattern pieces and instructions can have mistakes in them.

Dimpled darts: not a good look.

Dimpled darts: not a good look.

A problem with bound buttonholes is that you must put them in very early in the construction process, unlike machine-made buttonholes, which are among the last things you do.  Had I used machine-made buttonholes, I wouldn’t have made the mistake of placing the top one above the roll line.

I just have to sigh and let this go. But–never again!

Nice pocket.

Nice pocket.

The back neck darts have dimples. Pressing may help, and not being under a brutal light will really help. Oh, I’ve read those helpful hints about how to avoid dimples and my darts can still have them.  It may be that the silk organza underlining contributes to the problem. There may be a video that explains how to avoid this glaring defect.

I’ve enjoyed wearing this jacket and look forward to sewing coordinates for it and sewing it again in other fabrics for other seasons. With the groundwork done, I can really enjoy constructing future jackets much faster, perhaps with more of my vintage buttons.

Butterick 5542, brought to life.

Butterick 5542, brought to life.

All photos are by Cynthia DeGrand.

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2 thoughts on “What Works/What Doesn’t: Butterick 5542, 1930s jacket

    • Aren’t they just wonderful? I feel like my mission in life is to make new homes–garments, that is–for beautiful buttons like these. At the same little antique shop in Edinburgh where I bought these I found some other buttons from the same era, possibly the same manufacturer, in a–is it a cobalt?–blue with white incisions. It’s simply tragic not to have those buttons on a suitable garment, and I must do something about that!

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