A Perfect Vintage Jacket


Last week I brought home a very special souvenir of Jack’s and my visit to Portland, Oregon: a vintage jacket with a mysterious past. GTS-Pendleton-jacket_2941 (460x432)It came from a lovely little shop, Living Threads Vintage, on Taylor Street opposite the Multnomah County central library.

I was actually on my way to the Button Emporium next door, which an antique dealer had recommended to me, but I couldn’t resist stopping to examine the dress hanging on a mannequin outside Living Threads. IMG_9753 (345x460)

And the next thing I knew, I was chatting with Christine Taylor,IMG_9752 (345x460) co-owner with her husband, Travis, while browsing a rack of jackets.

In short order I was telling myself there would be no harm in trying on this very interesting jacket made from Pendleton wool.GTS-Pendleton-jacket_2943 (460x307)This jacket intrigued me–and Christine, too–and we both wondered who made it, when, and for whom. It was beautifully made and in perfect condition.

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The seaming and darting are so beautiful.

The front facing is finished so elegantly.

The front facing is finished elegantly.

Was this jacket custom-made by a dressmaker or tailor for a specific customer?

Or could this have been sewn as a sample for a clothing line, never manufactured, instead ending up languishing in an archive for decades? We may never know.GTS-Pendleton-jacket_2894 (313x460)

The buttons were fantastic.  I admired the bold and yet restrained combination of buttons, fabric, and garment style. They seemed to be made for each other.  GTS-Pendleton-jacket_2907 (460x381)

GTS-Pendleton-jacket_2955 (460x307) I would love to work out such wonderful combinations using the buttons I’ve bought at vintage fashion fairs and shops in the UK and Europe. It’s so inspiring to learn from real-life examples.

We wondered when this jacket was made. Could it have been the late ’50s, when more patterns were appearing without the cinched waist?

Another great in my pattern pantheon.

From 1959, this has a big collar and an unbelted version. I made the leopard-collar version a couple of years ago.

The fabric suggested 1940s or 1950s to me. This Pendleton wool was the color–no, colors–of stone-ground cornmeal, with beautiful variegations of grays or browns.

My trusty 3 in 1 Color Tool suggests that this yellow has been lightened with white and shaded with gray.

My trusty 3 in 1 Color Tool suggests that this yellow has been lightened with white and shaded with gray.

The tag read “Extra Small.” The fit was nearly perfect on me–a rare occurrence.GTS-Pendleton-jacket_2954 (307x460)

I love a big collar–and this one could be worn a couple of ways: wider and flatter,GTS-Pendleton-jacket_2918 (312x460) or higher and closer to the face. Interesting.GTS-Pendleton-jacket_2891 (303x460)

Christine liked this intriguing Pendleton jacket on me, too. Still, I wanted another opinion, and I knew where to find it: at the Heathman Hotel, just a few minutes’ walk away. That’s where most of Jack’s fellow Peace Corps members and their wives were staying for our biannual reunion.

I told Christine I’d be back shortly with my friend Rosa to make a final decision. At the hotel, I managed to snag not one but three judges–Rosa, Dora, and Kathryn–who eagerly returned with me to see the shop and the mystery jacket.

Even though I modeled the jacket for my review community over a summery white t-shirt and seersucker pants, the vote was a unanimous and enthusiastic YES. Okay, so there was a little extra room in the shoulders; I could live with that, we agreed.

The inside is perfect. This seems never to have been worn.

The inside is perfect. This seems never to have been worn.

Back home, I pondered what garments I could pair with this jacket to create outfits. Tops, skirts and pants should be simple, I thought, to support this jacket in its starring role.

I scooped up some hats, gloves, and an alligator bag and made the two-minute journey to my sister’s photo studio, where I experimented in front of the camera.

First, with a beret in a hard-to-pin-down mushroom brown color that went with the shading in the fabric:

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The sleeves are longer than three-quarters length, but short enough to call for longer gloves. I wouldn’t mind laying in a supply of long vintage gloves. It’s interesting to me that although the collar points down, I perceive the collar as bringing the eye up, which is a big plus. I can’t explain why, but the shape and color of the beret look right to me as part of this ensemble.

Next, a kind of Loden green felt hat, maybe a cousin of a Homburg. (I bought this Eric Javits hat in 1990, I think.)

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Carrying my pretend purse. I will never make a living as a mime.

The color of the hat is nice with the jacket, but the shape is not. There’s no relationship with the jacket.

How about with this burgundy rabbit-felt hat by Ignatius Creegan? I love this hat.

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There’s my purse! Much better!

The combo is promising and worth pursuing. I see burgundy gloves in my future.

Next up: a Harris tweed hat I bought at a vintage stall in East London on a chilly, drizzly Sunday a few years ago. Quite the workhorse, this hat, keeping me warm, dry and moderately fashionable through several winters.

GTS-Pendleton-jacket_2986 (238x460)I think this is a nice combination.

That I could wear a plain neutral beret; a luxurious, plush, rich-colored felt cloche; or a rough-textured plaid tweed fedora with this style and color of jacket was quite exciting.

Lastly, I tried a whimsical beret in an eye-popping orange-red.

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Both items had plenty of personality but seemed willing to work together.

A jacket that can deliver on whimsicality, practicality, and beauty, too? That’s something worth celebrating!

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And with this silliness, this photo shoot is now concluded.

After spending decades in storage, it’s time this jacket started doing its job in the world, don’t you think?  I certainly do.

Thanks to Cynthia DeGrand for studio photography.

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6 thoughts on “A Perfect Vintage Jacket

  1. Wow. This jacket really does look like it was designed for you. I like it with the beret and gloves best. I think a pencil skirt in the same colour as the gloves would work well with it too.

  2. Yikes, what a fabulous find! Not only is the jacket gorgeous, it suits you to a T! I also like the brown beret the best. Although the Harris tweed is perfect too. I think the loden doesn’t work because of the upturned brim. The jacket’s collar fights with it. It would be nice to locate the original pattern that the jacket was made from , if one was used. I’m loving your worldwide collection of accessories!

  3. Paula, truly a jacket to treasure and wear with a huge number of colors. I love that red beret with it! Great modeling and photography. You clearly had fun putting this blog together.

  4. Hi there,
    Just found your blog today and have been avidly reading it.
    Love the jacket and must say that my favourite look is the picture “There’s my purse” I think everything works beautifully.
    I am so thrilled to have found your blog after reading an article about your 3 jackets on the Thread website. I am at the sewing stage in my little sewing room of entering into the world of tailored jackets. I would love to learn if you have shown details on your blog of a tailored jacket where there is a dart above the double welt pocket, as in a gentleman’s coat, as Saville Row tailors call them………..I have Vogue 8890 to work on for my daughters boyfriend and already feel the enormity of the challenge I have set myself! Because of the design of the pattern piece, you have to slash the welt marking down the middle so that you can work the dart and bring the side seam into line. May I ask Paula have you done this on any of your jackets?. It would be absolutely fantastic to know how to execute this well.
    Your blog is a mine of information and I am thoroughly enjoying going through lots of past posts. A wonderful find.

    Kindest regards from the U.K.

    • Marysia, Thank you for your kind words. It’s funny you should be asking a question about tailoring a man’s jacket because just this morning I was shifting my dreaded sportcoat project, which is more than a decade old, on my projects rack. I pulled my copious notes from that project (a foretaste of starting a sewing blog?) and I just might have some advice from Edith, my sewing teacher, that could help. I hope so.
      I have the instructions from Vogue 2836, which is probably quite similar to your Vogue pattern and which might have identical instructions. Edith was very critical of the instructions and said that the way Vogue had you do this, it would be a miracle if you could do both fronts accurately.
      Okay, I am going to scrutinize my notes and see where I might be able to help you. (Once a librarian, always a librarian!)

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