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Readers,

Every time I look at this large-collared, boxy little late ’50s jacket the word “demure” comes to mind, and I don’t know why. Demure is not a style I’m after. There’s just something about that collar.

Dressed for lunch at the Chintz Room at the Lazarus department store, Columbus, Ohio, 1959. I hear the chicken salad is excellent.

Dressed for lunch at the Chintz Room at the Lazarus department store, Columbus, Ohio, 1959. I hear the chicken salad is excellent.

Here’s another word that pops into my head about this jacket: “suburban.” That’s a 1950s suburb I’m thinking of. Again, I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the easier fit–not the early or mid-1950s closely fitted silhouette with the more formal feel–paired with that easier hat. This jacket looks just right for a midweek lunch out at a finer department store. After a morning of shopping, of course.

This plaid is more vivid in person than this photo conveys.

This plaid is more vivid in person than this photo conveys.

I have no ambitions to sew outfits for midweek lunches at finer department stores, and yet I’m so curious about this jacket that I’m going to give it a go. It may be that this sassy greenish yellow and bittersweet chocolate plaid wool blend just cried out to be made into Vogue 4036, for the sheer contrariness of it.  I’m curious whether “demure” will go right out the window when this plaid sashays in. I would hope so.

I realized recently that this jacket my mom made–I’m guessing it also dates from the late ’50s–bears more than a passing resemblance to Vogue 4036. It’s boxy, and has a prominent collar, and is made up in a very undemure plaid. I love this plaid.

A jacket my mom made, probably in the late '50s.

A jacket my mom made, probably in the late ’50s.

I don’t recall this jacket, but maybe I do have some residual memory of it lodged deep somewhere.

This jacket has princess seams, which I like. Maybe I can track down the pattern.

This jacket has princess seams, which I like. Maybe I can track down the pattern.

I have enjoyed the skirt I made up in this fabric. Would a matching jacket be too much?

I wear this skirt with a very textured, bracelet-length sleeved sweater from Banana Republic.

I wear this skirt with a very textured, bracelet-length sleeved sweater from Banana Republic.

And then, that collar shape. Would it look smart on me, or…hopelessly demure? I’m not getting enough feedback from my muslin to tell.

Is this collar a good one for me? My muslin didn't answer this question.

Is this collar a good one for me? My muslin didn’t answer this question.

Why don’t I just cut out the collar from the plaid and try that first? If the shape, texture and colors look fine, I’ll go ahead and cut the fronts. How do they look with the collar? Too busy–or good? I have high-contrast coloring that might handle this amount of color and pattern fine.

I bought these vintage buttons in Greenwich, England. Would they work well?

I bought these vintage buttons in Greenwich, England. Would they work well?

It may sound perfectly sensible to you, and you may have already been doing this for years, but I’ve never thought of cutting only a few pieces of a pattern to try. It’s the trap of either-or thinking: either my fabric stays intact but never used, or it’s hacked up and misused.

There is another way, I have to remind myself. If I don’t like how the collar looks, or how this much pattern looks next to my face, I would still have yardage to use for a different application. I like that.

A bit hard to make out the lines of this jacket from the illustration. It has set-in sleeves, center back seam, and a vent. (I'm eliminating the vent.)

A bit hard to make out the lines of this jacket from the illustration. It has set-in two-piece sleeves, a center back seam, and a vent. (I’m eliminating the vent.)

One of my sewing teacher Edith’s sayings is “Don’t commit before you have to.” She was actually referring to making a slashed pocket in a jacket front, but her point can be more widely applied. Don’t take an irreversible course as long as you can have the option to reverse.

Test small before testing big.

That sounds just right.

From my mom's reipe clippings: the famous chicken salad from the Chintz Room at Lazarus.

From my mom’s reipe clippings: the famous chicken salad from the Chintz Room at Lazarus. Love that “gay trim of red apple paring”!