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Inspiration

Runway Sewn Your Way: Pamela Howard’s Cape Sleeve Coat

Intriguing open sleeves were inspired by Max Mara designs

For the Runway Sewn Your Way Challenge, I drew loads of inspiration from Max Mara jacket and coat designs. I modified a well-fitting lined coat pattern #101 from Burda Style March 2019 to include a cape sleeve and some features I liked from the designs I flagged while scrolling through Pinterest.

The pattern went through many changes. I created hidden buttoning down the front; redesigned the sleeve; added an inverted closed pleat to the center back; included a bomber-style collar; and topstitched multiple seams. The results made me happy. Let’s take a closer look.

Hidden buttoning

The hidden buttoning closure gives the coat front a streamlined look. It’s a designer technique I discovered in a sewing book from the 1960s and which I explain how to do Runway Sewn Your Way Technique: Pamela Howard Adds Hidden Buttoning.

Cape sleeve

Inspired by the cape-style sleeves in Max Mara jackets and coats, I altered the Burda Style coat pattern’s sleeve with the help of the Vogue 1263 jacket by Donna Karan (out of print). The new sleeve follows the sleeve-cap area of the Burda Style pattern in order to fit into the armscye seam. But the two-piece pattern morphs into the bell sleeve of the Vogue pattern starting at the biceps level and ending at the sleeve hem. I also moved the sleeve seam closer to the body, similar to where it would be in men’s dress shirts. Since they were two-piece sleeves, I stitched the seams closest to the underarms about 4 inches from the armscye and left the remainder open to give them more of a cape sleeve look. The cape sleeves are my favorite detail in this project.

Cape Sleeve close-up on coat

 

Cape sleeve from the wrong side

Max Mara designs show the cape-style sleeves at different lengths.

Collar and sleeve inspiration from the Max Mara collection
The cape sleeves on this Max Mara bomber-style jacket extend to the fingers. Photo: from the Max Mara Spring/Summer 2021 Collection.
Caped sleeves on double-breasted women's blazer, from the Max Mara Spring-Summer 2021 Collection
The cape sleeves on this Max Mara double-breasted jacket are the typical length for a tailored jacket. Photo: from an earlier Max Mara Collection.

I took time to determine how long I wanted my cape sleeves.

Bodice and sleeves of coat test garment
Photo: Pamela Howard

After trying on the test muslin, I factored in where my arm would bend and how much room I needed to raise my arm comfortably. Then I made sure I cut the fabric extralong, so I had some leeway when hemming the sleeves. In the end, I made them long enough to graze the middle of my hands.

Inverted pleat at center back

To add interest to the coat back, I drafted and installed an inverted closed pleat below the yoke.

inverted closed pleat at the center back of a cape sleeve brown denim coat

Originally, I wanted to create an inverted pleat that opened all the way to the hem.

Photo: Pamela Howard

While this worked well in the muslin, the extrawide pleat would not lie correctly in the denim I had chosen. I hung the coat on my door for a couple of days trying to devise a solution. Diagonal stitching across the pleat, which worked on another garment, did the trick. I also cut away the extra pleat fabric below the diagonal stitching to sew a closed seam to the hem.

close-up of inverted and closed back pleat on center back of cape sleeve coat

Bomber-style collar

The bomber-style collars on several Max Mara designs looked so comfortable. I adapted the collar piece in the Vogue 9275 bomber jacket to work on the collarless coat pattern I was using. I shaved off 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch from the collar pattern’s neck seamline to create the right height for my neck.

bomber-style collar attached to test garment

In order for the collar to sit correctly in denim, it would have needed to be cut on the bias. Instead, I opted for the matching and comfortably soft wool jersey from my stash. Two layers of lightweight interfacing went into the collar to give it structure.

 

Close-up of brown denim coat's bomber-style collar and upper closure of covered snaps and hidden buttoning

Topstitching

Because this was a denim coat, topstitching offered the perfect finishing treatment for many seams. I topstitched the pockets, for example.

Topstitched pocket on brown denim coat

After converting two shaping darts in the coat back into seams, I also topstitched those. Back yoke seams and front princess seams also were topstitched. For each armscye seam, I pressed the seam allowances in the direction of the coat body and then topstitched them.

A worthwhile challenge

The decision I made to use the silk geometric print georgette for the lining ended up being a true challenge. I took extra care to make sure the lining fit into the coat so it didn’t blouse out too much. The fabric is a beautiful contrast to the outer fabric and because it is nearly sheer, I can see what garment construction I did on the inside.

When I was laying out the lining fabric and trying to figure out how to match the geometric print across seams, I didn’t need a cold compress or feel the need to go lie own before I cut. I just went for it, and the print ended up lining up just fine at the seams.

A cape sleeve coat with geometric print lining is draped inside out on a dress form

 

Pamela's Closet label at the back neck of a cape sleeve coat

The Runway Sewn Your Way Challenge gave me a chance to try an intriguing technique (hidden buttoning), construct stylish caped sleeves, and have another excuse to create outerwear—my favorite garments to sew.


Photos: Mike Yamin, except where noted.

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  1. betsyformpike | | #1

    Wow!

    1. User avater
      pamhoward | | #2

      Thanks so much!!

  2. doreet | | #3

    wow great.(For some reason my very warm old coat has that"strange sleeve" and it's just a run-of-the-mill off-the-peg coat. that sleeve must be going around.I like it.)

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