Bespoke tailored Jacket – part 1

Our first assignment in the Advanced Couture course at Melbourne Fashion Institute is to “generate a pattern” and design a bespoke tailored jacket for a client. The jacket must have

  • collar
  • lapels
  • buttons
  • two piece sleeves
  • lining
  • at least one single or double welt pocket (outer or inner)
  • vent

Now, go easy on me! I don’t generally draw, but I had to give it a go! There is a ‘design’ class at MFI but night time was the only option and I’m now relieved I didn’t commit to schlepping into the big smoke more than I already do!

To develop some drawing skills I used the Craftsy class ‘Drawing Fashion Flats’ by Laura Volpintesta. Laura also runs tutorials online – Fashion Tribe.  She’s one of those lovely warm teachers with a nice sing song-y voice.  She advises to draw something basic and then create photocopied sheets on which to try different design elements. All the better just to scratch away with lots of ideas and not be intimidated by redrawing the jacket every time a fancy idea popped into my head. You don’t want to vet anything at this stage – just get lots of ideas down on paper.

basic jacket shape on tracing parchment
basic jacket shape on tracing parchment

An alternative to the photocopied basic shape is to draw over your basic using tracing paper. Perhaps if you’re really not sure about the basic shape (outline) of your garment, this might work better.

I’m designing for Princess. Some in my class are designing for their boyfriends/partners. Some are designing for the size 8 dummy, which completely defeats the purpose of bespoke design for a human body if you ask me!! Princess has no hips, so I thought I’d design her some by allowing a bit more ease over the hip/backside. Interesting panels could work to accentuate the hips?? My tutor wasn’t keen on that idea, but he was keen on the use of hand stitching on the outside. I would prefer to see it on the inside!

encouraged to 'trick it up'- blah!
encouraged to ‘trick it up’- blah!
hmm, hippy bits look like bathers!
hmm, hippy bits look like bathers!
A big "NO" from Princess
A big “NO” from Princess
a bit Star Trekky?
a bit Star Trekky?
Stretch panels? Very difficult to locate the right fabric and would it 'cheapen' the tailoring?
Stretch panels? Very difficult to locate the right fabric and would it ‘cheapen’ the tailoring?


Princess specific design considerations

  • Client has no hips
  • Generous bust with a small waist
  • Broad shoulders
  • Tres conservative  (classic) and absolutely will not wear anything remotely outlandish

No matter how I tried to be ‘design-y’, a standard tuxedo jacket without bells and whistles appealed to us both. Classic tailoring was what I was aiming for, using classic tailoring methods. Understated and well fitted, not on trend, but somewhat timeless – is that even possible?



If you have a generous bust, the jacket will be more flattering if there is less fabric extending beyond centre front. Yes folks, I’m quite proud of having come to this realisation all by myself!

Just imagine you’re wearing a double breasted jacket unbuttoned – so much fabric hanging open at centre front. The side view will be overwhelmingly extended. Single breasted – less fabric at the bust line from side view when worn open.

‘No breasted’ (is there a name for this?) – each side meeting at centre front extending to a cut away hem, no overlap = minimal fabric from the side view.

This blew my mind!! Can anyone see a flaw in my theory? I’m interested in your thoughts on this bust minimising strategy.



So I set about patternmaking a jacket block from the school’s size 10 dress block. Hmm, only 2 calico toiles and it was looking pretty good for a block. It may have been more expedient to draft the jacket block from scratch, I’ll never know because having got it this far, I’m unlikely to revisit the task!! Oh ignore the sleeve, that was a moment of madness that clearly didn’t work!


Is that some secret society non verbal on the right?!

It may have been the very wise Linda who suggested using pattern envelope line drawings to test design ideas . Just trace the line drawing, blow it up on your printer – then sketch all over it! Have you ever tried this trick?

Stay tuned – the jacket gets better honest!







Add yours →

  1. Cool! Except for the nice shoulders it sounds as though your design brief is for me. I’ve realized recently how difficult it is to design well. For years I thought that secretly when saw the designs of all of the people setting out their shingles as knitwear designers – many excellent knitters but designing well is really something different and so few can do it. (I’ve discovered that I probably don’t have the gene.)

    I love the idea of something classic and timeless and with your taste I don’t doubt that you will amaze.

    Re. the bust issue: I haven’t done any serious analysis on this but I can say that I don’t buy double-breasted as to my eye it never looks right (and you know that I have a full bust). In coats I always end up gravitating to a simple line with a nipped-in waist and a single row of buttons. Lately I have been surprised to find that a fitted Dior-style jacket buttoned up quite high looks nice, as well as a square French-type jacket. I had always thought I needed a deep v in the neckline, so that goes against expectation. Who knows. I imagine that what works is a complex formula related not only to bust but shoulder width, length of torso, leg length, etc. I will probably always be an “eyeballer.”

    Something funny: I’m listening to a documentary about coyotes on the radio right now and they were howling in unison when I opened your post. Quite melodic, really! They loved your drawing!

    • I could have been accused of the same thing Steph – design, how hard can it be?!! OMG, so hard to design well and its the minutiae that make the difference. I think you have an excellent eye, seriously. Just look at your 6nap bodice, its lovely. I reckon the first step is being able to step back and ‘look’, really look. Hmmm “something’s not right, what is it?” and then not being afraid to go back to the drawing board. Except in the bespoke situation I can’t imagine having a model/client at my beck and call like Princess! We must have done about 10 fittings by now! Oooh if your coyotes need some distraction try this article about Cannes gowns!—dior-ralph–russo

      • Aww you’re way too generous but I’ll take it. I agree that learning to look and look and look is the thing. I keep on looking and I’m never satisfied. 🙂

        Good for Princess for putting you through your paces!!

        The coyotes are done now. Time for Cannes gowns.

      • Oops yes I see what you mean about beck and call. I guess that’s true. It will get quicker and easier over time though I am sure.

      • Sorry for the 85 comments but I wanted to say that I loved the Cannes article. Made me want to do couture in a bad way! I think my fave was the Marion Cotillard one, even though it’s short and spare. So lovely, but then she has great style, too.

  2. Such an interesting post. Thank you for sharing what doesn’t work as well as what does. I don’t think DB look good on anyone really (even men). With a large bust the key thing is to get the opening as low as possible to elongate the line from throat to waist. Both your final drawing and toile do this. V necks are just tons better if one is well endowed. The lapels are a good size too, which balances the bust (avoid small lapels). I even like the 1920s style (accidental) hem as it draws the eye down to the slim hips. You have also got the breast pocket nice and high which is good. Super work. Really looking forward to the next installment Lesley.

  3. Great post. I am a similar shape to Princess , large bust and no hips (though without a tiny waist), so I will be following with great interest.

  4. Given my current obsession with making a tailored jacket I’m very interested in how your project works out. The course sounds interesting.

    • Honestly, you could just as easily download some classes and research various techniques – same result!! In fact despite the criticism from a Patternmaking teacher it turns out my first Claire Schaeffer jacket was ‘spot on’ fully tailored! Probably the biggest help has been having 2 fully tailored garments in our wardrobe to reference. I’m still taken with how spiffy tailoring looks, much like yourself by the sounds of it.

  5. Well, the very first picture (without opening) immediately appealed to me; like something a leggy member of Chicago might dance in, but it might not be what Princess is looking for. I imagine you’ve already looked at Pinterest for images of women in tuxes; or film costume or 80s jacket patterns? It’s a shame her tastes are conservative as there are some lovely designs out there (e.g. McQueen) that add a bit of fun and flirtatiousness at the hips and rear and which would be great to copy. On the other hand, it’s wise to get the basics of the flattering shape right before investing all that time in tailoring techniques, as well as design lines.

    Are you enjoying the course?

    • Nearly finished the jacket, this week for sure! As for the course – somewhat! Yes, I agree about jackets with flair but I am rather pleased she chose something so conservative – I don’t need any more challenges than this already presents!

  6. It sounds like a very interesting course, and you’ve put in so much work already! I really like all your design ideas, it must be quite hard to narrow it down to just one. The low buttoning, single (or no?) front looks great, well proportioned for her figure and a lovely classic style.

  7. Looks like a great start to me, and thank you for the mention. The difference between flicking through a series of drawings and patterns done for you seems so easy, compared to the infinite freedom of design your own and cutting your own pattern! Because, really where do you start, you have the freedom to do anything and it seems like too much freedom. Great idea to give yourself the princess guidelines. Looking forward to the next step. I am personally liking gender neutral at the moment, although that’s nothing new since I was an androgynous 80’s girl, you can’t beat an old man overcoat Haha!

    • Oh gosh yes Linda, I now look for patterns for light relief. In fact perhaps I should head toward kits – no decisions! The buzz of achievement may not linger however! My favourite 80s item was a huge shouldered men’s sport jacket, purchased new (I was so convinced of the investment) – a la Talking Heads, pleased to hear I’m not alone!

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