Last Gallifrey One, I was very excited to debut my first Twelfth Doctor outfits. I had spent so much time and energy (and money) putting together the three “tartan” looks that I couldn’t wait to show off. There was only one problem:
I didn’t have a coat.
I had put together a project to fund a coat, but it never took off and I was barely able to cover the costs of the project itself. I started to get nervous, until Abbyshot released their Twelve coat! I used some Christmas money and pre-ordered!
As the actual release date got pushed back further and further, I got nervous that my coat wouldn’t arrive in time. I made some phone calls. They bumped my shipping up. More time went by. Finally they overnighted me the coat, sent directly to the hotel front desk.
I picked it up on Day 1, in perfect time to wear it for my photo with Michelle Gomez the next day (thanks, Abbyshot!).
I was happy with the coat in nearly every way except for one: The fit.
The coat fit me like a sack, and this was the Small. I was a bit disappointed, as their purple frock and green greatcoat fit me wonderfully. But this was cut like their size Mediums in the waist, and the sleeves were FAR too long.
I knew that I would want it relined with the SA lining (which I had already purchased), so I figured that I would ask the tailor to take it in as well. But I was looking at a $200+ project, on top of the cost of the lining I’d already paid, so the alterations were set to cost more than the coat itself, so that went onto the backburner.
But, as it turned out, I was getting better at tailoring and had been gearing up to make a suit… So I decided to take the project on myself.
With the coat open, I put the lining aside for later. The sleeves would need major shortening, but (to Abbyshot’s credit), the cuffs had real, functional vents. There was no way to pull the length up at the cuff, so I would need to remove the sleeves and cut the excess off the sleevehead. So off came the sleeves. I also set those aside for later. With just the center “tunic” of the coat left, I started pinning.
This proved a little more challenging than anticipated, for a few reasons. One, I have no dress form or mannequin, so I had to make guesses, pin it, then check. My roommate helped quite a bit. Second, I had to take in an even amount on each side, otherwise it would be lopsided and pull funny. And third, once I had pulled it all in, I realized that I had to take the majority out of the center back panels, which I discovered only after failing to do so on one side, and had to do that side all over again.
Fit was difficult to gauge, as I’ve never had to fit a coat before. I’ve fit waistcoats, but determining what to do with the extra space in the skirt was tough, and I had a hard time keeping the vent from opening. I wanted the skirt to flair, but what was too much? I left the pinning alone and moved to the sleeves.
The difficulty in altering a sleeve from the sleeve head is twofold: First, the shape of the sleeve head is drawn in a three-dimensional nature, because when assembled it takes a three-dimensional shape. As such, you can’t simply draw a new line 1″ or 2″ from the edge and cut the new shape – some areas won’t need that much removed, in order to keep the three-dimensional shape when reassembled. To best draw this new line, you trace the old shape onto a piece of paper, cut it out, and shift the old shape down 1″ or 2″ from the center of the sleeve cap (where it meets the shoulder seam), and redraw the line. This, of course, leads to the second issue.
The second problem has to do with what is called easing, which is when a seam of one length is sewn directly to a shorter seam. In order to make the two fit, you ease the larger seam into the smaller seam. This also has to do with the fact of the final pieces taking up three-dimensional space. A sleeve is shaped widest at the top, where it is attached at the shoulder and underarm, narrowing to the cuff. So when you take an inch or two off the top, you narrow the top of the sleeve, which was (if you recall) originally cut wide so it could be eased into the armscye. Make sense?
Luckily for me, I was able to take the back seam in all the way up to the armscye (as you can see – quite messily – in the above photo of my back pinning), narrowing the armscye and allowing the sleeve to be eased into the armscye.
After this, I needed to slim down the width of the cuff quite considerably, about 1¼”, which took a little more creativity on my part to draw the new line, but it was soon done and sewn together. I then pinned the new sleeve into place to check the new length. Unfortunately, my initial cut of 2″ was not short enough – I cut another 1″ off the length for a total of 3″ total.
By this time, I had tinkered enough with the back seams to confidently sew them down. They are flat felled seams, requiring (in this case) for the seam allowances to be ironed to one side and sewn down with a topstitch (I say “in this case” because flat felled seams are traditionally more complicated, two-sided seams, like on the side of your dress shirts). It sounds easier than it is, because, being partially decorative, any deviation from “perfect” is immediately noticeably. But, with minimal swearing (I’m still a novice, after all), I created my new seams.
All in all, I removed nearly 5½” of fabric from the narrowest part of the waist (with more still sewn down as seam allowance), causing some significant warping in the side seams. But the fit was so much better, it was practically like having a brand new coat.
I took my new sleeves and pinned them one last time, basted them into place, reconstructed, and sewed them back on. I had picked up some shoulder pads from a tailor friend of mine and gotten some very useful feedback (thanks, Chad!), so I sewed those in too. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a damn sight better than before! Suddenly there was shape to the garment, a tapered waist, a flared skirt, strong shoulder – and suddenly there was character in wearing it. I tinkered with the details before finally settling in on the final look.
With the main coat set, I turned to what I knew would be the REAL beast: