Turning the 267 M'Lady's Corset into a Jacket

Well hey there, howdy, hi. I’m Sarahbeth. A (mostly) retired, previously-award-winning indie apparel designer coming to you from Mars Hill, NC with a hopefully inspired, and also tragically comedic, adaptation of the 267 M’Lady’s Corset.

A bit about my history in apparel design: Many many moons ago I had an indie apparel line called Unabashed Apparel. I did it all: designed, drafted, sewed, produced product line, photo shoots, etc. Now I create for myself and my loved ones and take a few commissions when the mood strikes me. I’m most interested in how we inspire and encourage one another as creatives. I drafted patterns for every piece I made for my apparel line. I drafted a prototype, then several sizes for each piece in a collection. I personally handmade each piece. In custom bridal, I created a custom body block for each client and then a pattern for the gown from there. I sewed muslins before cutting into silk, but my original patterns were spot on and so after a few years I scratched the muslin part of the process. It was nerve wracking at first. For the last decade I’ve mostly draped any piece that I want to create. There have been times I’ve been frustrated that I didn’t create a pattern to return to, but it’s rare. For personal use, Folkwear has been the only pattern company whose patterns (other than my own) I have reused time and again. I’m a big fan not just of the quality but of the fantastic women who have been stewards of this pattern company.

The tale of this jacket is one of beautiful woe.

Mostly it goes like this: pride cometh before the 2 dozen things you have to do to make a grand idea live-able. You know the old phrase, when someone tells you they like something you made, say thank you and then clamp your mouth shut? This is not that. I want you to be inspired, I want you to grab the bull by the horns, (I want you to use a different lining for your project…)

In short: A while back I designed a jacket for a particularly beautiful Merchant & Mills wool. Then inspiration struck! It was similar enough to the 267 M’Lady’s Corset my buddy Cynthia asked me to model for her recent Folkwear blog post. Why reinvent the wheel? I fetched the pattern and planned to adapt it to my design.

Now, I feel I should tell you I’m more a Jack Pollock than a Jo Vermeer type. Of course, I wish I was refined and dedicated to the exact right brush stroke, but in truth, I really don’t have patience and just throw spaghetti on the wall. I’d rather yelp and fix than wait and plan it perfectly. It’s good to know thyself, because it turns out I was a bit rusty and a bit over-confident with my adaptation and ideas. I had a lot I had to fix with this project. I learned/remembered a lot too and that’s always a great boon to an old grizzled pro.

The idea: Seamed peplum wool jacket, lined with soft jersey for comfort and a casual effect.

Add to the pattern: Sleeves, High neck, Pockets, an Elizabethan flare, be comfy & warm.

Reality: Lined with soft, lightweight jersey? Please. Send help.

1.  Prewash. I pre-wash almost everything, including wool. I hand wash my woolens, and to be able to do this, I throw my fabric in the washing machine before I cut out a pattern. It might change the look (and it did change this wool) but I find I want to be able to personally wash things 99% of the time. I buy 1/3 more of my wool than a pattern calls for for this fact. You can see here that the fabric was looser before washing. I prefer the tighter and fluffier outcome post washing and drying. I can’t tell you the number of times a bride I’ve designed for will call me about stains/dirt, and when I say, throw your gown in the bathtub, wash it with some gentle soap – wring it out, hang it to dry – they cry. I prewash errythang.

brown wool scrap held up 

2.  Lay it out, think it through. Add about an inch to the pattern body to turn a fitting corset into a jacket. Cut.

Consider the neck. Of course the original pattern had a scoop neck, and I wanted a warm jacket. I like things to cover the base of my neck and ride a bit high in the back. I used my French curve ruler to sort it out. Always allow for more fabric (shallower curve), you can trim away for the correct shape.

 brown wool with pattern and french curve laying on it


3.  I love a selvedge. I use them all the time for the center front of jackets. The stability is priceless.

     brown wool with pattern piece and french curve laying on top.

    4.  Peplum Front: I straightened the pattern piece to match a jacket front, knowing I would want to continue my closure.

    peplum front pattern pieces on brown wool

    5.  Peplum Back: I added a good deal more fabric to the peplum back (about 2" to pattern piece) because I wanted a kick pleat at the back waist. I guesstimated. It worked.


      6.  Lining: Hmm. Ok. I would not use my sassy thin jersey lining idea again. I adjusted for the stretch and allowed for less seam allowance. Big mistake. It pulled, it caught, it whined. It was a horrible idea. If I was going to do it over: a lightweight rosy silk stretch charmeuse. Yes! Oh well.

         brown jersey with pattern piece

        7.  Sleeves. Ok here’s the catch and how I (successfully) planned for it:

        A) The M’Lady’s corset pattern has a rather squared off underarm. I rounded it and added a bit of fabric to my cut with a “that looks right” eye on the pattern pieces, there are 2 pieces here to consider. Always cut it higher, again, you can trim away, you can’t add back. The multiple seams at the side also give you plenty of room to adjust your fit. You’ll learn the true non-symmetrical reality of your body in this add-edit-and-cut process. Lack of the body’s symmetry is one of the secrets to understanding personal fit success.

        B) What sleeve pattern piece to choose: You can see this is one of my old drafted pattern pieces. How to pick a sleeve: Pick a sleeve from a pattern you already have that is loose enough to be a jacket sleeve. I chose a single piece rather than a double piece because it was for a loose rather than rigid jacket idea. This is most important: You can always make an ample sleeve fit a jacket by pinning it and editing it to what you’re creating. It follows more fabric = more editing options principle. The only thing to be aware of is not to cut too deep a curve away from the top of the sleeve to the underarm edge, while this allows for more underarm room in principle, it only does so if you have matching and loose shirt/jacket designs and pattern pieces. Again, cutting away is easy, adding back is not impossible, but more gnashing of teeth than it’s worth. Make sure you pick a woven sleeve pattern. Creating a good sleeve hang is easily achieved through pinning it to the armseye and adjusting the ease from there.


          8.  Pockets. Now the pocket part was brilliant, forgetting to recut them in a matching fabric was my 2nd whoopsie of this project. I wanted you to see that little French-seamed, wonky silk habotai pockets are easy and awesome to add, particularly where you have a natural waist seam, so I cut a couple out of this pale beige silk and then forgot to remake them in the correct and matching green color for the jacket. That’s right. I added them in, after I remembered to rip out the seam where they needed to be inserted. See next photo.

          9.  Leave your front waist seam open for pockets. Whoops again. Doesn’t sewing feel great? I was happily zinging along, forgetting to stop to add pockets. So, the seam ripper. But you can see the shape coming along.


            10.  Press errythang. As a young whipper snapper, I didn’t do this. I know how important it is now. Press almost as much as you sew.

              Pressing seams of brown wool 

              11.  Go to bed when you get tired. Otherwise you’ll attach sleeves to the wrong side seam as seen here, because there are 3 side seams.


                12.  Make a million French knotted loops. I wanted the jacket to have that Elizabethan feel, so I used large hooks but made my own eyes as French knotted loops. They hide better than the metal eyes when the jacket is open and I just love them. I made large ones for these spectacular wooden buttons I used for the pocket closures. (Why? Because I used the wrong pocket fabric = improvised fix). I used one of the oblong wooden buttons at the neck as well. I have 2 different French knotted loops for the small hook at the high neck. I wanted options. Loose or tight depending on the weather.


                  13.  Finishing: Mmmhmm. Well, I’d planned to attach the jersey lining to the hem. Ridiculous in reality due to the pulling of the jersey to wool situation but I hadn’t cut the jacket long enough for a double hem. Solution: I tea-stain dyed some cotton lace and used it to hand finish the wool hem. I hand stitched the jersey to the wool at the front placket and neck. I wanted a subtle edge to both.

                  14.  All in all, other than the need of one more hook and eye where I can now ascertain there’s a bit of gaping, this jacket is a pleasure to wear. Wool is a wonder fabric, self regulating my temperature, which is awesome, because once I get into the hassle of putting it on (again with the lining mistake) I don’t want to pull it on and off. It’s comfy, moves with with me and is a joy to wear. I also slip whatever my 2-year-old decides is her most treasured item of the day, into my little silk pockets and due to the buttons, it’s still there at bedtime when meltdowns occur.

                    woman standing by the side of a house wearing a brown wool coat.

                    I’d do it all again with a silk stretch charmeuse lining. I’d cut the lining the same size as the rest of my pieces and I’d be happy as a peach.

                    I hoped you enjoyed reading about my adventures of my extreme pattern hack of this fab pattern, 267 M'Lady's Corset (and maybe you learned something too).  And are inspired to tackle your own pattern hacking.  Folkwear patterns are a great place to start.