One of my goals for 2018 is to use as many recycled fabrics in my wardrobe as possible, with the hope of not only creating less waste - but also tackling the "what do we do now?" with an already existing fabric waste problem.
I refashioned this Varsity Jacket, making the sleeves from a pair of leather trousers I found at a second hand shop (from the cut I would say they were 1980s yet they were completely unworn, and even had the original tag on them) I made the body from some large wool scraps that came from a Coat factory which I found in a remnant bin. (Side note: The Wrangler jeans I'm wearing I also bought from a second hand store too!)
I drafted the pattern for the jacket myself by tracing off one of my boyfriend's Adidas running jackets as I wanted it a little oversized with relaxed armholes.
When I talk Upcycling or Refashioning with people, one of the biggest resistors I come up against is that sustainable fashion only has one or two certain aesthetics.
It either has unrefined, hemp sack wearing, eco Aunt vibes. Or It has conservative, middle class, Pinterest posting, pastel shaded Earth Mother vibes. (which to be honest, some of my wardrobe definitely errs on the side of middle class Earth Mother.)
This often leads people to believe that Upcycling and Refashioning isn't for those who are into Street Wear or Minimalism or catwalk fashion. However really, sustainability is about process, not about style. And as someone kindly pointed out to me once "for a 35 year old woman, you sometimes dress like a 16 year old boy" which if nothing else, illustrates my point that a sustainable wardrobe can look however you want it to, it's only limit is your creativity.
Leather trousers to be repurposed for the sleeves and factory off cuts for the body
East End Vintage
Second hand stores are your best friend. I sourced the leather trousers for my sleeves from East End Vintage for only £10. They were really great quality, heavy duty leather which if I had bought new as a raw material would have cost me around £80. I don't often like the styles I come across in second hand shops but I always keep my eyes out for pieces that have wide panels or are larger in size which I may be able to chop up at a later date. While I was there I also grabbed a couple pairs of jeans to repurpose for another project at a later date...
Theoretically I could have repurposed a coat to make the body, but I couldn't find anything heavy enough at the time in black and I really wanted a HEAVY duty wool to see me through to the end of Winter. So, I got the wool from Woolcrest Textiles on Well St in East London. It was a remnant from a coat factory and was actually in large scraps, which meant I had to be creative about laying my pattern pieces to cut.
The Rib around the cuffs, neck and hem are actually scraps from 3 different previous projects I have made over the years and found in my stash, but all the blacks did match so it didn't bother me they were different weights. In fact it actually turned out better as I used the smaller and softer rib for the collar so it felt nicer around my neck, while the heavy Rib I used on the hem to help the jacket maintain its shape. The lining is actually made from black silk-satin I rescued from the rubbish bin when I worked at Emila Wickstead. They use the most exquisite quality fabrics. This fabric was the left over from a red carpet dress which meant I had to put quite a few seams in it as the scraps weren't really big enough.
However who will ever see those seams? When it comes to linings, the quality of the feel against my skin and the way it slips over your arms is the most important thing. I never use "lining" fabrics, as generally they're horrible and will cheapen the overall feel of your garment.
What really makes this Jacket is the patches on the back. "T.Bone" is a nickname I picked up a long time ago that I never managed to shake, so I decided to fully embrace it. Kleins is a store in Central London which is a haven of trims, hardware and haberdashery. From the street it doesn't look like much is going on, but you simply tell the sales person at the counter what you're after and they will produce folders and catalogues of whats hidden in the store room, and many other things that aren't on display (And Quelle horreur, they're actually really nice in there). They have thousands of different types of patches and appliqué. I was pretty sad about leaving the flamingo and palm tree patches behind. This is also where I got the Snap fasteners for the front opening, and you can get interfacing or fusible there too (always fuse your facings people!)
Photographed with real panther to show scale.
The Panther patch in the middle of the back I actually cut off a T-shirt that a friend gifted to me a few years ago (its a well known fact I have a thing for panthers) but never wore, as it was bright blue and a bit small. However as the patch was black the panther completely disappeared when stitched to my black jacket. So I unpicked it, and stitched it onto some white felt so it had a contrast border. That also meant it now matched the letter patches and made the whole thing more unified and intentional. You could use the same technique to make your own patch or appliqué from any printed fabric you like.
Before applying felt
Applying felt to patch
Patch with new felt backing
To make the sleeves I only unpicked one seam of the leather trouser legs so that they laid flat on my table, the seam you can see above which runs around my elbow, is actually the inside leg seam of the trousers, I left it as is and cut my pattern across the leg. There is also a tiny seam under the armpit - thats not a fancy gusset seam, its simply because my pattern piece was too big to fit on the trouser leg so I needed to add an extra bit on. I actually quite like the extra seams in the leather, it emphasizes the natural quality of the skin.
I made the welt pockets from the leather trousers also, so it tied the different fabrication of sleeves and body together. I chose silver fasteners which stood out on the front, to echo the contrasting white felt on the back patches and to add some continuity and bring everything together.
I basically haven't taken the jacket off since I finished it and I get the feeling I will be wearing it right through until the end of London's snowy Spring.