A Quick Ladies’ Waistcoat

A very simple ladies’ waistcoat in linen, lined with silk – linen shirt, Walker Slater tweed trousers, a silk floppy bow tie, and saddle shoes from RoyalVintageShoes.com

When I was in Scotland, there was a Walker Slater ladies’ shop right down the steps from our rooms. For those who don’t know Walker Slater, they’re purveyors of tweeds and waistcoats and trousers and flatcaps and cardis and all things wonderfully, wonderfully dapper. I’ve been following them on Instagram for years, so of course I partook of the splendor when in Edinburgh.

But coming back, I got off the plane to 90 degree Nevada heat. So my tweedy things have gone in the closet until the ‘Ember months and I turn back to linen, linen, and linen.
I bought a large quantity of sand-colored suit-weight linen in LA last year, intending it for lady-menswear pieces of a Regency bend (inspired by Zack Pinsent), but the fabric is so versatile and gorgeous that I can’t decide fully what summer togs of what era it should be. An easy first step, though, was a summer waistcoat.

Laying out SImplicity 7376. Waistcoats are a great way to use small scraps of fabric.

I used Simplicity 7376 from 1976 for this very simple design. It’s just two pieces – front and back – shaped with darts. I did a little customization with a silk lining, false pocket tabs (I’m lazy), and fashion fabric facings to give it a more professional appearance and I’m very happy with how that came out.

The pattern did not have facings like this, so I created them myself. The lining silk here had been cut into a blouse pattern that I never made, so I repurposed and re-cut for the linings. I just love this deco pattern on the silk!

The waistcoat in progress, after bag lining it, which was not a great method tbh – next time I’ll just set it in by hand like with 18th century construction.

I bag-lined the vest, which I realized again was a mistake. In proper tailoring, linings are set in my hand, and I really should have done so this time too. It was honestly more of a struggle to bag line even this simple garment, and I ended up going back and prick stitching the bottom and armscye edges just to get things to lay right. Note to self for the future.

Turning up the lining and hemming it at the bottom – I later went back and redid this because I did not make the ease fold and the outer fabric hung oddly. It’s a tailoring trick, hard to explain, but I’ll try to show it and other bits in my next tailoring project coming up.

Test fit – everything seemed fine at this point, but the waistcoat actually came out a little too tight once the buttons were on, so I let it out an inch.

I also thought I’d do some lovely hand-worked, contrast button holes, but they turned out terribly! I have very little hand button hole experience and my goodness, they were truly an abomination! Along with those horrors, the waistcoat came out a little bit too tight, so the following morning I ripped out and re-did the button holes on the machine, and let the side seams out a half inch each side, which resulted in a much, much better fit and finish.

Incredibly horrible button holes done by hand. Just awful!

Better button holes done by machine and with matching thread. They’re not perfect, just better.

Now it’s done, I’ve worn it a couple times, and I really love the little thing. I so seldom make everyday clothing, even though I hardly ever find what I want in stores or online. I’m pleased with how crisp and lovely the fabric is and I’ve already starting cutting out an 1890s-inspired jacket to wear with the new waistcoat.

The finished waistcoat before I went back and ripped the button holes out and let the side seams out. I hate fully finishing something only to tear into it again the next day – it takes a lot of willpower to make corrections and I usually have a little tantrum before I do it…but I’m always glad I buck up and finish it correctly.

Hooray for simple stash-busting projects!

There are, of course, things about the final waistcoat that I’m “meh” about, but I learned for next time. I love wearing waistcoats and I definitely plan to make more, so now I have an adjusted pattern for next time.

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