Tailoring for beginners: inside my Rumana coat

Everything that’s described in this post is hidden in between the outer fabric and the lining.

My new coat isn’t the first tailored coat I’ve made,  but it’s turned out so much better than the first one. It’s got more structure, more shape and it hasn’t stretched out of shape. Why? Because on the Rumana I thought harder about the tailoring parts, instead of just stitching the pieces together.

What is tailoring?

For me, tailoring is the stuff inside your garment that makes it hang and sit properly on the body. It covers interfacing, pressing and shaping, and for a jacket or coat, also things like shoulder pads and sleeve heads.

What I didn’t realise when I made my first coat was that just following the pattern instructions for these steps (New Look 6006) wasn’t going to be enough. The Rumana coat instructions do a better job – there are more interfacing pattern pieces, and more directions to help you achieve a better finish. In this post, I’ve set out how I went about following these steps, plus the extra things I did that weren’t in the pattern instructions.


The Rumana pattern is designed to be used with fusible interfacing, although you could use sew-in if you prefer. I picked a weft-insertion interfacing (Vlieseline H410), which has a grain to it, to go with my wool melton outer fabric. It’s fairly lightweight, but I could have added a second layer if didn’t give enough support for my fabric.

As well as the interfacing pieces provided in the pattern, I also interfaced the welt pocket pieces to stop them stretching out on the cross grain as soon as you put your hands in them.

A layer of interfacing on the welt pieces stops the pockets flopping out or stretching when you use them.

More support front and back

Another tip I used from my tailoring book was to include a piece of interfacing as a chest support. This was a second layer of interfacing attached to each front piece in the high bust area that prevents the front of the coat from collapsing inwards if you have a hollow chest. (Less relevant if you’re fairly flat-chested!)

And to stop the back pieces from stretching out sideways and then sagging, I made a back stay from a leftover piece of calico. Karen from Did You Make That? has a good tutorial for this.

The back stay is the off-white calico you can see in this picture. I tweaked the order of construction, sewing the back pieces together before the side and shoulder seams to make it easier.

Shoulder shaping

I have relatively sloping shoulders, and because my legs aren’t the same length, my right shoulder always sits lower than my left. So I decided to add shoulder pads to the coat to help disguise this, and to add more structure to the wool. I bought these lovely soft felt ones from English Couture, which don’t give you the 1980s Dynasty look, and then I added an extra layer of felt to the right one to boost it up a bit and make me look more balanced. I hope.

This is how the shoulder pad looks close-up

Then to ease the transition from the shoulder to the sleeve, and to prevent the sleeve cap from collapsing, I used a sleeve head. Again, I got these from English Couture – although you can also make you own!

Sleeve heads are sewn into the armhole, and they help to support the sleeve cap so that it holds its shape at the top of your arm.

I was convinced to try these by the before and after pictures on Jane’s blog – take a look, you can really see the difference.

All ready to insert the lining

Things I didn’t do

I didn’t go the whole hog and padstitch anything by hand. Apart from anything else, I have no idea where to start with that! I considered two other things , but bottled them at the last minute.

I didn’t divide the front interfacing into two along the lapel roll line or stitch stay tape along the roll line to define it and make it easier to press in place. I chickened out of this because even after making my toile, I was still worried I might want to move the roll line later. In future, I think I’d try this.

Finally, I considered adding tiny weights or a chain inside the hem to add weight to the bottom part of the coat and help it hang nicely. In the end I ran out of patience to work out how to do this, but it might be a good tip for lighter weight fabrics. More info here.

What else?

You’re going to be getting very friendly with your iron on any tailoring project. So pick a main fabric that’s nice to work with (wool is ideal, polyester less so) and make sure you have a tailor’s ham, a press cloth and a rolled-up towel as a minimum. A clapper and a seam roll will make it easier, but you can manage without them (or even make your own) if you’re on a budget.

Find out more

My reference manual for this project was the book Tailoring: A step-by-step guide to creating beautiful customized garmentsThe pictures are definitely dated (early 1990s) but the advice is good, and it gives options throughout for hand stitching, machine stitching and fusible methods.

If you’ve taken on a tailored jacket or coat project recently I’d love to hear how you got on, and your top tips for making it a success – without it taking over your life!


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