I’m always far behind with the fashion trends – this particular one by 4,000 years!
The Japanese have kimono, the Americans have poncho and the Northern Europeans have Bog Coats – all of them are the simplest of shapes, straight line cut, easy sewing and minimal waste. I suppose in the days when you had to weave your own fabric you certainly weren’t going to cut it up and throw most of it away like we do today.
I picked up a few metres of vintage Varuna Liberty at a craft fair recently – a fine woven wool in a long ago colourway. The design is still available but not in wool although in new and now up-to-date colours: called Deborah.
My particular colours are maybe not something that I would necessarily choose right now but at a very cheap price and with the Liberty pedigree I couldn’t resist. I didn’t want to use it all in one go, so some went on the bog coat, some went to a sewing friend and 1/2m leftovers went to stash box.
I could go into detail here about how to make a bog coat but quite honestly loads of other people have done it before me and probably much better than I could. Here’s a few links to what I picked out as the easiest and best –
Threads PDF with clear instructions, tips and ideas –
Video with construction technique –
How to weave your own (if you have a loom) –
Mine turned out to be more dressing gown than coat so that’s what it became – a lightweight gown for early autumn mornings.
I added two ties at the side for a wrap-around and cut off 2″ from the hem for a binding at the open edges.
And the Buy one get one free? – Two nightdresses, one to match the bog coat and one to match the other one.
Vogue 8888 made with some ‘beige’ cotton jersey that never got dyed or made into an Alabama Chanin masterpiece. There comes a time in a woman’s life when only natural fibres will suffice for sleep – and when you have to throw the duvet off in the middle of the night you at least want to keep some decorum while tossing and turning all sweaty and hot.
One nightdress has some spare Liberty fabric, cut on bias, for bodice and straps, the other has some brown lace left over from my foray into bra making.
All the seams are machine sewed and semi-flat felled, in that I just pressed the seam to one side and top-stitched it in place.
I finished both with picot edging around the armholes and back. And both have extensions on the hem to lengthen them and continue the colour trim theme – Liberty edge on one and brown lace on the other.
The thing about the bog coat is that not only being easy-peasy to cut and sew, and leaving no detritus in its wake, it’s as versatile as it is old. You can make it in any fabric, add trims, embellishments, fastenings, pockets; you can make it any length depending on your fabric availability and the sleeves can be as wide as you want. It is generally made on the lengthwise grain of the fabric so try to use one that is 60″ wide to give yourself the full width to play with, this should be enough for full length sleeves.
Balenciaga dipped his toes into bog coat philosophy in the 1960s with his one seam coat and this Patrick Kelly pattern for download (thanks to Pattern Vault) for a 1980s version.
Issy Miyake also developed the one seam, straight cut coat into his famous cocoon coat 1976.
If this idea takes your interest I would also encourage you to take at look at Well-Suited and the Erte take on the kimono.
Just goes to show you – there’s really nothing new….