Cropped Circus-y Tailcoat Project Notes

I really seem to like belly-barers, huh. Well, most of my costumes are for Burning Man at this point, where bellydance and/or swim attire are the norm, so deal. If you wanted to copy this look, you could easily draft the front longer.

The camp that I stay with is pretty solidly circus themed, and last year the Compatriot and I stuck out a bit. So I decided to make something that went a little more with the theme, and less with the fantasy-desert-nomad thing. (I’ll still be rocking that, of course, but when I’m working for the camp I wanna go with the flow, ya know?)006

And I didn’t want to just BUY something, because I don’t like most of the fabrics that ‘circus-look’ costumes are made from. They’re usually all shiny-gross and icky, or else way more expensive than I can justify. (Even though the expensive stuff is worth it!)

Plus, I didn’t want sleeves, I didn’t want it to ride up when I throw my hands in the air like I just don’t car, and I wanted to be able to do yoga and/or climb things in it. I wanted a black-and-white color scheme with a contrast patterned lining for the tails. I didn’t want much in the way of decorations that can fall off and cause MOOP. I wanted matte black, with no sheen or shine whatsoever, but nothing textured. Oh, and I wanted a cotton lining because acetate linings feel gross on my skin when I sweat, and the tails touch my bare back. Also because acetate linings are shiny and I don’t like the way that looks on the ‘wrong’ side of a tailcoat.


Contrast lining, just for fun!

So I drafted my own tailcoat! If you wanted to do something similar, it’s easier than it looks. If you’ve ever lined a garment, you’re 3/4ths of the way there already. Seriously, I just cut rectangles for the front and traced the armhole from a jacket for the arms. For the back, I just extended the rectangles the full width of my fabric, and freehanded a curve for the tails.

Like this:

Tailcoat diagram

I cut these two shapes from my shell and my lining fabric. If you’ve lined something before, you know that the back of the lining has to be a little bit bigger to account for movement. I’m honestly not sure why this works, it seems like if the shell is big enough it should be fine. But work it does. When you sew everything together, you’ll basically make a little pleat in the lining to make it match the shell.

I’m not going to show you a photo of my lining pleat, because I very foolishly made a lovely box pleat on the wrong side of the fabric, which resulted in a very weird thing happening when I turned it right-side out. And since it was made completely on a serger… I just kind of left it. But it does the job, so.

To assemble, I used this tutorial for lining a sleeveless vest:

It worked great! I just marked the side seams of the back pieces so I didn’t sew too far, and sewed the tails together just like the bottom edge of a normal jacket. (Just, you know, with more changes in direction.)

Lastly, I wanted a nipped-in look to counter how boxy the straight shoulders look. I considered nipping in the back and then trimming the lining to fit, but in the end I just said screw it, and gathered the whole back. That’s another lazy thing that happens when your concept is mostly finished, partially made up as you go along.

Oh, and I didn’t worry about facings and stuff for the lapels. I didn’t want a collar on the back of my neck because I tend to overheat really easily, and I wanted the contrast lining to show. So I just folded out the square front of the neck into little lapels. I’m pleased with that result, and it was WAY easier than trying to make a collar with a serger or by hand.


Just showing off the range of motion. Part of why I left off sleeves (other than because I usually find them too warm) is so that I could easily move around without worrying about perfectly drafted sleeves. (Still practicing those.)


The other reason I left off sleeves is so that I could do this!


The back is quite boxy. This is because I like to cover my whole shoulder at Burning Man, so I don’t have to remember to apply sunscreen to just part of my shoulder. (I still get my shoulders along with my arms, but when there’s not much shoulder coverage I end up with a weird tan somehow anyway.)

See how the tails cross just a teensy bit when I stand a certain way? That’s pretty normal because I didn’t adjust the size of the tails when I cinched the jacket in. I went back and forth on that before assembling, but ultimately I liked the folds created by the overlap, and decided to keep it instead of trimming the tails to fit the cinched-in shape.


Shiny buttons on the gathered back bit are the only embellishments. And cat hair. Always cat hair.

There you have not. Not a tutorial, but hopefully enough to be going on with if you’ve made a jacket/vest before.


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