From jacket with a past to bag with a future
Saturday, March 24, 2012 at 11:04PM
Joyatri in Crafts, Fashion, India, Magazine, Sabina of India, Sewing, Vegan, Vegan Drinks, bags, thifting

This post is about my re-fashioning a vintage jacket into a bag using a vintage pattern. But stay tuned for the surprise ending.

Sabrina of India jacket, Boomerangs, $8.00 As I wrote in a previous post, I bought a late 1960s/early 1970s long jacket of nice-quality, hand-block printed, and hand-loomed cotton, made in India and originally sold at Bergdorf Goodman in New York. It was too worn to be saved as a garment so I decided to make a bag.

Since I don’t buy leather bags, I use fabric bags. I wear them out fairly quickly and rarely find ones that function exactly as I would like.

Although I probably could have figured out how to make this bag without a pattern, I used Simplicity 9553, dated 1971, which I had bought on Etsy for the spats.

Both bags from this pattern are featured in a 1972 Simplicity magazine I recently bought (that I owned in 1972, too). The pattern has just two pieces – a long rectangle with a semi-circular end and a strap. The rectangle just folds at two points to make the back, front, and flap of the bag and the lining.

I whipped the bag up in two short evenings. The hand-loomed cotton has a loose weave so I lined it with a medium- weight cotton.

I love this bag. It came out exactly as I wanted. It is the perfect size and shape. And color. My favorite color combo is aubergine, dark red and gold. The fabric is gold and aubergine and I added a vintage-looking trim of red embroidery with tiny silver sequins. I had bought this trim at an Indian shop in East London with no specific purpose in mind.

The lining fabric is fairly new; I got it for free at a craft supplies swap. Stars are one of my most favorite motifs, and were used a lot in the early 1970s.

I made the following changes to the pattern.

  1. Because I wear bags across my body, I made the strap longer and wider. I used the cotton lining fabric on one side of the strap to give it more body.
  2. I had to cut the long rectangle in 3 sections since I was using a directional pattern. That way the “buffalo tortoises” or whatever the creatures are, weren’t topsy-turvy. I had to do the same with the strap.
  3. I made the bag less box-like by making shorter seams at the bottom corners of the lining.
  4. I added a closure. I used one of the fabric button loops from the jacket and a vintage wooden button. I used another vintage button on the inside of the bag to add support.
  5. I like a little pocket inside my bags, so in order to preserve the “history” of the jacket I cut a pocket from the back neckline with the labels intact.

The Bergdorf Goodman label that had one of the previous owner’s name (obliterated in the photo above) was moved and sewn into loops to hold pens.

As mentioned before, I had done an online search for the name of the previous owner that is hand-written on the Bergdorf Goodman label. I found that it had belonged to a young woman who, like me, is vegan.

This past week I was planning to attend the monthly social gathering, Boston Vegan Drinks. When I checked the list of attendees on Facebook, I saw the name of the woman whose name is on the label! Although I had started the bag, I now had incentive to finish it quickly.

Sorry for the headless body, I was on the roof of my building and the wind had whipped my hair across my face so I looked like Cousin It. At Vegan Drinks, I started chatting with a woman I hadn’t seen before. She told me that she had just moved back to the area after being abroad for two years.

What happened next, I couldn’t have planned better. She was telling me about her time abroad and her eyes kept moving to my bag. After a bit she said, “I’m sorry, I’m distracted because my grandmother had a jacket of the same fabric as your bag.” I said, “This is your grandmother’s jacket.” She was understandably confused. I then showed her the label with her name on it inside the bag. She was stunned.

Turns out she had given the jacket to her mother to donate before she left the country two years ago. When and where her mother donated it is unknown right now. 

Now I have a new bag and a new friend. I read somewhere that it takes being observant to notice coincidences, that they happen more often than people are aware of. If it weren't for the museum curator in me -- and my interest in the history of vintage items -- I might never have made this connection.

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