1 Vogue pattern, 50 pattern pieces and 8 pages of instructions! I opened the envelope and immediately started to question my sanity for deciding this was a good idea… but I’d like to state for the record that having now completed it I would actually do it again!

Vogue 8890 is a very traditional men’s suit pattern, it comes with options for 2 necklines on the jacket and either shorts or trousers. What leads me to describe it as traditional is 2 fold; firstly the style of jacket is very boxy, with classic welt pockets and then the trousers have a wider leg than would be found on a lot of modern suits, secondly the construction includes some very traditional techniques and material suggestions (there is a tab on the zip guard that is secured with a button, and a crotch guard, 2 things that are very unusual for me to find in a modern suit construction) The interfacing that is suggested for the main body of the jacket is a hair canvas, a very traditional material choice for this job. None of these aspects of the pattern are of course a problem, I made a few changes to modernise the construction to better suit my needs and I’m absolutely thrilled with the results.

Choosing the fabric for this suit was not simple. I wanted something bold and floral and yet still manly and modern. I did a fair amount of research into the best fabric choices for a suit, it needed to be something strong with enough body to hold its form. Usually you’d be after something with a twill construction as it creates a really strong fabric but that can come in different weights and anything too thin wouldn’t hang right. After a fair amount of research into men’s suit fabrics I stumbled upon a large number made from a cotton sateen and loved the way they looked so decided upon this… and quite frankly once I’d narrowed down the type of fabric I wanted this print leapt out at me from the website as being exactly what I was looking for.

This Cotton Sateen Fabric is 97% cotton and 3% spandex. This creates a very slight stretch to the fabric that is great for fitted garments as it enables great movement in the garment. In this case the stretch was not necessary but was definitely going to create a more comfortable short. This fabric from the Jardin collection comes in 2 different colour ways. It has a beautifully large floral print that is well spread out across the background colour.

The first challenge this pattern gives is trying to figure out the amounts of everything that you will need. The back of the pattern envelope gives the amounts needed for the main fabric but refers you to the instructions for the remaining information about lining, interfacing etc. The vogue website does give a great run-down on suggested fabrics/quantities for each of the parts but because of all the different options (such as the pockets being made in a different fabric to the rest of the lining) its not as simple as I’d have liked it to be. Here is a run-down of what I ended up using for Jacket A and Shorts C:

3m of Cotton Sateen. 1m of fusible interfacing. 1m of sew-in interfacing. 2m of lining fabric. 1 felt square. ½ m of cotton twill. 7” zip. 13 5/8” and 2 ¾” buttons. 2 shoulder pads. 1m 1/4” twill tape. Hook and Bar closure.

Instead of using the suggested hair canvas for the interfacing (as this is an expensive option) I used a combination of fusible and sew-in interfacing (both in a medium weight). I used fusible for all the pieces except for those used for the front of the jacket. I found this worked really well and I would make this choice again with this pattern in the future.

The biggest thing to consider with a project like this is getting the fit right. No one wants a poorly fitted suit and knowing how slim built my partner is I knew some adjustments would be necessary, so I made a toile before I started. I used an old duvet cover for this (as I find they are a great way to recycle old bedlinen). What I found when he tried it on was (as I suspected it would be) it was too big around his waist. The fix for this is either to create darts in the back or as I did to adjust the side seams.

I am not going to tell you that this is easy but if you pin what you need to on the toile and simply make exactly those adjustments to your pattern you should be in good stead. (the addition of darts is the easiest adjustment but it does spoil the line of the jacket somewhat) As you can see from the pictures, I made no adjustment to the line at the armhole (so as not to affect the sleeve insertion) and then tapered the line out to remove the 2cm needed from the back waist. When I reached the vent, I followed the original line continuing to move it over 2cm. I moved all the notches and tailors tacks exactly the same way. (remember to repeat this on this seam on the lining piece too) Once you’ve done this if you’re not confident then making another toile is always a good option to confirm its correct.

This suit is absolutely full of pockets. Now I love a good pocket, but if you’re not in the same fan club then some of them are optional. You have to do the lower jacket pockets; due to the way the pattern is constructed it would be complex to figure out how to remove them but the rest in the jacket are optional. Now I’m not going to lie, welt pockets are the trickiest type you can do (in my opinion of course) but they are also the most beautifully satisfying when they are completed. The lower jacket ones are the more complex of the pockets on this pattern though so once you’ve done them, you’ll find all the others easier by comparison. The trick is to follow the instructions to the letter and be as precise as you can be.

If you decide to take on this challenge, I’ve a few tips to help you through:

  • Don’t skip the tailors tacks and notches, on a pattern this complex you’ll need them They are your guide to making sure that everything you’re sewing is lining up and the instructions refer to them a lot to help you.

  • The handsewn detail work on the inside of the front jacket included padding stitching and a twill tape to give the collar something to fold against. I’m unsure how much the padding stitching achieved on the sew-in interfacing as its meant for the hair canvas, but the twill tape gives a great line in the finishing pressing.

  • Inserting the sleeve – focus on getting it pucker free on the outer but don’t spend the time doing the same on the lining as it’s not seen.

  • Sleeve seams – it states “stretch between dots” the success here depends on the fabric as to whether that’s possible, I would run ease stitches in the future as it will help if the fabric isn’t stretching (such as with the lining)

  • Cuffs – very common for men’s jackets to have faux buttonholes here, so don’t worry about actually opening them just sew the buttons over through all the layers to secure the cuff opening.

  • Collar – stopping sewing at the large circles is so important, they are sewn up to in so many directions that it won’t work if you go over or under the mark on any of them. Once you’ve then turned the collar out if it isn’t sitting flat don’t panic, take it to the ironing board as a gentle pull and a good press is likely all it needs.

  • Be careful with your basting, I found that this fabric left marks when the basting was removed. I’m sure that the fabric will recover over time but it’s worth testing this.

  • Don’t rush it, this is not a project to try and complete in a weekend… it needs time and care put into it to ensure a clean outcome.

  • I wouldn’t insert the tab or crotch guard into the shorts again, I find them both to be quite unnecessary.

I dread to think how many hours I spent making this suit, it is most definitely a labour of love… and yet do you know, regardless of that I am so absolutely thrilled with it. It’s actually hard to describe the pride I feel when I look at all its complexities and consider all the time I spent making sure each part was executed correctly. I know this suit is not for the faint-hearted, but I love a garment that makes a bold statement and who really wants to spend all this time constructing something you could buy anywhere. So with pride I will watch my partner wearing this suit (more than likely as separates most of the time) and genuinely I can see myself making another jacket using this pattern – and I implore you to give it a try.