In search of a casual jacket pattern: comparing Albion, Kelly, Foreman, and Burda
After making a bunch of blazers, I got the urge to make a casual zip jacket. I wanted it to be a bit more structured than a simple bomber jacket but not an overkill item I could only wear in winter.
Since a majority of sewists are women, and my social media feed is 99% sewing, I had seen the Kelly Anorak a lot over the years. I like the tailored aspects of the pattern, like the two-piece sleeve, and finishing details like the placet that completely conceals the zipper tape. (Nothing screams homemade to me more than unnecessarily exposed zipper tape.) And since it’s outerwear, I thought the shaping might be more unisex, since it seems like a good deal of the sinching happens with the cord at the waistline.
I asked other sewists what they thought of Kelly on Instagram, and it turns out, people really love their Kelly jackets! This encouraged me to give things a go and at least make a muslin. I also got some forewarning that the arms are very tight and that a two-way zip is essential if you’re ever going to sit down in the thing.
I wear a 42 or 44 in menswear, which corresponds to the chest circumference in inches. So I decided I would sew up a straight 18 and see how things looked. In short, it didn’t work. The main issue was the armscye size (too small) and the corresponding sleeve (too tight). I could have invested some time in altering the pattern, and may do so in the future, but I didn’t feel like it at the time. So I moved on.
I actually started with Colette Pattern's Albion in my outerwear search. I bought the pattern on a whim since it was massively on sale. I think Colette is moving to all digital patterns and wanted to offload their print patterns, but the cool thing was the print came with the PDF, which is what I wanted in the first place. Score!
It’s a unisex pattern but defaults to male so I wasn’t concerned about it being overly shaped in the bust area or having teeny-tiny arms. I had also seen folks customize the jacket adding zippers instead of toggles. (I am not a fan of the toggle closure look, which is why I passed on this pattern for so, so long.)
Given my measurements, I was tempted to start with an XL but decided to start with an L for my muslin. It sews up easily, but when attaching the sleeve I noticed there is absolutely no ease in the sleeve cap. Alarm bells started sounding in my head. Then I put the jacket on and realized the L was ENORMOUS. So between the odd sleeves and the GENEROUS sizing, I was ready to move on. I did not want to invest any energy in modifying a pattern that I was feeling lukewarm about.
When I was new to garment sewing, I had my best initial luck using Burda patterns. Not because of the instructions, as those were often on the brief side of things, but because the base pattern pieces just fit without having to do any magic fitting adjustments.
I started with giving Burda 6932 a try. The pattern is a classic coat and jacket pattern that buttons up the center front and has a two-piece tailored sleeve. I sewed up a 44 and immediately liked the fit in the bodice and sleeves. I was almost sold except I was on the fence about the collar and the center front shape. A collar can easily be reshaped, so that was not the deal-breaker. I was thinking about how I would modify the center front for a zip closure with plackets, à la Closet Case’s Kelly. Since the center front of Burda 6932 curves at the top, I was worried that would complicate things. So I put a pin in this one and moved on.
I came across Burda 6351 which seemed to be exactly the guts I was looking for. A casual men’s jacket with a center front zip! I didn’t have it in my stash so I ordered it and hoped it would arrive sooner rather than later.
In the meantime, I had Burda 7142 in my stash and had time to give it a whirl. It’s a coat and jacket pattern, and view C features a bomber style jacket with a center front zip. Looking at views A and B, I figured I could combine them all to get near where I was going. Burda 7142 also features a raglan sleeve, which I thought could be fun to try out as I had never attempted one before. So I made up my default 44 and tried it on.
It wasn’t terrible, but I wasn’t sold. The shape of the raglan sleeve was odd on me. I might have benefitted from going down a size, but it also just needed some fit adjustments to get the shoulder shaping to look natural. As drafted, the pattern shoulders were a bit pointy on my frame. Again, I thought, do I want to take on a raglan sleeve adjustment now? Not really. And at that moment Burda 6351 arrived in my mailbox, so I redirected for the fifth (?) time.
As I prepped Burda 6351, I was pumped. It was going to be my savior, I just knew it. I compared the pattern pieces to Burda 6932 and noticed there was some similar shaping, but the front shoulder line was lowered and extended on the back pattern piece. This gives the jacket a visible seam in the front shoulder area, kind of like you would have with a yoke on a button-up shirt. Except there is no yoke (as drafted). I decided to start with a hybrid 44 version, combining aspects of both views, A and B. I liked the collar and cuffs of view B, but preferred the hem and zipper underlap of view A.
I tried on the 44 and thought, hey, this could work. I think this will work? I wasn’t fully convinced, but I wasn’t throwing in the towel just yet. I decided to draft a center placket and facings like the Kelly to see if it would work on the curved front. It also gave me a chance to try sewing it up, since I didn’t include these parts on my Kelly muslin. Using my pattern and the amazing Close Case online tutorial, things came together relatively easily. I swapped all lefts and rights for a men’s style closure, which did make my brain hurt on occasion, but it came together in the end and seemed to work on the gradual curve of the jacket’s center front.
I was loving it more, especially with the Kelly-inspired zipper placket, but after sleeping on it I realized I really needed to go down a size. I decided to make a 42. While preparing those pattern pieces, I also decided to increase the overall length to better accommodate 24” zip (it wasn’t really fitting on the last muslin). I considered shortening the sleeve but decided the smaller size might take care of that issue.
Turns out, sixth muslin is a charm! Since I was concerned about the 44 being too roomy, the 42 also seemed a bit large. But it’s a piece of outwear, and I worried that I might soon end up with a jacket that was too small. All in all, I decided it was time to make the damn jacket. I’ll give a full rundown of making the Burda 6351 with all the style mods.
PS the Foreman
I forgot until I finished writing up this post that I had also made a muslin of the Foreman by Merchant and Mills. The pattern sewed up easily, but the fit was very generous and I definitely needed to go down a size. And at that point in my search, I think I was wanting something more structured. I’m sure I’ll return to this pattern at some point for the right occasion.