Fantasy sewing: Fantastic Menswear

A little while back, Peter posted one of his periodic dirges discussing the dearth of stylish modern menswear patterns. However, not one to be a negative Nellie, he went on to highlight one of the more exciting periods, historically, in menswear, the 1970s, and, in particular, the patterns Butterick—the Fashion One—put out for men during this time period. (And the ready availability of said patterns today, often in uncut condition—which probably says something about why they don’t still make ’em like that)

This touching paean niggled something in my memory. Something about 70s menswear.

Butterick 4711

Aha! there it is, folks, Butterick 4711, a men’s suit pattern I thrifted for, as you can see, the princely sum of a half dollar, uncut except for the vest. And designed by, or at least approved by?, Robert L. Green, whoever that is. (Ok, apparently he was the style director at Playboy during the 60s and 70s, among other things.)

While I certainly couldn’t resist this pattern, especially in the size 40 (exactly my husband’s size! Well, for the jacket, anyway), the odds of me actually making it up are, ah, infinitesimal. My husband, despite being only a couple of years older than me, came of age firmly in the 80s. He’d be much more likely to wear this pattern (image also courtesy of Peter) than a very 70s suit.

That being said, Peter’s post prompted me to pull out the pattern and peruse the instructions, as one does, y’know. Some nifty details emerged:

A very nifty fly indeed.

French Fly! (Or at least, that’s what Carolyn called it. See her tutorial. See it now. (durr, I wasn’t paying attention and scanned the picture of the fly, but not the part of the instructions concerning it. Oh well. Go read Carolyn’s tutorial instead.)

Welt pockets!

Welt pockets that hang from the waistband–COOL! Maybe you’ve seen this detail elsewhere? I don’t think I have, not that I’m overly versed in fine tailoring. Still cool.

Vest with odd neck bit.

Odd back-neck strap on the vest. Apparently whoever made the vest before thought it was odd, too, as it’s been clipped off the front pattern and pinned in place on the other piece.

I didn’t get into the jacket instructions, partly because they’re too involved for the amount of time/energy I have right now, partly because it’s for only a partial lining, which isn’t acceptable in menswear as far as I’m concerned, not that I’m any kind of expert.

Now, my husband won’t wear any element of this suit, as I said, except perhaps the vest. My husband does wear vests. And wear them very well, I may add. 😉 My very ticklish fancy is currently dying to make him a soft and summery vest in white slub linen. Of course, I don’t have any white slub linen… but a plain white linen would do (see photo at the top).

Of course if I propose this, he’s going to ask where his jacket is.


But it’s a good fantasy, isn’t it?

Oh, I also got, at the same time, the coordinating boy’s suit pattern:

Butterick 5205

If only I had a sartorially adventurous twelve-year-old boy to sew for. No? Maybe not.



Filed under Sewing

34 responses to “Fantasy sewing: Fantastic Menswear

  1. Joy

    I think I have this pattern! Or at least one like it, which came to me in a lot, and happens to be my husband’s size. I think 70’s men’s patterns are drool worthy with all the excellent details. Not to mention the great lapels. My husband claims he’d wear a 70’s outfit if I made it. Maybe he’s mocking me thinking I’ll never get around to it! We’ll see…

    • It seems like Butterick put out quite a few similar ones—or, y’know, it could jusst be how menswear all looks the same ;).

      You should totally take him up on it… 😀

  2. That’s such a cool pattern! Not that I think I could ever convince the man in my life to wear anything like it…
    In fact, I have been tinkering with jacket blocks for E on and off for two years now and never made anything I (or he) was truly happy with. And he’ll never volunteer to wear any trousers with a fit which is so radically different from his beloved Levi’s.
    He has, in fact, at some point (about two years ago), put in a request for vests but I’ve never been enthousiastic about that (he has two vests, but both of those are slightly shiny gothic/fantasy ones which he used to wear with some kind of poet’s shirt to parties back in the day. I don’t see a vest working with his jeans and casual shirts. ‘cowboy’ is definitely not a look to go for in these parts). In fact, I bought fabric for it back than, which I used last year to make myself a pair of trousers.

    And I have made welt pockets that hang from the waistband. In summer trousers for E (not the recent ones. those have patch pockets). I had seen that kind of pockets in his RTW formal trousers and I thought it would be a good feature to copy. It may have more to do with coincidence than with internal pocket construction, but one of those is the only welt pocket which he ever tore.

    • Osiris wears his vests a fair bit, over T-shirts or, these days, the poet shirts I have made him (which are originally a western-type pattern too, now that I think of it), but with jeans. They’re standard men’s formalwear ones—the most popular is a black brocade, number 2 choice is gold. I think it looks great (and not cowboy at all, but then we live in Cowboy Central so perhaps I don’t notice if it doesn’t involve cowboy boots and a western string-tie and a belt-buckle the size of a your head. Mind you Osiris would rather die than look cowboy, too.).

      I think having the weight of the pocket hanging from the waistband seems like a really good idea, but then I haven’t actually tried it. Hopefully the tear was coincidence…

  3. I have a sartorially adventurous twelve-year-old boy, but even he wouldn’t wear something like that. His tastes run more to rocker chic (although a suitably loud vest might happen).

    I hate wearing welt pockets so much that I’ve never bothered to sew them, but the kind that hang from the waistband are better than the alternative. They’re less likely to crumple up and shift out of place, in my experience. I also like the French fly.

    • Yeah, Tyo can be a bit punk, but almost never retro-classy. 😉

      I think the only time I’ve worn welt pockets is the ones I’ve made. I don’t usually go for “dress pants”…

  4. Just looking at that set of instructions is enough to make me break out in hives…I think careful tailoring is beyond me for now! I’m pretty sure that any fantasy sewing I’m doing right now is all costume or evening gown related, but I’m glad you’re giving these 70s menswear patterns some love. I think my husband would rather die than wear any of these, which is just fine since I’d rather die than tailor menswear 🙂

    • The best thing about fantasy sewing is that you can do as much of it as you have time to imagine! 🙂 But then, I try not to even think of costume gear, because that way lies madness… 😉

  5. I was just looking at the french fly tutorial by Carolyn and thinking I had never seen it in either a pattern or RTW! The rear welt pockets in the Sewaholic Thurlow trousers hang from the waistband, something I had never seen before either, would help stop the pocket stretching/tearing if you kept your wallet/phone in your back pocket I suppose. I wonder how much of those mens tailoring details you could incorporate into a pair of womens pants……
    I would love to make my hubbie a 3 peice suit, cos I love them, but in 17 years I’ve seen him wear a suit exactly twice and both times he wasn’t happy (he looks like he should be in the mob or something when he wears a suit, lol)

    • I guess as many details as you want ;)… at least we don’t need to adjust a pattern for which way we “dress”!

      My husband also looks a bit mobster in a full suit, but I think he likes the look… although he doesn’t wear it often except when he’s had a job that requires it.

  6. OH! How delicious! And thanks for the link to Carolyn’s tutorial, that one had escaped me…

  7. Those are some pretty cool outfits! I’m always wanting to make old-school men’s clothing, just because of all those great tailoring details — is it just me, or is it that men’s fashion is less flashy than women’s and so it depends a lot more on subtle details? But I don’t know anyone who’ll wear them, of course (“What, doesn’t /everybody/ want James Bond cuffs?”) so I usually just sneak them into my own clothing, when I can.

    (Have been lurking for a while now, so hello!)

    • Hiya! Yeah, if you start reading up on tailoring the details get almost obsessively subtle and picky… sometimes I yearn to be so precise, other times I’m glad I don’t have to go there. I agree, though, some nice details can certainly be worth stealing. And why *not* incorporate them into your own clothes? 😀

  8. I’ll trade you something for that boy’s pattern. I’m serious. I have a couple of (well worn, but still pieced) 40’s swing dress patterns close to your size. You got my email.

  9. I’ve seen loads of lovely boys/mens 70s patterns, including Butterick, and have left them as my JJ wouldn’t wear them either. I wonder if I should collect them for blogland peeps, certainly for the instructions I suspect.

    I love the french fly tutorial, thank you muchly and the instructions from the 70s suit pattern are very interesting. I’m going to give the welt pocket from the waistband seam for sure – worth a crack don’t you think.

    • I knew I’d gone from pattern-fan to collector when I started buying ones I knew I’d probably never use, just because they were awesome. If you have the organizational skills/willpower/time/whatever to pass them on, I’d say go for it—but if you’re like me and continually floundering to get everything done that needs doing, well, probably give it a pass. 😉

  10. Is it just me or do those instructions contain far more how to details and better drawing that current patterns? It could be me, because it is only 5:30 and I have been away a short period of time.

    I may have to start buying vintage patterns just for the instructions. Damn you Tanit-Isis.

  11. Please insert in the appropriate places:
    530 AM
    I have been AWAKE a short period of time

    Thank you

    • I’m sure that anything in the instructions you already have in one of your books! 😉 I think the late 60s and early 70s were probably the heyday for pattern instructions—I feel like in the last few decades there’s been a push for simpler patterns and instructions and the skipping of fine details…

      Also, WTF 5 frickin’ 30, lady! Go back to bed! 😉

      • Yeah, you probably are right, I’m sure the info is in the sewing library somewhere.

        I start work at 6:30. Love starting that early, especially in the summer. However that means a late night for me is 9:30, usually in bed between 8:30 and 9. Old and boring. That’s me.

  12. Pingback: Vintage goodness! « Country Girl Couture

  13. LinB

    I’ve made men’s trousers with all of the above details except the crotch shield — dear husband refused to wear said garment, so I never repeated the experiment. I too, have an unused Robert L. Green men’s suit pattern from the 1980s! (see above for why I’ve never made anything from it). Mine is a Western suit. Why did I buy it? Worked at the in-house advertising department for Wrangler jeans, and they were all about cowboys and rodeo clowns. For a long while I planned to have a cowboy wedding: groomsmen in Western suits, bridesmaids dressed as saloon girls, whole ox spitted over coals in the parking lot. My mother talked me out of it. She is a smart lady.

    • Please don’t take offence LinB, but your original wedding plans scare the crap out of me ;-D. Thank goodness for mothers.

      • I dunno, I kinda like the saloon girl bridesmaids 😀

        Every once in a while we toy with the idea of a 20s-prohibition-mobster wedding. 🙂

        • LinB

          A mobster wedding would be so cool! Chalk-striped suits for the guys, and fedoras with bright hat bands. Bridesmaids dressed as gun molls with cigarette holders clenched between their teeth, carrying tommy guns instead of flowers. Guests could shoot the couple with water guns instead of throwing rice … I can see it now.

      • LinB

        Yes, definitely thank God for my mother, at least! I went with a self-drafted two piece dress with a peplum and a wide sash. My bridesmaids wore lace blouses over silky skirts, with a wide cummerbund-style belt. My best friend described her dress as “Washington, DC cocktail party.” Much less embarrassing to look at, 30 years later.

  14. Amy

    I love the fly shield (french fly? new term!). I’ve really been looking at different flies lately. Many of my pants with welts have the pocket bags stitched into the waistband. The Pattern Runway scallop shorts pattern does this, too. In the original instructions it was a bit confusing and the pocket bag was notched as if it was to be sewn only to the welt. I ended up trying both after getting the corrected instructions, and thought that stitching to the waistband is much more practical and less apt to strain… especially for a man who stuffs his wallet/keys, etc. in those pockets all the time!

  15. The new thurlow shorts/trousers pattern from sewaholic has the back pockets hanging from the waistband like that, it seems really good.

  16. Marie

    I know you posted this several years ago and you may not have this pattern anymore. On the off chance you still do though, would you be willing to share with me images of the PANTS instructions? I got this pattern today (also intact but for the vest pattern; for 50 cents too!!!!), but it’s missing the one pants instruction sheets. I think I might eventually be able to figure out how to put them together, but I would sure love to avoid trial and error if at all possible. I would absolutely be willing to pay for the instructions! a gif/pdf would be all I need.
    Thank you!

    • Hi, Marie, I have emailed you a couple of pics—let me know if they don’t come through.

      • Marie

        You are AMAZING! thank you so much for sending me the instructions!! I’m giving myself until the end of the months do make these. So far, it seems the patterns will need minimal tweaking (mainly to get rid of the bell bottoms :), as I was lucky enough to get a size 40, my hubby’s size. We’ll see how they turn out, but I’d not have been able to move on with this project without your help. Thanks again! 🙂

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