Way back in the mid-1960s, when I was in Kindergarten, we would wear our father’s old shirts over our school clothes–usually worn backwards–whenever we painted or engaged in messy crafts (that was back in the day when you’d change into “play clothes” when you got home from school). Similarly, adults often wore aprons, smocks, lab coats, or coveralls if they were in a messy situation either at home or on the job. Since clothes weren’t as cheaply made as they are now, the notion was that we would have a special garment to protect our clothes so that they would last longer. As clothes became cheaper and cheaper, a throwaway mindset developed. If something gets ruined, we just buy a replacement at Target or Old Navy.
We Protect Our Investments
As Modern Retro Women, that throwaway mindset isn’t for us. We know that we save money in the long run by buying or making quality clothing that will last for years. We’ve put a lot of time and life-energy into either making a garment or earning the money to buy it so we know that we need to protect our investments with an outer garment when we are in messy situations.
I believe it is time to bring back the habit of wearing aprons, smocks, lab coats, or coveralls to protect our clothing investments.
McCall’s 6107: Repurposing a Scrubs Pattern
My husband’s work as a sculptor and painter is very messy. He usually wears a denim apron when he works but he was still going through a lot of work clothes that he would buy from the thrift store. Slowly but surely his ragged work clothes were finding their way into his everyday wear. When he started calling himself “rag man,” I knew it was time to do something.
I remembered that my father-in-law would wear a lab coat whenever he was working on the car he was restoring or working around his shop. All of the men explaining better living through chemistry in those old school films also were usually wearing lab coats. None of the lab coats I found online were made out of fabric that was heavy enough for work as a sculptor so I decided to make one for The Mister out of twill. Enter McCall’s 6107. McCall’s 6107 is actually a scrubs pattern but a lab coat is also included.
Sewing Expertise Required
The lab coat is constructed from a few main pieces–front, back, sleeve, pockets (two sizes), collar, and facing. The sleeves are sewn to the garment flat before sewing the side seam to close everything up. A brand new sewist may have difficulty inserting the collar because there isn’t a collar band and the instructions aren’t as clear as I think they should be. I’d pull out a sewing reference book if you haven’t inserted collars before (I tried to find an online tutorial but they all seemed to have a collar band and the process is different). Otherwise, this is a straightforward pattern that just goes together without much fuss.
Since the lab coat is already designed to go over clothing, you don’t need to go up a size. The ease is already built into the pattern.
They Wear Them in Couture Houses, Too!
I already wear an apron when I’m cooking and cleaning. Inspired by the seamstresses who work in the couture houses, I’ve decided to make a lab coat for me, too, for when I’m sewing. Then maybe I won’t have a long thread hanging down my back when I run errands after I’ve been sewing. Have you ever noticed that the thread or little fabric pieces from trimming a seam always end up in the weirdest places? No? Maybe it’s just me, then.
Since we are embracing the mid-century value of wearing quality, instead of throwaway, clothing, we need to protect our investment by wearing aprons, smocks, lab coats, or coveralls. The McCall’s 6107 pattern is relatively easy to sew…and we can pretend we are in an old school movie and call everyone “Jimmy” while wearing the lab coat (why was the kid’s name always “Jimmy?”).
What is your favorite way of protecting the clothing you are wearing? Do you know of an online tutorial that shows how to insert a bandless collar?