As a vintage lover, I’ve wanted to own a vintage cape for as long as I can remember.
Having a beautiful cape to twirl in, to feel luxurious and fabulous in… really, who wouldn’t want that?
Unfortunately, for years I convinced myself that buying a cape would be impractical. But then it hit me: why not just make one?
Sewing a cape, inspired by a vintage cape from the 40s or 50s is totally within reach!
Purchasing a vintage cape sewing pattern on Etsy or eBay can be an eye opener. Prices may range from a cheap 7USD (5£) to a surprisingly expensive 50USD (32£.) Of course, if I you have the option to sew your garment from a vintage cape pattern, I say GO FOR IT!
BUT– using a modern sewing pattern with vintage sewing techniques can sometimes be more reasonable if you want a retro sewing fix and may not have access to a vintage sewing pattern.
Insert the Seamwork Camden Cape!
The cape is super traditional, with multiple gores to create a retro style that goes well with jeans, too.
I chose this pattern because I knew I wouldn’t have to try and enlarge a real vintage pattern and because it’s readily available online via PDF.
Plus, the projects I’ve made from Seamwork have all been reliable, which is extremely important when making a garment like this.
This Seamwork Magazine cape features lots of cute details!
- Comfortable arm holes openings that are placed at a natural place on the garment
- Pattern pieces include a full lining
- Simple, neckline for casual days– and ample space in case you want to throw a faux-fur collar to dress it up.
Before getting started…
Decide what upgrades you might want to make to the Seamwork Camden, to give it more of a vintage cape touch.
I went out of my way to pull in sewing techniques that would have been present in a vintage cape.
Never one to settle for a plain garment, I upgraded my pattern in the following ways:
- Added bound buttonholes to the front, rather than plain machine made buttonholes
- Drafted a new facing piece, to have a facing that went completely around the neck
- Stitched in a pocket into the lining, to have an interior double welt pocket
- Hand sewed my lining in place, using techniques from the 1940s
The final technique comes with a free download, which you can get below:
FREE Vintage Linings Tutorial PDF
Get a FREE Printable PDF with all my vintage lining tips and instructions covered in my video tutorial, ready for your sewing table!
Step One: Pick the Right Fabric for the Job
Picking the right fabric for a cape cannot be understated! I discuss this in my video tutorial at timestamp 4:21.
Ask yourself the following questions:
How do I intend to wear this cape? For casual use, or more as a workhorse, daily cape?
Depending on your answer, pick lighter or thicker fabrics. For example, if it’s a purely workhorse cape, perhaps a sturdy twill or trenchcoat-like fabric might be nice. If you’re wearing your piece more for the glitz and glam of it, perhaps a sequin fabric or a thinner, more fluttery fabric can be what you’re looking for.
This also extends to the lining!
What’s the weather more likely to be when you wear it?
In my case, San Francisco doesn’t get too terribly cold and I’ll be pairing this cape up with wool sweaters and long sleeve shirts. I did not underline this piece with a flannel or cotton for insulation and opted for a mid-to-light cotton brushed “wool.”
If temperatures in your area get extremely cold, definitely insulate your piece! If not, then you are probably ok to proceed as I did in the video tutorial, with no additional underlining.
Step Two: Notches notches notches
The importance of notches is always imperative to your sewing success! Covered at 2:15 in the video tutorial.
Remember, notches indicate where pattern pieces fit in relationship to one another– AS WELL AS where two pattern pieces meet. In pieces such as this Camden cape, you’ll be sewing on a curve for most panels, and the notches allow you to see where the two pieces match up to one another.
If you’ve had to do any fitting adjustments…
Please be sure to rewalk your pattern pieces to make sure your pieces and notches match. On this vintage style cape, keep an eye out on the following areas:
- If you’ve shortened or lengthened the piece… That the front shell and lining pattern pieces match the facing
- If you’ve done a full bust adjustment… That the front shell and lining pattern pieces match the bottom rectangular panel
Step Three: Identify at what point to incorporate vintage techniques into the sewing process
The process of upgrading your sewing patterns can seem overwhelming if you haven’t given it a shot before.
Taking the time before beginning the sewing process, to identify where to incorporate your new vintage elements can save you a lot of heartache down the road.
For the above listed upgrades, I added them in at the following points:
At the pattern drafting stage…
Complete any fitting adjustments you might like to do. Then, draft your new facing pieces.
For my Camden cape, I drafted a 2inch wide facing piece that extended from the original facing that ended at the neck, then brought the facing into a gentle curve around the neckline.
Before attaching the front shell piece to anything else…
Sew your bound buttonholes. The pattern piece will be easier to handle if it’s not attached to the shell, and moving things around your sewing space will be a calmer experience.
For my Seamwork Camden cape, I opted for the following measurements based off the recommended 3/4″ button:
- 4 x 4″ squares for the “lips” of the buttonhole
- 1 1/8 x 3/8″ buttonhole opening
As noted in my buttonhole tutorial, sew the buttonholes onto the shell piece, and then complete the bound buttonholes later on when the facing has been sewn in place.
Before attaching the lining to the shell…
Stitch in your inner double welt pocket. I eyeballed where on my cape I wanted my pocket to be, and then went for it.
I used the following measurements for my cape, which were large enough to fit an iPhone 7 (not PLUS):
- 7 x 3″ welt, facing, and interfacing (cut 2 of interfacing)
- 7 x 12″ pocket lining
The best tutorial for double welt pockets I found online (that wasn’t mine!) is on the Craftsy website.
After sewing the facing onto the shell…
At that point you can attach your lining in by hand. Attaching the lining by hand is a really calm experience and the process of it is extremely forgiving due to the hand sewing of the technique.
Sewing a vintage cape from a modern pattern is easy to do if you upgrade the pattern and make it more authentic to the time period.
A lot of modern sewing patterns draw direct inspiration and design from their older counterparts, and simply by including more intentional construction details, you can help merge the two styles seamlessly.
By incorporating bound buttonholes, hand sewing, and more fully thought out interior designs, you can sew your own vintage cape.