A 1960’s ‘Pan Am’ inspired couture jacket

couture jacket

A couple of years ago I did a short course on couture tailoring techniques. I loved how much history and skill there was behind the craft. It was only a one week course and so we were only scratching the surface of the skills involved but nevertheless sitting in the classroom on Curtain Road, an old converted  warehouse, learning pad stitching and finishing techniques gave me the feeling that I was in a small way connected to the world of couture.

It was a great week and since then I have been feeling a nagging sense that I need to produce a couture jacket. One thing I learnt from the course is that tailored garments are a labour of love and so you have to be determined to give over at least a week’s worth of sewing time to such a project.

It turned out that what I needed to prioritise this task was some compelling inspiration, something that I absolutely had to have in my wardrobe. Thanks to two of my favourite TV series, Pan Am and Mad Men, the seed of inspiration was planted.

Although not universally loved by critics and despite being paned for its script and story lines I am still a big fan of Pan Am. The series really evoked for me the glamour of the dawn of the jet age and the very modernisation of the 60’s styles of dress and presentation that many criticised as historically inaccurate rather appealed to me as a relatively inspiring re-interpretation of some of my favourite vintage styles.

Indeed I was so drawn in to the world created in the programme that it made the life of an hostess seem quite appealing. My husband found this somewhat bemusing as I am quite claustrophobic and have a bit of a fear of flying. In the end I decided that it was probably best to stay on the ground and make a couture jacket inspired by the iconic Pan Am uniform.

Pan Am Laura
Pan Am’s Laura


I loved the Pan Am Blue colour and the way that it contrasted with the white of their blouses but I wanted more of a cute cropped Chanel type of appearance to the garment similar to the jacket worn by the character Rachel Menken in Mad Men (Season 1 | Episode 5 : Babylon).

Mad Men Rachel Menken
Mad Men’s Rachel Menken


This was such a straight forward jacket shape that I could pattern cut it in no time from my block. Although I did want to use the skills from my tailoring course what I really needed at the time was a lightweight summer jacket and so it wasn’t necessary to include things like collar canvas and the numerous layers of interfacing traditionally found in a couture jacket. Instead I opted to interface the entire thing with light-weight cotton batiste in order to strengthen the shell fabric whilst keeping the jacket supple. I was able to use the couture touches of bound button holes (see a tutorial for these here)  and I also opted for some self-covered buttons, partly because I wanted to and partly to avoid going button shopping!

One of the great things about using self-covered buttons is that sometimes finding the right buttons for your project can be a nightmare and if you don’t have all day to go searching about self-covered buttons can be a great alternative, you can even opt for a contrasting colour if that will work on your garment. I used much smaller self-covered buttons on the inside of the jacket when attaching my main buttons and covered these smaller buttons in the lining fabric. I had seen this cute feature of smaller buttons securing larger buttons in a Kate Spade jacket a little while earlier.

couture jacket detail

Another nice  feature I added to the jacket was some contrast binding, I fashioned this by attaching the bias binding to the right side of the jacket using the machine but fastening  it down on the inside of the jacket by hand. That way you get the secure finish and crisp lines from the machine on the correct side of the jacket and the invisible hand stitches don’t spoil the inside of the jacket. This hand stitching was probably the most time consuming aspect of the garment but I do love hand stitching so it was probably also my favourite.

For the lining I used ‘Betsy’ a Liberty Tana Lawn that I had in my stash and the blue in which matched the linen I had chosen perfectly. I accented this with some flat piping in candy pink working on the idea that I wanted the inside of the jacket to be as visually appealing as the outside.

Vintage Jacket 1960

I am so happy with the result that I have already bought some peach wool which I will be making the jacket up in this autumn. I think I will use cream for the binding this time around. The only negative that I can think of is that the periwinkle / Pan Am blue is difficult to wear with some denims and as someone who lives in jeans I have found this a bit limiting. For my next version I will definitely include more couture tailoring techniques as it will be a winter weight jacket. I will also be uploading a self-covered button tutorial very soon.

Thanks for reading!

11 responses to “A 1960’s ‘Pan Am’ inspired couture jacket”

    • Aw thank you so much! I checked out your blog and you have made so many amzing things- you have a fantastic skirt collection! :o)

  1. You made a lovely jacket. On the contrary, I think your jacket can match any denim easily.
    I love the whole get-up, looks very fresh with the white and denim combo.

    Looking forward to more of your jackets and coats… Perhaps you can also post photos of the creation process?

    • Aw thank you!
      Yep I am so bad at remembering to take photots as I go!-it always seems to ocuur to me once I’m finished! Oops. I am going to try harder to include them from now on!

    • Aw thank you!
      I was soooo upset when they cancelled it! I LOVED all the pretty early 60s styles and the storylines!…if only more people had felt the same as us!

  2. So adorable! If I saw you on the street, I would never believe you had made it yourself. And Pan Am! May it rest in peace.

  3. hi, your blog is inspirational. your clothes are timeless and very chic. can i ask where you get your shoes from? and can we see a side angle to look at the heels. they seem to suit any style of clothes you wear.

  4. Oh my gosh.
    Being a teen in the 60s I flew to New York City to visit relatives. I remember seeing the flocks of stewardesses in the airport on their way to their travels. Just seeing their uniforms made us all dream to be stewardesses!
    The 60s had still has my favorite styling, from Chanel to the Bohemian, just fantastic.
    I sew but had quit for awhile and I’m now getting ready to start again. I was wondering what you recommend as far as sewing machines? I did many fine things on a cheap Kenmore back then but wish to get something better.
    My other question, do you use a serger? or a sewing machine for all your projects.

    Thank you kindly,


    • Ah wish I could pop back to the Jet Age! I suppose watching Pan Am will have to do! 😉
      My favourite sewing machine is my Bernina Activa. She is reliable, does everything I need and the quality of the extra Bernina feet is better than any other brand I think. And yes I do use a serger (alot!) but only since getting a decent one that gives me nice neat finish- I had one that didn’t before and just ended up using my sewing machine instead as I didn’t trust or like it! Mine now is a Decor which is basically a re-branded Elna but I have heard a lot of good things about Brother overlockers too!
      Welcome back to the sewing club! 🙂

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