Workwear fashion?

Posted on
As an keen sewer I am constantly thinking about clothes and in particular menswear. The problem is that us men have a really limited range of clothing: I suppose what I mean is that a lot of mens clothing is boring. I know you can make clothes in different ways and use different material but most  menswear is ‘samey’. This got me thinking about wearing other forms of clothing; no not skirts and dresses but looking at more utilitarian forms of clothing. A lot of clothing ‘styles’ that, both men and women wear daily, had a past life and started out being designed for a different purpose other than as fashion. 
Take the humble pair of jeans; designed for cowboys and miners but are now a staple of everyones wardrobe. The Bomber jacket was, as the name suggests, for military pilots. Of course a lot of military style clothing has become fashion over the years and not just for the camouflage pattern. I remember as a teenager how the Donkey jacket was what everyone was wearing, me included!
Back in June I read about the death of Bill Cunningham, the legendary New York Times fashion photographer and there was an iconic picture of him with camera in hand, perched on his bike. What really grabbed my attention was what he was wearing. The classic blue work jacket or ‘bleu de travail’. Sometimes called the French chore jacket and similar to the ‘engineers’ or ‘railway’ jacket. 
                          (Mark Lennihan / AP)
This got me thinking again and whether more ‘work wear’ could become fashion. I’m not suggesting we all go out and dress like labourers but surely this type of clothing is practical as well as comfortable? What about making a ‘chore jacket’ in a different colour (other than blue or black) and adding a little shaping to bring it more into fashion. 
Of course I did a little research and the French chore jacket, has indeed become fashionable including an oversize woman’s version hitting the catwalk from Vetements in their Spring collection. Now being fashionable means that buying one will be expensive! Further research shows that only 1 sewing pattern for a similar style jacket exists. The Merchant and Mills ‘Foreman’. Whilst I love the smaller pattern makers doing something different, I wonder if more patterns should exist for the ‘workwear fashion’ and could other pattern makers do something similar.
Well I have some decent cotton drill fabric. It was a deep Indigo blue but after a quick soak in the bath (with a drop of weak bleach solution) it is now a deep maroon with a worn out/washed out look.
So I am going to design my own chore/engineer/railway jacket and see what happens. A bit more research is needed and thought as to what will bring the garment up to date but hopefully I will have something together soon.
What do you think? Can workwear be fashionable? 
Until next time…..Happy Sewing

8 thoughts on “Workwear fashion?

  1. Interesting idea… I personally don't think about fashion or even workers as anything other than something I have to wear. I see clothes and think 'oh i know how I'd make that' or I see a fabric and 'see' it in my head as a finished garment them go off and make what I saw in my head. Until now I've never really thought about there being a cross over from workwear to fashion… Could possibly even upcycled workwear to fashion making it a sustainable resource as well as original designs… Definitely food for thought ��

  2. Sounds as though you could start your own menswear fashion designed patterns Jamie, how about it? Why not talk to Lisa Comfort at Sew Over It for some advice? Just a thought.

  3. I have been thinking of this for some time– years in fact. You are correct, the patterns are not out there. I have made a few, but I find it hard to figure out what the ultimate work wear garment is. I am interested in seeing what you come up with. It encourages me to do the same.

  4. I think it's a great idea. It's a timeless design, it's practical, and a little different which is what I like best. I always thought Bill Cunningham cut a very stylish figure in his outfit. Btw, I highly recommend the 2010 doco on his life if you haven't seeen it. Looking forward to seeing the progress. P.S. Just want to add that I think your garments are incredible, beautifully styled and great attention to detail- wish mine were that neat, never happens!

  5. Workwear can definitely be fashionable. I remember from the 70's and early 80's when painter pants were fashionable. Demin companies like Lee, Levi's etc, had them in different fabrics and i distinctly remember kids in high school all wearing them. I looked at the site you mentioned for the jacket and they have interesting patterns for workwear. All basic workwear clothing can be made fashionable by the use of : on trend fabrics for the season, high end rtw construction techniques so that a look or series of runway looks are styled and put together. Most fashion is the same, jackets, skirts, pants, shirts, over coats and as they walk down the runway in dfferent fabrics, style and textures, it gives them a fresh look for the season. Like they wardrobe staples, work wear can function in the same manner. So go for it, style it up, use trendy fabrics and color and make a classic workwear garment that is fashionable. – corey

  6. I've been eyeing the Merchant & Mills pattern, but haven't seen any made up yet (apart from the samples from the company, which look good). I think Hot Patterns (dreadful name) had some kind of engineer's jacket or shirt based on train workwear.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *