What I wear

The ‘Win in Black and White’ swing jacket

Dear Readers, it may come as no surprise to you that I’m not much of a sports follower. Up until a decade ago I couldn’t give a fig about the Olympics, and my grasp of other sports was confined to ‘the one with the ball with hexagons’ vs ‘the one with the pointy ball’ vs. ‘the one with the hard little ball’.

Then I came to NZ, and met Mr D.

NZ is  really  into athletics. Mr D is  really  into athletics (so much so that he would point out that athletics are a specific type of sport, and not a synonym).

Partly out of a desire to fit with my adopted culture, partly out of proximity to Mr D, and partly out of self defense, I now know a lot about sports.

Or, to be more precise, I know a lot about 3.5 specific kinds of sports: cricket, rugby (both league & union — hence the .5), and running. I’m still pretty vague on that sport with the pointy ball and the yard lines, or that one where they stand around and don’t hit the hard little ball with a round stick a lot.

There is no cricket or rugby in the Olympics (though  Rugby 7s  has been added to the 2016 lineup), but  one of the best runners in the world  is a Kiwi, and all the Kiwi athletes will be wearing uniforms that have their basis in the garb worn by the first NZ rugby team to tour England: the  1905 All Blacks, so called “by reason of their sable and unrelieved costume.”

The original All Blacks probably wore all black because it was cheap and looked tidy even when it was dirty, but they started a pretty awesome tradition of wearing black and white (and occasionally silver for the fern emblazoned on the uniforms) and naming the team after the uniform colours. The national Rugby Union team (current world champions) is still the All Blacks, the soccer team (the one that was the only undefeated in the 2010 World Cup) is the  All Whites, the cricket team is the  Black Caps, the field hockey teams are the  Black Sticks Men  &  Women, and  the badminton team  would have been the Black Cocks if the IBF hadn’t shown a distinct lack of humour and disregard for a longstanding national tradition and vetoed it.

It’s a fantastic tradition : it’s hard not to look chic and elegant in black and white, giving Kiwi athletes a distinct sartorial advantage on the field (and really, even though I now know some of the technicalities, I only watch the Olympics to comment on the uniforms).

So, in honour of the Kiwi athletes in London this year and the seven Kiwi athletes who travelled to the last London Olympics in 1948 by boat (the formal wear of the 2012 NZ Olympians is a direct homage to their attire) and in honour of the glory days of NZ rugby, when rugby really was a home-grown sport, and the All Blacks were not professional athletes but farmers and businessmen who trained by lugging bales of wool, I’ve made a late 1940s swing coat in black and white tartan.


It’s the sort of thing I imagine a fashionable supporter at the 1948 Olympics wearing, or, the same woman a few years later (hey, NZ was a bit behind the times sartorially speaking) wearing on the sidelines during the famous  1956 Springbok tour of New Zealand.

For my photoshoot we went to the Basin Reserve, which is the Wellington cricket grounds, and also home to the NZ Cricket Museum. The Basin Reserve also serves as a sort of glorified roundabout: with all the traffic from the CBD going out to the suburbs flowing around it.

It’s a gorgeous setting: old bleachers in an Art Deco building, newer bleachers in a dreadful 1980s building, sloping hills where people sit and have picnics during cricket games, a little classically inspired pagoda, and all of it fringed by pohutakawa trees.  The awesomest thing is that when there aren’t games on you can just wander through it.  People use it as a shortcut on their walk too and from work, and kids hang out on the hills and treat it like a park.  It’s not often that you can just wander through a major stadium or athletic ground at will!

Unfortunately for our photoshoot they were in the midst of re-doing the field, so it was a bit dug up and muddy rather than serene and green, and there was a distinct smell of fertilizer in the air.  We spent a lot of time wrinkling our noses and giggling rather than taking pictures.  On the bright side, after days of rain the sun peeped out and gave us some glorious light for the shoot.

The jacket isn’t quite right: I meant it to be a stunt version of the pattern, so I used the cheap nasty acrylic fabric. I didn’t quite have enough, so the back pieces are cut off grain, which is doing terrible things to the hang of the coat. I had to omit the cuffs because I didn’t have enough fabric left. And I want to play with the sizing of the jacket on my next version. So there are things to be tweaked. But I’m generally happy with the jacket, and inordinately pleased with my bound pockets (do you know how hard it is to get perfect bound pockets in acrylic?  hard), and the lining.

Because really, a brilliantly mallard green lining makes everything better!

For your listening enjoyment, the title of this post comes from ‘Run Runaway‘ (the lyrics actually say “Dream in Black and White”, but I like to sing my own version).  I’ve linked to the Great Big Sea cover rather than the Slade original, because (as we know)  everything  is better done by Great Big Sea. For another song, I kinda have to share ‘Loyal‘, a Kiwi classic that comes up whenever anyone wants to evoke a deluge of nationalism and sporting fervour (or, more accurately, shame the athletes who have decided to go abroad for more money fervour).

So, here is to black and white, and copper and silver and gold!  Here’s to the Kiwi athletes doing my little adopted country proud!   (and here’s to the marathon of this jacket FINALLY being done!)

Just the facts, Ma’am:

Fabric:  3ish metres of mostly acrylic, slightly wool blend, 3ish metres of mallard teal acetate lining, both inherited from Nana

Year:  1949

Notions:  3 white plastic buttons (inherited from Nana), thread, 1 metre interfacing ($9)

Hours:  8

Make again?  Probably — but in much better fabric.

Wear again?  Yes.  I had slight reservations at first, but I’ve reached for it three days in a row.  This might become a wardrobe staple

Total cost:  $9



  1. Did I ever tell you that as a uni student I spent quite a lot of time at the cricket at the Basin. One went to the Cricket in much the same way that once one went to the Opera – to be seen and to socialise. It really is quite dull live, as at least on TV someone is explaining how not much happening is exciting. We all need to be reminded! The most exciting moment was when I was listening to Carmina Burana on my Walkman (tape, this is 1987ish) while a little motorised drinks cart came trundling out onto the field. A comic juxtaposition if ever there was one!
    Anyway, I do love this coat, and I love that you chose such an apt backdrop for the shoot, and I DO love the Basin!

    • Oh, I can well imagine that the Basin is a great social spot. I actually rather enjoyed the one game I went to there. It’s just like an all-day picnic. And then Mr D said that I was ruining the atmosphere by hand-sewing, and I lost interest 😉

  2. Is that a typo???? $9 total for you to make this brilliant swing jacket??? My goodness, you need to enter into an Olympic event for sewing. Love the pop of colour on the inside. Only downside to this post is that I am an Aussie, so will leave you with one big loud Aussie, Aussie, Aussie – Oi, Oi, Oi!

    • Hi Judith. Welcome! And thank you!

      Nope – not a typo. $9 for the jacket, but that’s just because I inherited so much lovely fabric from Nana and my Grandmother.

      I am extremely thrifty when it comes to fabric though – you can really be impressed when I make a 1910s gown from 6 metres of silk I found for $5 at an op-shop, or a 1930s dress from 5 metres of wool crepe I got for $4 – also found at an op-shop!

  3. Lynne says

    The jacket has much charm and the pattern has real potential. I’d love to see it in a good wool, with the big cuffs.

    Great photos, and a terrific venue!

    • Thank you. It will be made in wool, with big cuffs and all the trimmings! I’m tempted to start it right away with the idea that making a jacket will ensure that winter continues to be mild!

      • Lynne says

        I do like the way the sleeves are set in. What do you call that angular shape it makes? Such a great opportunity for some classy top-stitching.

        Good idea to start right away – it may well be an anti-freeze charm, but even if it isn’t, it will mean you are well prepared for next winter!

        • I don’t know if there is an actual name for that type of sleeves. They are somewhere between set-in, raglan, and kimono. Perhaps square-cut? Square-set?

  4. Claire Payne says

    I can say that the jacket looks even better in ‘real life’. The gloves really set it off to perfection. How lucky you are to have such a marvellous Nana.

  5. Love it! Great swing! Just right for the fab weather we’ve had the last couple of weekends! The Basin is a great place for photos. And black is just the kiwi colour – no?

  6. Heh. I don’t think it’s possible to live in NZ without acquiring some knowledge of sports, if only by osmosis.

    Love the teal lining. It looks amazing with the black and white.

  7. Elise says

    I was thinking last night just how much sports can really bring people together.

  8. What a chic jacket, you’re turning me to the swing side, lol. I’d always enjoyed the envelope illustrations of vintage swing jacket patterns, but always feared I’d look like I was swimming in one. However, it suits you so wonderfully well I just might want to try it for myself. I’ll be looking forward to seeing your next version in a better fabric, I bet it will be stellar!

    • Thank you! I’ve definitely been seduced by the swing silhouette. There is something so effortlessly elegant about volume. I’m very excited about my next version. I just need more sewing time!

  9. Not bad, for a cheap jacket, not bad at all!
    I think there must have been many thrifty seamstresses in post-war 1949, forced to piece this from less fabric, and therefore, this should be quite authentic in that respect, too. 😀

    And as far as I can observe, there has been quite a lot of winning in black and white going on.

    • Thanks Hana. I guess accuracy isn’t the be all and end all for me – a sewing mistake may be accurate, but I don’t have to like it! :-p.

      • Of course not. I only meant, even though you did not get the intended silhouette, you may have got an authentic one after all. And I like it all the same. Which is an achievement with me, because, as I’ve written at the preparatory post, I’m not very keen on the swing coat.

  10. I just adore that colorful lining paired with the black and white shell! It’s stunning put together – I can see why you’ve worn it three days in a row. I love that you are able to walk through and get your pictures in such a fabulous location – it makes me wish we had something like that here in Chi-town. And YAY for Great Big Sea! I have them on my iPod right now – *swoon*.

    • Every time you post something I love you more and more Meg! Some day we’ll have to get together and listen to GBS and do photoshoots of geeky stuff! And come on, NYC = FULL of amazing locations for photo shoots!

      And thank you 🙂

  11. SquishSews says

    The jacket looks awesome – I love that lining color! And you’re definitely right about Great Big Sea – pretty much anything they do is AWESOME.

Comments are closed.