The Bus Seat Suit

Sometimes I get approached for some very unusual commissions, and they are often the most fun. This was one of the more unusual ones to date… I was asked to make a jacket out of bus seat fabric. It was perhaps asked in jest, perhaps thinking ‘she wont be silly enough to accept’. But I was silly enough to accept, in fact I thought just making the jacket out of bus seat fabric wasn’t enough. It needed MORE silliness!

This Jacket was intended to star in an advertising campaign for Starfish Interiors, so it needed to be eye catching and over the top.

I sketched up some design ideas:

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The sketches were sent to Steven with the following message:

This sounds like great fun! Some initial sketches attached… how out there do we want to go? We could do full on Ziggy StarBUS outfits or something more restrained, ie Saville row style tailoring but in moquette fabric.

Well he jumped at the ‘out there’ option, and the design selected was the third one featuring seatbelt buckles instead of buttons and grabhandles in place of epaulettes.

I had a pretty tight time frame for completing this garment – so I started with a base pattern I had drafted a few years ago for this Tailcoat (its far easier to alter an existing pattern than start a new one from scratch):

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Base pattern used

Although the designs are very different to each other, the sizing was spot on. I copied the torso pieces, extending their length well past the waist and adding vents at the centre back. I then sewed a quick mock up to check if I was on the right track:

On the right track – but not quite there yet. I realised that the shoulders were not large enough to accommodate the grab handles and the shoulder seams were currently in a dropped position appropriate for Edwardian tailoring (but not for attaching grab handles). I also tweaked the roll line for the lapels. The hip area was a little tight – more flare was required in the vents at the back to prevent them from opening right up when worn. I also planned to shift the back panel seams closer to the side seams as the vents were sitting too close together.

Alterations to the pattern complete, the next mock-up was duly cut out; this time in a much heavier fabric which would better test the pattern for its intended purpose. This time I added sleeves, collar and grabhandles. The overall effect was rather good!

I tested this mock up on Steven, there were a couple more tweaks – reducing the size of the collar to allow it to sit next to (rather than on top of) the grab handles and further alterations to the back vents. But that was about it!

Next we had to select a fabric! Bus seat moquette is singularly hideous, it is designed to be as gaudy as possible so it can hide a multitude of sins and is as tough as old boots. Lets face it, a tasteful bus seat fabric would NOT last long in service. So we picked the nicest we had in stock and found a matching leather to use as accents.

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Bus seat trimmed in selected fabric

This was the first time I had ever sewn using a bus moquette fabric, my poor machine coped fairly well – for the whole project only 3 needles broke. This fabric is seriously thick! But silly me still decided that as I was making a tailored jacket, it needed proper tailored pockets. And wouldn’t they look good in a contrast fabric – like the leather? So my first time sewing a bus moquette was also the first time I have sewn welt pockets in leather. A harrowing experience – but fortunately worth it! In the end I did not add a pocket bag as there were just too many layers accumulating and needles kept breaking as a consequence. So these are in fact decorative – but for an advertising campaign that is fine!

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Jacket mostly assembled – just needing cuffs, belts and lining

The main body and sleeves assembled pretty quickly once (the pockets were in place), the next hurdle was finding a way of attaching the grabhandles, the mock up’s handles had been very wobbly! On a seat these would be bolted in place, but that wasn’t an option for this ‘epaulette’ use. I ended up using button twine and buttons to hold them in position, on the inside of the jacket I added a strip of plastic with holes in it, threaded the twine through the holes and tied it off tightly. The plastic gave the grabhandles a firm base which made them much more secure than just attaching them to the fabric.

The shoulder shape I envisaged was full on ‘80s to really showcase the grabhandles, so for this I found two pairs of original ‘80s shoulder pads, I sewed each pair together (as pictured below) creating a pair of shoulder pads twice as thick! These were then stitched in position and filled out the sleeve head nicely.

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Double shoulder pads!

The collar and cuffs were cut from leather, the whole thing was bagged out, the rear vents and hem were finished off by hand. The last detail was the addition of the seatbelts to close the front. At this point my machine stubbornly refused to sew through such bulk (two layers of bus moquette and two layers of seatbelt webbing). So I left those for the machines at Starfish Interiors to deal with. My 14 hour ordeal with uncooperative fabric was complete!

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Lining pinned in position over back vents

The result was rather satisfying, I had top stitched all seams open – so despite the bulky fabric the jacket actually sat nice and close to the body. It was fully lined in bus drape fabric, and ready to star in Starfish Interiors latest advertising campaign.

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Test fit went well!

We had great fun taking photos – aiming for angry customer receives suit instead of seat – with me looking scared/guilty for my mistake…

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It turned out to be very hard keeping a straight face!
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Even my ‘scared’ face looked like I had enjoyed being naughty…

Eventually we got the shot, and the final advert turned out marvellously!

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Starfish Interiors advert in the Bus and Coach Association ‘Circular’ magazine, April 2016 edition.

Starfish Interiors is a brilliant place to work (if you couldnt tell already!) specialising in motor-home and bus interiors, have look at their website here.

I am going to miss this place!!

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