Rectangle Gems: The Bog Coat

I think the Bog Coat is a fascinating garment and important to include in the Rectangular Gems.  Although it starts as a single rectangle, clever cutting, sewing, and simple binding of cut edges, turn it into a garment still beautiful and fashionable today even though examples of it have been found in Egyptian temples and burial grounds of the ages.  My first experience with this coat was a Balanciaga version.  Balanciaga made several wonderful versions in which by simple tucks, folds and a few snips, he turned the simple rectangle into a fabulous garment.  Sewing Update published one version several years ago :

Thanks to Ann Rowley for this picture


and as of this writing reprints are still avialable by requesting a copy from

Sewing Update Oct/Nov 1994

Article: “One Coat, One Seam”

Author: Chris Hansen

Send $4 check or money order made out to

Primedia, Inc.

Mail the request and the money to

Devin Gentry

Primedia, Inc.

741 Corporate Circle

Ste. A

Golden, CO 80401 ”

(Thanks to Betty F for this information)


However you can find simpler versions of the same idea.  My favorite and the one I used when constructing the example above is from Shirley Adams  Sewing Connection . Shirley’s directions are for a size 4-6 child but as you can see I easily upgraded that to fit a 150 pound size 14, middle aged woman.  Also of interest is a version at Marcus Fabrics In particular, the Marcus version allows for the construction of the rectangle by sewing multiple fabrics together and then proceeding with the simple sewing of the coat – that means no cutting into the rectangle.


I started by measuring my wing span.  That is by measuring from my wrist across my back to my other wrist.  Actually DH kindly helped out with this.  We also did a measure from elbow to elbow.  Both of which I have recorded.  If you know your hip measurement, you could simply add 4 inches to that.  But I wanted to be sure that my coat reached my wrists.  Which funnily enough it did not.  I believe that is due to the beautiful fabric and the lining.  Choosing the fabric is the hardest part of this.  Your piece must be long enough to equal the width chosen above and a minimum of 42″ wide.  A 36″ wide fabric will be fine for a child, but an adult will find themselves with a long sleeved bolero jacket.  I suppose that’s fine if it’s what you really want.  My choice:


And as usual my photography never does the subject justice.  But my choice was a drapery remnant that looks like a very loosely woven hand loom.  Contructed of thick to thin slubbed, lusterous fibers with a cotton light string type warp.  It actually shimmers from the light, pearlescent tans, peaches and whites.  It is so lovely in person.  BTW it has a beefy hand but is still very drapey and frays when you breathe.


I had hoped to show a picture of marking the fabric.  However my photograph skill failed me.  So let me say that I marked a rectangle on the fabric 50″ wide and 48″ long.  18″ down from the top mark, I marked a 12.5 inch line horizontally to the top; and on both sides.  These are the sleeves.  To better understand take at look at Shirley’s diagram:

She used 12.5 inches for a child; maybe I should have made that longer for an adult and I would have had the longer sleeves I desired.   At any rate, once the these marks were made I cut out the basic rectangle and slit the underarms.


To mark the neckline, I folded my fabric in half, where the neck would be going and sorted through my rullers until I found a very old Fashion Ruller.  Placing this ruller on the fold, I then marked the neck:



I cut the neck out while the fabric was still folded. Because this fabric ravels when I breathe, I carefully folded it together and placed it aside while I cut my cuffs, front band and interfacing.



I spent a few minutes at the press, fusing my interfacings to these bands, all simple rectangles.  I cut 2 cuffs  3 by 18 and two front bands 4 by 42.  May I say, I bought the press specifially for this use, and it has delighted me ever since.  It does a beautiful job of fusing in far less time than my beloved Rowenta Steam Generator.  If anyone wants a recommendation, I’d say if you have the room, don’t hesitate. Buy the biggest pressing area you can find.



I stitched my cuffs to the sleeve ends at this point.  Only one long edge and flat, not in the round. 


With a good burst of steam first on the seam as sewn; then folded out and the cuff looks good.


At this point I was ready to sew, except I decided this fabric was worthy of a lining.  Some fabrics just impress me that way.  I could tell this fabric had an elegrance and deserved to have that respected.  Fortunately it only took a few seconds in my stash to find a suitable lining.


This is not the typical acetate you usually purchase.  I had only a small amount and was actually thinking of a light weight blouse.  It is a fine weight, silk twill in a light buttery color.  Once again, my photography sucks (no a better camera will not help me, I just bought this one in December).  The fabric is far more beautiful in person, has a similar drape to the fabric already cut and feels wonderful on the skin.   Now for a pattern to cut the lining?  Simple just unfold the garment fabric – carefully don’t breathe- and place on top of the lining. Cut the lining with minimal pull


I will share with you a little trick I’ve learned, you may already know it.  But the fabric at 48″ wide was far to wide to fit on my cutting table which is 36″ wide.  What to do?  I carefully laid out the lining and fabric to drape over one edge.  When I had cut as much as possible, I roll the fabric up towards the other end, gently pulling the overhang onto the cutting table.   Once all on the table, I quickly and lightly smoothed both fabrics back into place and finished my cutting.


Barely an hour after I had first looked at my fabrics, I was ready to sew my coat. However this is where it gets confusing for most of us. How and where to stitch.  I am treating the lining as an underlining.  But you could sew these seperately and then attach as a usual lining.  The important point here is how to proceed.  Fold the cuff short edges together and pin



Pin the fabrics evenly from the cuff all the way down to the point of the slit.  Pick up the point on the side of the slit (opposite the cuff) and fold it towards the neckline corner


For some reason I always end up with more fabric on the slit side than the neck side.  This can be handled several ways.  Some fabrics ease beautifully.  Just stretch a little while you are stitching.  Others need a little prepinning to stretch.  Shirley Adams has you stitch the fabric evenly and then fold back the front which is too long.  Personally, I like that little extra ease for wiggle room.  So I either ease or create a tuck about an inch in from the under arm on the front side


Pin both sides and take this to the sewing machine.  BTW, I use a serger.  With most fabrics, and this was certainly true here, it is possible to seam and overcast in one pass using the serger.  However you do it, stitch both seams now. Carefully examine both sides of your seams.  I’ve found it very easy for the fabric to become displaced at the underarm, no matter how careful I am.  This garment was not quite to my liking, so I also stitched about 3″ either side of the underarms on my sewing machine.  Once you are satisfied. take the garment to the ironing board and steam the heck out of it, first on the seam as sewn, then flat on the inside and outside.  If necessary really get your fingers in there and wiggle the seam and the drape of the fabric to the way you’re happy.


I apply the front band at this point.  Fairly easy, stitch the 2 bands  together making a center back seam.  Press.  Fold the two, now very long sides together making a 2 ” by 84″ band.  Of course this is way too much.  But I’d rather have too much than not enough.  Center the center back of the band with the center back of the garment, pin in place.  Pin all the way down. On this garment I planned to use the slevedge as my hem.  It had such a lovely fringe that I wanted to make use of it.  Normally I would stitch from the center back all the way down then turn up a hem. This time  I sew first from the center back to about 3″ from the  hem then carefully trimed the band about 1/2 longer than where the fringe started.  I folded in that half inch and stitched across the band so that I would have a clean finish. Then stitched the last 3″ on each side of the band.  I added shoulder pands on the inside.  Just because really good garments should have a shoulder pad and besides my particular physic looks a whole lot better when my shoulders are padded a little.


Technically, the garment is finished as planned.  I planned a bog coat with cuffs,  shoulder pads,  front band and fringe hem. I modified my plan to add the lining.   Now that I’m looking at it, I realize this garment would be an acceptable subsitute for the vests I usually wear inside.  If I decide to use it in that fashion I will want pockets.  Although I like it without closure, I’m thinking a decorative closer might add interest to the final garment. Not sure just yet if I will make these changes.  I do know, that this garment is very neutral and will have welcome place in my wardrobe.


And I hope, if you’ve gotten to this point, you’ve seen how easy the bog coat is to make and you’ll want one of your own.  I gave you 3 sources, but don’t stop there.  Google “bog coat”.  There’s lots of interesting links.