In Search Of … The Perfect San Francisco Coat

I’ve been working in the actual city of San Francisco for about a month and I’ve realized that I need a “San Francisco coat”.

What’s a “San Francisco coat”? It’s a coat that is:

    • lightweight but wind-resistant
    • water-resistant but not waterproof (waterproof coats are usually too warm, and it doesn’t really rain that much in SF)
    • full enough to go over full skirts
    • movement-friendly (sufficient shoulder ease)
    • HAS POCKETS (of course)
    • long enough to be another barrier between you and the seats on public transit (just in case)

So here’s the current candidate (found on Etsy from seller mbchills):


It’s possible to be a “San Francisco coat” without the buttons and collar, but I prefer buttons to zips in coats (zips are too binary; a coat is either zipped or it’s not unless you do one of those fancy zips that open from both the top and the bottom and even then that little section of the zipper gets too much stress and breaks).

I’m thinking of making this coat—the shorter length—in a lightweight gray denim, if I can find such a thing. (Sometimes I imagine fabrics that, while technically possible, do not actually exist.) I’m a little daunted by those welt pockets, but, hey, I read somewhere on Pinterest that what doesn’t kill me will make me stronger.

I have zero plans right now to line this darn thing, but we’ll see what happens when I actually start making it. I also have zero plans to do all that top-stitching, but I see some nice opportunities for piping. I’m pretty sure I’ll also shorten the sleeves a little; not all the way to three-quarters, but maybe to a length that is just shy of my watch.

I’ve never actually made a coat before — I’ve cut out TWO coats, neither of which ever made it to the “put it through the sewing machine” stage.

It was pretty warm for SF last week—cardigan weather, really—but you never know when you’re going to get another week of gray, 50, and windy, so I’m hoping to start this sooner, rather than later. Wish me luck!

19 thoughts on “In Search Of … The Perfect San Francisco Coat

  1. I’ve seen black denim that looks gray on Purl Soho’s site, so I’m sure actual gray denim must exist. This would also look nice in a medium weight twill.


  2. I’m pretty sure gray denim should exist…
    I like the coat and it seems to meet the criteria but I wouldn’t recommend the combination of welt pockets and no lining. That way, you would have the pocket bags flopping around on the insider of your coat


    • Oh, good point. I was planning on making the pocket linings in some leftover Liberty print, so I don’t care if they show, but I’d probably have to at least tack them down …


  3. Betsey Johnson uses this sharkskin on her bags (and I am NOT advertising her) and I have other jackets in the past make ‘that sound’ when you rub your finger nails across it…like a durable taffeta.
    Good luck with the jacket! Please post more.. I miss your pattern stories and yes I have the book!


  4. I worked in the city for many years and found that during the summer, a linen swing coat worked best. During the rest of the year, it can either be wool or water-resistant, depending on the day. One thing I always had to remind myself is to sew the coat bigger than my normal size. It has to go over things, after all.


  5. LOVE this pattern, especially the short coat. I would love it in cream (though I’d get it filthy) or red, with a fun print lining.


  6. Laughing….I made a long jacket/short coat (that blouse pattern with the raglan sleeves and stand up ruffle like neck….not home to check) for a trip to SF last July/August and debated not lining but in the end did. It was a wonderful addition and I wore it under a “real coat” all winter here where we have actual weather. Nice to realize that it is a “SF Coat”. Your’s sounds great, but I would line for non-wrinkle, extra warmth, etc…..



  7. I had this very coat when I was about 17. It was in a black and white houndstooth woollen fabric and made by my aunt who was a fabulous dressmaker. Seeing the pattern brings back all kinds of memories – mostly good! I hope you love your coat as much as I did mine.


  8. Hi! If you feel like brick and mortar shopping check out fabric discount outlet on mission by 17th right next to thrift town. It has an amazing, to me, selection of fabrics and may have a gray denim for you. My other favorite is britex, though i think you know that store. love the style of the pattern!


  9. This coat is super cute but just keep in mind that you’ve only been living here in years of RECORD DROUGHT. This year we’re going to have a more rainy winter, and actually it is normal for SF to get several months of heavy rainfall. I think you might end up wanting a waterproof coat too.


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