Wow, Norma. Wow.

You guys know I love it when fashion and patchwork meet up.

I was just in Iowa and Mom told me about a huge, massive fracas back in the ’80s with Ralph Lauren. Apparently, the company bought up a huge number of old, used quilts and cut them all up to use in their clothes. Quilters were really, really mad. They protested, they picketed. It was crazy! Look for a story in Quilty one day; it’s just way too juicy to pass up, history/controversy-wise.

The intersection of fashion and quilting was already on my mind for two reasons:

1) I found some of Mom’s handmade, hand-quilted vests from her and Liz’s very first book on quilted vests. Yes! The FIRST BOOK. I asked Mom if I could have a couple of them and she was like, “Uh… Sure? You want to wear them?” And I said, “Heck yes! They’re FABULOUS!” And they are, people. They so are. I’ll post a picture on Facebook, promise.

2) Norma Kamali. Speaking of the 1980s, Kamali was big back then and is enjoying a surge of popularity today. And she’s introduced this coat for Fall 2013:

Norma Kamali’s quilted coat for Fall 2013.
The view from the back, Ms. Kamali’s Fall 2013 quilted coat.

Thoughts? Deep love? Total ambivalence? Disgust?

Me, I love it. I mean, it’s nuts. It’s a quilt! But it’s daring. And it’s risky. And I don’t ever penalize for taking a real risk. If it were easy, more people would do it. Taking a risk takes guts.

I hope you’re taking risks in your quiltmaking. Really. It could be anything from trying a new technique to doing your own quilting to simply making your first quilt ever.

And, uh, Ms. Kamali? I am an email away if you’d like someone to walk the streets of Chicago in your quilted creation. It’ll be like a sandwich board for your coat and my favorite American art form. We both win!

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Mary Fons

About Mary Fons

Mary Fons hails from a prominent quilt mafia family. A professional writer and performer, Mary co-hosted the nationally-airing PBS program "Fons & Porter's Love of Quilting" along with her mom, famed quilter and educator Marianne Fons. In 2010, Mary began hosting Quilty, an online show offered weekly on In 2012, Mary became editor of Quilty magazine. She holds a Theater Arts BA from the University of Iowa.

19 thoughts on “Wow, Norma. Wow.

  1. This is fun! I am interested to read about more about the Ralph Lauren controversy. That coat is not exactly my style but it’s fun and anything to promote quilting is great!

  2. The Kamali coat looks like a project for precuts, or a way to use some larger pieces of fabrics you don’t love so much, if not on the outside, in the backing/lining.

    Quilted clothing or clothing made from quilts is a trend that cycles. I have the Quilting Vests book from your mom and Liz, a vest I made from the book, and a jacket the vests inspired.

    You may not be aware of quilty & quilted clothing the 1993 Jacket Jazz book(s) and the detailed and embellished jackets and vests of the 1990s. I particularly remember log cabin vests with guild and convention pins displayed in the center squares of the blocks. This is also around the same time of the Junk Jeans projects, and when computerized embroidery for home sewers came out, spurring more sewing and quilting projects.

    When the controversy over the Smithsonian licensing the designs of their quilts for reproduction overseas, c. 1992, erupted, a friend used some of those quilts to sew and craft jackets, vests, bags, etc.

    And then there are the historic, whole-cloth quilted petticoats and other clothing pieces from the 17th century and earlier.

    I’m glad you found your mom’s vests, and reminded me to think about some of those earlier quilted garments.

  3. Oh Mary you are such fun! I love those memories of the Ralph Lauren quilting controversay. Let’s make some fun quilted clothing. How about a show on quilted clothing brought up to 2013?

  4. I love patchwork and the idea of making a coat out of a quilt. It is like recycling 2X’s. Originally quilts were made out of old clothing. I like amy butlers free pattern “Patchy jeans” I found on her website I think. My husband even likes me to repair his jeans but the patches are on the inside and stitched on the outside.

  5. Argggg. Been there, done that, back in the 70’s & 80’s. Not interested. But on the other hand, I can see the appeal for your generation, Mary.

  6. I’m not sure if I would wear it in public…but I have thought a lot about making a quilt version of a snuggie I hate the ugly fleece but love a beautiful quilt and I’m ALWAYS wrapped up in one even while quilting 🙂

  7. Reminds me of the coat the small brother had in that Christmas movie – so much padding he couldn’t move the arms. Looks interesting but just not functional.

  8. Years ago I made a quilted jacket and wore it to work and my boss said, “Have trouble getting out of bed this morning?” I never wore it again.

  9. Long ago I made a coat out of a twin bed size blanket. It was nice and warm and different. but later on I gave it away. I love that quilt coat better!!!!

  10. Love the coat….but for me, I would take a pair of Levi’s 501 with a handmade Dear Jane block on the backpocket…..WINNER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    We all know, Levi’s 501 hide our chocolate passion and can show off our BLOCKS AND CURVES!

    The Chocolate Lady, drippin with thoughts

  11. I don’t like jackets or coats that look like you are wearing a quilt. However, using fabrics with color and overall prints can be used to, effectively, create a new composition that flows over the jacket or coat. I have done this on a jacket and it is quite elegant.

  12. There’s a Ralph Lauren vest and skirt set on Etsy now. The direct link is long, but you can search Etsy seller pattysoblessed for Ralph Lauren and find it. There’s also a skirt made from an antique 9-patch quilt.

  13. Wow! Love the idea of the coat, but couldn’t wear it if my life depended on it! You sure could pull it off,Mary. I remember a patchwork jeans long skirt I had in the 70’s. Boy, that skirt and I had some “groovy” times!

  14. This coat reminded me also that I didn’t like the fleece fabric “Snuggie”. I have put mine away in storage for use in something quilted. I’m thinking placements or table runners. I, too, would much prefer to snuggle up in this quilt coat.