Jun 28 2010

A Performance Transformer Jacket Transformed

The Performance Transformer jacket is a lightweight wind shell. It’s got a lot going for it: It’s reasonably priced (when bought on sale) and the hi-viz color lives up to its name on dim days. Moreover, the polyester fabric not only blunts the edge of cutting winds, it sheds light drizzle, too. Best of all, the jacket can morph into a vest by unzipping the sleeves. So far, so good. I planned to wear it when the weather was too warm for my heavy-duty foul weather Canari Barrier Commuter jacket, but still too chilly for just a long-sleeved jersey. And I looked forward to being able to zip off the sleeves when I warmed up.

But there were two problems to overcome first: (1) The sleeve zippers jam easily, and (2) the Transformer is cut for a man’s body. I’ve come to terms with the zippers. (I no longer try to unzip on the move.) The tapered fit defied easy accommodation, however. Women’s bodies are hourglasses, not inverted pyramids, and mine is no exception. When I pulled my Transformer down over my hips I felt as if I was riding in a badly fitted straitjacket. Which, in a way, I was.

Performance Transformer Jacket

I evaluated the Transformer in a full review a little over a year ago, concluding that it didn’t live up to its promise. But I’m loathe to give up on anything. Especially when I can’t find a suitable substitute at price I’m willing to pay. Convertible jackets are rare beasts. So instead of leaving my Transformer to gather dust in the closet, I decided to tackle the fit problem head on.

This meant sewing. Now I’m not one of nature’s eager seamstresses, but my mother was a genius with a sewing machine, making many of her own and her kids’ clothes from scratch, as well as remodeling ready-made garments to fit her (and us) better. I figured I’d see if I could live up to her example. After all, what did I have to lose? As things now stood, I had a jacket which was so uncomfortable that I rarely if ever wore it. If my alterations failed, I’d be no worse off. But if they succeeded, I’d be ahead of the game. So I grabbed a sheet of paper and sketched out a plan…

Sketchy Business

My Transformer had black triangular gussets separating the hi-viz front and back panels. I began by slitting these gussets from the hem to a point just below the arm hole and opening them up by some four inches on each side. Next, I split the seams of a hi-viz nylon stuff sack I found on the verge of the highway. This gave me a large rectangle with a preformed drawcord hem, from which it was child’s play to cut two additional triangles of fabric. (I used a laundry maker to trace the outlines before cutting.) Then I heat-sealed all the cut edges—and almost set fire to the jacket. Polyester is tricky stuff!

Turning the jacket over so that the inside was facing up on my work table, I matched the cut edges of one green nylon insert with the cut edges of the corresponding black gusset, being careful to align the tunnel hems. Then I pinned the insert to the jacket to hold everything together and stitched it in place, doubling the lines of stitching before going on to tackle the second gusset. In just a few short minutes it was time to try my newly tailored jacket on for size. And the result? Perfect. No more straitjacket! It was just loose enough to accommodate a long-sleeved jersey under a light fleece top. Here’s what one side of finished garment looks like:


You can see the black lines left by my laundry marker. I should have placed them on the inside where they wouldn’t be seen, but I can live with it. The green color also clashes with the hi-viz yellow, but I can live with that, too. Someone with more skill and patience than I would have done a far neater job, I’m sure, but I’m pleased with my newly transformed Transformer. It’s now the versatile garment I wanted when I bought it.

Oh, yes. If you’re from Performance Bike’s product development team, please get in touch. We need to talk about the differences between hourglasses and pyramids.

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