“Remember…” a 1960’s Button-Back Blouse

Here is my lovely but late post of the garment I made for the 1960’s Challenge (week of November 25th). I actually made this on time for the challenge, but, sometimes life gets in the way of sewing and I couldn’t find time to muster my writing skills and add my post. Better late than never, I suppose!

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I really enjoy wearing this blouse much more than I originally expected. I can always tell by the fact it has frequent trips through the wash machine.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC: 100% polyester silky print in a psychedelic mix of mostly black and magenta with light blue, white, and green in between ($10 or under); small remnants of cling-free lining (to avoid using static guard at every wearing) in a pastel rose colorSimplicity 5617 cover

NOTIONS: One pack of light blue buttons (50 cents) was all I needed to buy; I already had leftover interfacing, black thread, and also leftover lavender bias tape to use.

PATTERN: Simplicity 5617, year 1964 (paid about $3 at an antique shop for this)

FIRST WORN:  I wanted to show the ladies at the fabric store from which I bought everything for my blouse (Hancock Fabrics) what I did (do you blame me?!) and do a night time photo shoot afterwards.

TIME TO COMPLETE: 8 or 9 hours; finished on November 27, 2012

I bought and then made this pattern within a window of a month or two. Usually it takes me LOTS longer to get to a specific pattern, as I have plenty of patterns, many matched with fabric, and ready to be sewn together. There were four reasons for my promptness: 1) it would be my first true blouse with a collar and buttonholes and the whole bit; 2) it looked super easy with only 3 pieces for the blouse; 3) my mom said she remembered having a blouse with a backwards collar like this when she was my age; and 4) it was perfect for the Challenge! Actually, I had a hard time sticking to just this pattern, since just the week before I had the opportunity to buy 35 patterns, dating from 1955 to 1970, all for a few dollars! Now I can’t wait to make more 60’s styles from my collection.

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Sewing this pattern together was so easy I almost didn’t need the directions. I had read through the part about the back button placket several times, but it still was unclear and rather confusing…at least for me, so rather ignored it and went rogue. My husband has a self-placket shirt (the kind without a separate piece to be sewn where the buttonholes go), and it was easier for me to look at his shirt and just make my back placket exactly similar.

The long, bias bust darts were easier than expected. Even the collar points and collar interfacing came out better than I hoped. It was quite hard to sew the collar to the blouse – the polyester was not ‘stretching’ well and I really had to pull and clip it to fit nicely. Another favorite feature of this blouse is the sleeves. They are loose kimono style and very comfortable for my larger upper arms with the lack of conventional shoulder seams. The bias tape sewn along the sleeve hem (then turned under as per instructions) makes a stiff, round look which compliments the design. It’s a shame you can’t tell any of these details by the envelope picture. The drawings show the jacket on the model, except for an almost worthless tiny right corner shot of the blouse worn on its own.

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Making the buttonholes down the blouse back required a sort of “field trip” to my parents’ house. I needed to use my mom’s Bernina sewing machine because at this time I do not have the ability to do them on the machines I currently have. She has the fancy Swiss-made machine with everything on it and my old Singer only does straight stitch and zig-zag. I think this might have been my first buttonholes made, at least since many years, and…WOW…it was fun! The critic in me wants to say I could’ve somehow done better (such as sewing in cord or better interfacing), but the buttonholes seem strong enough, so, I’m really proud at my new accomplishment.  The buttons aren’t even that hard to close on myself by reaching behind.

When I finished the blouse, I realized the bust was huge…and I mean really big, so that I wondered if it was the wrong size. As a fix, I promptly sewed up the sides a bit, and re-sewed the darts into generous concave darts so as to grab in more from the front.  Two long, back bodice princess darts were also added later.  However, it was still big. The front, under the collar also looked strangely plain and lacking something to me. Bingo! I had a light bulb come on! I thought of a favorite turtleneck on mine, one that is a “ready-to-wear” but it has some lovely gathers, only a few inches long, centered under the front turtleneck. I made only 2 or so inches of horizontal gathers about an inch or so down from the collar, then tacked it in place with bias tape behind (inside) to keep it from coming undone. Doing my gathered neckline fix did wonders for the blouse. The gathers hide the long darts in front, pull in the excess fabric right where it was too big, and totally liven up the look, making it more modern with more interest.

DSC_0472a-comp,wMy post’s title is a reference to one my absolute favorite songs of the 60s decade, “Remember…Walkin’ in the Sand” by the Shangri-Las, released in 1964 on of the top 5 hits for that here (listen to it here). I grew up with this song, hearing my mom sing to it and play her vinyl record of it since I was little. We often had fun with the “Remember…” chorus by adding our own phrases to suit any occasion. Seeing the pictures of my photo shoot outfit does remind me of the Shangri-Las with their “tough girl” reputation and their preference to wear leather pants and vests for performances.

When I found out how popular they were in ’64, I enjoyed reading up on the Shangri-Las. The 2 twins and 2 sisters group had no major moral shocks to relate – just a career with the best music of their era. There is a rather funny story of how they got in trouble with the FBI for ‘transporting guns across states’-supposedly for self-protection while on their tours. They were, after all, only minors of 15, 16, and 17 when their popularity started…and they had problems with a crazy devotee crawling in their hotel window. The two twins died too young, but Mary Weiss (the blond) and her sister have moved on to other successful careers. I would have never imagined Mary doing what she is currently doing – working as a New York architect and self-business owner!

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My leather skirt (no, I didn’t make it) is my favorite match with my blouse.  It is actually a Tommy Hilfiger brand skirt bought at a steal of a price at a thrift shop.  This is something I can’t see myself making, at least this de-luxe with a zippered pocket, lining, and all, and I couldn’t afford it new.  I love the dusty dark blue tone of it…so unique.  However, when I don’t want to raise any eyebrows, a “ready-to-wear” black corduroy skirt with my high heeled boots matched fine, as well.

DSC_0479a-comp,wNight time was a challenging way to take pictures, but fun and completely my idea! This way I can also test out how warm this blouse really is…and it is a good wind chill buster. The non-breathable polyester keeps out the wind (as does the leather skirt, especially) and the high neck is cozy without being suffocatingly confining.  Our first night shots were taken at the local bus terminal, to take advantage of any extra light.

I have just under a yard of my blouse’s fabric leftover still.  I am thinking of making a modern bias cut mini skirt from it, something small and hot.  I also think I have enough fabric to make the hem reach my knees.  This skirt project is going in my “future sewing” pile for now.

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