“It’s De-Lovely” – My 1936 Puff Sleeve Polka Dot Blouse

The year 1936 is very interesting to me.  Americans of that year seemed to have had a new-found, hopeful, upbeat outlook due in large part to the Presidency of Roosevelt and the second round of the New Deal programs  (enacted 1935 to 1938).  The Civil Works Administration was providing people with some money, Prohibition was now a thing of the past, and a brand new era of swing music was cranking out a string of hits.

Among this meditation of mine on historical happenings, I have made a blouse that brings me back to those middle 30’s.  My blouse turned out so much better than I hoped, I am truly very happy when I wear it!  The 40’s style is hinted at in my blouse while still staying true to the 30’s, especially by the fact of the bodice pieces being cut on the bias for a complimentary fit.  Comfort is not neglected either…the grading I did between the sizes was tricky (read about it down below) but gave me a great custom fit feel.

100_1713    Like a thrifty housewife of any era, my inspiration for this blouse came from sighting a pattern that I absolutely loved, but wasn’t willing to spend the money, and made do just as well -if not better- with what was on hand.  Now, with that proud explanation I will give you…


FABRIC:  a polyester silky print with a soft matte finish and peachskin feel, bought at Hancock Fabrics just this spring for only a few dollars a yard;  lined in ivory poly cling-free lining from my stash downstairsMcCall 9170

NOTIONS:  none needed;  I had thread, interfacing, satin covered buttons, and hem tape (only a few inches more than what was necessary) all on hand

PATTERN:  Simplicity 2614, year 2009, for the whole top;  my 1937 original, McCall 9170 (used before here), for the sleeves and ties;  Eva Dress pattern 7482 (click here for link) for my inspiration pattern


TIME TO COMPLETE:  finished on July 22, 2013, after about 8 hours of time to complete this blouse

THE INSIDES: The hem of the sleeves and the bottom are covered in beige hem tape.  Besides those places, all other seams (even the shoulders) are finished in French seams.  I did a good deal of  hand stitching to tack the facing down to the lining and also along the neckline edge – see picture below.  All that hand stitching makes for an invisible and special non-conventional look…time consuming but totally worth it!100_1754

I must say I really LOVE the Simplicity 2614.  There are many things that are great about it, from the fit to the styling.  There isn’t a zipper or any closure needed here, as the back and bottom front stretch (and drape along the torso) beautifully, owing to being cut on the bias.  I loved the fact how Simplicity 2614 had custom cup sizes A,B,C, and D for you to get the best fit possible.  Beyond fit, this pattern has a sophistication that lets your choice of fabric shine while keeping a feminine style with vintage yet modern flair.  Bonus time!  Minimal seams make this blouse a cinch to whip up – even with my vintage additions.

I achieved a great fit with, as I mentioned earlier  above, some unusual grading.  Here I would like to tip my hat and extend a thanks to Kathrin at her blog, “Sew long, cowgirl” (click here for the link) where she makes 3 different versions of Simplicity 2614 and did an excellent review that I found VERY helpful.

100_1711     Being a small person who is more comfortable with room across the back of my shoulders like Kathrin, I cut the back pattern piece a size up from the size which I cut for the front.  This is how she made this pattern.  Since I couldn’t decide which size to go with I cut in between sizes as well.  So, to fully explain, the bust piece I cut as a 8/10, the bottom front I graded to a 10/12, and the back piece was cut as a 12/14.  Technically I think I hung closer to a size 8 for the front shoulders and neckline seams, because the size 8 facings for the neck fit fine.  I surprised myself how all the pieces fit so well together after being cut in all those different sizes.

100_1755      Each and every piece was cut separately because I wanted a perfect match of the polka-dots, so I laid out my fabric (and pattern) in a single layer.  It didn’t seem that important to worry about matching the side seams as much as the sleeves and bust pieces.  The front center seam matched pretty well in between my non-working buttons.

I wasn’t sure if the poufy sleeves were going to pouf on their own or if I was going to stuff them just to get the right look.  As it turns out,  the bottom of the sleeves are just snug enough, while there’s so much gathering at the top of the shoulders that together I get the same look as on the front of the envelope.  What a happy surprise I had when all the markings and darts matched up perfectly together, like the modern pattern and the one from over 70 years ago were made for one another.

100_1714     My “ties” are simply 2 pieces cut out using the belt pattern from the same vintage McCall’s I used for the sleeves.  I sewed the ties onto the side seams at a slight angle downwards, just where the bust/lower bodice come together, so that they slope to where I want them to be tied – at the waist.

It’s so fun to achieve the vintage look I was hoping for, and more so to have it work for me well enough to love it on myself, too.  I can understand and appreciate people of a past era better when I can dress in their clothes, read about what they lived through, and listen to their music.

100_1709     Speaking of music, it’s amazing how well the music of the 30’s speaks so loudly about what the attitude and outlook was for each year.  Who would’ve thought the song “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”, from 1931, would by 1936 eventually give way to songs with the titles of “I’m Shootin’ High”, or even “With Plenty of Money and You” (Dick Powell and Victor Young’s Orchestra).  I can see myself putting on this outfit in 1936 and wanting to go out, spend a little money and have a good time, maybe even do some dancing.

Even though “Marie” by Tommy Dorsey is hands down my favorite song of the year 1936, I had to name my post after Cole Porter’s classic “It’s De-Lovely” – it was Porter’s year of a line of hit songs.  Please take a gander and click on these links to a few more of my favorite songs from 1936: “Goody Goody” , “Stompin’ at the Savoy” ,  and finally “I’m an Old Cowhand”  by Johnny Mercer, from the movie Rhythm on the Range.

Our pictures were taken at an amazing 1930 era building, only a stone’s throw from the house.  The building is at a busy corner, in a very distinctive Deco style, and is well maintained as well, which is good for the neighborhood and for us, too!  The side entrance has a decorative lintel above that perfectly frames and appropriately dates my 1936 outfit.

100_1708     I even wore my antique jewelry to further complete the vintag100_1719e feel.

My necklace is ‘1928’ modern vintage brand, but it matches perfectly with my 1930’s old original screw-back earrings.  The earrings were a lucky antique store find (on me at left).

Be it antique earrings or clothing fashions, the attention to detail and timeless styling of things from the 30’s never cease to amaze me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s