Refashioning My Own 60’s Style Babydoll Blouse

When the items I sew for myself no longer fit or work for me in some way, they are not given up on but treated just the same as – if not better – anything else in my wardrobe.  They either get refitted, resized, or mended.  If any of those three actions are not possible for one reason or another, they get refashioned.  This has especially been an important task for me to tackle since 2020.  Ever since that year, the reasons and occasions for which I leave the house has decreased, so I sensibly expend my sewing efforts on the wardrobe I do have versus only adding more new (me-made) pieces.  Just recently I refashioned a project I made almost a decade ago, and this has now turned out to be a much more appealing creation for me than when I completed its first iteration! 

I sewed up the original blouse in 2013, and it was a success, but never as interesting to begin with as I have turned it into today.  As I said in that original post, I struggle to like myself in peter pan collars, and overly sweet styles.  I liked it, to be sure, but never felt ecstatic over how it turned out enough to be ranked as a ‘favorite’.  I wore the blouse for only a few years after it was made since it quickly became too snug to be comfortable.  To be fair, I originally cut it out in a smaller size – I was severely short on fabric.  Long story short, I haven’t worn this for the last 8-something years and now that problem has been amended in the most fantastic way I could have ever hoped for! 

This is the old original top, for comparison.

Measuring the old top as compared to my current body, I realized I needed to add in about 3 inches widthwise to have this fit me comfortably again.  My main focus was on adjusting for my shoulders, and I (correctly) figured that a good fit for the bust of the blouse (which had been snug, too) would then follow, as well.  Aiming for about 3 inches was ideal because I had no scraps of any worth to use and needed to cannibalize from the current blouse itself.  Cutting off that much from the hem meant that the new blouse’s length would be just below my natural waistline…perfect!  The puffed sleeves do give a bit of leeway over the shoulders so I didn’t worry about an exact re-fitting.  If I would have added in much more than 3 inches my refashion would have been too dramatic and obvious of an addition, anyways.     

Most of the original blouse was left untouched, but the little bit I did do made such a bit difference!  My first step for this refashion was to cut 4 inches horizontally off of the bottom hem (the 3 inches I needed plus enough for two ½ inch seam allowances).  The side seams were cut off to make two rectangular panels.  Then I cut vertically down the center front and the center back, separating up the collar.  One of the two panels cut from the bottom hem went right away into the center back.  With this step, I was able to get my first taste of how my refashion would fit and look and I was so excited!  I realized ahead of time that the tiny polka dot print of the back’s added panel would be running oppositely of the main body.  The print is so small, I didn’t really care nor did I have much of a choice with what to work with.  I rather like the interest it adds to have the print contrast itself ever so slightly.  According to my idea, the front was going to have most of the attention so I like how the back is low-key appealing, too.

The front panel required a bit more effort than the back, since I had a grand idea for ramping up the femininity and eclectic detailing to this new version of my old blouse.  Luckily, I am quite organized when it comes to my sewing notions (not to brag, but I am proud of this fact).  Thus, I was happily able to find the little bit of aqua bias tape leftover from what I used to make the elastic casing on my blouse’s puff sleeved hems.  The bias tape was extra wide and double fold, so I found that opening it up fully made it just about 3 inches wide…I suppose you can guess how thrilled I was to discover this!  The solid toned bias tape, which was opened up and ironed out as if it was a cut of fabric, was layered over the remaining blouse fabric panel.  Doubling up here both used up all of my fabric cut off from the hem and kept the front from being see-through (the bias tape was tissue thin), besides lending some wonderful continuity to the overall look of the blouse. 

With the idea that “more is more”, I also sandwiched some vintage cotton lace into the seam when stitching on the front panel.  The lace is a slight ivory tone to complement the yellows and greys in the collar.  Then, I found a half a dozen vintage ivory pearled ball buttons from my paternal grandmother’s notions stash.  The buttons really filled in the big empty front panel and matched with the lace bordering the front.  It seemed to be a popular design element to have a decorative-only contrast chest panel to blouses and dresses of the 1960s.  I suppose I was kind of vaguely inspired by seeing such patterns in my own stash (such as Simplicity #6801) or through perusing online (see Simplicity 7736).  Honestly, though, my refashion was merely the best I could do with what I had available…which wasn’t much to begin with!  I wanted to add pintucks or some other sort of extra details to the front panel but I felt lucky to get by the way it was.  My blouse is immensely more appealing to me than how it first was, so good enough is as good as done for this refashion project.  

I wanted to keep the popover simplicity of getting dressed in this blouse, for all its extra elements it now had.  However, it turned so very boxy in shape with the new panels added!  I had to sew in four deep, curved, vertical darts to the bust of the front and shoulder line of the back for shaping the blouse.  I made sure to not take in enough to necessitate a side zipper.  I was trying to ride a fine line of having it fitted yet still staying as a popover-the-head top.  I never mind installing zippers (I half enjoy the process, really) yet if I can avoid doing so, I will in no way turn down the opportunity.

Not only is my refashion an improvement on the overall blouse, but I am thrilled over the way I love the collar so much better by it having a wide open neck.  Most babydoll style blouses (and dresses) have a peter pan collar that closely hugs the neckline.  It takes a very specific interpretation (such as the 1930s; see my “Snow White” dress) in a select few colors (see this 40’s “Candy Stripe” blouse I made) for me to like what a peter pan collar does for my face.   I can afford to be picky when I sew my own wardrobe!  Then again, taking such an approach helps me hone my taste in fashion and cater to my personality unlike a dependency on ready-to-wear could ever offer. 

Re-working something your own hands have already made not only is sensible, eco-friendly, and responsible, but also it requires a greater amount of creativity and determination.  I will not deny, there is a dopamine rush from the amazing process of starting a sewing project from scratch and seeing it go from paper laid out on fabric to a wearable garment.  Sure, it would be much easier to merely donate and move on, but landfills do not need a single more item added to them when a few extra hours of my time can give me back a new and improved version of my own makes.  

I find a more innate sense of personal pride in my every effort to alter, tailor, or otherwise extend the life of the wardrobe I already have.  For me, doing such actions also shows me just how far I have come with my sewing skills to be able to add significance and worth to what I have made in the past.  I am constantly mending, letting seams out and taking them in, darning sweaters, dyeing, patching or doing some other sort of garment care for me and my immediate family (even for my parents, too, on occasion).  This blouse’s refashion is merely the most visually stunning recent example of all the mundane clothing care that I do behind the scenes of my blog!  I hope this post has inspired you to “give a darn and mend”!   

Tennis Top

In the quest for more sportswear that is also part of my handmade wardrobe, I have branched out to make something perfect for playing one of my favorite games – tennis!  This top had been part of a previous project back from 2016, only to be left unfinished when my ideas changed.  However, I detest sewing items lurking on the backburner and am a stickler for needing the projects I start to be fully finished.  At last I have conquered this little odd dress bodice to make it a top that does the job of a sports bra but with a fashionable, fun, me-made flair! 

This is a totally different side of me that is uniquely lacking in my normal glamour to show here on my blog.  Thus I am a bit unsure about sharing it yet too happy with what I’ve made to hold it back.  I felt it tied in nicely with my previous post of 1940s sporty, bibbed “short-alls” so I am sharing this now versus waiting until it is officially summer.  This is not a vintage piece, coming from a Burda Style pattern from 2016, but it does incorporate one of my favorite things – color blocking.  All of my favorite tones are here present – rich purple, bright pink, and a royal blue – all in a way that calls to mind a lovely stained glass window.  The black piping becomes likened to the “cames” of grooved lead which hold together the panels of color in a glass window.  I love the irony of recalling delicate stained glass for an item used for an activity that is quite the opposite – slamming of balls and full body movements.  Tennis is not listed as a high impact sport but it is the way I play it!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a shirting basics stretch cotton sateen

PATTERN:  Burda Style’s ‘A-Line Cocktail Dress’ #122, from 03/2016 (see the German Burda Style page for actual pictures of the pattern, though)

NOTIONS NEEDED:  I had to buy an extra pack of piping to finish this, as well as the back separating zipper, but other than that all I needed was lots of thread, which I always have on hand

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The original piped bodice took me about 5 hours back in 2016, but then for the recent fitting and finishing I spent another 4 hours

THE INSIDES:  left raw…the stretch in the cotton keeps the fraying of the fabric in check

TOTAL COST:  I no longer remember because the fabrics had been on hand from before 2016!

The sizing definitely ran small and quite wonky for the original Burda dress pattern that my top came from.  See a full recap on this post here. Such a sizing discrepancy luckily didn’t extend to the skirt portion of the dress, but the top half was another story.  Neither did I have any more fabric to recut anything.  All the vertical seams together with the fact I added in piping to them set up any fitting adjustments to be a major headache.  I definitely had to come back to adjust such an unfinished object when I was fully ready and equipped with a definite purpose and incentive to complete this.

It was a sewing project I truly wrestled with to just barely make it fit enough to be salvageable.  Letting out the 5/8 inch seams to 3/8 inch in some places was barely just enough to have this squeeze on my body as well as get the piping back in again.  The piping makes the color gradient panels pop with the definition but definitely restrains the stretch of the fabric in between.  It restricts the curvy seams significantly yet I loved the overall effect too much to give up on the idea.  Now that it is done, I feel that the piping makes sure the fabric doesn’t over-extend its elasticity and also helps this have such a snug fit, which I normally wouldn’t like but found a purpose for this time.   

I took advantage of the fact this top has wonderful stretch and is skin tight to wear this as my sports bra.  I have only worn loose tee shirts for tennis before and have never been happy with how I move and feel sloppily clammy while wearing them.  This top is like a second skin, and keeps my assets securely in place.  The top itself stays in place on my body, is fuss-free, and does not get in the way of my movement at all like my loose tee shirts were doing.  Plus, the sateen doesn’t show sweat, keeps me cool while wicking any moisture away, and still looks nice.  I never knew what to do with it before now since I formerly saw it only as a failure left behind from an unfinished project.  Now that this top is not only finished but also useful with a purpose, I am so taken by it.  I have something I always needed but never knew I wanted…and I made it myself, which is even better! 

In lieu of the side seam zipper I originally planned for when this top was to be part of a dress, I changed to a center back separating sports zipper.  A sports zipper is more heavy duty, with chunkier teeth, and the fact it opened up at both ends makes this top very easy to put on.  I left the zipper exposed to not only save every little bit of room I could spare but also because it visually gives a black line in the seam similar to the piping in all the other seams.  The black back zipper gave me the ideal combo of functionality and aesthetics in one easy step.

Not that I would highly recommend this pattern, but this is the perfect stash busting project.  The pattern pieces for this top could probably even fit on some cotton “fat quarters”.  When I was originally making this, I happened upon three colors of the same fabric in my stash, all in a stretch cotton shirting, in colors which complimented each other.  They just had to be made into a garment together! 

The pink is a whole 2-something bolt, still in my stash meant for a future project, while the other two colors were under ¼ yard scraps.  I just gleaned a small amount off of the total cut of pink, not enough to dent my greater plans for it.  With some recent re-organizing of my fabric bins I happened to come across this pink fabric again, and so I took the opportunity to shave off a tad more to cut bias strips to finish the armhole openings.  At the same time, I also happened to find some scraps of black stretch cotton sateen on hand, leftover from a store bought dress I had re-fashioned years back.  I then used this to finish off the neck and bottom hem edges.  I was left with the feeling my top was very barely cobbled together but also amazed that such little amounts were all I needed.  The stash busting redemption of this top has left me further satisfied with it even though the fit of the design is much lacking.

You see on my blog what kind of styles I stitch together for everything else in my life.  Now that I’ve finished making this tennis top you see what I wear for sporting exercise fun!  Have you made some athletic wear pieces for yourself?  What is your favorite sport?

Reliving the Double-Denim Trend of the Early “Aughts”

American Music Awards, 2001, Spears and Timberlake

It seems anything stereotypical of the 2000 decade isn’t something that we who lived through those times tend to look back upon with a mix of nostalgia and disgust.  There is a lot of things that I felt good wearing back then but am in no hurry for it to resurface as a trend for 2022, and I am guessing many of you, my dear readers, are in the same boat.  Yet, just as the story of Britney Spears has remained relevant in the headlines for the last 20 something years, so has the all denim look that she popularized seem to have a quiet staying power for fashion.  Britney Spears is a music star in her own right, but her iconic denim-on-denim style has had its own lasting fame just as popular as her songs. 

In recent years, the rich and famous from Meghan Markle to Dua Lipa (just last month) and more have been spotted rocking a modern spin on the “Aughts” trend.  Not that I really care what celebrities are wearing – they are often terribly out of touch with the common person on the streets. Even still, people love to emulate celebrities because, after all, that is how Britney’s double-denim trend took off in the first place!  Here in the United States, we seem to have a year-round, all-occasion, undying love for denim, so a continuation of the trend just makes sense anyway.  I just took the idea one step further and not just paired up different denim washes, but combined colors of novelty denim for a personal, self-crafted take on the trend.  

I’m rewinding back 18 years with this post, where I am still wearing the same outfit that I was wearing in 2004 – complete with the same shoes and hair clips!  The blouse is a vintage-inspired 1990s ready-to-wear favorite but the skirt is me-made from back then.  I was trying to channel my sense of style as an awkward teenager while still trying to stay in touch with trends on a very limited ‘fun money’ budget.  I don’t think I did that badly at all pairing this outfit together back then because I still love it, not just for being wearable and relatable for today.

I only recently came back to tweak the skirt with nicer finishing details and gave the blouse a slight refitting, updating both to suit my body of today.  Now, I can enjoy this color blocked denim skirt for years to come still, and thus never grow out of the one thing about Britney Spears’ influence on early “Aughts” fashion that I most loved.  I appreciate when I can still wear and respect the items that a young me crafted early on in my sewing journey!  It feels so full-circle to relive my better fashion choices which I made in my past and reclaim them as an adult.  It is all these little things from 20 or so years back which speak to who I was then and what has made me who I am today.  I may now be appeasing more of my vintage tendencies than I did in the past, but I am still finding ways to marry both old ways of dressing and modern fashion through crafting my personal style.  Not much has changed, after all, I suppose!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  dual tones of medium weight all-cotton denim lined in a cling-free polyester lining

PATTERN:  New Look #6389, year 2004, view D

NOTIONS NEEDED:  lots of thread and a zipper

TIME TO COMPLETE:  I no longer remember how long this took me to create, but I do remember it was as easy as was labelled on the envelope

THE INSIDES:  cleanly serged (overlocked)

TOTAL COST:  There is no way I remember what the cost was from 2004, but I needed two cuts of each, about 2 yards in length of the lighter color denim and about 1 yard of the darker…with really good denim as this is not being cheap!

A long length, 3 yard, all denim skirt may sound heavy and oppressive, but this is not the case once my garment is worn.  The curved, bias panels create a wonderful cut to the skirt so the grain of the denim flows (as best denim can) and wraps around me, moving with my every move.  After crafting this skirt, I believe that utilizing a bias cut in denim is the best and most comfortable way to wear several yards of the hefty material.  Furthermore, lining the denim skirt with silky polyester – and also cutting it out on the bias – keeps this whole skirt substantial while still relatively weightless and an absolute joy to wear! 

The eye appealing play on colors that the arched paneling provides visually shapes the silhouette of the skirt as well.  It is slimming, yet flared out past the hips for both ease of movement and even more interest.  How the dual tone panels hang, depending on how I move, changes the look at every viewing angle.  There is so much complexity here for what may seem a ‘simple’ skirt.  I am still very impressed that teenage me had the crazy idea for this in the first place.  I’ve always enjoyed taking calculated chances with my sewing practices.  I haven’t yet had a time where these bold chances don’t end well, but this one is an extraordinarily success, especially when I consider how far my sewing skills have come since 2004. 

That being said, I could no longer fully enjoy wearing the skirt exactly as I had made it with a sub-par elastic gathered waistline.  It was what the pattern provided for, but was a bad idea for a heavy denim skirt.  My skirt was too substantial of weight and too shifty with the bias cut for mere elastic and the gathered waist made my middle bulky whether I tuck a skirt in or out.  Last year, I had enough of it, and wanted to appreciate this skirt as it deserved.  So I revamped the waistline into something slimming, sturdy, and up to my current higher standards for my handmade wardrobe – a darted fit with a zipper closing. 

To start with, I stitched a basting line around the waist under the casing to anchor the lining and denim together.  I detest unpicking, so I then simply cut off the old elastic casing, keeping my basing line.  Next I installed a center back zipper under a slit faced with some thick cotton sateen scraps from on hand.  The obvious, significant progress just seeing the improvements to the skirt at this point already made me so excited, but it needed some tailoring still!  

With the skirt on me, I figured out where and how deep to add in darts to fit.  I did a combo of pinning and marking with my water soluble ink pen.  Then I took the skirt off and re-measured all of my markings to make them symmetric around my body, even, and perfectly measured out.  No wonky, haphazard, slapped on darts here!  I did a bunch of smaller darts to both spread out the fullness in increments as well as keep the bulk down.  Finally, I made a bias faced finish along the skirt’s top edge, turned that under, and top-stitched it down.  It’s simple, lays smoothly, and easy to undo if (at some point in the future) I ever need to tweak the darts again.  Now, my skirt is perfect!

I still get such a laugh over my choice of decorative, novelty top-stitching for the side seams down my skirt.  This is something I did when I first made the skirt in 2004, not anything newly added afterwards.  It is a trailing leaf design.  I am not sure if I love it or not, but I do not detest it.  I vaguely remember feeling that a solid, plain, straight stitch line didn’t have enough panache for such and interesting project, nor would it be enough to hold down the denim seam allowance.  I didn’t want to have to do a double line of stitching, either, and I was fed up with never using the other 49 other options available on my mother’s fancy Bernina sewing machine.  The decorative stitching did the job, and does sort of blend into the fabric from a distance.  I do respect the fact that I bothered to alternate thread colors when I top-stitched the panels.  The dark denim got thread the color of the light colored denim, and the other way around for the opposite color denim panels. 

I almost always chose sewing patterns that were labelled as “easy” when I was sewing for myself as a teenager since I never really had much free time at all.  However, it is the little, well-thought out details like customizing my thread colors which show me that I was still determined to not let my situation completely dictate my creative ideas.  I don’t remember specifically realizing such at the time, but it makes sense, knowing myself, and I am not surprised at all.  I realize this skirt was probably no longer “easy” for me to make the way I added so much to the original design by lining it, color blocking it, and using a challenging material such as denim.  Yet, by doing such a good job back then, the only thing to “fix” 20 years later today was the waistline and closure.  What I spent back then in extra time and attention was well worth it and paid off later on as I may have only hoped but never expected. 

I specifically wanted to focus on the early 2000s for yet another motive besides my pure enjoyment of refreshing a past favorite creation.  This oldie-but-goodie outfit is a mere appetizer for a bigger Y2K era project yet to come very soon – a dress suit!  I take it as an important task to find the best redeeming factor possible for the betterment of our communal attitude towards those crazy early “Aughts”!  I have realized anew that that many fashions in that decade were really not as bad as the general stereotypical styles of those times.  Just hear me out on this and go look at the projects I have already sewn of a pattern from the 2000 decade – my golden tapestry wrap dress, my velvet “tree skirt”, or my leather and chiffon tunic.  Otherwise, you can just wait for my Y2K suit to be shared!  I hope this post’s outfit is a pleasing and unexpected example of something redeeming from that time.  Furthermore, I trust my post will inspire you to think beyond those “easy” patterns to improve upon them with a good sprinkle of your own personal taste and creativity.  Don’t be afraid to refashion and improve upon your own sewing creations, just like me, so you can enjoy them as long as you want to!  

Hands for Love

There is perhaps nothing so expressive, so poignant, so telling of emotion as the human hand.  Some of the greatest, most touching pieces of art are of nothing other than hands.  Through our hands, we create a tangible version of those abstract thoughts and feelings inside.  Hands are instruments to write books or letters, perform music, form sign language, make art, and cook food to name a short list of the many varied ways possible to show the affection, communication, sensuality, and creativity we have within.  It never fails to amaze me that one of the most common, utilitarian parts of our body can speak volumes in the strongest yet most beautiful way possible without a uttering a word.  The power of a simple – even silent – “show of hands” as a public display of solidarity for change has been proved powerful and relevant with the protests of the last few years for racial equity.  All of the things I have listed that hands can do are each so closely untied to the workings of our emotive heart.   

Thus, even though I am posting this following on the heels to the holiday for romantic or filial love, I would like the feelings given by this blouse to be expressive of bigger affections.  I guess I’m wearing my “heart on my sleeve” through the interpretation of fashion by crafting a blouse which calls to mind the many symbolical meanings connected to combining both heart and hands (with roses, for good measure) in my chosen fabric print.  With a motif like I am using, my garment’s design called for a vintage reference in its style so I can go back to the era that understood how to sport an obnoxiously mysterious hand print with unabashed artistic license.

The art form of Surrealism really understood the natural connection between fashion and manual handiwork with the way it persists in having such an obsession with anything hand, glove, or finger-like.  The Surrealist movement gravitated to fashion as its most visually stunning means of expression, especially due in part to the famous and talented trio of Elsa Schiaparelli (designer), Salvador Dali (artist), and Man Ray (photographer) in the 1930s decade.  There isn’t one, clear message to anything Surrealist – the viewer can feel free to internalize within themselves the dream-like eeriness of its art for individual interpretation.  It is better to keep things open to the perspective of the viewer for profound topics in art or fashion.  For me, here though, things are a bit more precise because I have my own vision coming from the perspective of the maker and not just a spectator!  

Schiaparelli Haute Couture dress, Spring 2017

At first sight, my print immediately sent me back into my undying fascinated adoration for Schiaparelli’s creations.  Hand motifs are the trademark of her brand.  This will have been my third project directly inspired by things she made (my first being her “Metamorphosis” 1937 dress and duster coat, then my second her 1951 voluminous sleeved blouse).  Here I am using a year 2014 Burda Style pattern which has a subtle, timeless, 1930’s style with its creative paneling, fit-and-flare silhouette, strongly squared off shoulders, and clever use of godet additions.  I will explain throughout my post the rest of my specific symbolical ideas.  For now, let’s move onto construction details.  You’ll want to know how not only this was the most complex pieced blouse pattern I have worked with – ever – but also a one yard project!

My blouse is here paired with a true vintage 1930s beaded necklace, my maternal Grandmother’s old earrings, vintage 1940s original heels, and my 1930s inspired Burda Style “Marlene trousers” (posted here).  I was playing up the vintage connotation with this combo yet it looks equally on trend with a modern skinny pencil skirt and stiletto heels.  I even added a hand drawn temporary tattoo on my left hand using the Inkbox free hand ink pen.  It is a squiggled abstract rose alongside my thumb.  I’ll do anything for a thoughtfully intentional, carefully curated outfit!  I even succeeded in achieving a full wrap-around French braid crown with my hair – something I have seen on the models in some of the old high fashion photography of the 1930s. My mask is me-made of some dobby striped Indian cotton. 

Our downtown art museum was the location for our photos.  The sepia toned hand prints behind me are an exhibit called “All Hands On Deck”, a series of photos from Damon Davis printed and published as lithographs by Wildwood Press in 2015.  These images originated in the protests that arose after Michael Brown Jr. was shot and killed by a police officer in August 2014.  Davis photographed protestors’ hands held up in the “don’t shoot” gesture, now transformed into a gesture of solidarity, community, and a call for change.  These large scale photographs were originally pasted onto boarded up storefronts around town which were damaged by rioting.  The secondary background we used (seen further down in this post) is modern architectural blue Plexiglas boxes by Donald Judd, year 1969, and made for a good Surrealist inspired setting.  Nevertheless, I absolutely adore the connection created by me wearing my blouse to the exhibit of hand prints.  Symbolism like this is what I made my blouse for.  I couldn’t be happier with my new sewing creation!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  1 yard of 100% silk crepe for each the exterior print and the white lining; sheer contrast godet panels of navy polyester chiffon

PATTERN:  Burda Style pattern #111 from December 2014, the “inset blouse with godets” (also called “raglan shirt” #110 on the company’s German website)

NOTIONS NEEDED:  one invisible zipper and lots of thread

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This project was a time hog!  This took me over 20 hours to sew (not counting the time spent agonizing over the pattern and its layout on my material).  It was finished on October 22, 2021.

THE INSIDES:  My edges inside are raw but cleaned up nicely and stitched over to reduce fraying

TOTAL COST:  The novelty printed silk was a discounted remnant that I bought back in 2017 from a shop on Etsy which is no longer in business.  I spent $20 for the one yard, while the solid white silk was found at a different shop online for $15 a yard.  The poly chiffon was bought from JoAnn Fabrics for about $10.  Altogether, I spent about $50 including the zipper.

Honestly, for as much as I had a very certain vision of what to do with my printed silk and how I intended to interpret my vision, this project was one of the most challenging to achieve.  At the project stage, I could find a handful of patterns or design ideas which felt like what I wanted.  Yet, each time I found they would not work on one measly yard.  My lack of fabric was the major controlling/limiting factor here, actually.  I would have bought more from the shop but one yard was all they had left.  This was a skinny 35” width material, too, so it was basically the size of a large scarf square.  I knew a fill-in fabric would be necessary, which I wanted become a natural part of the design and not something due to my shortage of yardage.  A print like this seemed to me to call for a classy design with sleeves and full coverage with a touch of something unexpected.  Doesn’t that sound like quite a challenge to fulfill?!  Now you can see why I stashed this fantastic silk print for the last 5 years! 

I suppose I was unintentionally ‘waiting’ for the right pattern to fall into my radar.  My final chosen Burda pattern was a happy, if unintentional, find I came across one night browsing through my magazine while looking for another design I wanted.  It suddenly struck me, as I saw it in my magazine, that my hand print fabric would be a probable match for the design.  I especially liked how the sleeves as well as the main body, particularly through the waist, are primarily the print so as to give a cohesive appearance to the design.  This way, the contrast godets refrain from clearly advertising that I ran out of fabric (which I practically did).  Together with the modern-vintage flair to it, everything else I was hoping to find for my project ideal was fulfilled better than I imagined.  Some things in life are just meant to be.

The instructions by no means call for one yard, but it seems to my special talent – dare I say trademark – for squeezing the most unexpected patterns out of small cuts.  This was the most extreme version of that which I have yet done.  Every cutting line was the neighboring pattern piece’s cutting line.  The top and bottom hems were at the fabric edge.  There was a one-way directional print that needed every pattern to be lined up and running the same direction, though, too.  If I would have needed even one size up from the one which was my size (36 graded up to 40 for the hips) the pattern would not have fit on the fabric. 

However, the fact that the main body pieces were quite rectangular and relatively straight cut (thanks to the additional shaping the contrast godets add) was the saving grace.  The sleeve pieces (two-part raglan style for the loveliest shaping over the shoulder point) just barely fit in between the convex curves of the main body patterns.  “Silver linings” outlook aside, this tight layout did work me up to being a stressed, freaked out, sweating mess.  Using a special material always makes me pause for extra figuring to weed out any mistakes, but squashing in the layout so very impossibly was the “icing to the cake”.  I don’t want to be in this circumstance ever again but I am so thrilled it worked out I can literally tear up slightly just thinking about it sometimes.

Ideally, I wanted the contrast to be jagged panels to contrast off the delicate trio of items on the print.  The heart is a well of emotions which can be crushed, betrayed, and injured all too easily.  Hands can be an instrument in protecting or harming the matters of the heart and are the instrument through which we can feel sensory pain.  Roses may be the flower of love, but they have tiny, thorny daggers which grow along with their beauty.  To have the added godets pointing in towards my chest like daggers is the kind of unsettling message that I feel Surrealism – particularly Schiaparelli – would prefer and only strengthens the symbolism of my chosen print. 

These godet stilettos are merciful, though, being in a gentle chiffon, adding the softly shaping curves that the straight cut body panels need to contour and form over my body.  They hide a sensual little secret, too, as they are sheer.  The opacity of the dark blue together with the fact that I double layered every godet (so as to have a clean finished hem with the raw edge tucked inside) makes their translucent quality subtle.  I originally wanted a striking sheer blood red chiffon for the godets.  Going for a navy chiffon blended in with the background to let the red and white print stand out better.

This was a project listed on the higher than average end of Burda’s difficulty level scale, and I agree.  However, it’s not on account of requiring advanced skills.  Yet it is tricky and complicated, needing precision sewing and the patience to stitch many three point corners.  There are 9 pattern pieces in total that look terribly similar to one another.  These 9 pieces cut out to 18 fabric pieces.  Don’t forget that I doubled everything to 36 pieces because everything for my version is lined!!  This was such an ordeal to assemble and such a confusing jumble of pieces to keep track of! 

I did change up one small part of the construction assembly along the way for a smoother finish and finer detailing befitting my deluxe material.  I wanted something nicer than just conventional turned under hems.  Thus, before assembling anything, I sewed each piece’s hem wrong side-to-wrong-side.  Then, I sandwiched the seam, trimmed to ¼”, between the doubled up fabric (as there is a white lining to the silk and two layers to the chiffon godets) and did a tight top stitching at a scant distance from the clean edge.  Only then did I put the main body pieces together, followed by adding in the godets, setting in the side zipper, and tidying up my seams.  Achieving perfect corners every time was so laborious and challenging! 

Luckily, this was one of the very few Burda designs which fit me precisely with no tweaks to the fit.  I measured the heck out of the pattern pieces before I did any cutting of my fabric, so I figured such…even still, it was a pleasant surprise.  I recommend this – out of any pattern ever – as the one which needs to be perfect at the pattern stage because tweaking the fit after being fully constructed is very nearly impossible.  The sizing is extraordinarily good here for curvy bodies so trust the size chart and try this for yourself, as well.  A very supple and softly draping material (nothing too stiff) is important to choose here, though, to get the full effect of how the godets fall into themselves, or open up, depending upon your body movements.  Even without the unique print I chose I think this blouse would still be garnering compliments literally everywhere it is worn – which is the case already!  This is a standout, extraordinary design worth every minute and penny I put into it and couldn’t be happier.  I have plenty of lace scraps from my Grandmother which I am tempted to save towards another version of this blouse.  I would also like to try out the dress version of this blouse design at some point the future.

I find it ironic and confusing that among professional academic circles fashion is the most frequently discredited and underestimated means through which to express oneself.  Clothing is a basic need, just the same as being both the viewer and the spectator is a natural part of the communal human existence.  We use our hands to make and acquire our basic needs, and craft them (if we have that luxury) to our own liking.  Even the cheapest ready-to-wear clothing is made by human hands (in some degree), which so many people forget when they pay $5 for their favorite retail store leggings or t-shirt.  Garments necessarily intertwine both human expression as well as some sort of manual effort, so turning that into elevated, intentional art is only one step away.  Expressing ourselves without a sound and by sight only is a shared characteristic of both our hands and what we wear…both are influenced by the workings of our heart.     

As beautiful and meaningful everything else our heart through our hands can do, it is charity – love for our fellow beings  – that is surely the loftiest act.  With parents of both sides of my family dealing with the disfiguring effects of rheumatoid arthritis, I realize all too well that something as simple assisting with doing a button is one small but mighty act of kindness with our hands which can make a world of difference.  I realize, too, that both heart and hands of humanity can sadly also do damaging, evil, scheming deeds of mischief at an individual level as well and create terror and sadness in this world.  What have your hands done today?  How is your heart?  I hope this post finds you happy, healthy, and feeling safe.  I also hope this blouse project of mine has cheered your day, made you consider, and inspired you!