As a child, my kaleidoscope used to enchant and fascinate me. I would love all the bright colors changing and mixing with every spin, and the patterns it created were something which reminded me of a snowflake with personality, making the most of whatever light you directed the toy at. Now that I know how it works and have so many things on my schedule, sadly my kaleidoscope is packed away and not seen anymore. However, I do have this blouse, a grown-up girl replacement!
Modern day winter wardrobes tend to be so droll and dreary compared to the fun with color the late 30’s enjoyed. That decade combined and paired the most unusual colors in the most creative and attractive ways. Bright and crazy colored stripes, however, are so classic to the late 30s and oh-so-popular again today. It’s no wonder – they are like a ray of welcome and much needed sunlight in the world of everyday fashion! True vintage items in such a stripe print today get sold so fast at high-prices that sadly such style garments are out of the question for many others like myself…and true vintage fabric like it is even harder to find in a usable, stable condition. Reprinted modern versions don’t often do the 30’s striping justice either, which is why I am so happy to have recently found a newly printed crepe which does match the old-time mix of happy colors. Together with a tried-and-true 1940 pattern, which has been adapted to copy a 1938 style, I have what may be my most complimented me-made garment yet!
FABRIC: a 100% polyester crepe for the fashion fabric, and a scrap of cotton broadcloth the line the shoulder panel inside
PATTERN: Hollywood #1991, year 1940
NOTIONS: I had all the buttons and thread I needed. The buttons are vintage from the stash of my husband’s Grandmother
TIME TO COMPLETE: This was made in about 8 hours and finished on October 10, 2017
THE INSIDES: nice French seams inside
TOTAL COST: under $15
This was really a simple blouse to make, but the fabric and the sleeves are what helps to make the blouse standout. I got rid of the angled panels to the original pattern and cut this version in all sharp geometrics, which complements the stripes. The collar was re-drawn to be pointed, and the wide front (as well as back) upper bodice was made completely horizontal. I lengthened the blouse hem as I eliminated the attached waistband. As the golden yellow stripe was missing from the color sequence across the blouse front because of the way I cut, I added the ocher tone in through my choice of buttons.
I was basing my new composition to the 1940 Hollywood pattern off of images of true vintage patterns I do not have but admire, old fashion advertisements, and past photographs of both celebrities and regular women wearing striped blouses which have a crazy assortment of color. It seems as if this trend is concentrated in between the years of 1938 and 1940. I can’t help but wonder if that mode of fashion was begun with the lovely “Alimony” evening gown (year 1937) from the American designer Elizabeth Hawes. However, it seems that multi-color striped garments after that designer were frequently in housecoats or sportswear pieces. To see more inspiration of late 30’s to early 40’s multi-striped garments see my Pinterest board here.
My very favorite multi striped garment for inspiration is in the Agent Carter television show Season Two with the character of Ana Jarvis. Ana favors late 30’s style in her wardrobe, and her blouse in the episode 5 “The Atomic Job” is a true and striking sample of the best from that period. The only obvious difference between hers and mine is that Ana’s is satin with a waist tie front, and mine is a crepe finish with a regular blouse middle. She was the cheerful, hopeful, and helpful backup character that was supporting all the others embroiled in the possible-death mission of the “The Atomic Job” episode, and her wardrobe shows this fact. I want my wardrobe to reflect my happy inside…or if my day is going badly, I want it to cheer both me and others up. Elsa Schiaparelli has been quoted as saying, “Color gives me ecstatic pleasure” from her book “Shocking Life”. I’m so in agreement, and so are many people I think. It’s a shame that out of the many people who compliment me on my blouse, many admit that even though they want it off my back they really wouldn’t wear it. I’m guessing it’s because they just have a certain color comfort level they’ve grown used to and might even be afraid of being too flashy or too different. Whether my colorful garment flags people down or not, we all know need color in our lives and regular RTW fashion certainly doesn’t seem to realize that so this blouse’s kind of different is good!
The wonderfully wide bishop sleeves with its big cuffs and puffed shoulder tops are the only thing I left as the pattern designed…and why not because they are killer amazing! The pattern for such a full bishop sleeve with such forearm-encompassing cuffs was almost confusing because it was as wide as it was long. Just like for my recent 1962 “Beatnik Blouse”, the sleeves atop big cuffs are so much shorter than “normal” long sleeves I am used to and it throws me off. It also takes a good deal of both seam allowance clipping and ironing to harness so much gathering into a cuff so it stays flat. The cuffs have dual buttons with close under embroidered thread loops along the edge. These are rather hard to do on myself but I like how they keep the cuffs wrapped flat and snug around my lower arm verses buttonholes.
Can we set aside a minute just to gush over my jaw-dropping belt!? This was a very lucky and therefore ridiculously affordable second-hand find for me, and is a ‘dream belt’ come true! All in leather and detailed tooling all around front and back, it is a perfect bold and statement piece to complement the already outgoing feel of my blouse. Actually, though – the late 30s was all about statement belts anyway, especially wide ones that had complex or unusual closings, anyway. The only thing is, I haven’t yet figured out if the buckles are supposed to be worn at the top or on the bottom!
Yes, I realize I have been posting a good number of both blouses and shirts lately, but this has been what I have been sewing most of this year! Separates are to me the salt and pepper of my everyday dressing. Especially when it comes to vintage garments, having something that looks nice, yet is still casual, and definitely comfy as well as practical for whatever life throws my way for the day is what I can never get enough of. The 1930s had this down to an art, in my opinion.
I must admit I never thought I would be wearing all those colors I admired so well in the light coming through my kaleidoscope. I have been searching long for the right fabric to remake this now popular vintage trend for myself. Now that I can do so, I have something to resort to for the long, dreary, chilly cold weather season we experience here…because warm weather garments shouldn’t be the only clothes which get the prettiest colors. Do yourself a favor and don’t be afraid to try a new color in your wardrobe today!