Now that the holiday season is done, I am feeling just how severely 2021 has wiped me out in more ways than one. It was not the sewing – what I blogged about and what I made was one of the best parts to 2021. Nevertheless, it was hard to find my mojo again after a 3 month spell of no sewing over last year’s summer. My Charles James recreation helped me feel back on track as well as some secret really good projects I will share soon enough. Our drab, cold, and inclement weather is not helping out my energy levels, however, so I might as well roll with it. ‘Easy’ sewing patterns are indeed a fun treat for me at certain times, but detailed patterns always deeply satisfy creative needs…and I need to focus on something rewarding that gives me a boost right now. I’m up for blogging the comfort of my go-to decade (the 1940s) with its effortless elegance and class. How about something which mimics the darkness of a winter night, with twinkles in the details bright and clear as January’s stars?
This blouse has been enjoyed in my wardrobe for years since it was made back in 2015, but it never found its way onto my blog until now. Sadly, I had worn this blouse to a few funerals for close family members who died in Januaries past, so for some time it has been something I wanted to forget. Finally, I am in a place to be delighted to expound on this shadowy dream of a blouse. I am now ready to let it have its time in the limelight to let you know about one of my (now many) sewing projects which have too long gone unshared.
I see this as a blouse loaded with a low-key creative flourish I enjoy so much. I play with the ties, change them up as I wear the blouse, and throw my arms around in a more dramatic manner. It makes me think of the stereotypical idea of the artistic type (primarily poets, but also painters and sculptors), living in blouses and shirts with large drapey sleeves and a frilly bow, ruffle, or obnoxious collar at the neck. I’m not saying the stereotype is at all correct…typecasting is often wrong. Then again, however, the artists, writers, and sculptors of societies such as Lord Byron of Romanticism, Oscar Wilde in the Victorian Aesthetic Movement, Dante Gabriel Rossetti of the Pre-Raphaelites, or William Morris of the Arts & Crafts movement did wear eccentric, romantic garments which reflected their idealism. This is not too far off from the ruffled antique blouses which the Beatnik crowd of the 1960s preferred, a topic I blogged about here.
I’ve always thought, “Don’t those sleeves only get in the way?!” or “Isn’t the decorative neck fussy?” but also, “Yes, I would love to live in fancy fabrics!” Even though my version of the “Poet shirt” is black (they’re traditionally white) with fashionable touches, this 1946 blouse somehow reminds me of that “artistic” image. It has helped me to know the answer to my queries. Sure, the voluminous sleeves do lend an air of elegance and character, and the neck ties offer customization as well as a bit of something extra. A garment this luxurious in lovely rayon crepe makes it supremely comfortable and a joy to wear – and a good state of mind and body is optimal for creativity, right?! Something romantic, something overly impractical, gives one a sense of freedom, both to think outside that which is basic and expected. After all, dressing purely for your own aesthetic tastes is the ultimate living expression of wearable art, in my opinion. This January, my art will be a dark poet aesthetic…but I am starting to veer towards pink looking ahead to Valentine ’s Day!
FABRIC: 2 yards of 100% rayon crepe
NOTIONS: Except for the black fabric covered shoulder pads which I bought, I had everything else on hand that I needed – thread, interfacing, the hem tape, snaps, and even the buttons (which were from the stash of Hubby’s Grandmother).
PATTERN: McCall #6716, year 1946, vintage original pattern in my stash
TIME TO COMPLETE: I spent 10 to 12 hours on this in total, and it was finished on February 3, 2015
THE INSIDES: Oh so lovely! Every seam is French finished, with vintage 100% rayon hem tape on the bottom and facing edges.
TOTAL COST: I no longer remember…
As I do every so often, I channeled the cover envelope’s inspiration exactly and made my blouse out of a flowing, solid black, luxurious rayon crepe. I went even more de-luxe with my choice of doing clean French seams inside (mentioned in “The Facts”), shiny dual-toned both silver and gold buttons outside, and adapting to have a cufflink closure on the sleeves. This blouse is totally “in-your-face” post-WWII extravagance! I adore it! At first I wasn’t sure that the top-heavy details that widen the shoulders and add volume to one’s top half could work on me, one who is on the margin of being petite. But here again, the decade of the 1940’s really does work well for me. Designers of those times knew how to engineer some pretty awesome clothes, with special features that do complement the figure beautifully.
Luckily, the blouse is designed to be generally loose and flowing, so I didn’t have to fuss over the perfect fit. The only part which is fitted is the neck and wrist cuffs. The rest is somewhat tapered in at the waist and hips, and the shoulders are loose (meant to be filled in with thick padding) so I needed it in the ballpark of general overall fit. This isn’t a style that is supposed to be fitted close the body anyways. I had to grade up dramatically in the sizing, as my original was a 30” bust. This was a bit tricky to up-size, and in the end I estimate I fell on the slightly generous side of the intended proportions.
The comfy fit is reined in by the most fantastic, unusual shoulder line. It prevents this blouse from being a tent on the body in the most stylish manner. It’s like some sort of mitered set-in sleeve with a hint of the raglan style from behind. This was quite tricky to finish with French seams. The wide shoulder-chest panel to the blouse really hides the big shoulder pads I added inside – and I needed properly 40’s era wide, sharp shoulders to be the anchor the whole look of the piece!
There is something to be said for the benefits of perfecting a loose fit. Nowadays everything seems to be worn tightly, but then again modern society of the last few decades has become so used to every garment having stretch. Just because something can be squeezed into doesn’t mean it truly fits in the professional understanding of the term. On the opposite spectrum, if a ready-to-wear garment isn’t skin tight it is too often baggy, especially when it comes to fashions for women who need a bigger size number on the label. Loose clothes don’t have to mean the body is something to hide or that someone still wants to be in night clothes…but there are viable times and reasons for that, too, don’t get me wrong. Frequently such tent-like styles seem to indicate the manufacturer was out of design ideas. There is a good in-between state that I think this blouse hits. I say bring back the 4 or 5 inch wearing ease for certain designs. I am over the modern 2 inch (or less) wearing ease which causes “drag lines”, something many have been accustomed to being standard when they are only an indication of ill fit. Make comfy dressing fashionable. Let us sewists help bring back in popularity better fitting garments with our bespoke creations. If anything, at least just give your local tailor some business – let them show you how comfy a proper fitting garment can be. We survived the last two years…we all deserve it.
It’s funny to realize today that this blouse was made before I created my 1951 giant-sleeved Schiaparelli inspired blouse, so since then I have learned a lot about how to sew, wear, and do activities in clothes which have a voluminous amount of fabric. Compared to that designer inspired blouse I just mentioned (which did take over 3 yards), this one seems so much tamer. A lot of people seem to be very turned off by the idea of generous sleeves, but in reality a neckline with an attached scarf, tie, bow, or fluff of some sort is much more bothersome in my experience. Once I made this 1933 kerchief tie neck blouse back in 2016 I learned about fussy necked tops pretty quickly. Here I prefer the more casual air of an untied bow neck, but doing it so causes my ties to dip into a wet sink or a plate of food before I can stop them. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t change a thing about my make, and love to reach for it from my closet no less for its bother.
The purse you see me with is a special accessory in my wardrobe – an authentic 40’s Corde bag. It is one in an often hard-to-find excellent condition, so I have hand sewed a little hand strap into the inner corner to keep my hands off of the Corde detailing. Luckily, it is both wide-bottomed and deep enough to hold much more modern necessities than conventional vintage purses. Look at that lovely Lucite charm at the zipper and the shell pattern of the cording!
The grey skirt that I’m wearing with my blouse in these pictures is actually a RTW item bought from a name brand department store about 15 years back. I see it as having a classic shape that pairs quite appropriately for my 1940s look, as well as items from many other decades. It is in a rayon blend suiting, and has a slimming cut down to mid-thigh (contrasting well with the loose blouse above) with a bias flare below due to the many panels that make up the design. The high waist and the skinny fit is why I think this skirt pairs best with my loose blouse, but other skirts in my wardrobe match, as well. I love it when I can work existing pieces from my wardrobe to end up with a ‘new’ and very fluid vintage-style outfit which comes across as also being contemporary.
A decade ago now, I locally found the pattern I used for this blouse for a deal, and had to l laugh to see it dated to one of my favorite years from that era (1946)…I’m so predictable. Making anything from the decade of the 1940’s is irresistible to me, but this particular one had my name written all over it with the shirring, interesting seaming, and drama galore. Usually black is not a comfort color for me but despite it being my funeral attendance blouse for a few times, this is as smooth and mellow of a treat to me as a shot of good bourbon. Now if I start waxing poetic while wearing it you’ll know I’m really letting the aesthetic of this blouse get to me. That’s okay…it is 2022 now. We all probably could write a story or some prose on what we have been through in the last few years. I’ll keep blogging and writing here about the things I make that get me through both the tough and the good times. So, thanks for following, I appreciate your reading what I have to share, and cheers to a new year ahead!