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”!   

Sunshine Linen and Silken Flowers

Excuse the lack of new posts recently but an extended weekend trip to Chicago has eaten away at my free time for blogging.  However, you know what a trip away for home means for me?  New outfits were sewn!  This equates to fresh new material to share on my blog for you to enjoy!  Here is the most recent outfit project hot off my sewing machine – a summer silk hooded blouse from the 1990s and a linen early 1940s Clotilde brand jumper dress.  I couldn’t have wanted a better set to wear for enjoying my day in cheery, luxurious comfort and style.

I have learned from many visits to Chicago’s surrounding Lake Michigan beaches that not all beaches are equally temperate.  I find Chicago’s beaches to be pleasant and enjoyable to be sure, but quite windy with a cool breeze and not as warm as a Florida beach.  Lake Michigan has water that can feel like it’s refrigerated, even in the summer!  From previous visits to Chicago, I knew what to expect and mentally pictured exactly what was needed out of my outfit for our day at the beach.  I’m happy to report, my set was every bit as wonderful as I had anticipated! 

When 1940s meets the 1990s things are bound to get interesting!  All my garments are in lightweight, soft and breathable fabrics which kept the wind and the sun from turning me into a crisp.  The color scheme is richly saturated and elegantly cheerful.  The fiber content is natural and sustainable in linen blended with rayon, and silk with coconut buttons, all finished using vintage notions.  The styling is versatile and unexpected, which I love, with a fluid vintage vibe which is also timeless.  Having a hood handy kept my hair tamed for beach time or when we drove our convertible car through downtown Chicago with the top down.  I love an outfit that has some good eye-catching features with lovely tactile qualities.

I paired my me-made items with a 20-something old RTW cotton stretch tee as my base layer under the jumper dress this time.  However, the billowy blouse included in with my jumper dress’ Clotilde pattern strongly reminds me of the 40’s chiffon blouse I made to wear with these 1991 NY NY “The Collection” McCall’s trousers.  If you visit that post, you’ll see that this is not the first time I’ve combined the WWII era with the age of the Internet. 

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a linen and rayon blend for the jumper dress and an all silk satin for the blouse

PATTERNS:  Clotilde sewing pattern #3559, estimated to be from the spring season of 1942, and McCall’s NYNY “The Collection” #5640 from January 1991

NOTIONS NEEDED:  thread and a bit of interfacing (I used the cotton iron-on), bias tape as well as one vintage 1950s era metal zipper for the jumper dress, some vintage rayon hem tape for the blouse, and finally a pack of coconut buttons from my local JoAnn fabric store

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The blouse and the jumper together were a combined time of 16 hours and were finished at the end of this month of May (just before our trip) 2022

THE INSIDES:  All French seams for the hooded blouse and bias bound edges in the jumper

TOTAL COST:  Both fabrics are from my local JoAnn Fabric store, but only the linen blend is still currently in stock.  The silk was something I found many years back now when they sold limited amount of fine fabrics in the physical stores and not just online.  It was on deep discount being as it was a one yard remnant of something the store no longer wanted to carry.  My entire outfit all together cost me under $40.

Clotilde patterns, such as this one, were often for what was considered the average woman (not talking about body size average) or for the on-the-go teenage girl.  I have noticed that Clotilde patterns through the 30’s and 40’s were often knock-offs of small designers or downgraded versions of Paris fashions for the woman who wanted a practical taste of the current styles.  They were pitched in ad write-ups as easy-to-make (especially when they offered a line of notions and haberdashery to match) with design details to make them appealing enough to have an edge on the market.  The company began offering patterns circa 1925, continuing to do so through the 1960s, and expanded to become a giant in the sewing catalog industry for many years.  Ms. Clotilde passed away in November of 2011 and the Company was sold to become “Annie’s Quilt and Sew Catalog”. 

Seeing as my Clotilde pattern was ordered through The Chicago Tribune newspaper, I researched through an archival site for that publication and was able to pin this design down to somewhere between the fall of 1941 and the spring season of 1942.  As this pattern’s blouse is so similar to the sheer bishop sleeved one I already made (posted here, also intended to be paired under a jumper dress), I am leaning towards thinking both share a date of early 1942.  Jumper dresses – intended to be worn over a blouse or top of some sort – were incredibly popular offerings through the mail order sewing pattern companies of 1941 to 1942, mostly tailoring their appeal for teenagers but also for young adult women.  Jumpers are so good for beach time because it is easy to hide some shorts underneath, he he.  This jumper has a very pre-WWII influence with the full skirt with a longer mid-calf length.  Even still, it required just over a full two yards of material.

This jumper was simple and quick to make – except for the double sets of ties I had to make (I hate sewing them).  Yet, as is the normal “quirk” I find for vintage unprinted mail order patterns, I had just a bit of trouble getting this finished.  I correctly predicted it ran a tad roomy, as many old unprinted mail order patterns do.  This sizing generally worked in my favor because I took advantage of it to do a modern 5/8” seam allowance.  Even still, some of the quality to the pattern drafting was lacking, as is another normal “quirk” for many old mail order patterns.  I had to taper in the side seams smaller up to almost 2 inches on each side, only from the top edge down to the hips.  Luckily, I had greatly simplified the design so that the fitting efforts I had to do didn’t really set me back.  The biggest change to the original design was that I eliminated the back button placket closure and opted to lay that pattern piece out on the fold for a smooth, seamless look.  A vintage metal zipper was installed in the left side seam instead. 

The pattern gave little to no direction as to where to place and button the shoulder straps.  Mysteriously missing markings are another frequent occurrence to old unprinted mail order patterns.  I guess it is obvious from looking at the original design that I simplified the shoulder straps by leaving out the ruffles to them.  I pared things down to the basics even more by merely stitching the straps down to the jumper dress edge.  Why bother to make them adjustable when the pattern didn’t help me out and I’d have to figure all the buttonhole settings out myself?  The waist ties already add a level of fussiness to the style so stitching down the straps helped keep my travel wardrobe simple.  However, the pattern did call for ridiculously simple bias strip edge finishing.  I knew this design needed something more stable along the top edge, so I drafted together my own interfaced facing for the bodice.  It was two steps forward and one back during the construction process, but this was not intended to be a perfectly fitted garment…so all is well that ended well! 

The loose fit is sort of a design element based on the fact that there are waist ties to pull in the fit on this jumper dress.  I love how they are like little pointed arrows that sit at the waistline where they are top stitched down.  They help to visually slim the silhouette.  To gather in and control some of the center back waistline fullness, I stitched in a strip of ¼ inch wide elastic to the inside.  I picked a 3 inch horizontal segment at the waistline and sewed it into a 1 inch length of elastic, shirring the difference into gathers.  This was not part of the pattern but my own addition.  I also finished off the tie edges with a hand sewn buttonhole stitch for a little bit of a fine touch. 

My hooded summer blouse pattern is by far the standout piece to this outfit.  It is from my favorite NY NY “The Collection” line of McCall’s designer patterns which stretched between the late 1980s and the early 2000’s.  This will have been the seventh NY NY “The Collection” McCall’s item I have sewn.  There is a lot going for #5640 with lots of options to each and every item it offers so that an entire wardrobe of separates could be sewn of this one pattern.  The hooded blouse has the option of instead being sewn up as a wing collar and was originally supposed to be long sleeved.  How could I pass up something as uniquely amazing as a hood blouse, though!?  My amazing silk satin was just begging to me to be used to full dramatic effect and this design hit my creative happy place. 

Such items as hooded dresses or blouses were popular in the 1930s and 40’s for evening wear or resort occasions and now are rarities that sell for big money in the current vintage market.  Fashion designer houses of Valentino, Givenchy, Max & Moi, as well as Aurora De Matteis all offer their own silk satin hooded blouses today.   If I ever start my own business of offering couture finish custom-made ready-to-wear (not promising it will ever happen, though), a summer hooded silk blouse like the one in this post would be included in my collection.  It is amazing to wear and truly a useful statement piece.

As I only had one yard of silk to work with for the hooded blouse, I overhauled the design to accommodate both my shortage of material and desire to personalize this amazing design for myself.  The oversized print needed minimal seams so as to not disturb it.  This was perfect for that because there are no darts or tucks, and the entire shirt is made of only three pattern pieces.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The hood was configured to be cut on with the blouse fronts – a one piece design!  So cool, right?

The original pattern called for the front center but, as you can see, I altered this idea.  It was intended to be a pullover top with a generous box pleat giving room across the one-piece front between the buttons and buttonholes which were to be worked onto the folded edges.  I was not doing this plan with my reiteration, which has an open front like any other blouse.  It is more versatile to me this way.  I can tie the waistline together to cinch the boxy, oversized silhouette in and keep it from flying around in the breeze like a flag.  I can still let my outfit underneath be visible, too, if I keep the blouse unbuttoned.  I don’t have to risk messing up my hair or smudging the blouse with makeup by having it be a pullover.  A hoodie is one piece, and that to me becomes more like a jacket.  I wanted a hooded blouse and adapted the pattern to be such.  However, it is loose fitting and rather makes a better overblouse anyways than being worn on its own.

My silk satin was so luxurious like insubstantial butter and a cooling delight to touch…I wish you could reach through the screen and feel it with me.  Such amazing fabric deserved my bringing out the high-end finishes along with such a good design.  There are solely French seams inside, which sort of makes it hard for me to tell the right side from the wrong side out for this blouse! 

Then, I used special rayon binding to hem the bottom edge for a clean yet decorative inside.  Such a notion is not manufactured anymore (to my knowledge) and it is a joy to use.  It is like a piece of tangible happiness to see when getting dressed so I see it as worth it to use rather than hoard.  I luckily have a few whole rolls of such notions so this was not the last to be had in my stash.  Even still, you can tell which projects are more prized by me when there is rayon tape as part of the inside detailing.  I hand stitched down the front and hood cut-on self-facings as well as the hem because I couldn’t stand to see obvious thread lines anywhere else but along the shoulder line.

Why highlight the shoulder line?  I absolutely love the way the hood is one piece with the bodice front.  I am proud of how well I achieved a perfect corner down and around where the hood angles into the back bodice.  This way the dropped shoulder line can be noticeable, too.  Might as well bring attention to how creative is the one major design line to the blouse!  I chose to use an all-cotton thread to compliment the silk material, but it is a fluffier, chunkier, duller thread when compared to the satin finish.  As I said at the beginning of this post, I was going for sustainable and natural fibers here. 

Trips away from home especially give challenging incentives to my sewing plans.  Now that we have traveled again after a long span of staying at home, I am remembering anew how trips inspire me to treat myself to exceptional hand sewn pieces (those over and above my everyday wardrobe) so I can rock my self-expression while creating wonderful vacation memories.  Do you bring your own handmade wardrobe on trips with you?  Please let me know I am not alone in this.  My most comfortable, favorite pieces are necessarily also the ones I have made for myself so there is one basic reason to bring me-made items on a trip away.  Seriously, though – can’t you tell by my glow that the beach is a special place for me?  Just think of what an amazing new outfit added to that!!  There will soon be more to come of our Chicago trip – hang on to this thread.

So – next time I have a break in my regular postings, just know that it means I am either taking personal time for recharging myself or at least working on some great new content.  I truly have the best readers and you all are the best audience!  For your information, if you only knew the amazing projects already sewn that are in my backlog of things yet to share, you’d flip.  This post’s particular outfit had a special day out so recently, I had to share it right away.  It was just too good, and I hope you are glad I didn’t let this outfit wait in queue to be posted later than sooner!

White, Orange and Green

There is nothing 100% “from scratch” in the outfit that I’m posting this time, as this is (mostly) about a current refashion of a 1940s blouse I’ve already made back in 2013. Yet, I have paired it with a “new” woolen skirt that I refashioned after finding it chewed up during storage in our cedar closet.  Together, this is a fresh take on two existing items in my closet which needed some care and attention…and that deserves its own post, right?!  After my previous post on my Victorian skating ensemble, I thought I’d keep things simple and mix things up by showing how I keep up pieces in my wardrobe.  In order to earn its keep in my closet, each item needs to be something that fits as well as something I love.  I have no qualms about putting something I’ve sewn through a scissor and under the sewing machine to have that happen!  I made it, I can fix it up, too.  Beyond that, though, this set is the perfect colors to wear for St. Patrick’s Day – the white, orange, and green of their national flag!

I couldn’t help but title my post after the song that this outfit calls to my mind.  It is an Irish folk song which supposedly rose out of the 1919 to 1921 War of Independence but got a popular revival in 1989 from the album “Home to Ireland” by Spailpin (listen to the song here).  It is almost my favorite Irish song album – I have loved it since my childhood!  “The Rising of the Moon” song is not to be missed and “Three Young Ladies Drinking Whiskey Before Breakfast” will get your toes tapping.  I am proudly very Irish through both sides of my family as well as my husband’s side, so this is not just celebrating a holiday which is alien to me but happily honoring my heritage!  Although some of my Irish ancestors may have preferred to sport orange for today, I align more with the wearing of green, so I love how this outfit unites all the colors just as the flag does.  (If you know your Irish history, you’ll understand this one without looking it up!)

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The fabric for the blouse is from a seasonal collection of soft 100% cotton quilting fabric, lined in a matching rust orange color 100% cotton broadcloth

PATTERN:   Simplicity #1692, a 40s era re-release from 2013 (it’s one of their 85th Anniversary patterns), originally Simplicity #1093 from year 1944

NOTIONS:  I really had everything I needed on hand – thread, zipper, and bias tape.  The single button at the back neck closure is probably close to being the correct era for my vintage blouse, and comes from my special familial vintage button stash.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My blouse originally (first incarnation) took me about 10 hours to be done back in October 2013.  In the fall of 2021, I spent another 5 hours to renew the blouse into its latest version. 

Both pieces have recently been discovered to be too small on me, but the skirt also had damage so I had more than one incentive for altering them.  Now that we are coming out of two years of isolating and staying at home, I have to get to know the full potential of my closet again.  A good amount of my pieces have not been touched in a while because of the pandemic, and although my body has mostly either stayed the same or lost weight through it, the same cannot be said for my upper arms and hips. In some of the cases, letting out my 5/8 inch seam allowances is enough.  In other garments I find that I will need to add in gussets, side panels, or re-work the bodice.  These have now gone to my “need to alter, fit, or refashion” drawer. 

I still like these items enough to want to give them TLC or perhaps a whole new spin in the future.  After all, I invest myself in everything I make and probably 90% (or more) of my wardrobe is self-crafted at this point.  I am happy with what I have and don’t need to start a project from scratch to use my sewing capabilities.  Taking care of what I have is sustainable and responsible, I feel.  I am just sad to see how my body changes add to my already large enough make-do-and-mend pile.  How have the last two years affected your wardrobe?  Do you find things fitting you differently or have your style tastes just changed…maybe both?  Do you enjoy altering and mending or is it pure drudgery for you? 

What was wrong with the blouse in the first place?  You may be wondering this because the blouse has ended up looking close to the same way as when I originally made it – just short sleeved.  Well, I wasn’t going for a different spin, just the same look in a bigger size.  The armscye was already close fitting when I first made the blouse.  Its sleeves were now uncomfortable, losing any ‘reach room’ and the hips were too snug to zip down past the waistline.  Also, at this point – since my sewing skills have improved – I was quite embarrassed by my beginner’s efforts at making a buttoned cuff on long sleeves.  Thus, the long sleeves were sacrificed to become side panels to add room.  It was easier than digging through my containers of scraps in the unlikely hope that there would be a remnant large enough to help my need for a refashion!  One sleeve was divided in half to make two panels for the bodice sides, while the other sleeve went towards the neckline (see next paragraph).  The original zipper was unpicked out of the blouse and re-inserted in between the front main body and the left side panel.

Just adding in width was not enough to fully open up the sleeves for more shoulder room.  I also unpicked the sleeves from the bodice and re-sewed them in at ¼ inch seam allowance (the original blouse had 5/8 inch seam allowance).  That was better but my big arms were still pulling at the neckline.  So I opened up the neckline, loosened up the center front gathers, cut the neck more open by ½ inch, and sewed over the edge a brand new bias band (cut from the second sleeve, as mentioned above).  This time I left lots of excess length at the back closure to the neckline’s finishing bias band so I can button it in a way that is more open.  This assuages my claustrophobia over tightly necked garments, and widens out the shoulders a bit.  I was able to cut two more small bias strips for finishing the two sleeve’s hem ends.

The brown all-wool skirt was something I have had since my late teen years.  I had forgotten about it in our cedar closet for the last decade and it was not properly stored.  I believe it was carpet beetles which found it, because moths make bigger chews holes.  Nevertheless, the skirt had most of its significant chews from the hipline up to the waist.  Being a long ankle length to begin with, I merely cut off the top 1/3 of the skirt (keeping the side zipper, albeit short now), newly tapered in the side seams, added darts to fit, and finished the waistline with bias tape.  Any tiny holes left can be patched up easily since the wool is lofty and loosely woven. This was super easy refashion.

Much better than buying raw supplies, I use garments I already have as material for my sewing ideas.  This time, these two items were more of a refitting I suppose versus a total re-fashion.  Both my skirt and blouse are much more versatile and wearable now more than they ever were, so this is not just about ‘saving’ them, I feel.  A mid-length skirt is more all-weather, just the same as making short sleeves on my blouse.  My blouse is double layered (lined in all cotton) and the wool skirt is cozy so shortening their length has turned them into something I can wear for cooler days in the spring and fall, not just for the cold of winter.   This way I have the opportunity to layer them.  Paired over my blouse to bring out the green is an old favorite store bought corduroy blazer back from my teen years. 

To conclude, I wish a happy St. Patrick’s Day to all who celebrate!  To read more on some of the ways I celebrate this holiday, as well as the fancy green-themed vintage dress I may pick to wear today, please visit this Instagram post (linked here).  The fact that St. Patrick’s Day is always immediately followed by the first day of the verdant season of spring always gives me an excellent reason to be on a spell of fascination for anything green.  Here’s your tip off as to what may be featured in my next blog post!

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!