Escape and Evasion: a Post-WWII Map Blouse

A map can help you find your way, it can provide a safety net, be a memento, create a fashion statement, or even be the product of someone’s profession (cartography).  Believe me, a map is much more than markings and directions on material.  Are you ready for a trip?  Let’s have a go with a vintage blouse that incorporates all of those things I first listed, constituting the most out what truly is a map.

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The world is always changing, so a map necessarily documents a moment and place in time.  My blouse, although made in our modern times, pays tribute to 1946, and its post-World War II times and practices.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:   100% cotton is the content for both the map fabric and the inner lining fabric.  The map fabric is a ‘Tim Holtz’ brand print, from his “Eclectic Elements Expedition” line, and it is very silky soft.  The lining is a beige tan batiste, tissue thin but also super soft.1692-Simplicity

NOTIONS:  I bought the buttons to specifically match with the top (I’ll explain my reasoning further down), and other than that I really needed only thread, which was already on hand

PATTERN:  Simplicity #1692, a 1944 pattern re-printed in 2013

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My blouse was completed in maybe 8 hours, and finished on September 8, 2014.

100_3760a-comp,wTHE INSIDES:  Nice and clean – the side seams are flat felled, the bottom hem is bias covered, and the shoulder seams are covered by the lining.

TOTAL COST:  The fabric was ordered from an online store and the “La Petite” buttons came from (now defunct) Hancock Fabrics for a total of about $25.

Now, I know history buffs out there like me will see my “Facts” and notice and say, “Hey, she’s making a Post-WWII 1946 blouse out of a war-time 1944 pattern!”  Well, yes, I know.  Many styles in fashion then did not have any radical changes during and right after the war, due to many factors.  It wasn’t until 1946 that rationing and “making-do” just began co-existing with a postwar boom all things – more patterns, new fashions, buying of material goods, and even a plethora of babies 😉  Besides, I adapted the pattern design to be more appropriately a 1946 style with its kimono-style cap sleeves and button back.  My adaptations to the pattern were based off of this old original 1946 silk chart blouse as seen in Jonathan Walford’s “Forties Fashion” book (below), as well as this vintage Globe novelty print 40s blouse seen here on Etsy.

Map blouse from 'Forties Fashion'

I luckily made all sorts of annotations to the pattern after my first and second versions and knew what to do to make my third time around the best success yet.  My notes of how to fit the pattern to myself helped me concentrate on changing the design and lengthening the set in sleeves to become another mid-1940’s classic style.  Rather than cutting the back bodice on the fold, I cut mine with a seam and extra seam allowance.  A long underlap was drafted, as was the skinny bias tubing, so I could have the back be button closed.  Sure it is somewhat of a contortion trick to close it on myself, but it is also very 40’s (and looks awesome).  Hubby always shakes his head at the things we women go through to make and wear these vintage fashions.

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The print is some sort of conglomeration of fragmented antiquated maps with wind info and some random highlighting of towns.  It has a nice earthy yet pastel-like background composed of the basic colors in traditional camouflage.  I would have preferred more of a topographical chart or a real 1940s WWII chart, but this is not the last time I intend to sew with maps, so perhaps next time I’ll get exactly what I would like.  On my blouse, the continent of North America with the USA is right over the heart on the left of my chest – at least this is just how I’d like it!

100_3762-comp,wAlthough my blouse is made from cotton fabric (albeit quite nice cotton), it is intended to imitate extant original Post-War clothing which had been made from no longer used/needed Escape and Evasion Charts.  The use of more aerial fighting, bombing, and reconnaissance necessitated maps to be the newest ‘not-to-be-without’ equipment for WWII.  These charts, nicknamed EVC’s, are not bombing aids yet they are also more than just maps.  By being printed with specialized information onto fabric they instantly become an all-in-one survival tool to help someone such as a downed pilot, a lost ground troop, or a POW evade danger and survive both the surroundings and possibly unfriendly people.  Navigation aids, terrain info, edible animals and plants, and crude personal care are listed.

Now, just to be clear, I am talking about the true EVC’s made by government cartographers, not the one’s made out of alternative materials by and for POWs attempting to escape incarceration and also not the maps for remaining alive in aquatic regions, although all of these do fall under the “SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape)” training military personnel receive.  That out of the way – originally, WWII EVC’s were small and either handed out or sewn as the lining to airmen’s jackets.  The Map pouchAmerican Charts were normally oiled rayon, while the charts issued elsewhere (mainly Britain and Australia) were pectin-coated silk.  The coating strengthened the material, kept the ink from running, and provided airmen with something rather flexible and non-crinkly (silent to use) yet waterproof so their chart could catch water and keep something dry.  The modern EVC’s are not only more detailed, but also made out of spun olefin, branded as Tyveck (house wrap), and have evolved into something as large as a blanket so they can also be used as a hammock, shelter, and bandage, to list a few out of many uses.

After the war, these charts because the source for much re-purposing, and during the war a hubby or sweetheart that no longer needed his chart could provide the rationed woman some precious extra material.  (See here what an old WWII charts looks like before being made into garment.)  Surplus and de-classified Evasion Charts were often a memorial of what a hubby and/or sweetheart endured, as well as silk or rayon that wasn’t going to be wasted.  Thus, so many of these special charts became clothing for a good number of women in the years following WWII.  I find it funny how most of the charts became underwear and lingerie – rather cheeky!  Visit my Pinterest board for EVC re-use to see more inspiration and info.

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Of all the re-using and re-fashioning that went on during WWII, Escape and Evasion charts are by far the most enthralling, most intriguing part, in my opinion.  What is so neat is that they are still useful today, being used after over 70 years!  It just goes to show the depth of history involved in things we take for granted in our everyday lives – maps, clothing, and just pure surviving.  Of all the novelty blouses that I could make, this one has the most passion behind it.  I hope this post made you think, and let me share with you about one of my favorite subjects!

“Remember…” a 1960’s Button-Back Blouse

Here is my lovely but late post of the garment I made for the 1960’s Challenge (week of November 25th). I actually made this on time for the challenge, but, sometimes life gets in the way of sewing and I couldn’t find time to muster my writing skills and add my post. Better late than never, I suppose!

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I really enjoy wearing this blouse much more than I originally expected. I can always tell by the fact it has frequent trips through the wash machine.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC: 100% polyester silky print in a psychedelic mix of mostly black and magenta with light blue, white, and green in between ($10 or under); small remnants of cling-free lining (to avoid using static guard at every wearing) in a pastel rose colorSimplicity 5617 cover

NOTIONS: One pack of light blue buttons (50 cents) was all I needed to buy; I already had leftover interfacing, black thread, and also leftover lavender bias tape to use.

PATTERN: Simplicity 5617, year 1964 (paid about $3 at an antique shop for this)

FIRST WORN:  I wanted to show the ladies at the fabric store from which I bought everything for my blouse (Hancock Fabrics) what I did (do you blame me?!) and do a night time photo shoot afterwards.

TIME TO COMPLETE: 8 or 9 hours; finished on November 27, 2012

I bought and then made this pattern within a window of a month or two. Usually it takes me LOTS longer to get to a specific pattern, as I have plenty of patterns, many matched with fabric, and ready to be sewn together. There were four reasons for my promptness: 1) it would be my first true blouse with a collar and buttonholes and the whole bit; 2) it looked super easy with only 3 pieces for the blouse; 3) my mom said she remembered having a blouse with a backwards collar like this when she was my age; and 4) it was perfect for the Challenge! Actually, I had a hard time sticking to just this pattern, since just the week before I had the opportunity to buy 35 patterns, dating from 1955 to 1970, all for a few dollars! Now I can’t wait to make more 60’s styles from my collection.

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Sewing this pattern together was so easy I almost didn’t need the directions. I had read through the part about the back button placket several times, but it still was unclear and rather confusing…at least for me, so rather ignored it and went rogue. My husband has a self-placket shirt (the kind without a separate piece to be sewn where the buttonholes go), and it was easier for me to look at his shirt and just make my back placket exactly similar.

The long, bias bust darts were easier than expected. Even the collar points and collar interfacing came out better than I hoped. It was quite hard to sew the collar to the blouse – the polyester was not ‘stretching’ well and I really had to pull and clip it to fit nicely. Another favorite feature of this blouse is the sleeves. They are loose kimono style and very comfortable for my larger upper arms with the lack of conventional shoulder seams. The bias tape sewn along the sleeve hem (then turned under as per instructions) makes a stiff, round look which compliments the design. It’s a shame you can’t tell any of these details by the envelope picture. The drawings show the jacket on the model, except for an almost worthless tiny right corner shot of the blouse worn on its own.

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Making the buttonholes down the blouse back required a sort of “field trip” to my parents’ house. I needed to use my mom’s Bernina sewing machine because at this time I do not have the ability to do them on the machines I currently have. She has the fancy Swiss-made machine with everything on it and my old Singer only does straight stitch and zig-zag. I think this might have been my first buttonholes made, at least since many years, and…WOW…it was fun! The critic in me wants to say I could’ve somehow done better (such as sewing in cord or better interfacing), but the buttonholes seem strong enough, so, I’m really proud at my new accomplishment.  The buttons aren’t even that hard to close on myself by reaching behind.

When I finished the blouse, I realized the bust was huge…and I mean really big, so that I wondered if it was the wrong size. As a fix, I promptly sewed up the sides a bit, and re-sewed the darts into generous concave darts so as to grab in more from the front.  Two long, back bodice princess darts were also added later.  However, it was still big. The front, under the collar also looked strangely plain and lacking something to me. Bingo! I had a light bulb come on! I thought of a favorite turtleneck on mine, one that is a “ready-to-wear” but it has some lovely gathers, only a few inches long, centered under the front turtleneck. I made only 2 or so inches of horizontal gathers about an inch or so down from the collar, then tacked it in place with bias tape behind (inside) to keep it from coming undone. Doing my gathered neckline fix did wonders for the blouse. The gathers hide the long darts in front, pull in the excess fabric right where it was too big, and totally liven up the look, making it more modern with more interest.

DSC_0472a-comp,wMy post’s title is a reference to one my absolute favorite songs of the 60s decade, “Remember…Walkin’ in the Sand” by the Shangri-Las, released in 1964 on of the top 5 hits for that here (listen to it here). I grew up with this song, hearing my mom sing to it and play her vinyl record of it since I was little. We often had fun with the “Remember…” chorus by adding our own phrases to suit any occasion. Seeing the pictures of my photo shoot outfit does remind me of the Shangri-Las with their “tough girl” reputation and their preference to wear leather pants and vests for performances.

When I found out how popular they were in ’64, I enjoyed reading up on the Shangri-Las. The 2 twins and 2 sisters group had no major moral shocks to relate – just a career with the best music of their era. There is a rather funny story of how they got in trouble with the FBI for ‘transporting guns across states’-supposedly for self-protection while on their tours. They were, after all, only minors of 15, 16, and 17 when their popularity started…and they had problems with a crazy devotee crawling in their hotel window. The two twins died too young, but Mary Weiss (the blond) and her sister have moved on to other successful careers. I would have never imagined Mary doing what she is currently doing – working as a New York architect and self-business owner!

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My leather skirt (no, I didn’t make it) is my favorite match with my blouse.  It is actually a Tommy Hilfiger brand skirt bought at a steal of a price at a thrift shop.  This is something I can’t see myself making, at least this de-luxe with a zippered pocket, lining, and all, and I couldn’t afford it new.  I love the dusty dark blue tone of it…so unique.  However, when I don’t want to raise any eyebrows, a “ready-to-wear” black corduroy skirt with my high heeled boots matched fine, as well.

DSC_0479a-comp,wNight time was a challenging way to take pictures, but fun and completely my idea! This way I can also test out how warm this blouse really is…and it is a good wind chill buster. The non-breathable polyester keeps out the wind (as does the leather skirt, especially) and the high neck is cozy without being suffocatingly confining.  Our first night shots were taken at the local bus terminal, to take advantage of any extra light.

I have just under a yard of my blouse’s fabric leftover still.  I am thinking of making a modern bias cut mini skirt from it, something small and hot.  I also think I have enough fabric to make the hem reach my knees.  This skirt project is going in my “future sewing” pile for now.

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