As much as my family enjoyed watching the movie “Romance on the High Seas”, released 1948, I enjoy even more being able (on account of my sewing skills) to wear today the fashion from a movie of over 60 years ago. The music, together with the many outfits that Doris Day wore as the starlet of the movie, are all stuck in my head, and Butterick’s 150th Anniversary Sewing Contest gave me the perfect excuse to whip up one of Ms. Day’s signature Hollywood looks. To make the blue and white striped collared blouse from “Romance on the High Seas” I simply adapted a modern pattern to make a close imitation. My finished blouse turned out so comfy and classy. This is one of my new favorite vintage creations for the spring and summer.
While wearing this blouse, I can’t help but feel like singing Doris Day’s musical number “Put ‘Em in a Box”. She sings about how “love and I, we don’t agree” and that “kisses in the dark, walks in the park,…and good old tea for two…love’s the one thing you can keep-in the ice box!” Click here to watch a clip of the song from the movie. Luckily, Doris Day turns around as she sings and gives viewers a good 360 view of her outfit. It has a sporty but dressy and unusually fresh vintage look, in my opinion. I made plenty of notes to get the same features in my version of that striped collared blouse. Here’s a picture of the original.
FABRIC: 100% cotton fine double knits in two colors: 1 7/8 yard of eggshell white knit and and 1 1/2 yard of light blue knit. Both fabrics have been in my stash so long I’m considering my fabric to be free. (BTW, the blue knit had no selvedge just one continuous round piece, open only at the cut ends. I don’t see any fabric woven like this anymore, and I wonder if it can be found still)
NOTIONS: a white 6 inch zipper, matching light blue thread, and 1 pack of white double fold bias tape. The notions are the only things I bought to make my blouse, and in total cost under $5
TIME TO COMPLETE: I was finished on June 5, 2013, after about 15 hours of time spread out over 3 days.
THE INSIDES: This is the most well finished garment I have made yet! The shoulders and sides are french seams, the center back bodice is clean finished, and all the neck seams are bias bound. Except for the bought bias binding on the neck seam, the collar and the other seams have bias facing handmade by me out of extra cuts of the white knit. See the picture below.
I assumed, first of all, that Doris Day’s original blouse was most likely a knit, looking at the close fit and the fact that there was only the small neck zipper at the back. The beautiful shine of the blouse’s fabric in the movie’s shots make me wonder if the original was a silk knit, but I was not going that far to be exact. Besides, there were the right colors and enough yardage of two cuts of cotton double knit just waiting for many years in my basement stash. Any opportunity to work on my fabric stash AND not buy anything is a good bonus for a project!
Then I went to work on the preliminary stage. I decided on a size SM for the shoulders and bust, while a MED for the waist and hips. Next, I re-drew a new bodice piece so that it would be one piece, with two shoulders (see close-up picture below).
When it was time to pin and cut on my fabric, the white fabric was worked on first. I didn’t cut the back bodice on the fold – I added a seam and 1/2 inch seam allowance so I could add the zipper. The sleeves were cut as short sleeves, and I cut out an extra full, one-piece bodice piece, as well as the two crossover bodice pieces.
All the bodice pieces (at left) were cut at 1 inch below the waistline , based on my plan to add on the bottom (biggest) piece of blue at the waist. The collar was the only piece that was cut with out any change. I thoroughly marked all the pieces, including all the ones that didn’t even need marking such as the bust line and the waistline, as they would be the guide for adding the blue strips. Halfway in the middle of each shoulder I made a mark and used this to draw a V down to the center of the bust line – that V is where the placket of the collar gets sewn onto the rest of the blouse. As you can see in the picture at right, I sewed bias tape along the cut edge so my collar placket would not stretch, would be cleanly finished, and have support for all the layers of fabric that were to be attached along this point.
Before I sewed any of the main bodice together, I added the blue parts and did the back zipper. I was very exact and methodological with adding the blue knit. I measured 1 inch above the waistline and cut the blue knit from there to the bottom hem. That was the biggest bottom potion of the blue and I joined it to the white using a french seam that was then top stitched down. The middle blue stripe was 3 1/2 inches cut, and with two 1/4 inch seams, finished as 3 inches. Likewise, the top blue band was 2 1/2 inches cut, and ended up as a finished 2 inches. Looking at Doris Day’s movie stills there seemed to be a slight grading of the stripes, getting bigger as they went down, which is what I was trying to achieve. There is exactly 1 1/4 inches of white knit showing between the blue sections, and the top blue stripe fell exactly centered over the bust line mark and 1/2 under the edge of the shoulder seam edge. Yahoo! It’s so perfect.
The center back zipper ends up not really being needed to slip my blouse on and off, but I am glad I added it, at least for the sake of looking like the movie version. View D of the pattern (B4347) calls for a small zipper to be sewn in, and now I’m not sure why, but at least a back zip adds visual interest to the back of my blouse. I’m so proud at how nicely I sewed in the zipper…the bottom tail inside is even covered with a small square of bias tape and tacked down to the center seam for a clean finish.
Adding the separate collar placket was the only real hard part of this blouse, but things were OK once I quit stressing out over it and just went ahead and put it together. It is actually hard to describe how I did the collar now that I’m thinking back. Basically I put the whole blouse together (side and shoulder seams) with the two collar pieces hanging free. Then I put the collar together according to the pattern instructions, and sewed on my own self-fabric bias facing to cover the raw edges. Next I put my blouse on myself and just started placing, pinning, and marking where to cut, sew and attach the collar placket to the neckline underneath. There’s a lot of fabric in certain spots, so that I chose to hand turn my sewing machine a lot and do some hand stitching time just to be gentle on the fabric and precise in my stitches along the front. I even sewed under the one crossover placket (this was hubby’ idea) so that it would be free and show no stitches coming out from around the collar placket. I am so very happy with how my collar placket turned out so sturdy, clean, and professional looking.
I hope you can tell we had a lot of fun doing the photos for this blog post. There was a piano perfect for posing with located at a fancy, ritzier mall in our town. I even did my hair up in Doris Day’s same hairstyle. The only thing missing is a South American cruise, otherwise I can’t get any closer to being a part of the movie “Romance on the High Seas”.
Sewing this blouse really taught me a good number of new things, especially how to attain couture techniques. The extra time put into making this blouse just right has its own type of payoff that people who don’t sew can’t understand. I hope that, just by looking at my top, it looks as it is – made well. However, I am almost more proud of it when it is off of me, on a hanger, and one can see for themselves all the attention to detail that went into sewing my Hollywood reproduction blouse.
I already have plans to make more clothes of Doris Day from “Romance on the High Seas”. Enjoy watching the movie for yourself, and leave me a comment letting me know which one is your favorite outfit and song.