A Hollywood Look-Alike – Doris Day’s Striped Collared Blouse

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.

Lloyd Pratt (bass) in Doris Day film debut,1948     Now for THE FACTS:

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

PATTERN:  Butterick 4347, view CB4347

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.

100_1643   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).100_1589

     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.

100_1590     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.100_1593      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.100_1621

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.

100_1630     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.100_1628

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.

Doris Day in Blue Striped sweater top


“Pretty In Pink” – Twist Neck 1935 Blouse

Re-releasing vintage pattern 2859 was one of Vogue Company’s best moves, in my humble opinion, and I really enjoy the finished results.  My version of the blouse/top from V2859 embodies three of the most popular, most distinctive fashion trends for women in the 1930’s, not to mention the fact my top pays homage to two of that era’s top rival designers, Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli.

100_1214THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  stable cotton jersey knit in a dusty pink color

NOTIONS:  already had the thread I needed and just enough 1/4 pink bias tape, leftover from sewing this mini apron.

V2859PATTERN:  Vintage Vogue 2859, year 1935, reprinted in 2005.  I would like to make the dress, one to use as a slip perhaps or even a satin floral one to wear under my top.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  finished on Feb. 18, 2013, after about 15 hours of time.  Making this took longer than I thought from looking over the assembly, being my first ‘Advanced’ Vogue pattern (the label is really there for a reason).

THE INSIDES:  Unfinished! The knit I used doesn’t ravel and the top was complicated enough, so…it’s not messy, just not perfect inside.

TOTAL COST:  Free…the best benefit of using a fabric from one’s stash!

I will now show you the 30’s fashion trends of my blouse.

1.)  Knits were the trend in an array of solid colors, thanks to the practical luxury of Coco Chanel, who first designed knit suits in 1916, even though Schiaparelli popularized the new fabric.  Jersey knits gave 30’s women the chance to be more flexible in their day-wear fashions.  A knit suit was much more comfy and easy to move in than a stiff, business wool suit, and 30’s knits tended to be in a brighter palette for new options.  Besides, the 30’s ideal was for fabric to “flow” over and “hug” women’s bodies (think of the bias dresses and use of silk), so knits continued the body clinging style further.

2.)  Before Elsa Schiaparelli, pink had really not been integrated into feminine fashion quite like it was in the 30’s.  Elsa’s distinctive pink color was, back then, labeled as “shocking pink” and was released in 1936 as the shade of her personal perfume box.  Let’s say my Vogue top, being a ’35 pattern, could have been made in ’36, out of a more toned down pink, so I would be (historically speaking) quite fashionable.

100_12203.)  Low back or V-back tops and dresses were popular on account of sunning/tanning becoming the new look of beauty, instead of a marker of lower social status like previous years.  There was now more of a reason to show off a girl’s back, sometimes also the shoulders too!  See my “New Year’s Evening Gown” for a deep V-back 30’s garment I’ve made already.  Designers of the 30’s were obviously pushing the limits in a different way, a more Greco/Roman way, than in the 20’s.  This style is smart in another manner because in a low or V-back clothes you have a visual interest from behind, not just in front, that is eye-catching and fashionable in all eras!

100_1233    The construction of V2859 – as an “Advanced”- was not really hard for me, just time consuming and challenging to the point of actually being enjoyable.  I found it quite complimentary for the pattern instructions to take it for granted that I can figure out what I need to do, instead of (like Simplicity) going into a tiresome, exacting, and windy explanation of how to do every step.  I feel as if I get to use my sewing skills and knowledge this way.  There is no cut intended towards sewers who need thorough instructions.  If it wasn’t for the assembly sheet, we, myself included, wouldn’t make half of what we do sew.  However, I’m just saying this for other seamstresses who are where I am at with my sewing skills.  Beginners would definitely find this pattern confusing, no doubt.

This top is the third 1930’s clothes item I have sewn, and now find myself more impressed than ever with the styling and construction details of the era’s patterns. My twist-neck top is a beautiful compliment to the waistline with an emphasis on the hourglass shape.  Take note, the sleeves change style if you look at the envelope back: from the front they are kimono sleeves, while from the back they are raglan sleeves.  The points where the sleeve seams meet (at the bottom of my neck on each side) was VERY tricky, but it turned out O.K. for me.100_1222a

There were a number of changes I made to this blouse pattern which seem to generally be a good idea as these little points  help its fit and appearance.

Firstly, making this twist-neck wrap top out of a knit, I went down two sizes…this trick works well for vintage patterns not specifically listing a knit on the envelope back under ‘suggested fabrics’.  Secondly, I added a 2 inch band (5 in when I cut it out) to the bottom so that the hem ends at or just below my waistline now.  Even if someone DID wear this top over another dress, I still think this blouse ends too high above the waist to look good.  By adding an extension, it can now be worn alone as a top with my skirts as well as over a skimpy dress!  Then, at the side opening for the tie, I sewed an extra square of fabric onto the inside -with one side open (of course).  That way no skin can show from underneath. The two pictures to the left and right show both sides of the bottom half of V2859, letting you see both the details of how it wraps and my finishing touches.

100_1243a    Another important change I made was to the front seam and front neckline.  The front center seam had to be sewn in several inches from the neckline down to where the darts start.  I’m petite and there was too much extra fabric in the bust; bringing the center from seam in made my top fit better with minimal drooping.  Later, I also make a skinny strip of bias tubing to stretch behind my neck from shoulder seam to shoulder seam.

100_1238a     Finally, I added a bias neckband because the way the instructions said to finish off the small V-neckline were difficult and tacky.  Over the rest of the top the stitching is unseen.  I think exposed stitching in an obvious spot makes this top look casual instead of dressy. My idea of sewing on a bias neck binding is (I think) much more polished, besides the fact it is so much easier to sew on than achieving a tiny hem.  I hand stitched the neckline band on to make sure it was done invisibly.100_1206

Just one last note: my skirt in the photos is several years old, from J. C. Penny’s, and my shoes are from a resale store.  Nevertheless, my outfit is true to the 30’s, since my skirt is long and bias cut, while my shoes are T-straps with a deco design and a Spanish heel. My fake 30’s bob turned out well…you can’t tell how much hair I tucked and pinned underneath.  My outfit made me want to go dancing!

220px-Doris_Day_-_Romance_on_the_High_Seas     Have you ever seen the lovely Doris Day’s first movie, “Romance on the High Seas”?  (If you haven’t seen it, you really should!)  It was released in 1948, and for her first song in the movie she is wearing a strikingly similar version of my pink 30’s top – see the pictures.

Her top looks like it’s a light blue satin with a wrap bottom romance-on-high-seas10waistband as well, except it has the classic 40’s sleeves…skinny, close-fitting with wide and puffy shoulders.  This tells me A LOT about the popularity of this V2859 blouse design.  For it to be worn in Hollywood over a decade later, reinvented for the current era, and worn for the debut of a rising star, already popular for her singing, means to me that this blouse design is more than just a cool pattern – it’s a fashion winner.  Besides, it’s never a bad thing to feel that one has a little portion of classic Hollywood glamor in one’s wardrobe, right?