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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


My Floral 40’s Fashion – A Fall Favorite

I am a woman of my word.  The very fact I am posting this sewing creation proves my point.  Back in our summer of last year, I had a blog post (link here) where I expounded on my version of view D from a cute 1940’s pattern reprint, Simplicity #1692.  In that post, I had said I wanted to make the long sleeved option, adding all the knowledge learned from sewing the pattern up already.  Well, here is my finished long sleeve version, as I had said, with a fit and design so perfected this blouse is an absolute dream for me to wear!  Casual and vintage yet versatile and comfortable – these four points cannot be better paired than in this 40’s cotton blouse.

100_2093bTHE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The fabric for the blouse is from a seasonal collection of soft 100% cotton quilting fabric, printed for Hancock Fabrics.  It was early fall/late summer of last year when I spotted this fabric, newly stocked as part of the early Thanksgiving prints, and seeing such a pretty floral got me in the mood to look forward to chilly weather.  The fabric has dark browns, mint greens, and rust oranges strewn around on a background of ivory, with a smattering of pale yellow in between.  To line this floral fabric, I picked a basic 100% cotton broadcloth, in a matching rust orange color.1692-Simplicity

PATTERN:   a 1940’s Simplicity 1692, re-released 2013, view A (it’s their 85th Anniversary pattern), originally yr. 1944

NOTIONS:  I really had every thing I needed on hand, excepting the side zipper, which I bought once I started making my blouse.  The buttons are probably close to being the correct era for my vintage blouse, and come from my special familial vintage button stash. 

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My blouse went together smoothly and quickly, only taking me about 10 hours to be done.  I was finished on October 18, 2013.

THE INSIDES:  The blouse hem is finished off with a strip of ivory hem tape, the armhole seam is covered in orange bias tape, the sleeves’ seams are flat felled, and the side is done in a French seam.  I love the finishing details so much I am almost more proud of the inside than the out!  Anyway, seeing my nice seams when I put on my blouse makes me smile even before I have it on me.  See the picture below.100_2147

FIRST WORN:  Out to our local neighborhood hobby shop to look for WWII plane models.  After that outing, I have worn this 40’s blouse many places and times, and wherever I go, I almost always receive lots of unexpectedly kind and interested comments on my garment from other people.

TOTAL COST:  I think my total cost is under $10

At first, I wasn’t totally sold on the idea of having the neckline that high around my neck, and it seems that others who have sewn Simplicity 1692 have had the same reservations.  However, I do want to be open to trying new styles because sometimes the unexpected can turn into a good thing.  With a few adjustments and tweaks, this blouse is indeed a winner in my wardrobe!

Between checking other seamstress’ posts and my own knowledge of how this pattern fits after making it last year, I would like to address the characteristics of the long sleeved View A which I adjusted for my personal taste.  It seems to have uber-gathers at the front center neckline, so I “pinched out” about 1 1/2 inches of excess gathers.  The hips seem to run small and snug, so I went up a size, added an inch more than I seemed to need, and went easy on the darts (which run vertically down from the high waist).  I dislike overly poufy fronts when I don’t have, let’s say, enough there to generously fill it out – and between the gathers at the neck and the amount of bust on the pattern Simplicity 1692 seemed poufy.  On other women, I think this poufy fit would be most complimentary and probably fit well.  In my case, with a slightly stiffer quilting cotton as the fabric, some precise sizing was (again) my dream remedy for this fitting situation.

100_2097     I was all over the board as far as sizing the pattern pieces, but this is the true beauty behind the ability to sew ones own clothes.  A custom fit comes from taking full advantage of the sizing options available in a multi-sized pattern  (like most modern ones) or merely knowing ones measurements (which comes in handy when fitting patterns which are one size or unprinted) or even finding what ease amounts you personally prefer.  In the case of my 40’s blouse from Simplicity 1692, I could look at the finished garment measurements as well to accurately judge the amount of ease that was included (the amount of ease can otherwise be a mystery or a surprise unless you pin a pattern on yourself ahead of time).  Thus, I ended up cutting out a size between a 6 and an 8 for the front  bust and shoulders down to the waist front, which was a 10, then a 12 for the front hips.  The back panel of the blouse was pretty much a solid 10 (because my larger upper arms need extra reach room) except for the waist and hips, which were again tapered into a size 12.  My sleeves were cut as a size 10.  A handful of inches were added to the bottom hem to make it longer so it stays tucked in all the better.  And, if you’re wondering, YES, all the pieces did fit together wonderfully, and make the finished blouse customized to me like fine tailoring.

100_2148     Don’t forget to buy a longer zipper if you do lengthen the bottom hem of the blouse.  I almost always buy longer zippers for my blouses just in case I do add inches to the hem.  I cut my zipper to make it the exact length, and thus I did my normal practice of covering the end with bias tape.  The last thing I wanted was a scratchy raw zipper end at my armpit.  It was serendipitous how the covered zipper end fit into the underarm seam.  I like the fact it keeps the end in place (see above left picture).

To “pinch out” the excess gathers at the center front neckline, I simply did the same easy trick I also did for the front bodice of my “High Standards” 50’s jumper (link here).  The front gathered section of the top neckline was laid 1 1/2 inches over the fold edge while the rest of the center front edge was tapered to meet the fabric fold at about the waistline, just like if I wasn’t doing a change at all.  You can fold in the pattern edge or just overlap it over the fabric, just so long as your new center front is still on the fold.

The look of self-fabric, bias bound necklines, is something I always love to add on my clothes and especially when it comes to this Simplicity #1692 40’s blouse.  The bias bound neck gives the blouse such a clean finish for around and over the center front gathers.  I tend to think it’s almost one the prettiest features of the high neckline.

100_2105      I was quite indecisive when it came to the sleeve closures – two buttonholes per cuff or one?  After mulling over what to do, I settled on one big buttonhole per cuff.  My personal taste has ended up disliking my decision for one closure per cuff – I hadn’t realized the wider the cuff (over 1 inch) I seem to prefer a more stable double closure.  Perhaps part of my problem of obsessing over the sleeves is because I’m really not used to long sleeves.  If I can’t push up my sleeves (as is the case for my green cowl neck dress), I feel a bit too confined.  Nevertheless, I still like my blouse too much to have the cuffs ruin anything for me, and, besides the sleeves look cool rolled up with the contrast color showing (see above picture).  Later on I ended up adding self-fabric loops to the ends of the cuffs so I100_2145 have the option of having tighter cuffs around my wrist by using buttonholes or loose around my wrist by using the loops.  Two pearl/shell buttons from my vintage familial stash were used on the cuffs to close the sleeves…something pretty but not show-stopping is just what I wanted.  I do have a complaint with the supposedly “disappearing” blue ink which never disappeared after using it to mark the buttonholes (see picture).

100_2150     For the back neck closure, I used a lonely single button and it seems to be quite old and rather remarkable in its color and design. This button is a bright green that matches exactly with the green tone in the fabric while also keeping with the “floral” theme by being shaped like a  flower, ready to unfold.  There are such tiny details (grooves and also a milligrain type pattern) on this already small button, it is a vintage work of art that I am so happy to be able to incorporate into my 40’s blouse.  My picture doesn’t do the real thing it’s due justice.

100_2095a     Romping and fun and cozy dressing on chilly days is everything my blouse is all about, which is why I think I love it so much.  I don’t have too many vintage clothes that are this casually nice looking together with an easy, comfy fit.  This something I have been working to sew more of – vintage clothes that can be worn to play out and about with our toddler in the same outing as doing errands, all while still dressed in an era past!  Ever since last year’s early Fall (when my blouse was made) I have turned to wear this blouse again and again.  The way my fall floral blouse is so fuss-free, receiving so many compliments, I have to close this post with yet another statement you’ll have to hold me to.

I’d like to make another version of the Simplicity #1692 pattern, perhaps in a beautiful, lightweight sheer fabric, or even in a knit!  I will keep my word – sooner or later you’ll see it posted on my blog!

Please visit my Flickr SeamRacer page to see more pictures of my “Fall Favorite” blouse.

A Frustrating 40’s Retro Blouse Pattern

Every so often I happen to pick a pattern to make, only to find it makes me want to throw it in a corner out of exasperation.  As long as this occurs “every so often” I can see it as a challenge and make the best of things.  This subject brings me to admit how a new (as of this spring/summer) Simplicity “Vintage 40’s” blouses pattern was trouble hidden by a very enticing envelope drawing.   1692-Simplicity

Don’t get me wrong – I really like my blouse and have worn it plenty of times already.  It’s just every time I wear it, I am a bit self-conscious that it really looks stupid.  For some strange reason, though, I like it enough to want to wear it and even make the pattern again, in the long sleeve version, with my fore-known adjustments in mind.

It’s actually the perfect easy wear, easy care top to take me through the summer…easy to accessorize and pink to make it girly!

100_1757THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a cotton blend crinkled gauze fabric, which has intermingled stripes of light pink, tan, and coral against a white background.  Not only is this fabric lightweight and cool, but it can never wrinkle (it already is!) and needs no ironing.  I’m considering my fabric free as it has been in my stash as long as I can remember

NOTIONS:  I had the thread, buttons, trim for button loops, and hem tape on hand already; I merely bought a pink zipper  (from Wal-Mart) for the side closure

PATTERN:  Simplicity 1692, originally a year 1944 pattern, re-released 2013, view D (it’s for their 85th Anniversary)

TIME TO COMPLETE:  this blouse took only 3 hours or less, and it was finished on May 18, 2013

100_1662THE INSIDES:  there only the two side seams, well 1 1/2 not counting the zipper, and these were done in French seams.  The French seams seemed like the perfect idea because the gauze fabric seemed fragile and frayed a lot.  However, using that kind of seam made it harder for me to get the right curve for the sleeves, which tend to gather together a bit under my armpit.  Tan colored hem tape covers all other seams: the bottom hem, the sleeve bands, and around the zipper.  See picture above.

When cutting out this pattern, I went down a size for the bust and cut my (apparent) correct size for the waist and hips.  I also simplified the pattern by eliminating those crazy shaped facings and doubling up the blouse instead.  Two of each piece, sewn at the shoulder seams, then stitched right sides together all along the neckline and around the button plackets. I did this exact same thing for my 1940 Bed Sheet Swing Dress.  I had just enough fabric to cut all 4 pieces on the fold, with the selvedges meeting at the center of the width.  Here again, I love the smooth, uncomplicated finishing of doing some patterns this way, especially when it comes to the guarantee of not having to have my project ending up see through;)

My main complaints about this blouse are threesome and are easily fixed with some adjustments to the pattern.

100_1672a1.)  The finished blouse turned out…so…BLOUSY.  Next time I will re-draw the pattern.  I know that ‘poufy’ look is more authentic, but I can only tolerate so much with out feeling like I’m making myself seem bigger than I really am.  A few inches were taken in inside along the bust area and down to where the darts end.  Doing this helped with the fit but I can’t take it in any more, otherwise I pull my blouse out when it’s tucked in a skirt.  This problem has do with number…

2.)  I should have lengthened the blouse so I DON’T have to constantly tuck my blouse in when I’m active.

3.)  The waist and the hips turned out quite snug.  Any tighter and I would have had to grudgingly unpick my stitches.  Luckily, I didn’t have to do this step, but the hips are tight enough to make my side zipper open up as I’m wearing this blouse.  Next time I will either add some inches to the side seams or sew the darts smaller width-wise.

I am proud of the button placket of this blouse.  It’s one of the saving features along with the cute and unusual U-shaped neckline.  I used some buttons from my inherited stash – but only had 4 of the color I liked so I only put in two on each side instead of the three on each side as the pattern directs.

100_1661      It’s funny how I think of button shoulder fashions being primarily a 50’s thing.  Maybe it’s merely because of the button-shouldered “Betty’s Style” 1957 Border Print Dress which I made last year.  This Simplicity 1692 has made me rethink my ideas – I guess I have some past decades mixed up in my head. Nevertheless, in my pictures wearing the white linen skirt, I played with a 50’s style (headband and French twist hair)and I think it turned out.  Maybe with the right hat or a scarf/Victory roll I can make it look more authentic for the 40’s, as it properly should.

Oh well! At least I’m enjoying my blouse.  Playing with fashion while learning from it is quite fun.

100_6298a-compAs you can see, I’ve worn my button-shouldered blouse with a tan skirt and a white skirt.  It also matches with a coral colored linen skirt (as above) and a even dark brown skirt.  Even though this might not be my favorite top, it wins me over with its versatility!