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”!   

Retro Rewind – a Modern 60’s Style Babydoll Blouse

Some clothing creations of mine I like almost instantly, while some others just have to ‘grow’ on me a bit before I can say I like it on myself.  I was so proud of hitting my 50th sewing project mark with this little blouse, but the 60’s inspired top itself has taken some getting used to.

Baby doll styles have never really appealed to me.  However, I don’t like to be stuck in a style rut and I am willing to try new things.  I think my version of a 60’s Baby doll blouse has finally won me over, and I have a few great ways of accessorizing and matching it.  The thrifty part of me also makes me want to brag about how this blouse is made entirely from scraps and remnants… so the total cost is so cheap but inventive!


FABRIC:  a 100% cotton remnant (.89 of a yard, to be exact) in a white polka dot print with an aqua background, bought on sale at JoAnn’s;  for the collar, I bought a 100%cotton quilter’s Fat Quarter


NOTIONS:  I had everything I needed;  I always have interfacing, the back button came from my stash, and then there was enough matching thread and aqua bias tape leftover from being used towards working on these two apronsI also used a small potion of the braid used on my “The Artist” Movie copy cat dress

PATTERN:  Simplicity 1693, view D.  I have made this pattern before, in a different view with modifications, as my ‘Great Gatsby 20’s satin tunic. 

TIME TO COMPLETE:  not long, maybe three of four hours;  it was finished in early August of 2013)

THE INSIDES:  every seam is sewn in French seams, except for the inside collar edge which is covered in bias tape

TOTAL COST:  the fabric remnant was 1/2 price, and the Fat Quarter was only 99 cents, so my total cost for this blouse is only $4.32.  This top has Wal-Mart prices with high-end quality.

My attempt at a Mod influenced picture just ended up looking a bit weird. Apparently I need practice at some 1960s inspired poses!

Even though my Baby doll blouse is a different view than the last time I made this pattern (which was for my 20’s satin tunic), I still did the same minor adjustments and came up with the same wonderful fit.  I made two sizes smaller for the bust darts and cut a bit generously around the back bodice shoulder area, but otherwise I made my correct size (with grading, of course).  I will certainly make more of this pattern, with another different variation, it’s such a great go-to standby, easy to change, easy to wear, and quick to put together.

I did find out that .89 yards was too much of a tight squeeze to ever try again, especially with sleeves, but, as always, I made it work.  Do not try this at home!  As you can see in the picture at left, the little bit of fabric left above where the tunic was cut, went towards fudging in the sleeve pattern.  Our dachshund is the black thing in the corner…he’s always on the lookout for interesting smells!

My short sleeves would’ve appeared funny any shorter than they already were, so I wanted to add an elastic placket.  Merely using the hem for elastic casing does not appeal to my sewing tastes too often, and I also added a casing for the elastic cuffs of my tie-neck knit dress.  Then, I happened to find some aqua double fold bias tape in my stash of “Wright’s” brand trims.  It matched the aqua background of my fabric, and I had just enough leftover from the two projects it went towards already, my re-fashioned vintage apron and it’s matching mini apron.

After using the leftover aqua bias tape towards the sleeve elastic casings, I still had a small strip.  I hated to not find a way to use up all of the bias tape.  When I tried on my blouse, it was still missing that “something”, so the small leftover strip was cut in half widthwise and sewn up into ties for the front.

I am so proud at how perfectly I matched up the front designs of the collars on my blouse.  The fat quarter was more of a stiffer cotton than the cotton for the body of my top, but therefore perfect for its use.  I love how the design on the fabric of my collar is a wild match which makes my top much more fun and retro than if I had chosen a single color.

A simple button placket went into the back button closure of this Baby doll blouse.  Since I had cut both the front and the back bodice pieces on the fold, I put in a vintage style placket, the kind where you cut out a rectangle, hem three edges, sew it down around the slash marks, then turn right sides out and top stitch down.  I did this same method for my 1937 Peacock blouse (see my post for a visual explanation).  The aqua button is from my vintage stash, and the loop is a tiny cut of 3/16 inch ‘president braid’ used to make my “The Artist” Movie imitation dress.

Please excuse the wrinkles…wearing 100% cotton is great but a short trip in the car can make its mark on it too soon.

That’s all folks!  See my Flickr page (link here) if you would like to see more pictures of my 60’s style blouse.

Great Gatsby! An Early 1920’s Tunic Top and Belt

This is the outfit I made to see, on opening weekend, the new “The Great Gatsby” movie.  The tunic is very cool, loose, and breezy, just like the ideal 20’s silhouette.  My outfit was so easy sew!  For once I spoiled myself and took my good old time to make it, resulting in a very fun and low stress project.

I was channeling the early 20’s with my combination, in which the large fancy hats from the late teens were still popular, but quickly loosing favor to the flapper cloche hats.  Besides my hat, my skirt and my shoes are RTW items (which I think match well).  Everything else is “Kelly” made – I even hand strung my pearl necklace!

100_1476a100_1289THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  for the tunic- a polyester silky print, 1 yard on sale for $5;  a matte dress lining fabric to line the silky print;  for the belt – a random square remnant in my stash of a thick purple satin;  3/4 of a yard of quilter’s cotton for belt backing in the same color purple as the satin

NOTIONS:  I had everything I needed.  I only bought a sequined headband (for $2) to cut apart and use as the center front decoration for my belt

PATTERN:  I used Simplicity 1693, view B, for my tunic, while my belt was a self-drafted pattern

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The tunic itself went together in several hours.  With the changes I made, all the beading, and the belt to assemble, everything probably took  more than 10 hours stretched out over a week.  My ensemble was finished on May 10, 2013

THE INSIDES:  There is not a seam showing!  Everything is finished in french seams or self-enclosed (as for the belt)

          To turn Simplicity 1693 into a tunic, I added 10 inches to the bottom when cutting out the two pattern pieces.  I left the side seams open from just below the waistline down to the hem so my top would have a free flowing, unconfined look.  Then I did a large 2 1/2 inch hem along the bottom, and a wide hem along the side tunic openings so they would show.

100_1477     I checked on PatternReview. com and saw that several ladies said that the bust was generous.  To fix this, I merely cut my right size according to the guidelines, but made the bust darts two sizes smaller, for example, making a size 10 top but size 6 darts.  This is my normal practice for many patterns with generous ease, and doing this adjustment has always fit great for someone petite like me.  Also, I made my own bias bands to cover the armhole and neckline seams.  The Pattern Review ladies also recommended doing this, and I heartily agree. Self-fabric bias covered neck and arm seams make for a much smoother, more polished look than a plain turned under finish (which is in the pattern).  Every review I read on Simplicity 1693 raves about how it’s so economical and easy, while looking great, and I couldn’t agree more.  Only 1 yard of fabric can indeed make something very nice.  How affordable is that ?!?

My button for the neck close, as well as the buckle for the back belt closure are from my inherited stash of my Grandmother and my Mother-in-law’s collection.  I know both items are old, and also unlike anything in the stores today, so I feel they make my clothing a bit more special.

100_1482     I am so proud at how the belt turned out, due in big part to the fact I made it all on my own.  I drew my pattern on paper, tried it on myself, and added on the seam allowances.  Next I cut out 2 pieces (a right and a left) out of the satin, the interfacing, and the cotton backing.  I ironed the interfacing onto the back of the satin, sewed the center front line, then sewed the rest of the belt together as you would do for ties.

The best part about my belt is my 100_1484creative closure system.  I just came up with this, and I’m not really sure how.  The tie ends wrap around the buckle and snap together on the underside of the belt so they are hidden.  I wanted something that did not show any closure hardware, something decorative and dressy, but not casual or messy like a traditional belt.  I feel I succeeded in my goals.

The sequined headband was such a quick, fancy, and perfect complement to my belt.  I cut off the elastic at the sides, then cut the whole design in half along the ‘leaves’.  I sealed up all the cut edges with clear fingernail polish – my cheap alternative to fray check- and let them dry.  The pieces were arranged and sewed down to the belt just an hour before we were to leave to see the movie.  The sequin decoration is not flimsy but not 100% stable, but, as I don’t expect to wash the belt at all, I don’t care.

100_1480100_1490     All the hand beading done on the shoulders of my tunic gave me some serious carpal tunnel syndrome.  I wish, after all that work, the beading was a bit more noticeable.  However, I’m o.k. with my tunic having a subtle decoration…it’s what I expected.  I used two different types of pearled seed beads and plenty of clear mono-filament to sew on the decoration.  My bead work has already underwent a wash machine test, and it held up pretty well in the delicate cycle.

Here are some of my deco designs I had in mind:Art Deco corner imageart_deco_design_elements-1

I would like to add this design (the corner one, at right) to the 4 bottom hem corners of the tunic, but that will have to wait until some time in the future.  My hands did enough work for now.

Hubby and I went to watch the movie in the cinema at an Art Deco Hotel downtown and there were a few other ladies there who were dressed in period attire as well.  I got my picture taken with them, then we went and did trip through town to do this post’s photos.  We found this wonderful Deco looking building on a major street in the inner city, not actively being preserved,  just used as a daycare and apartments.  The history of the background building is quite interesting, as neat as the facade details.  More great pictures and some history of the “DeBaliviere building” can be found here.  I hope buildings like this one are restored by the time they reach their 100 year mark!  This spot made for a pretty cool era correct background, I think…what about you?


My Hankie-Hem Dress of 1929 – the Year of Ups and Downs

My dress is, I believe, quite historically accurate.  I have taken a good amount of time and patience to get this project right, done plenty of historical and fashion research, and my public approval has come unwarranted in the form of comments from strangers.  The best part about my hankie-hem dress is the way it fits, how it feels so fun, and is very comfortable to wear!

My dress is meant to channel the ‘turn of the decade’ 1929 look, as evidenced by my early 30’s features:  Cuban heeled shoes, my Deco style Y-shaped drop pearls, and the small barely- flutter sleeves.

100_1276a     Here I’m posing with a 1929 Ford.  Now, for a brief history overview.

The year 1929 was quite a tumultuous year.  The world at that time, I mean the people and the events they caused, shows just how determined were the attempts to find out the right places for everything on the brink of a new decade.  However, it’s a matter of fact that what goes so far ‘south’ (Admiral Byrd was the 1st to fly over the South Pole in ’29), must boomerang back, as is especially the case in regards to “Black Thursday”, the Stock market crash of October 24, 1929.  Even fashion was no exception to the rule…after hemlines were at their shortest lengths above the knee from 1926 to 1928.  There was no doubt somewhat of a general outcry, and by 1929 uneven hems and asymmetric skirt hemlines helped the transition to new longer, more subdued hemline lengths.  Longer sheer over skirts and semi-sheer top skirts were worn over opaque linings as another way to gently ease away from the flapper enthusiasm while still attaining a new 30’s ideal of decency.

THE FACTS:Simp7227

FABRIC:  1 1/8 yd. of deep cream brushed flannel;  ivory lace from stash;  remnants of poly cling-free ivory lining for behind the flannel;  1 1/2 yard of pale yellow floral chiffon (poly blend) for the skirt and sleeves;  1 1/4 yd. of lingerie polyester to line the chiffon.  My poly fabrics are the only non-historical part.

NOTIONS:  I already had all the thread and interfacing that was needed.  I only bought a zipper.

Simp1810Simp1693PATTERN:  Well…this dress is THE Franken-pattern that beats all!  A good part of many little details are personal ideas from researching history, but I did use pieces from 3 different patterns.  Simplicity 7227, year 2002, view C, only the bottom layer of the lower half of the skirt was used to make the skirt for my dress (see above right picture).  Simplicity 1693, year 2013, view B, was used for only the sleeves.  Simplicity 1810, year 2012, view C tunic without the ties was used for the main body of my dress 

FIRST WORN:  to an Easter Sunday antique car show. 

TIME TO COMPLETE:   It took a very long time (for me), with sewing done between working on other projects, stretched out over the course of 3 months.  It was finally done on March 30, 2013

     The top tunic of my ’29 dress was sort of a whim, a “throw it together because I’ve been wanting to make this pattern” sort of thing. (I’m sure most of you have done this too!)  It went together quickly, easily, and turned out nicely while still fitting quite well.  I added the lace at the shoulder section to highlight the design and add a touch of femininity.  The funny thing is how sewing one project evolved into the finished dress.

100_1301    Flannel is actually quite accurate for my dress and had been used for clothing -both men’s and women’s- more frequently in the past.  Traditional/historical flannel, which has been around since the early 16th century, would be wool or a silk blend and cotton flannel is a rather modern invention.  The lighter colors of flannel, like my dress’ pale hue, became popular in the early 1900’s with use of bleaching (instead of dying), achieving the cool summer looks such as “Cricket white”.  My flannel tunic is lightweight and the facing makes for a super soft feel around the neckline.  I had it floating in my stash, leftover from the backing of a blanket I made for my mom.

100_1298a     I went through several differing preliminary drawings to figure out how best add theoriginal 20's hankie-hem dress chiffon. My drawing at left is the closest to my finished look.  Early on, I envisioned the chiffon as 1) draped across the front and back, 2) gathered up in layers, 3) heavy beading or sequins, and even 4) vertical bias ruffles, which I almost used.  I kept simplifying my ideas and staying away from the 30’s.  Early in February I even found a fancy bed skirt that seemed like it might have looked good at the bottom of my tunic, but it will be better as an individual skirt.  My husband was the one who picked the Simplicity 7227 I used for the dress’ bottom half, while I designed the zig-zag “hem” where the tunic bottom and skirt meet.  Those two features of our joint design gently incorporate the bottom skirt into the rest of the dress, and are very similar to vintage originals, like this Vionnet made dress at left.

Completing my hankie hem dress was more time consuming than I had foreseen.

100_1515a      First of all, finding the right lining was a challenge.  It was hard to find something that had a drape complimentary to the chiffon, as well as being opaque, and creating the right tint to match the flannel tunic.  I would have preferred to use a soft, lightweight cotton lawn, but I settled on a semi- shiny lingerie polyester.  Then, both the lining and the chiffon had to be cut, and the pattern piece for the skirt bottom was so unexpected…a large rectangle with a hole in the middle on the fold.  The hems of both lining and chiffon received my 1/8 inch tiny hem treatment, which makes for some time-consuming, thread-eating, beautifully invisible seams.  Since the top “hole” of the skirt was mostly on the bias, the fabric at that cut was stretched out as I sewed.   Next, I went to work measuring and centering the flannel tunic bottom so I could start adding the skirt bottom.  The lining and chiffon had been sewn together at the “hole”, and I can’t begin to express how frustrating it was to add the horizontal zig-zag seam.   Stretch, shape, pin, measure again, maybe unpin, and shape anew over and over was the regimen.  No matter where or how I would work, it was hard on the hands, back, and eyes.  As it ended up, the sides of the chiffon have small gathers to aid in the side shaping and gathering.  I think my determination to see it done got me through.

My last minute touches were to add a side zip (so as to get a better fit without it being tricky to get into) and small hand tacks to keep the points of the lining and chiffon hanging evenly with each other.

100_1284a     All the time spent towards making my hankie hem dress made me a very lucky girl when I wore it to the Easter car show.  Many of the owners of 20′ and 30’s era car recognized the time period of my dress, pointed me out, called me over, and invited me to take a seat in their vintage cars.  The car owners said very few people actually get to sit in their cars and check them out, so that day I felt special to have such unique opportunities.   We have some wonderful pictures of hubby and me in a 1925 Model T Touring (not in my post), and – my favorite – a great family photo (below) of our Easter.

100_1278a    Go, sit back, and look up some of the facts and historical landmarks of 1929.  I think you might be amazed, as I was, to find how advanced the world was in that year, as well as all the achievements that were made as well.  For example, did you know that in 1929 color TV was first patented and demonstrated publicly?  I know this has nothing to do with sewing except for helping a realization that back then compared to now are really not that foreign, but have a lot in common.