I usually work on only one project at a time, but for the past three weeks I’ve had two going strong. I’m furiously working on a “dressy” suit – which needs to be completed this week! However, last winter I made a mental note to myself to use up the fabric remaining from another suit, to make a matching overblouse. I knew the pattern I was going to use, and with my newfound techniques from Craftsy’s The Couture Dress online course, I knew this “small” project would be a great way to practice those skills. So, I thought, “Oh, I’ll just throw this together in no time at all.” Why do I ever think such things? I must be either an eternal optimist or totally divorced from reality.
I have always loved sleeveless overblouses – also known as “shells” and sheath tops. They were particularly popular in the late 1950s and 1960s with or without sleeves (during which time I also knew them as “jerkins” or “weskits” – which are really synonyms for vests). Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion describes an overblouse as “ Any blouse or top worn over the skirt or pants rather than tucked inside.” And here’s what they say about a “shell”:
A number of my ‘60s patterns show overblouses paired with suits or as part of two-piece dresses.
I particularly liked this pattern, with its Dior darts, the slits at the front hem, and its back zipper. (I was able to pick up a refined separating zipper when I was at Britex in September – many are suitable for outerwear only and too clunky for something like this.)
Here is another example of an overblouse with Dior darts, which forms part of a two-piece dress. Note that the zipper is on the side:
I dutifully made up my muslin, to which I made a number of adjustments (lowering the bust line/darts, shortening the darts in the back, lowering and widening the neckline a bit, adding a little more girth to the hipline so it would slip over my matching skirt without buckling, and adding about two inches to the overall length of the blouse. Hm-m-m, is that all?) I underlined it with silk organza, matched the plaid everywhere I could, keeping in mind how the windowpane check would line up with the skirt. I secured all the seam allowances with catch-stitching, and then I hand-picked the separating zipper. About this time I quietly panicked when I realized how much time I had already put into this blouse! I put it aside and started working on my suit, with a promise to myself to put in a bit more time on the overblouse whenever I had just 30 or 40 minutes “extra”, whatever that means.
Somehow I have managed to complete it, and I think I’m on track to finish my suit in a day or two, as well. Whew! Here are some of the details:
And here is the finished blouse/overblouse/shell/sheath top, shown with the skirt:
Just as I appreciate the preciseness which couture sewing makes possible when sewing something as “simple” as this shell, so do I also appreciate the many variant words to describe this type of blouse. My personal favorite name for this blouse?