A White Blouse

White blouses (or shirts, if you prefer) seem to occupy a niche all to themselves in the annals of fashion.  There is something both unpretentious and elegant about a white blouse.  A white blouse is almost always noticed and admired, and even the most tailored white blouse has an air of femininity to it.

Here is what Christian Dior had to say about the color white when he wrote The Dictionary of Fashion in 1954: “White is pure and simple and matches with everything. For daytime it has to be used with great care because it must always be really white and immaculate…  But nothing gives the impression of good grooming and being well dressed more quickly than spotless white…”  (Published again in 2007 by Abrams, New York, New York; page 120).

What could be a better example of being well dressed than this white blouse featured in the February/March 1955 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine (page 28)?  With its tucks and French cuffs, it is both demure and sophisticated.

Now this is an elegant blouse!

Timeless is another description that could be given to the classic white blouse.  Here is one featured in the August/September 1962 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine, page 49.  “In suburbia, nothing has as much unstudied elegance as a classic neat, white shirt…”

By the 1970s, collars look like they had overtaken the world, but even with its outsized points, the white blouse gives this velvet suit its focal point:

This is an advertisement for Crompton velvet, featuring a Vogue pattern (Yves St. Laurent evening suit), page XVI of the October/November 1971 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine.

The Wall Street Journal had a full-page feature on The White Shirt in the Weekend Section of March 26-27, 2016.  “Always timely and the quickest shortcut to chic,”  says the caption. Part of the feature is shown here:

Although the article fixated on RTW white shirts, a small section was absolutely apropos for those of us who make our white shirts. Finding your Match maintains that there is a certain chemistry involved in finding the perfect shirt for oneself, and it emphasized the importance of choosing the right fabric.  While cotton is usually the preferred fabric, even it is subject to an appropriate quality and weave.  Choosing a pure cotton fabric will necessitate a commitment to laundering and ironing.  Quoted from the article, “You can throw it in the machine, but for a finished look, Ms [Carolina] Herrera (who has made the white shirt her style signature) recommends hand-washing with a splash of starch for a crisp finish.  The white shirt, remember, is about contradictions – it may be easy, but it has good manners.”  (Oh, yes!)

Well, I can’t say I was thinking about chemistry and laundering and manners when I purchased this white cotton shirting fabric from Britex a few years ago.

I just thought it was so lovely with its woven stripe and scalloped detail.  I am happy to say it has been brought to fruition as a classic white blouse.

While the woven stripe IS lovely, it presented some definite considerations when I was laying out my pattern.  For example, what reveal of the stripe did I want to show on the collar and cuffs.  What about the back yoke?   How should the buttons line up on the design on the center front?  The following pictures detail my decisions as I worked through each component.

I chose to use the plain white band as the center portion of the cuffs.

I chose to position the stripe on the collar in the middle.

I decided to interface the yoke, as the cotton is lightweight, and the facing of the yoke would have shown through without it. I always use a woven, sew-in interfacing when I am making blouses. It works beautifully. I evenly balanced the placement of the stripe on the yoke, with just a slight plain reveal noticeable at the lower edge.

And then, what buttons should I use?   It is so easy – and often appropriate – to choose a simple white pearl, two-hole button to accompany this style of shirt. I was prepared to do that until I came across this card of vintage buttons in my collection:

My first thought was, “How perfect!  The incised stripes on the buttons mirror the stripe in the cotton.  And, to seal the deal, they were also the perfect size, at 3/8”.

I used the same 1970s’ Simplicity pattern (with my many alterations to it) that I used for the two gingham blouses I made over the summer.

It is always satisfying to use a fabric which had been purchased – in the past, shall we say? It reinforces my thought that there is a time for all those lovely pieces of silk, wool, cotton and linen still waiting for their destination.   Perhaps it really is about chemistry, after all.


Filed under Blouses, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Fashion commentary, Fashion history, Uncategorized, underlinings, vintage buttons

21 responses to “A White Blouse

  1. Just lovely! I am playing with several different makes and styles of shirt patterns these days, and they all lack something, yet each one has something different that appeals to my sense of style. Yours is classic and very chic.

    • I am sure there will be more white blouses in my future, and then I will venture out to another pattern/style. This particular pattern is just so perfect for casual wear. And I love the way it fits. Even a basic white shirt has many nuances to it, doesn’t it?

  2. Beautiful blouse! I am just as particular when working with stripes. So glad you are too.

  3. Mery

    The subtle white-on-white stripes combined with your careful touches make this a classy shirt perfectly balanced on that edge between sportswear and dressy.

    • This blouse/pattern is definitely balanced between sportswear (casual) and dressy, and that’s one of the reasons I love it so much. I am really getting into blouses, so you will see more in 2019.

  4. I so enjoy reading your posts. I appreciate the lessons about fashion and style, and your white shirt is classic and inspirational.

  5. Heather Myers

    Lovely, great button choice! Inspires me to get going on a white blouse in my plans. And with fabric already in my studio! Thanks.

    • Thank you, Heather. I must say I was so excited to find those buttons. It is times like this that make me thankful I am always on the lookout for beautiful buttons, even if I don’t have a project for them yet!

  6. Debra Coglianese

    Thank you for sharing your choices choices with regard to the ‘stripe’ placement. A lovely outcome for an exquisite fabric. (Can you tell that tone on tone is my very favorite type of ‘print’!) I’m now intrigued to learn more about sew-in fabric interfacing.

    • Thank you, Debra! I do on occasion use fusible interfacing (for tote bags, some sewing that I do for my granddaughters, other craft projects), but I love to use woven, sew-in interfacing for things like this blouse. I just think it gives a softer, more professional look to most garments.

  7. Marilou Nagy

    Your sewing is always an inspiration! Thank you for detailing the important steps you take to make the finished garment a masterpiece. This one is no exception!

  8. Classic style and looks great. Even though the pattern is subtle,attention to placement of the stripes makes a huge difference in the finished look. Perfect with jeans.

  9. It’s the perfect white blouse!

  10. Pingback: A White Blouse — fiftydresses – Ellustar Fashion

  11. Reblogged this on sketchuniverse and commented:
    💮Well dears, a white sheet is not a workart yet, like a white charming shirt could be.

  12. It’s sad to say, but in all my sewing I’ve never sewn a white blouse! I think I’ve always been intimidated because I am very curvy… and button-down blouses always make me the look body. And the store bought ones always gap at the buttons.
    You have inspired me! I think I’m going to try and so one for myself! I especially love the back darts in your shirt. Very pretty!

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