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.
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:
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.
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”.
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.