Tag Archives: Bow blouses

Red Letter Day-Dress

Red Letter Day:  “A day that is pleasantly noteworthy or memorable.”  (Cambridge Languages)

Day Dress: “The perfect all-in-one outfit, a day dress is a versatile and fashionable way to look chic and stay comfortable at the same time.”  

Any day I finish a lengthy project (successfully) is definitely a “red letter day.”  This dress just happens to be red, adorned with letters, and “back in the day,” as they say, it would have been considered a “day-dress,” although the apt description above is actually from a current website. (DavidJones.com)  

I found this silk at Britex Fabrics in San francisco.
I used this blouse pattern from 1957 as the basis for the dress, opting for long sleeves and the lower bow. I did not have enough buttons to make French cuffs, so I did plain cuffs.

I go into a little bit of how this dress evolved in my last post.  But of course there were many more decisions to be made along the way.  I had to decide: 

  • Do I underline this crepe de chine? 
  • If I underline it, what do I use for my underlining fabric?
  • Do I also line this dress?
  • If I line it, do I also line the sleeves?
  • The blouse pattern has floating, released darts at the waist.  Do I use that technique for this pattern transformed into a dress?
  • What color and type of buttons will most enhance the fabric?
  • Do I make bound buttonholes or machine-stitched ones?

So, let’s start at the beginning.  Because this was a very soft, fluid, lightweight crepe de chine, I thought it best to underline it.  My normal go-to for underlining – silk organza – would have reduced the fluidity of the silk, so I ruled that out.  Cotton batiste just did not seem the way to go.  When I found a silk batiste on the website for Farmhouse Fabrics, I knew I had my solution.

I believe you can, in this photo, see how lightweight and lovely this silk batiste is.

However, even with the ethereal nature of the silk batiste, I decided not to underline (or line) the sleeves.  I wanted them to retain their uninhibited flow.

I clipped the armscye seam carefully and pressed it to the interior of the dress. Then I fell-stitched the lining to the interior edge.

Once I had the underlining basted to the fashion fabric, I weighed whether or not to line the body of the dress.  I went with my gut feeling about this and decided to line it with a soft and lightweight red silk crepe de chine – almost a perfect match in color, as is evident in the above picture – which I purchased from Emma One Sock Fabrics.  

In doing so, I eliminated the front and neck facings which were replaced with the solid red lining. 

I eliminated the facings and used the red crepe de chine lining fabric to finish the interior of the body of the dress. Here is the right front edge.

I had worked out the floating dart question in my muslin/toile and decided to use them for the dress.  This left above the waist “blousy” and made it more fitted below the waist.  

This shows the released darts on the back of the dress.
Here is a side released dart on the front of the dress.
The released dart on one side of the dress front.

Buttons are always one of my favorite parts of a project.  I simply love looking for buttons – and I really love finding the perfect ones.  In this case, I knew I needed a large quantity – at least 10, depending on the size I found.  I did not think red buttons would do anything to enhance the dress, and I thought white pearl buttons would be too much of a contrast.  But then I found these buttons on eBay:

They are probably from the 1940s, cut glass, made in Czechoslovakia.  The card held 12 buttons, a good quantity for my purpose.  I think of these buttons as “small, but mighty.”  They provide the right contrast, and the faceted surface picks up the shimmer from the slight jacquard weave in the fabric.  I think they are perfect!

I used ten buttons for the front of the dress. These buttons are small so I was able to space them closely together to get the effect I wanted. I always know I have found the right buttons when they look like they “belong” – they do not steal the show nor are they too weak.
The right top neck edge, with a snap to keep things tidy under the tied bow.
The lone button on the sleeve, showing a bit of shimmer to match the shimmer in the fashion fabric.
The importance of the buttons shows off well in this photo, I think.

And finally, bound or machine-made buttonholes?  I did a sample of each.  I have recently started using my automatic buttonholer for my 1951 Singer Featherweight, and I must say, it is an engineering marvel.  It makes such amazing, precise buttonholes.  And although I do love bound buttonholes, I decided in this instance I would be happier with machine-made ones.  

I haven’t even mentioned the belt! I wanted a self belt, so I knew I would have to make it myself. I found a belt-making kit from the 1960s on eBay and used it for the buckle and the belt canvas.

So that about sums it up.  I had just barely enough fabric to eke out this dress (which seems to be a theme with me!), so I think it was meant to be.  Here’s to Red Letter Days – and the dresses which make them happy.  


Filed under Blouse patterns from the 1950's, Bows as design feature, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Day dresses, Linings, silk, Uncategorized, underlinings, vintage buttons, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s

The Necessary Blouse

Fashion sewing is an interesting combination of inspiration, aspiration, indulgence and necessity, manifested singly or collectively.  My newly completed bow blouse is an example of a bit of all of these motivations rolled into one.  This is the blouse I made to go with my No. 2 Chanel-inspired jacket, made from the same red and navy blue geometric print silk with which I lined the jacket.

The Necessary Blouse Inspiration came from several sources.  I was mostly inspired by the pattern, which is copyright 1957 by The Conde Nast Publications, Inc. (Vogue Patterns) – so much so, that I purchased it in a size larger than I usually wear, as that was what was available – and with vintage patterns, one is never sure to find a favorite one again soon – or ever.

Looking at blouses 1957

Some of the aspects of the pattern which appealed to me are: 1) the “dropped” bow shown in views A and B; 2) the various sleeve lengths; 3) the shaping in the body of the blouse – soft and understated, but very feminine.  Just for fun, I looked through a few of my Vogue Pattern Book Magazines from 1957 and 1958, to see if I could find examples of this blouse pattern.  That was easy!  Here is one sketch and one photograph of Vogue 9227:

The blouse was featured in the December/January 1957-58 issue.

The blouse was featured in the December/January 1957-58 issue.

Part of a feature entitled "A new era for the soft BLOUSE."  In the August/September, 1957 issue of VPB.

Part of a feature entitled “A new era for the soft BLOUSE.” In the August/September, 1957 issue of VPB. 

After making a sheath dress to coordinate with my Chanel-inspired jacket No. 1, I aspired to pair my Jacket No. 2 with a suitable companion, too.  A bow blouse seemed to be a versatile and useful solution.  And then it became a necessity!   I decided my Jacket No. 2 would not be complete until I finished this blouse.

Back view

Back view

Step number one was to make a muslin (of course), knowing that I would need to alter the pattern to fit me correctly.  Sure enough, I needed to take out the bagginess in the bust and body of the blouse, and I needed to shorten the sleeves.  I went to my favorite book on making alterations which guided me through the correct changes:

I highly recommend this book.

I highly recommend this book.

My muslin showed me that the sleeves were also a little too full for me and for current 2014 styles, so I removed some girth from them as well.  I was skeptical of the bow (cut on the diagonal) when I looked at the pattern and then the muslin.  Would it be too full?  Made up in muslin it seemed a little overwhelming.  But, my silk was so lightweight and fine, that I decided it might just be okay, using the original dimensions.

Here is the bow/collar ready to be attached to the body of the blouse.

Here is the bow/collar ready to be attached to the body of the blouse.

This blouse went together quite as planned, although I worked on one side where the bow/collar joins the corner at the front facing for hours, until I had it inserted correctly.  I kept making the same mistake over and over, which was a little irritating.  I also added some extra hand-sewing, understitching the facing by hand and hand-stitching the hem.

Hand understitching looks just so much nicer than machine stitching!

Hand understitching looks just so much nicer than machine stitching!

When I started the blouse, I had not yet picked out buttons, thinking I would use some that I have in my vintage collection.  But then I was on Waechter’s website and found these buttons, which seemed just about perfect:

The Necessary Blouse - button

These buttons measure 5/8″. 

(Sadly, Waechter’s is closing their business in Asheville, N. C., to my great dismay.  This makes me even more grateful for Britex Fabrics in San Francisco, from which I purchased all the fabric for this blouse and my Jacket No. 2.)

Sewing with vintage patterns is such a pleasure in so many ways.  For example, the sleeve vents had their own separate pattern piece:

The instruction sheet from the pattern . . . .

The instruction sheet from the pattern . . . .

The vent sewn on . . . .

The vent sewn on . . . .

. . . . and the finished vent.

. . . . and the finished vent.

Another classic vintage aspect is the proscribed use of snaps  – in this pattern, at the waist and below, which takes bulk away from the “tuck-in” part of the blouse.

And that bow?  Once I had it made up, was it too much?

I think the bow is just about perfect.

I think the bow is just about perfect.

I am very glad I didn't tinker with the size of the bow!

I am very glad I didn’t tinker with the size of the bow!

Shown with the jacket.  I really like how the collar on the blouse shows a bit when i have the jacket on.

Shown with the jacket. I really like how the collar on the blouse shows a bit when I have the jacket on.

The Necessary Blouse

A comfortable fit.

The Necessary Blouse

Would be nice with a navy skirt as well …

The Necessary Blouse

Whew!  Blouse and jacket turned out as I had hoped!

Whew! Blouse and jacket turned out as I had hoped!

I am feeling quite good about indulging in the extra fabric and extra time needed to make this blouse.  Now that my No. 2 Jacket is complete, I can indulge in my other current project – my color-blocked coat –  which might add a new word to the vocabulary of fashion sewing – obsession!


Filed under Blouse patterns from the 1950's, Blouses, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Chanel-type jackets, sewing in silk, The Conde Nast Publications, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, Vogue patterns