20th Century, Reviews: resources, books, museums

Review: Folkwear #210 Armistice Blouse

In designing costumes for the Home Show, I consulted hundreds of photographs of New Zealanders during WWI, and noticed that many women were wearing blouses similar to the classic 1910s blouse pattern: Folkwear #210, the Armistice Blouse.  I’ve had this pattern for years, but never used it.  Perfect opportunity to make it up for Maggie!

(apologies in advance for the dreadful photographs of the pattern.  I spent all day hunting for it, and finally found it once the light was gone.  I’ll take better ones tomorrow and replace them)

What it is:

The pattern

A pattern based on blouses from 1915-1919.  It’s not clear if the pattern is based on an extent blouse, extent patterns, or just a sampling of the most common blouse characteristics from this period, though I really suspect from making it up that it isn’t 100% historically accurate.

The description of the blouse on the pattern

It comes with options for a drawn-thread-work front, or a pintucked front, and for lace trim.

My version:

My version is made of a hard-wearing, washable black silk with a slight slub (I made Mr D a shirt out of this fabric before he was Mr D, some 7 years ago, and it’s still going strong, so I know the fabric is robust).  Too add drama and a sense of change when Maggie’s maid apron comes off, I did the front panel out of a contrast fabric: an ivory cotton with woven in stripes and a faint floral pattern.  It’s trimmed with a delicate cotton inset lace on the collar.

I  did the front piece without drawn thread work or pintucks: both are too fussy and delicate for theatre wear.  I did, however, do three lines of inset lace, just to give some sense of detail and handwork, and to tie in the lace trim around the collar.   Rather than having button fastenings down one edge of the front panel, I sewed the front  closed at both edges, leaving it open on the PR edge under the collar, where it fastens with snaps (domes).  It’s still easy to pull on and off over the head, but gets rid of the tricky front fastenings.

The front panel, with fastening hidden under the PR collar edge

I also added a pleat to the centre back, to give Rowena a bit more stretch and ease across the back as she hangs out laundry and dusts onstage.  For such a simple thing, I’m inordinately pleased with it.

The clever centre back inverse box pleat

I also omitted the turn-back cuffs (see ‘The Ugly’ for why), and raised the neckline 2″, to fit with the conservative fashions Maggie would have worn.

As this is for theatre and needs to be robust (and sewn by me, and thus obsessively finished) all the interior seams except the shoulder seam are finished with French seams.  The shoulder seams are bound with bias tape.  Nothing to fray or catch anywhere!

The Good:

The pattern is relatively simple, relatively historically accurate, but also wearable in a modern setting, easy to adapt to different looks, and attractive.  And it really does represent a very common style for the era.  The instructions are reasonably historically accurate, but not quite exact.

The Bad:

There are four  five things that are difficult/tricky/irritating or just wrong about this pattern: The instructions, the front facing, the sizing gradients, and the sleeves.

First, the instructions aren’t always clear.  It’s tricky to figure out what the options are and what pieces to use and omit for each option, and there aren’t illustrations for Option A.  Once you do figure that out, the sewing instructions are a bit vague and confusing.  I did a lot of unpicking, grumbling, and pinning pieces on Isabella to figure out how they went together.  Once you figure it out, the blouse is really easy, but the technical writing on the pattern leaves a bit to be desired.

Second, the pattern has you cut a long, narrow, barely curved front facing, which you then finish along one edge with a narrow hem or a back fold, and stitch down to the main blouse fabric.  This is ridiculous.  It’s tricky to cut, tricky to hem or back fold, tricky to install, a pain to sew down,and doesn’t look that good in the end.  A piece of bias tape fulfills the same function much better, with much less work, and it’s already basically finished.  And yes, I’ve seen bias tapes and twill tapes used for similar functions in 19teens garments, so my option is historically accurate.

The facing that should really just be a bit of flat fold bias binding

Third, the sizing gradiations are ludicrous.  In many places they are so slight as to be well within the slight variations that will happen with cutting, meaning that the smaller sizes are a little big, and the bigger sizes not big enough (something other people who have made this have noticed).

The SA given is 1/2", so you can see how tiny those gradients are

For the fourth issue, as  other reviewers  have pointed out, the sleeves on the pattern are ridiculously too long.  I measure all the primary measurements on my patterns against my measurements (or, in this case, the measurements of the actor) before cutting as a matter of habit, so it wasn’t a problem – I immediately noticed the sleeves were 2″ longer than Rowena’s shoulder to wrist measurement, and did my adjustments before I cut.  I have longer arms, so the sleeves are 1 1/2″ too long on me.  I can’t imagine that there are many people who would find the pattern sleeves to be the right length as they are.

My shortened sleeves pattern

Finally, for the fifth issue, which I remembered after writing the rest of the review, there is the little problem of the waist tie.  Folkwear has you cut turn, and sew, an incredible long and thin tie.  So annoying!  Especially when you go to sew it on and realise that it is a good 15″ longer than it should be (after all, you don’t want the front bow hanging to your knees), meaning that you either have to trim from either end, or cut from one end and sew it with the seam in it off-centre (which is what I chose to do).  And then you look at their pattern illustration, and realise that they didn’t bother doing the waist-tie for their blouse – they used a piece of twill tape!  And there is no way they cut it as long as the tie pattern piece.  So annoying!  The instructions should definitely give using a piece of twill tape or ribbon as an option.

The Ugly:

I really don’t like the turn-back cuffs.  They are odd, tricky to do, and don’t look right to me.  I haven’t found many extent examples or historical patterns with this cuff either, so I omitted them from my pattern.  Easy to do.

View B with the turned-back cuffs (no illustration of View A is given)

The Verdict:  

A good, easy, basic 19teens blouse pattern, with a few flaws.  Know the flaws, know to watch out for them, and it’s good as gold.

 7 out of 10


  1. Thank you so very very much for this detailed review of the Armistice Blouse! I’ve been eying it for some time now, thinking to buy it for a recreation of Lady Mary’s blouse, but wasn’t sure of its historical accuracy and all. Yours looks lovely with the inset lace!

    • Thank you! I’d say it’s actually probably reasonably far off historically accurate. I think both Lauren of Wearing History and Steph of 3hourspast are about to put out 1910s blouse patterns (Steph’s will, I think, be modern ‘historically inspired’, Lauren’s more accurate), so you might wait and see how those are. With that said, I am pretty sure that at least some of Mary’s blouses are based on this pattern.

  2. Stella says

    Aargh, pattern instructions! I hate ’em. Although to be fair that’s partly because I don’t bother to read the words and just look at the cryptic little diagrams, then I end up throwing them away and playing it by ear.

    What a great blouse though. Conservative, but still interesting and wearable, which can be hard to pull off. And it looks easy to draft up without buying the pattern, which is my favourite kind of pattern. I love that clever inverse box pleat. Is it period accurate?

    • Thank you. And totally agree about pattern instructions. That’s why I like period patterns – the instructions are so succinct.

      No idea if the box pleat is period accurate or not. I’m calling it ‘period plausible’ since I have seen in on the back of 1880s and 1890s girls dresses with dropped waists.

      • Stella says

        It does seem like such a sensible thing to put in for someone who had a labouring job and would need the extra shoulder movement.

    • Well, the model on their website has the cuffs sliding down over her knuckles, but I don’t see that as being attractive or historically accurate.

  3. Lovely blouse my dear. I made this blouse in a silk chiffon with lace and drawn work for my wedding 12 years ago….today. So what a nice surprise to see it here today. I must get it out of the closet now and see if I solved the facing issue as you did…cannot imagine that I would fuss with that narrow facing either.

  4. Probably the sleeves would fit me! I just cut out a dress today with long sleeves and had to add 3″ to the sleeves. But then I’m well above the average height and have long arms even for that.

    It’s a pretty blouse, and I love the centre back pleat which you added!

    • Thank you! You must be very tall and slim. The sleeves might fit you – but you are probably used to adding length to the arms as a matter of rote (just like I always shorten the back of my patterns), so it’s odd to have a pattern that is so far off the standard.

      • “Slim” is open to debate, lol – I’d say I’m average-but-curvy 😀 But yes, I add length as a matter of course – an inch or sometimes two to the bodice, at least two in most skirts, two or three to sleeves.

  5. Lynne says

    Dear Folkwear! They were the first patterns I found for historical costume, and I have built up a small collection. They were wonderful for costumes for productions, and as I remember, I managed the various re-sizeings reasonably well. I imagine the quality of the instructions will vary according to the person who did the pattern for Folkwear.

    I do like this blouse! How lovely that Lynne Williams used it for her wedding! Happy anniversary, Lynne!

  6. Marie-Christine says

    Ah, Folkwear! The hours I’ve spent, the handfuls of hair I’ve ripped out, thanks to their absurd grading.. Too bad, as many of their patterns are interesting, but when you know you’re going to have to redraft practically from scratch.. Still, thanks for reminding me of this one, I like your changes too.

    • Oh dear! I’m sorry to hear of your frustrations, but also glad to know that I’m not the only one who found the grading baffling and perplexing.

      • I wonder if it’s because it’s “too” period? I find the sizing and proportions on some 20’s and 30’s patterns are rather baffling… Just a guess, I haven’t worked with Folkwear. (yet! This blouse looks lovely and I wants one…)

        Very cool back pleat- I love extra “functionality.” 🙂 It looks fantastic.

        • Helen Pearson says

          A lot of period costumes need period underclothes……. and it isn’t a question of just putting the corset and lacings on for a day! In days gone by the corsets and stays and lacings actually changed the body shape over time so old sizings just don’t fit a natural shape.

          However with a bit of imagination it is possible to alter the patterns and I have made some nice things from the Folkwear patterns I have, including day and eveing dresses for my son’s wedding. My Dad thought both dresses came from a posh store and even now doesn’t really think I made them…. even when I showed him the offcuts of fabric!

          I’ve got the Armistice Blouse pattern on order (might come today) and will make it up in cheap muslin first just to see how it all goes together. I often adapt patterns a lot – extend blouses to make dresses – add gathers and pleats – widen or narrow sleeves. It is the top of the sleeve that is difficult to draft so I do use commercial patterns to get this correct. Once you have this it is quite straight forward to add or subtract detais. I do love your back pleat on this blouse and will be adding that to my pattern! I’m a strange shape after radical surgery and can never get off the peg clothes to fit.

          Thank you so much for the tips – I’m all for making things easy!

  7. great review of a troublesome pattern, and i love that you added a pleat to the blouse back.

  8. Cindy says

    Loved your review! I’m finishing up my blouse now. I used your bias tape idea, left off the waist tie (my waist vanished years ago), and fashioned more usable cuffs. I made a narrower cuff and have long arms, so I didn’t need to adjust the sleeve length. I like the blouse very much. I have made Folkwear’s midi blouse also, which seemed to be cut much larger. I think the sizing varies somewhat between patterns, although they both fit fine without having to do any alterations. I had done the first one using what I call my faux muslin process. Instead of using a muslin, I use cheap but wearable fabric–in this case a batiste I stole for $3 a yard. I make something wearable but under 20 bucks. Again, thanks for beta testing this pattern. Your efforts saved me hours of seam ripping!

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