What I wear

The Goldilocks & the three bugbears blouse

Last week the Sew Weekly challenge was 1940s.  Exciting!

I love 1940s, but rarely end up sewing it.  And I knew just what I wanted to make.

Not for me one of the endless (but very charming) 1940s dress patterns that Simplicity and Butterick are re-releasing, or even a vintage dress pattern. I was just given Advance 1868, and I think it’s just adorable. Time to make it up!

I picked view #2 because I love the option of a contrast section.

Unfortunately, as I tackled the blouse I quickly began to feel like Goldilocks.

I’d decided to use the green and white voile that I used on my Toeses & Roses tap pants for the contrast portions of View 2 (I’m definitely the kind of seamstress that works with a fabric, falls in love with it, and then wants to make dozens of items in it, as opposed to the kind that makes something out of a fabric, and then is totally over it). So I needed some white to go with it.

Simple! I’m the queen of white fabric — with the dozens of different varieties in my stash matching white should be easy, right? Nope. One was too white, the other not white enough. One was too heavy, another too translucent. None were just right.

Blast! (actually, that’s not at all the word I used. The one I used also starts with a B, and works better with the title of this post, but I’ve had to stop saying/writing it publicly ever since I learned it actually is a bad word)

Finally I settled on a crisp vintage cotton — a bit heavier and stiffer than was ideal, but the closest I could get to the right shade and hand.

Then I went to cut out the pattern. First, my pattern is a size 32″ bust. My bust is 37″. I was going to have to resize.

Blast! (see note above)

Then I looked at the pattern and realised I was missing the entire back piece.

Blast! (ditto)

So I sighed, girded my intellectual loins, and drafted a back piece based off the front and the (very basic) illustration on the back of the pattern. And I sighed some more, and drafted re-sized pieces.

Then I sewed the blouse up, and it was monstrous. Like wearing a tent. The whole thing got unpicked, and I ended up cutting it all the way back down to the original pattern size.

And that’s what you are seeing here:

Yeah, it’s still a bit too big.

It’s also pulling slightly funny around the neck and at the back (though more so in these pictures that it did at any time I checked it during a whole day of wearing), so I need to spend a little time with the blouse analyzing what went wrong, deciding if I can fix it with this version, or if I can ever be bothered to make another version. I do like things to be just right.

The back was supposed to button all the way up, but I’m flat enough that I can get away with a seam and just one top button, so I did.

With the blouse I’m wearing my ‘Please don’t photograph me’ 1930s skirt, which turned out to be a bad idea, because the skirt’s anti-photography curse struck again, and all the interesting photographs I tried to take at the old Museum Building (an icon of early 1940s Art Deco architecture in New Zealand, and a fantastic place to do photoshoots, as you may remember from the Laurel Dress & blue dress photoshoots) turned out terribly, and I had to do a quick catch up session in front of the boring white wall. It’s really hard to photograph yourself with a timer!


Despite the super happy photography, I’m not sure how I feel about the blouse. It’s very…blouson. And my mother was always very anti-broad shouldered styles, so tackling the 1940s always makes me nervous, as it feels weird to accentuate the shoulders. But I managed to wear it all day as I ran errands around town, so it’s growing on me.

I still have a few bugbears regarding the whole thing, but hopefully one day Goldilocks is going to be skipping happily through the woods in this!

Just the facts, Ma’am:

Fabric: 3/4m white cotton lawn, 1/4m green and white checked cotton voile.

Pattern:  Simplicity 1868

Year: early 1940s

Notions: One vintage hexagonal pearlized button, thread.

Hours: 3

Wear again?: Yes, though I still have reservations about it.

Make again?: Maybe? I’m pretty sick of it for now, but I would like to conquer this pattern!

Total cost: $2.50 or less

And the inside?  Confession time.  The sleeves still look terrible on the inside during the photoshoot.  But the pattern did come with instructions on how to finish them prettily, so that is now done.  The rest is done with french seams, and I altered the pattern so that it used another yoke piece as a facing to finish the neckline and catch all the raw edges from where the yoke meets the bodice front.



  1. Stella says

    Hmm… I do like the pattern, but I see what you mean. It is so very blouson, and while I generally like broad shouldered styles I think they need a bit more structure and waist definition to really work. Was it intended to have shoulder pads, perhaps? Views 1 and 3 look like they have ’em and it would affect the fit if the pattern is cut for shoulder pads.

    • Well, waist definition is something I’m never going to have! There is no place to put shoulder pads on the short sleeved style – the other styles have very light, minimal pads based on the pattern.

  2. I love it, actually! The neck pulling might be a vestige of the intended smaller size? If it’s fitting differently around yer shoulders than it was drafted to. I echo Stella about it potentially being intended for shoulder pads, also.

    I personally love these big shouldered Forties blouses (and I say this as a girl who tends toward semi-linebacker shoulders anyway…why not go with it, right?), so I may be apologist-ing a little much for this guy. If the blousiness of the midriff area is too much, maybe take some tucks below the bust or at the waistline? But I think it looks just fine as it is…and I suppose that would mean having to (re)instate the rest of the button placket, huh…

    • I agree that the neck pulling is because the neck is too small. It may because of the sizing, but also because necks are thicker in modern physiques (along with upper arms and thighs – improved childhood nutrition means more muscle mass). I’ll be enlarging the neck and bringing the yoke curve down to match it in future versions.

      The blouse views with sleeves do have very light shoulder pads, but the ruffles of the sleeveless version mean there is nowhere to put them.

      There are actually tucks below the waistline, so it’s quite fitted over the hips and in the waist – just not across the bust! And I can still pull it over my chest – yay for small busts! 😉

      • Elise says

        Yeah, but BOO for small busts and blouson! I’m with everyone else, this blouse should be cuter than it is. The fact that you make it look cute at all is to your own credit as seamstress and general cutie.

        Could the waist be higher? I can’t do blouson either, but I have a pencily skirt with a high fitted placket on the waist. THEN, the blouson actually adds and balances me. I don’t think that would be period, though.

        I’ve been interested to learn more about how modern bodies are different than older ones.

        Anyhow, it’s fun reading all of us trying to problem-solve this blouse! We want to save it!

        • Aaaack, it’s just so awesome in theory! I want it to make you as happy, O Dreamstress, as the pattern envelope makes me!

          Fair point about the shoulder pads and ruffles, didn’t really think that through huh. The higher waisted skirt idea has potential, though…?

          • Oh yes, a super high waisted skirt (or, even better, super high waisted 1940s trousers with wide legs) are definitely on the list.

  3. I’m glad to know that large arms and thighs mean more muscles. I thought I was just fat!

    I think this top has great potential, but it just isn’t quite there yet. I know you will make it right, however. Maybe a softer fabric would lay a bit better and not look as blouse-y? But I love the sleeves on you. Wish I could wear something like that. I’d have to go with view one, and hope the pouf at the end of the sleeves didn’t add too much mass at my waist.

    Actually, I think I had a similar blouse to view one back in the late 80’s. Which may have been the last time I had a defined waist. Yes, it had shoulder pads that would have been appropriate on the football field. But in a lovely, feminine shade of pink, which made it all alright. Or at least I thought so back then!

    And good for you for persevering through all the obstacles you had to hurdle!

  4. Shoulder pads! I know they wouldn’t fit – but it would help a lot…Those 40’s things make one look quite slope shouldered unless they have pads.
    Still a really cute top I think!

    • And I am already so slope shouldered to start with. Sigh. But as a Victorian aficionado, slope shoulders are just the thing! It’s all about loving your body and finding the right period for it.

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