What I wear

The ‘Ice Cream Banana’ blouse

My ‘Ice Cream Banana’ blouse

For some background music for this post, put on Gin Wigmore’s ‘Too Late for Lovers‘, because Gin is awesome, and her yellow uniform in this video is awesomely awful.  Also Dennis Pavao’s ‘Ka’ahumanu‘, a wonderful old-school Hawaiian song in honour of the  Hawai’ian queen  who abolished the kapu (taboo) system by  eating bananas with her son, the king.  Before this women were not allowed to eat with men, and bananas were forbidden to women.

Right.  The sewing.

This blouse has nothing to do with ice cream.  It’s all about bananas.

You’re probably familiar with Cavendish bananas from the supermarket, and perhaps one or two other novelty varieties, but did you know that there are actually  hundreds  of different varieties of bananas?  The Hawaiian’s alone had at least 44 different varieties of bananas before European contact.  Sadly, almost half of these varieties have gone extinct in the last few centuries, and only 23 varieties of Hawaiian bananas remain, and 19 of these are very endangered.

Young un-developed ice cream bananas

A grove up apple bananas

The fabric for this blouse instantly reminded me of the creamy yellow interior of ice cream bananas, with circles of the slightly brighter frosted skins, and more circles of the slightly pink colour you get inside other banana varieties, like cuban reds.  Sadly, I don’t have any photos of ripe ice cream bananas, but I’ve thrown in a few other photos of bananas on the family farm.

Ice-cream banana-yellow voile & little square buttons

This was the first fabric that I bought specifically for a Sew Weekly challenge (I don’t count  the tea gown  lace, as I had 3/4 of the fabric for that project in-stash).  I just didn’t have any yellow in my stash to do the yellow challenge!  It’s not that I don’t like yellow.  In fact, I  love  yellow.  I’m  obsessed  with it.  Proof  here, and  here, and  here, and, well,  here.  In fact, I am  so  obsessed with it there is none left in my stash — or at least none that could be turned into something in a week (I’m not going to attempt a fully corded corset or a hand-sewn 17th century bodice in a week).  So it was off to the fabric store for me.

It was actually  really  hard to find a yellow fabric or fabric with yellow in it.  Yellow is clearly not the ‘in’ colour in NZ fabric stores this season.  I wasn’t certain about this fabric at first, but Shell talked me in to it, and now I quite love it.  To ‘yellow’ it up a bit more, and because I’m obsessed with interior finishes, I bound the hems in brighter yellow binding and turned them back and hand-sewed them down.

Yellow spots and yellow hem binding

The pattern is a new addition to my stash, courtesy of Trade Me.  I’ve gotten quite interested in Academy Patterns – it’s so amazing that NZ had its own pattern company (more than one in fact), and I think it is so adorable that all most all their patterns say ‘New York Design’.

Academy Patterns 4785

I love ’50s blouses with cut-on sleeves, and the single-piece construction with bias back intrigued me.

Academy Patterns 4785 back

Unfortunately I don’t love mandarin collars and pussy bows, especially since tight collars on vintage patterns are deadly-tight on me.  So I modified the neckline to be slightly bigger and to have a little front V instead of a tight, high collar.  It’s a nice way to add interest while still staying comfortable, modest, and sun protected (important as this will definitely be part of my upcoming-trip-to-Hawaii wardrobe).

In addition to reminding me of ice-cream bananas, the blouse reminds me of the Flintstones, especially when I pair it with my rather rock-like baroque pearls.  It’s 50′s prim meets prehistoric, and that amuses me to no end.

Monkeys! And yummy lemon tart. And the blouse.

Then we went to the Lady Norwood Begonia house in the Botanical Gardens — the only place that was warm (and dry) enough to do ‘outside’ photos in the weather we were having.


I love the Begonia House.  It’s almost subtropical even in winter, and you can put your hands in the lily pond and fish come and nibble your fingers.  It made me no end of happy.

The bias-cut back of the blouse

Also, it’s full of tropical flowers and plants that grow at home, which makes me feel at home.  It even has coffee beans.  But no banana trees 🙁

Coffee beans, and the seam-less shoulder and sleeve construction

Just the facts, Ma’am:

Fabric:  1.1m of palest yellow circle patterned cotton voile ($7)

Pattern:  Academy 4785 with alterations to the neckline (Academy was a NZ pattern company active from the ’40s-60s)

Year:  1952

Notions:  Thread, bias binding for interior finishes (thrifted, 10 cents), 7 small, square buttons (inherited from Nana)

And the insides?    Pinked seams (I wanted to keep them very light), rolled hems for the facing, bias-bound, turned and hand-sewn bottom and sleeve hems.

Hours:  3 hours

First worn?:  Sunday 5 August to teach Baha’i children’s classes, then again on Tue for lectures & a photoshoot.

Wear again?:  Yep.1950′s cut-on sleeve blouses are my version of T-shirts.  This goes with jeans, shorts, all my pencil skirts, and even  my Pachyderm skirt  (yes! finally a blouse to match it!)

Make again?:  I’ll probably only use this pattern again for a striped version.  It just isn’t  quite  as nice as  Butterick 6223, even if the bias-cut back and two-piece construction with no shoulder seams is pretty cool.

Total cost:  $7.10

My favourite spot on cold, rainy days


  1. Lynne says

    The blouse is a sweetie, and I really like what you have done with the neck.

    We were a bit sad with our cultural cringe, weren’t we? If it didn’t come from London or Paris or New York – well, it just wasn’t worth making!

    When go back to Hawaii, you’ll have to take some photos of the insides of bananas for us. My banana tasting has been limited to Mr Dole’s unethical bananas – I didn’t know they came with pink tinges!

    • Thank you! I don’t think the cultural cringe is too bad – after all, every seamstress in a small town in the US wanted a NY or London or Paris design as well.

      I will photograph the insides of bananas and everything else as well. The more I blog the more I realise how helpful it is to have photographs of EVERYTHING.

      What I didn’t mention in this post is that I don’t actually like bananas, Dole (which was actually a Hawaiian family) or otherwise.

  2. Maire Smith says

    But there’s been a banana tree in the cooler room by the cafe, where the actual begonias grow, for some years!

    • You’re right! I’ve got photographs of it – I can’t believe I forgot it was there. Of course, it was too cold in the actual begonia section to be in shirtsleeves the day we did this photoshoot.

  3. Claire Payne says

    I love the blouse, especially the way you changed the neckline. Love the hem finish with the bindning too. Yet more from Nana? Blimey her stash must be enormous!

    • Thank you :-). Nana’s stash is very impressive – I’ve barely scratched the surface. There is a chance that I picked up this particular stuff at an op shop rather than inheriting it. I can remember with the fabric but the notions get a bit mixed up.

  4. You look stunning – yellow is so fantastic on you! I love the cut of this blouse and all the golden details you added to it – very well done! Your background (and the fabulous sounding fish pond) are just marvelous 🙂

    • Thank you! I don’t think all shades of yellow work on me (I long for bright yellow, but brights aren’t great on me), but I love the palest shades and golden shades.

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