A 1910s Shirtblouse - Elsie

My 1910's kick continues as I desperately try and finish an ensemble for Art Deco weekend, all next to crazy work hours, being sick, and trying to get out of the house on the weekend. I have mad respect for those who do the same but have kids as well! How do you manage it?

After I had my foundation garments made, it was time to make a blouse. I must have snatched up the last printed version of the pattern, but you can still get the Print-at-home version here.

I've never made a shirtwaist before - I don't think I've even made a button-down shirt - so naturally this was going to be a challenge for me. There are a few blog posts about the pattern - I had a look at the original, and the Dreamstress also has a great write-up about it. I decided to make a wearable mockup for my first go, using cheap shirting. The cotton was still very soft and comfortable, although a bit thin.

I used thread-tracing to mark where the waist stay would go (I highly recommend this!). At the time I foolishly decided not to mark the wrong side - both sides are identical, so it didn't really matter; but it certainly takes the guesswork out of which way to press the lapped cuff and what sleeve should go on which side! Next time I'll be sure to mark it.

I used a lightweight needle and went for it. The seam allowances on the shoulders and underarms are 1" - the Dreamstress mentions she would reduce that to save fabric. I used to opportunity to make flat-felled seams.

While not exactly the cleanest in the world, it makes for a tidy seam finish! The next time I sew this, I think I'll turn the gathers in the shoulder seams into small pleats. I don't think I made them quite pronounced enough, so they sort of looked like it was just sewn badly.

After the shoulder seams and side seams were sewn up, it's starting to look like a blouse! Next time, I will definitely wait until the last moment to attach the underlap. I believe it should go on around the same time as the collar. There's a nice section in the Vogue Sewing book on rolled collars that goes over how to do this properly.

Time to talk about the waist stay.

This was a tricky one, and I probably should have looked at more extant examples before diving in. I took the approach that one of my late Victorian sewing books mentions - the back is gathered and a strip is sewn over the gathers to stabilise them. I think this can be sewn on the inside or outside. However I think I ended up sewing the waist stay as a casing for a waistband. While not what the pattern intended, I believe this is a legitimate way to finish a shirtblouse.

As for the way I'll do it next time, I found a YouTube tutorial (after the fact) by Wearing History for another of her Resto-vival patterns. I'm sure this would apply neatly to the Elsie blouse.

I like how the collar turned out, but I think with the correct (or at least, better) technique, it would come together even better.

On to the sleeves!

These cuffs are incredible - I love the shape so much! I top-stitched around to add a bit of detail. Fortunately I had made sleeves with a lapped cuff before, so I almost knew what I was doing. It worked out in the end.

The button-hole foot is definitely not working on my sewing machine, so I had to hand sew all of the button holes. Not exactly ideal, but it gave me a lot of practice! Next time I'll mark them up and pay someone to do it properly. The buttons are originals from the 1930's I received in a bulk button buy.

The cuffs aren't finished very cleanly. I know I have been able to make them with a clean join in the past, but I was both too lazy and too tired to look up how. I keep neglecting my Vogue Sewing book which has bitten me a few times. That thing is full of detailed, step-by-step instructions on a number of useful techniques and I need to use it more.

Overall I'm quite happy with how it came together. It's definitely a wearable mockup! The sleeves are a perfect length which is certainly rare for me. I do think I should extend the torso - the waist sits above my natural waist. While the skirts of the 1910's tended to skim an inch or so above the waistline, it does no favours to have the waist peeking out the top!

I plan to make more of these, but with tidier construction. I want to make the shorter sleeved version as well. There are so many opportunities to add detail and interest to a shirtwaist like this.