I went through a period where I mostly only sewed, but now I have hit on a nice equilibrium. It was a really interesting process, to slowly migrate to sewing a lot of my own clothes. I made lots and lots to begin with. Some worked out great, some not at all. Through each iteration, I developed a better sense not only of what I liked to wear, but also to sew. Within that, it has been fun to see what I like to wear vary over time, depending on what I have been doing. Whilst I was working in the university, I enjoyed making clothes to wear to work. I made a lot of day dresses and discovered that a knit dress is one of the most satisfying quick sews you can have. Since leaving that job and returning to full-time studies, not to mention full-time lockdown, I find myself more in need of some more basics.
I like open-front cardigans. They go well with dresses and with shirts and blouses. I have a few shirts in my wardrobe that I love, but I didn’t have any blouses. To me, the main differences between a shirt and a blouse is the collar (a blouse doesn’t have a collar stand), the button placket (a shirt seems to usually have a separate one attached), and the finish at the sleeves. I have patterns for blouses that just finish the sleeves with a simple hem, and others with a cuff but no tower placket. It is interesting to see how many details from mens’ shirts have crossed into women’s wear, and kind of funny to reflect on how arbitrary these gender-specific details are! Anyway, after quite some searching, I found New Look 6394. The cover photo is none too enticing but the details are all there! I liked how it has a tunic length option, as well as the option for a collar stand or a blouse collar.
I got the fabric in 2017 when I went to visit my friend in Paris. I stayed with her a few days and visited the fabric district. I had never been to a proper fabric district before so it was a lot of fun! I really love a bright plaid and couldn’t leave this behind. It was about €5 a metre. I cut the back yoke on the bias:
…and did my best with the pattern matching. I was very conscientious about it for the body but unfortunately neglected to check if the sleeves were symmetrically mirrored. It worked out reasonably well but I wish I had thought of it beforehand.
The buttons I had in my stash. I had only 4 that matched so I left off the 5th bottom one, because I find that usually gets caught in my trousers when I tuck it in anyway! The only other adjustment I made was to hem the sleeves much shorter. It is curious how a too-long sleeve can affect the finished appearance! I found in my search for this pattern that sizes for this type of blouse tend to be inexplicably huge. I cut the smallest size, which gave a finished measurement of a 38″ bust. There have been a few releases from independent designers this summer for a similar style. The Liesl & Co Camp Shirt has a really lovely feel to it, but the smallest size has a finished measurement of about 40″. Helen’s Closet recently released the Gilbert Shirt which has a more balanced size range, and a really nice option for a tie at the front. I had already bought (and made!) this pattern by the time it was released, so if you don’t have access to New Look patterns, they’re two nice alternatives for you with contrasting options.
I love the boyish look that this blouse has and I am pretty sure that I will be wearing this into the winter with a long-sleeved top underneath it.
I have been thinking a lot about what to keep in my wardrobe and the sewing of basics. I lost a lot of weight over the last few years and although that thankfully has stabilised, I find that my shape has changed. This is neither good nor bad, just different, and the more I think about it, the more obviously normal it is. I have gradually purged what I have. In the last year especially, I donated quite a lot of very old handmades. In the process of doing that, I chose the items that I loved but were now unwearably big and over time, adjusted them and have since readmitted them. Although a chore, this is very satisfying to do! I had a lovely button-down denim skirt made from a fantastic Japanese selvedge denim, for example, that I could take off without opening the buttons. Now it is back on a hanger! So although I am making less clothes, I am investing more time into saving makes that I know that I will continue to wear. I have no problem donating handmades as it makes me very happy to think that someone else might enjoy wearing it as much as I did.
As for basics, I have been thinking a lot about fast fashion and the ethics of the manufacturing process. The lockdown exposed some of the horrors that continue in countries such as Bangladesh and Indonesia. I have learned, through Garthenor Organics, how important certification such as GOTS and OEKO-Tex are. It is not just about environmental sustainability but also making a conscious decision to be mindful of fellow humans living and working in other places. For example, the GOTS certification also ensures that the people making that product are paid at least the minimum wage. I haven’t bought anything fast fashion-y for a few years now and when it comes to basics, like bras, knickers and t-shirts that I would normally buy in M&S or Penney’s, I am slowly teaching myself how to make these things and use up my fabric scraps. The t-shirts and knickers are easy enough. I have found a pattern for both that really work for me. As for bras, this is more complicated and I am in the process of trying out a Jalie pattern. More on that another day! Thanks for reading.