Sewing the Secretary Blouse-Part 1: Cutting, Marking, Thread Tracing

When one drafts their own patterns they also need to develop skill in other areas of the process such as layout, cutting and marking. At first it’s uncharted territory but with careful planning the entire process can be developed to suit your needs and guarantee good results.

Before buying fabric, I complete all fittings and needed alternations to the pattern. Then on the floor I measure off the width of the fabric when folded by laying a tape measure across the floor. I begin to lay out the pattern pieces for the kind of fabric used considering any special needs such as pattern direction or nap. When all the pieces are laid out I use another tape measure to measure the length of the layout. This gives me an idea of how much yardage I may need.

For cutting I wait until I’ve actually bought the fashion fabric. Then I cut a scrap and try out the cutting shears and rotary cutter. I also examine the weight and the texture and try different marking methods.

The poly fabric for the Secretary Blouse is proving very easy to work with. It pinned well and was easy to cut using the rotary blade.

1. At the French Fashion Academy we were taught to lay the pattern on the right side of the fabric. I’ve no idea why we never used the wrong side of the fabric but I do find that I get a better result for the marking when using the dressmakers tracing paper.

Seams and notches are not added to the paper pattern. Instead the seams are marked 1/2″ or more (depends on the fabric and whether or not it shreds) out from the pattern using a clear plastic ruler and tailor’s chalk.

Instead of notches markings on the pattern indicate matchpoints such as the dots I use for the front and back armhole and on the sleeve to indicate easing and the part of the armscye the sleeve is eased into. When marking I simply make a small “x” at that spot using the tracing wheel and dressmaker’s tracing paper. Other times I might mark the spot with a small, loose hand stitch using basting thread.

Whenever possible, I use a rotary cutter and self-healing cutting mat. The results are much better than using the cutting shears.

2. The Dressmaker’s Tracing Paper is folded in half with the shiny side up and placed between the layers of the fabric. Marking in this way from the right side ensures that the tracings are done at the same time.

3. This is how the Dressmaker’s Tracing Paper marks look from the wrong side. The beautiful part of this kind of tracing paper is that the markings vanish once the seams are steam pressed open.

4. It’s a good idea to use different colors of cotton basting thread to differentiate stitching lines and grain lines. Here I’ve selected orange thread for the crosswise and lengthwise grain lines. The basting for all stitching lines will be done in light yellow thread. This helps me to remember what threads to remove after stitching and which ones stay in until the garment is completed.

5. After cutting, marking and tracing the grain lines, I next pin and baste the dart tucks before sewing. I check out how things look by pinning each piece to the dress form. This also gives me an idea of how the fabric will behave during construction. So far I’m pleased with the way the fabric is taking to the dart tucks and the horizontal dart at the bustline.

This Secretary Blouse has 4 dart tucks in the back and one on each side of the front. They are widest at top and taper to a very narrow width at the bottom. I’ll treat how to sew such dart tucks in the next posting. The tapered dart tucks are used in lieu of a blouse yoke to give better shaping under the sheath skirt that is part of this outfit. Many vintage blouses from the 1950s have either a blouse yoke below the waistline or many vertical darts or tucks running from waist to hem to help reduce bulk under the skirts and provide a flattering fit to the blouse.

Sheath Skirt with Kickpleat: Links to all postings in this series

To create the 1950s Style Sheath skirt with Kickpleat

How to Take Measurements

How to Add Style Ease for a Skirt Pattern (excludes Circle and Half-Circle Skirts)

Basic Skirt Front Drafting Instructions

Basic Skirt Back Drafting Instructions

Basic Skirt Front-Alteration for Misses Size 4

Fitting Toile with alterations-Misses size 4

Secretary Blouse and Sheath Skirt Fabrics Selected

I’ve decided to use a print for the Secretary Blouse. When I bought this fabric I did not consider whether or not the bow will be noticeable. I was more taken by the striking colors and print. I also liked the weight: just right to hold the vertical tucks of the bodice in place as well as support the gathers for the blouse sleeves.

100% polyester medium weight blouse fabric for the Secretary Blouse with Pussycat Bow.

It’s always so safe to go with neutral or pastel solid colors for blouses. Every detail will show up and the outfit can be enlivened by some jewelry with a retro feeling to it. For me, though, there is a tendency to do the quirky and I will deliberately NOT choose the solid color because it seems so boring.

In order to draw the eyes upward and focus attention on the neckline and bow, I’m thinking of adding a very pretty pair of sparkly earrings, just a little bit larger than the kind of post earrings favored today, to add a kind of 1950s feeling. I don’t think they will be pearls but I’m considering something in a jade or serpentine green with clear crystals as part of the earring.

50% Rayon and 50% Polyester Garbardine, medium weight, for the Sheath Skirt with Kickpleat at Center Back.

I fell in love with this spruce green poly/rayon blend Gabardine for the sheath skirt. It is a medium weight and has a beautiful drape. I think it would work just as well for a flared or circle skirt. I’m going to line it with a medium weight satin skirt lining to add to the body needed for a smooth fitting sheath skirt.

Sheath Skirt and Secretary Blouse fabrics together.

I’m very pleased with this combination but have already begin to consider what kind of buttons I should use for the blouse. Since the Pussycat Bow is the focal point of the design I do not want the buttons to detract the eye from the bow. At the same time plain old fabric covered buttons, in the same fabric as the blouse, seems dull. I think this is one time I’ll have to wait until the blouse is almost finished before making the buttonholes and buying the buttons. I think at that point I’ll put the blouse on the dress form with the bow tied. Then I’ll use buttons I already have and see how they look. I have some black and I could try fabric covered buttons using the skirt fabric.

It’s a lot of extra work but I really love the entire process and look forward to sharing it with you.

Since I am preparing to move next month the cutting and sewing will be delayed until I’m settled in by early – mid October. Between now and then I will post a few book reviews about sewing books and books about vintage patternmaking techniques.

Hope everyone enjoys the rest of the summer.

Note: I purchased these fabrics from the Fashion Fabrics Online site. When I have to stay within a very tight budget for a project I purchase from them. Many selections can be color coordinated with other fabrics available. They will match up linings, zippers, threads and interfacings for you. I also like that swatches can be ordered. I look forward to the day when I can also make garments with 100% natural fibers, too. It would be nice to find a site offering natural fibers at reasonable prices with the kinds of matching services that the Fashion Fabrics Online site has.

Secretary Blouse and Sheath Skirt: Skirt Toile Version 1

I am in the midst of preparing for a move to a new apartment on September 13, 2014. Since I will not be able to finish the altered skirt toile by then I thought it best to show how the first version is progressing. I have an opportunity with the current version to show the alteration I continually have to make everytime I draft a skirt using the Size 4 measurements. I never had to make this adjustment for myself or others. At times I am tempted to simply deduct the 3/8″ I must remove from the front measurement BEFORE drafting the pattern. However, experience has taught me that once the basics of the drafting technique are altered the rest of the process is effected and often the resulting pattern has fitting issues in more than one area. So, I follow the instructions as I’ve previously shared and then make the needed alteration.

The alteration for the Misses Size 4 Sheath Skirt Front is detailed in this posting.

Continue reading

RetroGlam 1950s Style Sheath Skirt with Back Kickpleat

The following instructions will help you recreate a skirt similar to View 3 in this pattern illustration.

Before drafting your Sheath Skirt pattern you will need to add style ease to your body measurements. Use the following guide to perform your calculations:

Waist Measurment + 1 to 1 1/2″ ease
Hip Circumference + 3″ ease
Front Skirt Length should fall at mid-calf. For a woman of 5′ 5″ to 5′ 6″ wearing a Misses Size 4 the Front Skirt Length of 27″ works well.

Construct the Basic Skirt Front and Basic Skirt Back using the resulting Waist and Hip Circumference when drafting the pattern.

Please read through all instructions for the Basic Skirt Front and Back since I include instructions on how to determine the pattern width if your Abdomen Circumference is larger than the Hip Circumference.

Back Skirt Pattern with additions for Kickpleat and Inverted Kickpleat.

1. To create the Center Back Kickpleat, measure out 3″ from Center Back of the Back Skirt Pattern at the hemline and at the top. Connect these two points.

2. Fold along the Center Back line and cut along the Waistline curve.

3. Open out the pattern and cut out along the Hem and Side Seam lines.

The shorter extension shown after the Center Back Kickpleat in the pattern diagram is for a skirt with Inverted Kickpleat. I have not included these instructions since I have found that such a kickpleat sometimes is too bulky and presents a problem when the fashion fabric is dry cleaned and pressed. Anyone making a skirt like this should insist the dry cleaner hand press the skirt using brown paper between the kickpleat and the skirt back. This extra step will prevent an unslightly impression being made on the outside of the skirt.

I will show the basic sewing of the kickpleat and waistband once the muslin is cut.

This type of kickpleat runs the entire length of the back skirt resulting in no display of leg when the kickpleat opens while walking. It is especially suitable for those who prefer modesty in dressing and also avoids the sagging that can happen when the kickpleat is shorter and stitched down from the top of the skirt. The back skirt fabric also is not marred by the top stitching seen on skirts with shorter kickpleats which must be topstitched to hold them in place.

The kickpleat works well when measured 7″ up from the hemline of the pattern for a woman 5’4″ to about 5′ 6″ tall. The actual measurement up from the hem can be changed based on your height. That is why making a toile is always best.

The Center Back seam is sewed from the end of the zipper down to the point where the kickpleat opens.

The shorter extension (W-V-T) shown in the diagram is for creating an inverted kickpleat. I have not provided instructions for the drafting of this.

The broken line at the side seam is for a tapered skirt. Since this is not part of the current project no drafting instructions are included for it in this posting.

Links to series for patternmaking of RetroGlam Secretary Blouse with Pussycat Bow

Links to series for patternmaking of RetroGlam Secretary Blouse with Pussycat Bow

Pattern envelope illustration that acted as source of inspiration

Photos of the toile which used the RetroGlam pattern

Secretary blouse with Pussycat Bow Part 1: The Bodice Pattern
-How to add style ease
-Includes links to drafting instructions of the Basic Bodice Front and Back

Secretary Blouse with Pussy Cat Bow Part 2: The Blouse Sleeve
-Includes link to Basic, Unfitted Sleeve
-Detailed instructions given to use the Basic, Unfitted Sleeve as a basis for the Blouse Sleeve gathered into cuff.
-Drafting of cuff pattern included.

Secretary Blouse with Pussycat Bow Part 3: Creating a Horizontal Side Dart
-Instructions to change the dart on the Basic Unfitted Bodice into a Horizontal Side Dart.
-This dart manipulation MUST be made since the fitting dart of the Basic Bodice is higher up and will not look good on a finished garment.

Secretary Blouse with Pussycat Bow Part 4: Lengthening the Bodice and Shaping the Neckline
-How to lengthen the Basic Bodice for use as a blouse.
-Shaping a gently curved V-Neckline for the front of the blouse.

Secretary Blouse with Pussycat Bow Part 5: Adding Ease at Hipline and Dart Tucks
-Instructions for a simple pattern transformation using the Unfitted Bodice
–Creating slight shaping at the waistline
–Adding enough ease at the Hipline
–Adding vertical dart tucks to create shaping and eliminate some bulk on the lower part of the blouse from Waistline to Hip Line.

Note: Many 1950s blouses had numerous vertical darts or tucks running down to the Hip Line. I think this technique created a close fit similar to a Blouse With a Waistline Yoke.

Secretary Blouse with Pussycat Bow Part 6: Pattern for the Bow
-The principles used to create a Pussycat Bow pattern
-Discussion of the benefits in cutting the bow on the true bias