Betty Joan Blouse: This style evolves & so do I!


I came down with a viral infection on New Year’s Day that left me weak and in bed for a little over a week.  During that time I lived on soup, tea, crackers, jello, and canned fruits.  Whatever was in the house was what I ate.  When I went for my follow-up visit to the doctor’s last week I discovered I had lost 8 pounds!

The weight loss was unexpected but in a way it was a good thing.  I feel much lighter and more agile.  The bigger change is that the Betty Joan skirt and blouse now look different on me.  Since I am small busted and not well fleshed out from the collar bone down to the bust in front, and from the nape of the neck to the shoulder blades in back a weight loss of this much makes loose fitting clothing look unflattering on me.

I discovered a few things about kimono sleeves that made me conclude that if I want to wear this style–and I do–I will have to modify my approach to making another bodice using long or short kimono sleeves.

Rethinking the Betty Joan outfit


In this selfie you can see just how much my natural shoulder line slopes.  I am unable to get a full length photo so you can see how blah the blouse will look if I leave it as is.  It also looks a little dowdy when paired with the Betty Joan skirt.  This doesn’t mean I will abandon the skirt and blouse.  I just had to do some serious rethinking about the outfit.

After reviewing the photos of the wonderful job Hila of Saturday Night Stitch has done on a flattering blouse she just completed, I had my “Aha!” moment.  There is no way the Betty Joan blouse and skirt look good together but what if I pair each piece with a modern garment from my wardrobe?  It would be a combo of retro and modern.  I reasoned this is the most practical solution.

I have a pair of black jeggings on order from Charlotte Russe which will look great with the blouse.  The only change I’m making is that now I will use some vintage black buttons I bought on Etsy.  The grey ones I originally got at Mood Fabrics are stored away for another project.  Since grey is becoming a favorite color for me they are sure  to be used in the near future.

When I tried the Betty Joan blouse on with my distressed jeggings I had a glimpse of the possibilities thanks to seeing how Hila paired her Butterick blouse with jeggings, long earrings and great shoes.  I have a black belt with a bow in front that will take care of reigning in the baggy waistline on this blouse.  And instead of being a tuck-in it will now be an over blouse.

In addition to losing weight, the blouse has a bit too much ease from the way in which I draped it.  Since my form has an additional 1 1/2″ added to my measurements I plan to be more conservative with my use of ease tucks the next time I drape.

The good development is that the Betty Joan skirt was a little tight after I had completed the drape and transferred it to a paper pattern.  To get the skirt moving towards the sewing stage I made alterations to the paper pattern.  They worked and did not impact the overall fit and look of the skirt.  I plan to pair it with a grey, white and pink top, also from Charlotte Russe.  If I can find a white, pink or grey chiffon scarf that isn’t very long I can wear it as a neckerchief 1950s style.

I’m looking forward to sharing the completed blouse when it’s finished.

Considering other aspects for a retro inspired style

Thanks to all the different projects I’ve done with other bloggers or on my own I know that of all the decades I love the most it is the late 1940s and all 1950s that look flattering on me.  Since I have many vivid memories of my Mom, Grandmothers and Aunties as I was growing up I know this era well.  The mid-late 1950s were also happy years for me so the desire to work on clothes from this era is very strong.

I do not believe it is essential to embrace the entire aesthetic of any era in order to recreate a bit of retro glam in one’s personal style.  For this reason I try to find hairstyles, make-up looks and accessory ideas that are adaptable and not difficult to carry out.  For example, in the photo above you can see my new Pixie cut.  I’m over the virus and going through a phase with Winter allergies which accounts for my very puffy eyes.  The haircut was a great pick-me-up and helps me look presentable when I go out.

I got the idea by considering short hairstyles on the models in photos from Claire McCardell’s book What shall I wear? which was published in the early 1950s.  Here are the photos I showed the hairstylist when I walked in off the street and he took me without an appointment.  I like the results of his work so much I plan to go back when it’s time for my next cut and styling.

1950s Pixie haircuts and short-hair styles

All photos from What shall I wear? by fashion designer Claire McCardell.





Betty Joan Blouse, Stage 1

Progress Report on Betty Joan Blouse

Greetings to all my friends and followers here at WordPress!  How is your New Year so far?  I’m housebound as I recover from a very nasty virus.  I’ve turned a corner in the treatment and am gradually recovering.  I have worked on the Betty Joan blouse during the past weekend.  Here are some of the approaches I’m applying.

Using different seam finishes on different parts of the garment

This cotton requires a very gentle approach when sewing.  This is why I am being flexible about the seam finishes.  I noticed that since the shoulder seams are slightly on the bias there is a tendency to stretch and curl if I use a turned under finish.  So I decided to use a straight stitch 1/8″ from the edge of the seam allowance and then pink.



The side seams of the blouse have a combination of finishes.  This is a short kimono sleeve without gusset.  So the sleeve curves from under the arm to the sleeve hem.  From a point about 1″ below the underarm, the side seam is straight.  What I did was turn the seam allowance under at this point and stitch at the turned under edge of the seam allowance.  From the underarm upwards I had to clip the seam to get the curve to lie flat after pressing.  So from the underarm to the sleeve hem, I stitched 1/8″ in from the seam allowance and then used the pinking shears.

It would be difficult to get the curved seam to turn under unless I resorted to handling this part of the blouse more than I should.  Also the need to clip the seam at this part would have resulted in the stitching for the turned under edge to come undone.

Using Flexi-Lace Hem Tape to Reinforce Seams

It is necessary to stabilize the curved underarm seams of kimono sleeves without gussets.  Some sewing books recommend using stay stitching 1/8″ or so in from the edge of the seam allowance.  Others say some type of seam tape or selvedge edge should be used.  I found these suggestions too stiff for the lightweight cotton.

I have so many scraps of Flexi Lace that I decided to try using this instead.  I simply cut the strip in half and applied to each underarm seam.  The lace curves nicely and is light enough not to make the seam difficult to press open.

Lapel Treatment for the Neckline


The collar shown in the pattern envelope which inspired me has me completely stumped.  I did not know how to get the look correctly.  I do not want to meander along a path that goes on for months while I experiment in my spare time.  What I want is something I can complete in a reasonable amount of time and wear.  It’s ok if the result is not 100% like the source of inspiration.  It’s enough for me to be retro-inspired.

I do not like band collars or any kind of collar that is high on the neck.  For these reasons I decided the most expedient and comfortable thing to do was to adjust the neckline and then fold the lapels back without adding a collar.

I am satisfied with the way this experiment turned out.  The neckline is interesting and comfortable.  I will also be able to wear a choker, short string of pearls or a small chiffon scarf tied sideways just like they did in the late 1940s and 1950s.


Mood Fabrics: Here are my picks for Betty Joan

Snow fell all day over New York City.  The streets were very slippery but thankfully it was not bitterly cold and windy.  I felt up to the long trip into Manhattan.  I currently live in a neighborhood where only the local train is available.  Weekends bring many changes to the other lines where I can transfer.  So I decided to stay on the local and read “Dior by Dior” and revisit the early years of Christian Dior’s career.  I was rewarded for my effort when I made it to Mood Fabrics.

Mood Fabrics is located at 225 West 37th Street.  There is a street level store where home decorating fabrics are sold.  To reach Mood Fabric’s nirvana for the home sewista, you must enter the office building next door and take the special elevator that goes direct to the third floor.


When the elevator doors opened I felt dazzled and uplifted.  Here was a little lobby that looked like the formal reception area of a showroom.  At the entrance to the shopping area I had to check my totebag and then was free to browse the many, many, many offerings.


There are two levels I had the time to browse through.  The first was filled with aisles of well organized bolts of silks, satins, organdy, and other fabrics suitable for dressy clothes.  What isn’t on a shelf is in a large circular bin.  Sales Associates are available in every section to answer questions, pull the bolts and help you make a selection.

My vision for the Betty Joan outfit is very practical.  I want to wear it while I’m out and about on a weekend.  I knew I wanted a conservative, chic look to the outfit and decided to go with all natural fibers now that I am sewing for myself.  I was directed to the lower level where cottons, denims and shirting fabrics are available.

Selecting fabrics, trims and threads is not something I do well on my own.  I like to have a knowledgeable Sales Associate answer my many questions as we review what is available.  I am happy to say that the Associate who helped me was excellent and in less than 10 minutes I had my skirt and blouse fabric.


Selecting the buttons took the most time.  There are just so many that I had to look and look again.  There were some novelty buttons in the shape of hearts and stars that were very cute.  I had to resist, though, because they just did not pull together the look I had in mind.


I finally chose a simple button that has a dark grey center that matches the color of the skirt fabric.  The lighter grey at the edge of the button blends nicely with the blouse fabric.  So here we have my choices:  charcoal grey poly/cotton denim for the skirt; 100% cotton shirting in a soft white background with a grey paisley design.

Mood Fabric is a place a sewista can get lost in for hours of delightful  browsing.  For this reason I think it is wise to have some clear idea of what you are looking for before going.  This way you do not wear out your Sales Associate with endless journeys to and from the shelves.  Since I had a screen capture of the pattern envelope illustration that inspired my interpretation of the style that also made it easier for the Associate to offer suggestions.

I’ve already hand washed the fabric so that it is pre-shrunk.  Once it is dry I can cut it out and begin the adventure in bringing this style to life.

1947 Skirt and Blouse Toile Completed: Meet Betty

Happy New Year to all my WordPress friends and followers!  How were your holidays?

During my staycation after Christmas I completed the toile for the draped skirt and blouse based on the sewing pattern illustration below.

The blouse has an unusual variation of a band collar that runs from one end of the front to the other.  It does not have a button hole and button.  Instead, this collar is flat against the neck at the back and then opens with the front of the blouse from the shoulder line to about 3 inches below the collarbone.  It seems like an easy collar to drape.  Also, a high collar is very flattering to a mature woman or a woman with a long, thin neck.

That is not how it turned out when the toile was completed.  The back gapes from the top by 1/4″ and then the gape tapers to nothing at the neckline.  The front does not rest flat when pressed open.  I think that the problem lies in that I draped with the lengthwise grain at center back.  Then I let the fabric drop as the draping continued towards center front.  The result is that the front is slightly on the bias.

In Precision Draping the instructions for collars use the basic drape to create drafts of flat collars.  Band collars are simply drawn using the neckline measurement for the length.  I will try this approach next as I really like the way this collar looks on me.  I just need results where the front lies flat instead of curling up.

The resulting skirt and blouse are a comfortable fit.  There is enough room to walk and sit in the 1947 style pencil skirt and I do not look pear shaped in it.  I plan to make a fabric covered belt for the skirt.  I am not sure if I should make thread belt loops at the side of the skirt or fabric ones.  What do you think?  I’m open to suggestions.

The skirt will have an inverted kick pleat in the back and a slot zipper application.  I would love to make a trip into Manhattan to go fabric shopping.  I think a charcoal grey or navy cotton for the skirt and a white or red cotton for the blouse may be good.  I want to avoid floral prints because then all the details of the blouse such as the shirring at the waist, the lapels, and the buttons will get lost.  Another possibility is to build the color scheme around the vintage glass buttons I bought for the Norma Naomi Carol dress.  In that case I’ll take the buttons with me and then search for a good sales rep to help me make my selection.

I have named this outfit Betty since that was a popular name for girls in the 1940s.  Lauren Bacall was named Betty Joan at birth.  Her cool, understated style is one I’d like to distill into this outfit.  I may add the Joan onto the outfit name depending on the fabric selection I decide.

I will upload photos of the finished pattern in the next posting.  I’ll also include some details about how I combined some features of other draping techniques into the Precision Draping technique.

Holiday Season 2017

Happy Dance Clip Art

Season’s Greetings to all my blog followers and WordPress friends! 

I have been on an extended break from sewing because of professional commitments and family related matters.  I will be back after the holidays to check in with Norma, Naomi, Carol, Hila and my other good friends here.  I am making slow progress on my toile for the 1947 drape featured in the last posting.  It is good progress so I will have many positive learning experiences to share in the months ahead.

In the meantime, I wish you and your families a beautiful holiday season and good health for the year ahead.


EmilyAnn France May



“Happy Dance Clip Art”
Public Doman
Clipart Library

First draping project underway-Late 1940s skirt and blouse


Draping Technique used is from 1947 book,  Precision Draping by Nellie Weymouth Link

I have finally resolved the issues with the skirt darts.  The best fit is achieved by angling the darts towards the side seam.  This means that they are slightly off grain.  I was surprised that this solution worked but the fit over my abdomen is very smooth.  The dart length is also shorter than if they are positioned on the straight of grain.

I found it impossible to work with one large dart for the back of the skirt.  When the dart intake is greater than 3/4 of an inch the dart has a very sharp point and does not look flattering over the part of the body is rests on.  For those skirts in Precision Draping that must have only one dart in the back, such as when making flares, I will think of a workaround when the time comes.  Right now I have selected a very simple style I can use my new skills on.

I want to thank Norma of She Sews You Know and Naomi of Spare Room Style for all their encouragement during this long process.  Your encouragement has continually motivated me.

Style Chosen:  Late 1940s straight skirt and short kimono sleeve blouse


This skirt is a late 1940s, post-New Look style.  You can tell because the hemline has dropped from the knee length skirts of the WWII era to the mid-calf length that was to dominate after 1947 due to Dior’s New Look.  The Pencil Skirt as we know it today, with its straight tapered line below the hips and it’s noticeable curve along the hipline, would not be developed until the mid-1950s.  The 1940s straight skirt had more walking ease thanks to a slight flare at the hemline. The side seam lacks the more pronounced curve of the Pencil Skirt and is therefore kinder to many figure types.

While this isn’t an exciting skirt and blouse it is a good starting point to apply many of the principles from Precision Draping.  I want to use them as much as possible to achieve a fit and style as close to the late 1940s as possible.

My first drape of the blouse and skirt

I do not like how form fitting the blouse on the pattern illustration is.  Since I am smaller on the top I need a more blousy effect to balance out the fullness of my abdomen and hips.  The collar on this blouse attracts the eye upwards.  A belt made with the same fabric as the skirt will reduce the size of my waistline in relation to the upper torso.

To control the fullness in the blouse I will use a hip yoke to sew the bodice into.  The yoke gets tucked into the skirt and keeps the blouse neatly in place.

The bodice of the blouse was draped using the standard bodice with armhole.  That drape in turn was transferred to paper and a short kimono sleeve drafted onto it.  Precision Draping combines draping and flat patternmaking.  This is not as difficult as it sounds.  Anyone with knowledge of making pattern alterations will have the skills to take the next step if they stick to a simple style.

Kimono sleeves can use a lot of fabric when draped.  Using this technique by drafting them onto the draped bodice saves on muslin.

Photo of the drape of the blouse and hip yoke pinned onto the form.

Front of straight skirt pinned in place over the blouse.  This kind of checking is very important to determine if more ease is needed.  That adjustment can be made when transferring the drape to a paper pattern.

Draping Update: Almost there!

Update on draping my basic toile

I continue to make progress using the Precision Draping technique from the book of the same name by Nellie Weymouth Link which was published in 1947.  This toile fits comfortably.  The remaining issue is with the back skirt darts.  They are still too long.  I think I know how to resolve this and will continue to work on this in the days ahead.  The apex also has to be lowered and the elbow dart on the sleeve shortened.

Once I resolve the issue with the back skirt darts I will move on to practice with adding style ease.  I think by the New Year I will be ready to start draping basic skirts, blouses and chemise dresses for myself.

I don’t notice too much difference between this system from 1947 and the modern one I’m more familiar with except for the skirt.  It is not as form fitting as a pencil skirt.  Also for a basic fitting shell there is more ease and movement.  It is not like the second skin a modern toile is.

Progress Photos – 10-11-17