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

Precision Draping Basic Toile: Putting it together

The construction of the three parts of my fitting toile–fitted sleeve, bodice and straight skirt–is completed.  Now I have to hem the skirt and sleeve an then assemble the three pieces.

During this process of fitting myself I came up with an expedient solution to the old problem of not having someone available to pin the toile up the center back.  I thought, I’d just reverse the opening and pin from center front.  That is why you see the opening from neck to below the hip line in the photo below.

Today I tried on the bodice.  It fits comfortably.  My dress form has an additional one inch added to the measurements so that my fitting toile will not be tight.  The next skill to learn is adding style ease to each draped garment.

I am using the techniques described in the 1947 book Precision Draping by Nellie Weymouth Link.  I supplement what she doesn’t cover with what I learned from Draping for Fashion Design by Hilda Jaffe and Nurie Relis.

Illustration of the basic straight skirt from Precision Draping by Nellie Weymouth Link.

I have pinned the skirt and sleeve onto the bodice to give you an idea of how it is coming together.  Can you see the differences from a modern fitting toile?  Here is a hint for a topic we will cover later on:  the skirt is not a pencil skirt.  It is a straight skirt with one dart each side of center front and one dart each side of center back.  In this toile I tried to use two darts at each side of the back but they are too small.  Initially I thought the back skirt dart was much too big but next practice I do I will follow the Precision Draping method instead of forcing a modern approach to the skirt darts.  One thing you will find if you use this method is that the skirt darts are very long, about 6-7″ or so.  It takes some time to get used to the sight of them.  In the end if the fit is just right that is what really matters.

So far I’m doing ok!

Basic fitting toile made using a majority of techniques from Precision Draping by Nellie Weymouth Link.  Trueing, marking and adding ease to bodice came from Draping for Fashion Design by Jaffe and Relis.  The sleeve was drafted using the French Fashion Academy system.

The front bodice looks a little loose.  That is because the sleeve has not been put in yet.  The bust dart apex has to be lowered a little but other than that I’m confident for the next phase once the toile is complete.

Dress form lines marked with glass head pins and lace tape.

When I no longer use pencil to mark the seam lines and style lines.  Instead I mark with straight pins.  To better discern where the apex and the key lines are I used a combination of lace seam tapes and glass head pins.  Once the muslin or tissue paper is used I can better feel where the lines are.