If This is a Basic Blouse Why Can’t I Sew It?

If These Blouses are Basic Why Do I Find Myself Cussing as I Sew Them?

Earlier I posted an article on the ladylike blouse, that sometimes boring workplace essential often made of solid menswear cotton.  After a few years of being seen as frumpy the standard ladies blouse is coming back as all fashions do, only now in softer fabrics and in prints that once in my youth adorned the housedresses of old ladies.   But as time our response has evolved from “I wouldn’t be caught dead!” to “Hey, that is kind of vintage and funky.”

 Though I love the basic blouse for its versatility I began sewing in the early 1980’s when high detail was the in thing.  Trying to get such blouses to sew well nearly drove me to distraction.  The pattern envelopes dubbed these blouses “basic” and I felt like a sewing failure when I couldn’t get something called “basic” to turn out right.  Today I can see that a common blouse is not the easiest to sew as plackets, cuffs, collars and buttonholes are part of the inherent design.  My advice for those who haven’t tried such a pattern before:

Some Pattern Pitfalls of The Basic Ladies Dress Blouse

1)      Interfacing. Use a very soft pliable fusible interfacing.

Possibly buying a few different interfacings in small amounts and trying out how they affect your fabric. Too stiff interfacing screams the dorky homemade look discouraging new sewers when they see that the collar they just labored over could substitute for angel wings in the church Christmas pageant.  As boring as the interfacing aisle can appear you will need to take a hard look at the designations and search out those called “featherweight”, “ultra lightweight” or “ultra sheer”.

2)     Plackets.  Make a practice placket on a scrap of material similar to your chosen fashion fabric.

A placket is that little rectangle with the slit coming up from the cuff.  The placket allows one to open up the cuff and put one’s hand down the sleeve.   I wish I could tell you an easy technique but this is one of those that you either struggle with, as I do, or you just have the knack.  If the slippery blouse material shifts and makes your placket look wonky and unprofessional don’t give up. Forget the placket.  Try another cuff finish such as elastic or a simple straight hem.  Another options is to move the placket opening to the seamline of the sleeve.  A good sewing manual will tell you how to do this.  It is sometimes called a Mandarin Placket.  

3)      Collars. The collar meets at the center of your body in the front. 

Look where the collar ends and the button placket begins. In this shirt there is some space for the button placket. The collar doesn't meet the edge of the button placket. It meets the center front of the body. Take a good look at your pattern illustrations and note where the center front is marked on the pattern itself.

You think you know where this is.  At the fabric edge where you button your shirts, right?  Wrong!  The button areas overlap in front and many collars just come up to the edge of what is referred to as the button placket, not to the actual fabric edge.  Take a real close look at your patterns picture and note how far the collar extends in front. 

4)      Difficult Design Details. If you have never sewn a collared blouse before don’t start with a notched one. 

Here is a photo of a notched collar. 

Here is an example of a notched collar. You often find it on business suits and blouses.

The collar comes down to meet the lapel and a notch is formed at the juncture.  Master a standard collar before tackling one of these.  If you ignore this advice you will soon learn why I have offered it.

The Pros to Sewing Blouses

After so much talk of the pitfalls I don’t want you to give up on learning to sew this wonderful wardrobe staple.  On the upside the polyesters being used are reasonably priced so doing a few practice collars and buttonholes will not cost an arm and a leg.  Also I see in the fabric stores a lot of crazy allover prints that do not need to be matched and are very forgiving to small errors.  Additionally, for current fashion at least. topstitching is minimal.

Despite my early woes sewing such shirts I like it that they are back in fashion now that my sewing skills are up to the challenge.  I have tried out a few of the patterns listed in an earlier post, Spring 2010: The Ladylike Blouse, and I will post my results later. 

But for the next few posts I am going to concentrate on one of the pattern pitfalls of the ladies dress blouse mentioned above: the sleeve placket.   A placket can be tricky but it is also one of the things that even a new sewer can easily alter to suit her current level of sewing skill.  You need not choose the same placket that is given in the pattern envelope and for the next few posts I will go over the placket options you will most likely see on a ladies dress blouse.

Next Post: Tuesday, February 23, 2010; Sleeve Plackets: Just Avoid Them-Make an Elastic Cuff Instead

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