I got frustrated with drafting my own shirtwaist pattern as I seem to have a tendency of losing the pattern pieces that I have tested. So, I decided to treat myself and bought the 1900-1910s blouse pattern by Wearing History. Here is how the pattern worked for me.
1900-1910s blouse pattern details
I chose this pattern not because I’m Etsy affiliate, but because it is one of the rare shirtwaist patterns without big leg-of-mutton sleeves. The sleeves have small gathers at the shoulders but they are otherwise pretty fitted. The shoulder seams point towards the back as it used to be in the old days. There are two different collar options and several collarless options available so that you can use the pattern to make a full wardrobe full of blouses. The waist has a drawstring for easy adjustment. This blouse is slightly longer and has narrower sleeves than the Gibson girl blouse I made last year.
The pattern comes in two different size packs. Size pack 1 has the sizes 4 to 10 corresponding to bust circumferences 30 to 36″ and the size pack 2 the sizes 12 to 18 (bust 38″-44″). Choose your pattern based on the bust measurement as the waist is adjustable.
The 1900-19001s blouse pattern has been adjusted for the modern fit. What does it mean? Can you really do it and still call the pattern historical? Yes and this is why: The modern posture is very different from the posture that people used to have. Unless you have spent your whole life in a corset and otherwise stuck to the Edwardian lifestyle, your posture is less upright and your shoulders come forward more. If a modern woman would be sent back in time to visit an Edwardian seamstress, she would be getting a blouse that would have a modern fit (assuming that the Edwardian seamstress knew what she was doing). This is because the seamstress would adjust her pattern to go with the time-traveller’s modern posture.
This time is not really good for fabric shopping. I didn’t really want to use any of my new purchases to test out this pattern but I still didn’t want to bother making a toile. I just measured the pattern pieces against my sloper and figured that if the blouse didn’t fit just right, I most probably only needed to make slight adjustments.
Then I remembered this piece of broderie anglaise fabric that I had been storing for ages. It was originally a factory remnant or an end of bolt piece and I had got it cheaply. The piece was just perfect for the project!
Then there was the question of decoration. I went through my box of laces. My fabric was thicker than batiste I had been using for my previous shirtwaists. That made it possible to use slightly heavier laces. I had a lot of white machine-made lace that I had bought at Karnaluks, Estonia. It wasn’t enough, though. I then started fingering the hand-crocheted laces I had ripped out of old bedsheets that we had to throw away. Most of them had yellowed and there wasn’t very much of them but perhaps…
I took the whole bunch of those old laces and threw them into a bucket of bleach. After a few minutes I had several metres of lovely white lace. I selected the widest one that I liked the most. It was enough to make a strip at the centre front and there was plenty left over. The lace was soft and a bit stretchy, so I decided to use it to make the collar, too. The only thing I had to be careful with, was the pattern placement. The original crocheter of the lace hadn’t been very careful with her pattern placement and the lace motifs were not distributed evenly.
Besides these, I used cotton ribbon to make the waist casing and ties and a little bit of machine-made lace to finish the top edge of the collar.
Making the blouse
I started with pinning the lace on the blouse front and back pieces and measuring each strip carefully. Then, I sewed the lace on with straight stitch (the machine made lace) or zig-zag (the crocheted lace). I cut away most of the backing fabric and turned the edges away from the lace. The edges were then finished with zig-zag and the extra fabric was trimmed of.
The fabric and the lace particularly didn’t really work well for French seams. So, I decided to take the historical route and made hand-felled seams.
The sleeves, too, got a little strip of insertion lace and hand-felled seams:
Here is the blouse before the sleeves were inserted.
With the sleeves, however, the hand felling wouldn’t have worked with the gathers. The historically accurate method would have been to add bias binding to cover the sleeves but I finally just finished the seam by zigzag. I can always add the bias binding later, if I feel like it!
After hand-felling the seams, there was only one way of finishing the hems – by hand.
I also hemmed the collar edge as I was adding the lace collar by hand. I made small, about 3 mm, clips and then turned the neckline twice to create a narrow hem. Then I sewed the lace on top of the neckline hem.
I spend some time pondering on which side the buttonholes should go. Finally, the interned gave me an answer: the women were supposed to be dressed by a maid so it didn’t matter whether the buttons were at the front or the back. The buttonholes were made the same way. That also meant that in the picture below the plackets are the wrong way. The left side should go over the right. Luckily I found this out before making the buttonholes.
I admit that I thought about making the buttonholes by hand. However, I just couldn’t be bothered. My sewing machine makes perfect buttonholes and no-one would probably notice the difference. I stuck with mother-of-pearl buttons though, even if my supply of them is getting smaller and smaller.
The last thing to finish was the collar. I added a narrow strip of edging lace and then fitted the collar on myself.
The finished 1900-1910s blouse
I am really happy on how this blouse turned out. The fit is perfect. Here is the back:
The collar might need an extra snap or bones at the centre back to keep it straight. Right now it crumples a bit. Otherwise the blouse fits well.
I paired the blouse with the Truly Victorian 1898 walking skirt. For a really historical look, I would need a corset and a frilly corset cover that would fill in some of the blouse front that now looks a bit empty. Alas, the daylight was quickly fading and the dinner was waiting, so I didn’t have time to put on a corset and the frilly corset cover is still only on the list of things to make at some point.
I will have to see whether it stays neatly tucked inside the waistband or whether I need to add some hooks and eyes to keep it in place.
Comparing different shirtwaist patterns
Now I have tested out perhaps five shirtwaist patterns. If I have to rate them all in some sort of order, I’d put this Wearing History blouse first. Here is my rating:
- Wearing History: 1900-1910s blouse
- Best fit for me
- My own pattern
- Practise makes perfect and well… it’s mine!
- However, it is still under construction
- Folkwear: Gibson girl blouse
- Instructions for lace insertions, sleeves a bit too puffy for me and too short (may still be perfect for somebody else)
- I have to modify the one I made and add hooks to keep it tucked into my waistband.
- McCall’s M2045
- More of a shirt but has nice pintuck details. I have plans to make a second one
- Might need to be sized down the next time I make it
- Sense & Sensibility: 1909 “Beatrix” shirtwaist
- The sleeves don’t fit. Even in the example pictures, the armholes come too low and there are weird wrinkles because of that
- On the plus side, has a lot of options that I must try out at some point. Might combine another pattern with this one to fix the sleeve issue.
- Also, the first pattern I ever tried and I ended up donating the result. A lesson learned: don’t use nylon or polyester lace against your skin – it itches!
This is all for today! Thank you for reading and do subscribe if you haven’t already done so! Stay safe and healthy during these difficult times and happy sewing!