Skip to content
May 2

WIP: A Basic White Blouse

I have a confession peeps: Up until last year, I didn’t even own a basic white blouse.  And in looking at my closet I also notice that I currently don’t have a basic black blouse either.  Eeeep!

I feel as if I’ve been making do with what I have but at times my outfits don’t feel very coordinated as much as I’d like.

Black and white blouses aren’t the most fun things I could be sewing with summer nearing (hopefully).  I’d much rather be sewing some flirty new skirts or pretty new sun dresses, but I’ve just decided that I have to make some blouses instead, and some basic ones at that.

I generally dislike making blouses.  I believe it’s primarily due to the fact that I have a difficult time fitting the armscye.  While I’m a pear-shaped gal, I have a very petite upper body with narrow shoulders.  That coupled with the fact that I have forward rotating shoulders (due to poor posture while at my computer) and slightly sloping shoulders makes pattern changes somewhat complicated.

I generally have to:

  • Shorten the armscye/raise the underarm seam up at least 1/2 inch
    • Which means that I have to adjust the sleeve pattern to match
  • Adjust the angle of the shoulder/ sew the shoulder seams deeper toward the edge of my shoulder for my slight slope
    • Which means that I have more sleeve adjustments to make to match
  • Narrow the shoulders
    • I have to narrow the shoulders so much that I can’t just take the extra width at the shoulder seam, but find sneaky ways like adding in darts or taking long wedges out of the pattern piece
  • Add width from the waist, downward to accommodate my hippy hips
Now, I don’t want you to think I’m complaining…  I’d much rather do all of these changes so that my tops will look nice, without tons of drag lines than to have an ill fitting top.  I mean we all sew so that we can fit our own clothes to our shape and to have unique pieces in our wardrobe, no?
I figure if I make a bunch of blouses all at the same time, I may get better at making adjustments and such before making a muslin.  And who knows… maybe I can work up to avoiding muslin making in the future.  That’s my ultimate goal!

For my basic white blouse, I picked out a basic 40’s/50’s blouse pattern:  McCalls 7838.

I just bought this pattern via etsy and fell in love with it instantly.  The short sleeved version is very reminiscent of the 40’s while the 3/4 and long sleeved versions are very 50’s.

I decided that I should make the short-sleeved version since warm weather will be here soon and I could get the most use out of it.
I was searching all through my stash for some fabric without any luck.  I was stuck on having this blouse in white but  hated to go fabric shopping with so many fabrics in my closet that needed to be used.
Then I remembered I had bought some white, swiss-dot cotton last year on a whim and I had it stored in a different closet.  I pulled it out and it was perfect!  Don’t you love when that happens?!
Swiss Dot with Batiste as a underlining on the bodice.
I have yet to pick out some buttons from my stash, but I generally do that at the end anyhow.  I’m thinking using some basic white ones as I want this blouse to be as basic/versatile as possible for the upcoming summer months.
Once I have the final fit worked out I hope to make this blouse in each version, one for each season as they all have a different look to them.
Update:  Since I started writing this blog post, I’ve gotten further along in my blouse and it’s nearly complete.  I just have to sew on the buttons and I’m done!  So I had to take a photo of it to share with you guys.  :)  Cheers.
  1. Anthea / May 2 2013

    Haven’t you thought about making a sloper for blouses?

    Good luck with sewing and fitting the blouses!

  2. Ginny / May 2 2013

    You’re not alone: I don’t think I’ve EVER owned a basic white blouse. I blame it on having to wear them for my high school uniform as a teenager. I have one on my to-sew list this summer too, though I’ll be using some plain white poplin I inherited from my boyfriend’s grandmother. Yours looks like it will be very pretty when it’s finished!

  3. Sanne / May 2 2013

    I love it! You’re probably going to get tons of wear out of this one. But I may be biased by the fact that I’m making a ,white Swiss dot blouse right now as well. It’s not as basic and versatile as yours is going to be, though.

    • Liz / May 2 2013

      I LOVE your blouse! It’s perfect for summertime. :) I like yours much more than mine. heh

  4. Kelly / May 2 2013

    I don’t own a white or black blouse either, but I’d like to change that before too long! I’ve been on the lookout for a non-sheer lightweight white shirting for a while, but no luck so far. Your shirt is looking great! You have a talent for making vintage patterns and not having them look like a costume.

    • Liz / May 2 2013

      I know what you mean! I’m always on the hunt for a non-sheer white blouse material and have yet to find one also. I wish there were more out there since I dislike underlining or wearing camisoles underneath my blouses.

  5. llynnda / May 2 2013

    Nothing like a pretty white blouse. It looks lovely. Llynnda

  6. Ginger / May 2 2013

    I love it! I have a vintage 1940s swiss dot blouse, with the collar and sleeve cuffs trimmed with lace, and it’s just great. It’s the perfect finishing touch, and the collar looks amazing popped over a jacket or sweater. Mine isn’t lined so I have to wear a camisole or full slip, but that’s not a big deal. You’ll get a lot of use from yours!

  7. Tasha / May 2 2013

    Yay, that’s going to be awesome! I’m about to pull the trigger on some swiss dot fabric that’s been in my cart for days and already have some in green, all destined to (eventually) be blouses, too. I’m definitely feeling the swiss dot love after seeing your WIP!

    I am trying to fill in blouses too, although I unfortunately need to fill in pretty much everywhere in my wardrobe for spring/summer! I have a hard time with solid-colored blouses as I always seem to need them, but then feel like a white blouse is best since I’m usually pairing it with a print, and then worry I’m starting to look too busy. So perhaps I just need to be really boring and sew like 5 different types of white blouses. Or get over my weirdness. lol Anyway, I’m trying to focus on some more simple basics so I can move onto more fun skirts and dresses.

    But wait– am I crazy or isn’t your peter pan collar blouse white too? :)

    • Liz / May 2 2013

      Oh, you mean my violet blouse: http://zilredloh.com/2012/01/23/a-white-violet-blouse/

      Yeah, that’s the only other white one I have to date (but the armscye fit is just a bit off.)

      I underlined my blouse in the batiste and it doesn’t lay quite as nice as it did as a single layer. I’m happy since it’s not sheer, but I almost think it would be more flattering with the single layer and a separate camisole underneath. I just hate wearing camisoles in the hot summer.

      • Tasha / May 2 2013

        Yes, that’s the one I was thinking of! I forgot you mentioned the armscye issue. :(

        I hate that internal debate between too sheer… underline… cami… argh! I want things to be super light for summer, but don’t want everything sheer (or underlined, lol), either.

  8. maddie / May 2 2013

    Wow! You’re so close! If you made all the changes you said you were going to make, then it looks like you did a great job. The sleeve looks like it went in just fine. I love the fabric that you used too – if you haven’t noticed from the background of my blog, I LOVE polka dots!

    • Liz / May 2 2013

      I know I’m sooo close! I was out last night and didn’t get a chance to do any sewing on it, and the day before that I was picking up my sewing room all night and only had a chance to mark my button placement. heh

      Hopefully I can finish it up and hang it in my closet. That’s the best feeling, no?! Placing a finished garment in your closet for rotation.

      Polka dots are the best. I follow your blog and feel a bit like a lurker since I haven’t commented much. But I soo love your site. :)

  9. Stephanie / May 2 2013

    Up until recently, I didn’t have a white blouse either! Now I want to wear it every day and make a whole slew of blouses. :)

  10. ClaireE / May 2 2013

    Funny, this is on my mind as well. I have a lot of skirts that I have trouble matching to tops. I love my prints but they just aren’t working with the skirts. I’m going to have to purchase some white material but I’m attracted to those with a detail of some kind or find some swiss dot. Your blouse looks like it is going to be great! Can’t wait to see it finished.

  11. Rachel in central VA / May 2 2013

    Looks lovely Liz :) One of these days, I will figure out fitting issues with blouses for me- but I am terribly lazy and don’t usually bother ;)
    Right now though, I have a button back peasant style blouse in the planning stages. I need to trace my pattern first and size it up…

  12. Laura Sinclair / May 2 2013

    This is one of those things I’ve been thinking I need to do too – I have heaps of bright fun skirts, but no black or white blouses to match. I have the fabric and the pattern, but I’m a bit apprehensive of the collar. Oh, and I have so much study to do I feel guilty everytime I sit down to sew. :-S

    Love it though, I’m totally inspired! I’m sure it will turn out perfectly, everything you make is gorgeous. :)

  13. Sarah / May 2 2013

    Such a pretty, pretty blouse, Liz! I love Swiss Dot – it’s so summery, no? Cannot wait to see the finished product!

  14. Lisette / May 3 2013

    McCall’s blouses, for that short period, were really really extra lovely I think! I have a few pattern for blouses from that time myself but I have yet to make them. I love the fabrics you chose, they’re so feminine.

  15. Ginger / May 4 2013

    Ooh, this is cute! Swiss dot is perfect for spring! I hear you– I tend to make sleeveless dresses just to avoid the irritation of dealing with altering the pattern to accommodate my bony shoulders and scrawny arms. I have that forward-sloping shoulder thing, too (my mom always tried to correct my posture, but I never listened… oops!). But it’s probably better to work through the changes and get a couple of base patterns that you can use over and over again with little tweaks for variety.

  16. Meg the Grand / May 7 2013

    So pretty! The shirt is turning out beautifully with that Swiss Dot! I have a half finished white blouse that I should be working on, but I just can’t seem to get excited about it. Perhaps if I used something more exciting than normal white cotton :) Can’t wait to see the finished version!

Leave a comment