April 22, 2013

After 83 years...

This blouse has finally been sewn up!
The pattern sheet of this particular issue of Gracieuse magazine, which was published when my grandparents were toddlers, doesn't show the marks of a tracing wheel. So, I can only conclude that none of these patterns were ever traced, none of its lovely designs turned into garments. Until now, that is.

May I present to you design no. 22 from Gracieuse no. 1 of 1930 (which was the 68th year of publication of this magazine). It's a blouse which should be worn over the waistband of one's skirt and the pattern was for size 42 (= for those with a halved bust circumference of 42).

I'm pretty pleased with the fit. Based on the look of the back pattern piece, I was worried about the angle of the shoulders and the width of the neck, but, as it turns out, the shoulder seam is placed more to the back than I'm used to. And it sort of angles down a bit further yet at the outer edge, just like in victorian jackets. 

The back width is about right too, and so are the length and width of the sleeves. They even provide a proper range of movement.

The loose shape makes it hard to judge the torso. Yes, there are some very minor drag lines from the front pintucks to the apex of my bust, but I think that my just be a result of this particular form of shaping, rather than an indicator of size... I guess I should just pick a more fitted design to find out about that. 

I made everything the way I thought one was supposed to, except for one thing: You are even told in the instructions (which are very limited) to put elastic in the entire bottom edge of the garment. I did that, and didn't like the look at all. I ended up putting it only in the back. This gives me a full, bloused back and a more smooth and fitted front. It may not be period acurate at all, but this minor alteration has turned an 83-year-old design into something I can easily wear without looking costume-y (your costume-y may vary... I am aware of being quite tolerant of unusual looks).

In retrospect, I should have picked another fabric for this project. I like this linen, it works well for the blouse and, at the same time, makes it look a bit modern. However, it doesn't photograph well... 

Nevertheless, I've made some detail shots, so I could tell you about some of the more unusual and tricky features of this garment.

First up, there's the front closure. Button tabs on the outside. Not standard, in wovens today,  but not that unusual either. 

But they're facings on the inside... I have never seen this before. It wasn't hard to understand how the pattern pieces were supposed to work but sewing it together neatly was a bit more complicated. I understand why it was made this way: It's the perfect finish with the open collar. 

The most difficult bit of construction were the cuffs. They are quite nice: Like facings on the outside, with button tabs which lead up to the elbow dart. 

The problem is this: they go over the underarm seam, so that has to be sewn first. This leaves you with just a tiny space for the tricky manipulations with the dart, the top of the button tab and the little extra facing you have to add at the other side of the slit for the buttons. 

Also, the instructions tell you that bit should be 2 cm wide (which is what I made it) but in the illustration it looks about as wide as the outside tab, which is almost 4 cm.
The narrowness of the sleeves and the necessary order of cuff construction are the reasons why I only put one button on each sleeve. I don't think I could have convinced my sewing machine's buttonhole programme to work in such a confined space.

About those buttonholes, and any serged edges you may have noticed, I didn't even try to go for period finishes here. I respect anyone who does, but to be honest, I don't even know what the period acurate way of doing any of this would be. And I was only trying out the sizing. And, like any vintage (inspired) garment I make, this blouse wasn't made to be worn to a period dress event but for my everyday 21th century life.

To review my first experience with a Gracieuse pattern: sewing a garment from this magazine is not something even an experienced seamstress should take lightly. 
Even tracing the pattern takes time, patience, good light and up-to-date glasses. There are unusual design and construction details and the instructions, if any are provided, are very sketchy. Figuring those out is certainly not impossible but a wide range of sewing experience and some improvisation skills come in very handy. And patience, of course. 


  1. It's a beautiful and unusual blouse, but it certainly doesn't look costumey or even period. It looks very 21st century.

  2. Beautiful blouse, and I appreciate the detail shots you provided.

  3. Your blouse looks totally on trend and the fabric is gorgeous!