Elephants on a Vintage Blouse

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I stumbled across the etsy shop Indianstores, which sells block printed fabric on soft, supple cotton, after seeing it mentioned on a great sewing blog I follow. Their textiles are produced and printed in India by a team of talented artisans and the selection the shop offers is striking. I was in the middle of selecting a floral fabric from their online shop when an interesting textile printed with elephants also caught my eye, but there was only a 1.5 yard cut remaining in the store. I snatched it up anyways without any thought of what I would actually make with it (something I try not to do too often!), and it took me a while to figure out how to use it. The fabric would have worked with any number of patterns in my stash, and I had been eyeing it specifically for a new True Bias Southport maxi, but I just didn’t have enough yardage to make it work. With my newly organized space for patterns and pattern pieces, I rifled through the blouse section in my filing cabinet since that type of garment seemed like it would make the most use of my limited fabric.

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It didn’t take long to come across this re-issue of a vintage blouse pattern (Simplicity 1590) that I purchased several months ago at a Joanne’s for $1.

I liked the interesting lines of the blouse’s design, how the front is like a normal button down but then connects to the peplum on the sides in  an unexpected way. I love the little bow tie at the top of the collar (which I subsequently messed up, but more on that later) and the ties in the back, and I LOVE the kimono-inspired sleeves- all the details added up to a really cool looking blouse, one I hadn’t really seen out in the world before.

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As much as I love the look of vintage silhouettes, I don’t make them very often, and I realize now that it’s because getting good at sewing older patterns requires a fair amount of know-how in the general art of sewing- in my opinion, most vintage patterns are not well suited for beginner sewists because they sometimes use outdated construction techniques that are needlessly complicated, and they don’t often give many helpful details in their instructions, omitting certain steps with the assumption that the sewist will already know how to do something. Of course I am probably spoiled with the heavily worded, brilliantly illustrated PDF instruction booklets and sew-alongs in today’s sewing community, but there is no denying that for me, less is not more when it comes to learning how to do something new. The good news is that I no longer consider myself a beginner sewist, and vintage patterns that gave me trouble years ago when I first started sewing regularly are a breeze for me to figure out now. That’s not to say that I don’t make royally silly mistakes when I sew from vintage patterns, but they feel much less daunting for me.

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This blouse is a fairly simple make but the instructions for how to attach the peplum to the front was a little confusing. Fortunately I eventually figured it out, so that detail doesn’t look weird, but I didn’t fare so well with the collar. For some reason I didn’t pay attention to the fact that the collar piece shouldn’t extend all the way to the edges of the shirt front, because if they do, the collar flaps will overlap in the front when buttoned all the way, which will interfere with the little bow at the neckline- ROOKIE MISTAKE! When my collar and shirt front edges didn’t match up, I just thought I had cut my pattern piece incorrectly, so I basically stretched out my collar piece/ eased the neck opening as much as possible to match the edges of the button bands. I didn’t realize my mistake until the shirt was completed and I tried it on. SMDH!!!! The ill-positioned collar didn’t bother me enough to redo the whole collar piece though, and I can still wear it with the little bow (which is attached to the shirt by snaps), it just doesn’t look perfect. But guess what- it will the next time I make it!

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Here’s what I love about the final garment- the cotton is easy breezy lightweight, so it’s comfortable to wear on hot LA days, but not so lightweight that it doesn’t keep it’s shape. The fullness of the peplum is really pretty and the length of the whole shirt is just right on me with the slight dip down in the back. Originally I imagined wearing this with a vintage wool pencil skirt I have, but the skirt is too wide at the bottom when matched with this top- as a whole there was too much width on the top half and the bottom half did nothing to balance it out. But when I tried this blouse with my Ginger skinny jeans? BINGO! Perfect balance on top and bottom! I also love that the shirt’s silhouette looks kind of fancy on it’s own, but when paired with my elephant fabric, it looks way more casual.

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oh my god I HATE how my hair looks in this style. thank god for photo shoots where you can see exactly what does and what doesn’t make you look like a million bucks, lol

The addition of the red buttons, which I thought would break up the black and white of the print nicely, push it into even more adorable territory- I am basically a walking ray of sunshine in this top, as evidenced by the MANY compliments I got when I wore it for the first time a week ago. I had a big audition for a project I was really excited about on a studio lot that I had never been to before, which meant BUBBLE GUTS CENTRAL. Two separate compliments in the bathroom which sparked a whole conversation at the sink with a lovely woman who was just learning how to sew (I gave her my card so she could check out my blog) and then more accolades in the audition room from the producers and casting director. Nothing can diffuse my nerves more quickly than some shop talk about sewing- it’s the best way to make me feel empowered and excited about what I have to offer, because no matter what happens in front of that camera, I know that I MADE MY WHOLE OUTFIT AND I LOOK GREAT!

 

 

8 replies
  1. oonaballoona
    oonaballoona says:

    I WANNA SIT IN A WAITING ROOM WITH YOU. i always try to get the ladies talking clothing (read: sewing), especially when they see me eyeing their outfits, and I have to rush to explain that i’m not trying to psyche them out, i’m just trying to memorize the seam lines 😉

    this is beyond cute! THOSE BUTTONS.

    Reply
    • Jasika Nicole
      Jasika Nicole says:

      I WANNA SIT IN A WAITING ROOM WITH YOU, TOO!!!!! We will have so much fun and be so charming in our love for one another that they will have to hire BOTH of us and then WE CAN AAAAAAAAAAAACT TOGEEEEEEEETHERRRRRRRR (still haven’t forgot about our potential groundbreaking rendition of Sideshow, LOL)!

      Reply
  2. 2paw
    2paw says:

    Oh yes, I vote for more versions of your blouse with ALL the animals!! The peplum is so very cute and swishy and the attachment looks quite tricky, well done. I love what people call “novelty prints”: I wore my Star Wars dress to see Star Trek the other week, and I have some Doctor Who material and puppies as well!! Good luck with your audition.

    Reply
  3. Abbey
    Abbey says:

    I love your take on this top! What a great find that Etsy shop is–thank goodness I am on a fabric-buying ban! =) You are so right about finding the right “balance” for an outfit with such a dramatic peplum, and you nailed it.

    Definitely in agreement about vintage patterns not being very well-suited to beginners. (Side-note: I am lucky enough to have an original version of this very blouse pattern!) I learned to sew on a 1940s blouse pattern and am glad I did–talk about a crash course in on-the-job learning!–but not everyone enjoys learning that way! And with sewing, I think it is so important to get tangible enjoyment from what you are making and doing as you are learning, otherwise it can be easy to walk away feeling like it’s not the hobby for you, you know? And yeah, some of those old techniques are odd (I try to give them the benefit of the doubt for the different technology and tools/supplies available at the time) and very unapproachable, to say nothing of the assumptions of experience that influence the very terse instructions.

    I am glad you powered through this project: your blouse is beautiful and looks gorgeous on you! (Sorry for the novel: I apparently have lots of feelings about vintage patterns, LOL.)

    Reply

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