Making a Simple Edwardian Blouse
Updated: Nov 2, 2021
This article is about how I made a modernized version of an Edwardian blouse. How I drafted the pattern, created millions of pin-tucks, and sewed the blouse!
I was inspired by a pattern from the “Past Patterns” website for an Edwardian “peasant waist” blouse. This was a real historical pattern that was released in the Edwardian era. By “peasant waist”, I’m assuming it was meant to be a simpler version of a “shirt waist”.
Shirtwaists were blouses worn through the Victorian and Edwardian era. There were usually loose, tucked in at the waist, had high necklines cuffs, and often collars, and often puff sleeves.
The great thing about this particular pattern for a “peasant waist” is that it still has the basic blousy fit of the traditional shirtwaists, but tones down those details that for many modern people might be too “over the top” to wear day to day. The sleeves are elbow length, straight fit, and there is no high collar. The tucks, yoke, and kimono sleeves also add interesting details that elevate this to something quite unique.
Drafting the Pattern
I’m a little tired of drafting all my patterns lately, and was considering simply buying the pattern from Past Patterns. However, when it came down to it, I decided I would rather draft my own than wait weeks for the physical pattern to arrive in the mail. Can you tell I'm impatient?
The first style decision I made was to lower and widen the neckline. Admittedly, this is not a very Edwardian look, but when it comes to plain necklines without collars, I prefer the look of a lower and wider neckline for my body type. Either that, or a high neckline with a collar.
This pattern has kimono sleeves, which means that they are cut in one piece with the bodice, and include a small diamond shaped gusset in the underarm area to improve mobility. I followed the directions in one of my pattern drafting books for directions on how to draft this, which required trial and error and a couple of mock-ups.
Once I got the sleeves figured out, I rotated the dart to the waist area, where it would be left unstitched, adding to the full blousy effect of this shirt when it’s tucked in. I looked at historical shirtwaist patterns as a reference when making this pattern, and saw that the front panels all have a lot of extra width in the waist area, and no darts.
Finally, I drew in the line of the front and back yokes, which would extend all the way down the sleeves. This is the main detail that I love about this pattern.
If you’ve watched my other Edwardian blouse making video, you will see how I struggled through drafting my tucks into the pattern, and adding the tucks after the panels were cut out. I’ve since learned its easier to sew in your tucks before cutting out your pattern pieces, so that’s what I did this time.
Before we get into this, I’ll mention that the pin tucks for this pattern are optional. You could choose to add ornamentation to the lower part of the shirt instead, through lace insertion, or cutting your pattern out of embroidered fabric.
I used cream collared linen for this project from Pure Linen Envy, and I bought more than enough for this project, because in my opinion, you can never have enough white or cream coloured linen on hand. It’s just so versatile!
I used my yoke pattern pieces as a guide for how much fabric to start with, making sure I had almost enough width for double the length of the pattern pieces. Remember, we are going to be stitching tons of tucks into this fabric, so we need lots of extra width!
I decided to mark straight lines at equal intervals across my fabric, for a guide for the placement of the tucks. I’m not usually one for measuring and marking, as you can see in my other projects like my Zipper Corset. but in this case it actually made my life easier. If you have one of those vintage tucking foot attachments for your machine, that is even better!
Next I ironed a fold along each of these lines. Finally, I took the fabric to my machine and sewed a tuck along each of these folds, using my machine foot as a guide for the width. This took a long time! When it was done, I was left with a big swath of tucked fabric, which still wasn’t quite long enough for my pattern pieces, but I was able to do some piecing to make up for that. More on that below.
I cut out my pattern pieces from my fabric, cutting the yoke pieces from the tucked fabric, piecing out enough for length of the sleeves. I added seam allowance by eye as I went. I cut out one front body piece on fold, the front and back yokes on fold, and two back body pieces . Admittedly, I could have saved a lot of fabric if I had cut the sleeves and body separately and seamed them together much like a chemise, but I was too lazy.
I began by sewing the front yoke and body panels together with a flat felled seam. This helped break up the visual of all the vertical tucks with a horizontal seam going across. Then I sewed the centre back body seam, before attaching it to the back yoke.
Now I was ready to sew my shoulder and sleeve seams. I opted to finish this seam of the tucked fabric with a strip of bias tape sewn over the seam. This adds nice visual detail and camouflages any areas where the tucks don’t line up.
Now it was time to add the gussets and finish the bottom of the blouse. The pattern indicates a point to slash open the underarm to, and it’s into these slashes that the gussets are attached.
I first sewed the seams to the outside, trying to use up very little seam allowance from the slashes and more from the gussets, which had seam allowance added. This was very finicky, and each of the four sides has to be stitched individually. I also sewed the bottom of the sleeves closed, and the side seams of the blouse, before flat felling all of these seams.
I finished the neckline with a strip of bias tape, much like I did in my Linen Shirts project, but sewn entirely to the outside of the neckline. I think this helps balance out all those tucks. Finally, I sewed a rolled hem to the sleeves and the bottom of the blouse.
How Do I Like It?
Admittedly, while I was sewing this blouse, I was sure I wasn’t going to like it. I thought the tucks were too chunky and that they looked a bit eighties, not the look I was going for. But once it was finished and I tried it on, I was pleasantly surprised!
The fit was great, just what I was going for, and I love the way the tucks and the strips of bias trim look, along with the yokes!
This blouse was a success! If it's something you want to try, get the pattern and let me know how you fare! The great thing about the kimono sleeve bodice pattern is that it is a base for so many other interesting styles!
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