Contain your shock, friends. For the second post in a row, I am wearing jeans. Don't blame me, blame the swingy blouses! A shirtdress (and a fun related announcement) will be up later this week, but in the meantime I'm still reveling in roomy, artsy tops.
This one, a silk cotton version of Butterick 5997, was my Mood Sewing Network project for September and actually predates my Zsalya blouse. I made it a couple weeks back, tried it on, and had a dreadful realization. It was so bad that, until late last week, the shirt lay unfinished on the bed in my sewing room, taunting me. I finally mustered up the wherewithal to fix it, if only to stop the pangs of guilt. Unfinished objects drive me crazy.
Let's begin the melodramatic tale of 5997, shall we? The blouse came about, because there really aren't enough blouses in my wardrobe. I have dresses aplenty, tons of skirts, piles of sweaters, but very few non-knit tops. In the wintertime, that's fine, because when I'm wearing jeans I'm also usually wearing a cashmere sweater. (Aside: Cashmere is my one great ready-to-wear indulgence. Last year, in the what I will forever call The Best Christmas Ever, all my parents gave me were cashmere sweaters and you have never seen a happier Mary. Soft things forever.) In the warmer months, though, I'm at a loss for what to wear with jeans. Sure, I mostly reach for dresses anyway, but sometimes I just want something easy! Knit tops are great with skirts, but I hate pairing clinging knits with tight denim. Damn it, I want to wear skinny jeans and I don't want to be self-conscious while doing so!
Enter the swingy blouse. Loose, interesting blouses in fancy fabrics are the key to this wardrobe conundrum. My love of these garments is directly caused by watching too many classic movies and TV shows, while growing up. There was a period in the late fifties to early sixties, when women would casually throw on smocks with their cigarette pants, for chic home attire. Admittedly, this was often in order to disguise a pregnancy, but whatever. This style has always stuck in my head as the epitome of casual chic.
So, swingy blouses were going to be made. Initially, I bought McCall's 6991, the wrap blouse currently making the rounds through the Sewing Blog Community, with an eye on making View C. After Manju's gorgeous pink version, I had to have it! Just as I was about to cut into my Mood fabric, however, I spied Butterick 5997 on the internet and fell head-over-heels with View D. 6991 was thrown over, in favor of a shoulder pintucks and a stand collar. Plus, it had those dishy gathered sleeves. How could I resist a shirt with so many gorgeous details?
Well, I couldn't! After making a couple of flat pattern adjustments--a very small FBA and narrowing the shoulder seam--I cut into this gorgeous silk cotton poplin from Mood. The color, a steely Wedgwood blue, is one of my all time favorites. So much so that, last summer, I insisted we paint half of our rooms the exact same hue. In my defense, Sam also likes the color and I was the one doing all the painting, because it's his least favorite home maintenance task ever. My lovely younger sister came up and we painted and painted and painted blue for days. That I still like this color after that is a testament to its beauty, don't you think? So, yeah, this fabric was awesome and the shirt was going to be even more awesome, because pintucks are the most awesome. The end.
Or so I thought. After finishing most of the shirt, including doing a hand-rolled hem, I set in the sleeves. Joyful at the prospect of my almost-finished shirt, I trotted out to our hall mirror.
This is what I saw:
Well, approximately. I swear I took a picture of the horrid sleeves in questions, but my phone seems to have (rightly) rejected the evidence. Trust me, I looked like a bloody pirate. I was one jaunty hat away from tearing through our neighborhood, looting and plundering the houses for rum and vintage fabric. Yoho.
What looked like a perfectly reasonable, if billowy, sleeve on the pattern model, translated to a great, gathered monstrosity on my own blouse. I can only assume this is one of those things where they kept logically grading the sleeves up, along with the rest of the pattern, but PEOPLE REALLY SHOULDN'T WEAR TWO FOOT CIRCUMFERENCE SLEEVES, NO MATTER THEIR BODY SIZE.
So, I stewed about it for a few weeks. Finally, I worked up the gumption to take both sleeves off, completely take apart their seams, and reduce their width by over six inches each. I then, just for good measure, chopped off three inches from the hemline and didn't gather there at all. The result is the blouse you see now, moderate bell sleeves and all.
I like it! The sleeves need some shape tweaking still, but the actual base of the blouse is pretty fantastic. I love the pintucks (so easy with an edge-stitching foot) paired with that mandarin collar. Even better, the blouse is saved from being a tent by clever side darting and that dishy deep V. Some people may not be a fan of cleavage baring shirts, but this is a totally tasteful hint of cleavage shadow. I like my bosoms and don't mind giving them some air, so it works.
If you're thinking of trying this pattern yourself, I do have some suggestions. First off, check the sleeves before you cut them out. Maybe you like feeling a bit piratey on your day off, but if you don't, those suckers may be way too big. Also, staystitch and understitch every part of the neckline you possibly can. I make a policy of always doing these things anyway, but they're pretty glossed over in the instructions here. You don't want that V to distort! Staystitch as soon as you can! Additionally, if you're going to use a silk or rayon, I highly recommend using French seam where possible and hand-rolling the hem and sleeves, to prevent unraveling over time. It took some extra effort, but I'm so happy to have finished it properly.
Otherwise...this is a super easy, super straight-forward blouse pattern. I love its swingy hemline and all those fabulous details. I also, wonder of wonders, love wearing it with jeans. That's a win! Even better, this fabric is so, so soft and has a faint silvery sheen in sunlight. How wonderfully fancy.
Now, I'm off to plunder some booty. Ahem, I mean I'm off to sew a shirtdress. Yoho!
Incidentally, the title of this post was inspired by one of my dear writing friends, New York Times Bestselling Author* Maureen O. Betita, who writes a rollicking series of pirate romances. If ever there was a woman who could pull off a pirate hat and sleeves, it's the lovely Maureen.
*When one of your friends hits the NYT List, you're contractually obligated by The Rules of Writer Friendships to always mention it with her name. It's a very well deserved, very big deal.
Note: This fabric was provided to me, free of charge, as part of the Mood Sewing Network.