"I always send Chloe the bits out of the papers with my dresses in them. Then she can't say I never wear anything but my old red velvet, not that I really fancy all these blacks she buys me. I like a bit of colour myself, I must say. At my time of life, if you wear nothing but black, people might think you were too mean to change frocks between funerals."
Alderman Mrs Beddows in the prologue to "South Riding" by Winifred Holtby, 1936.
If you look closely at this picture of Sarah Burton's coat from South Riding, you will see that this light summer coat has multiple rows of topstitching on its collar.
So when my Sunday-evening's viewing coincided with sewing a vintage blouse, also featuring this detail, it was only natural that it would become my "South Riding" blouse.
The pattern I used, Simplicity 3638, dates from 1940 and is unprinted. So all the pattern markings are provided by a series of perforations. Careful reading of the instruction sheet, or "Sewing Primer" as it is called, is essential. Seam allowances are only 1/2 " in most places, widening to 3/4" for the side seams... and there is no hem allowance at all!
There are five rows of topstitching on the front bands and pocket, and three on the collar, each 1/4" apart. It uses lots and lots of thread, so I am rather surprised to find this detail on a "wartime" pattern - but of course it wasn't yet WWII in the USA, where this pattern was published - duh!
I traced the pattern before I began, because its previous owner, Susannah, reported major fitting issues. I added 1/2" at the centre back of the body, yoke and collar "just in case", but otherwise I just did I was told in the Primer.
Pattern: Simplicity 3638, a 1940's size 16, 34"
Fabric: Cotton poplin from Raystitch @ £7 per metre. I had 2m, but 1.5 would be enough.
Buttons: 1940's plastic from Clover Crafts and Curios at eeebaaay
I did not use interfacing. The cotton had enough strength of character to stand up for itself, especially once the topstitching was in place.
I really enjoyed sewing this blouse. I took the time to sew each component carefully and with attention to detail.
I sewed the buttons on with orange thread for a little added zing!
In terms of the finished garment... I have an issue with the shape. This over-exposed photo shows the problem rather well.
Rather like the Sencha blouse, the waist darts and shoulder gathers combine to cause a ballooning effect at the bust. I imagine this would work well for a bigger girl, but it makes me feel "puffed up", especially as it happens to coincide with the slightly-too-wide sleeves. So it keeps sneaking upwards, to escape from my skirt waistband, even though it is a good length.
There are four darts at the top of each sleeve, making it stand proud of my arm. If this material was any stiffer it would be unwearable. I expect this feature is designed to accommodate shoulder pads. I haven't tried putting any in, but I might do so to see if they help balance the width of the bust area.
Picky, picky, picky! Despite all this apparent negativity, I am pretty pleased with my blouse. It feels genuinely "vintage", from another time and place. I have a lingering suspicion that I come across as Midge rather than Miss Burton, but maybe I just need to project more attitude when I wear it!