Thursday, 7 June 2012

Blouse or bust (or, AND bust)

I sometimes feel like I started to want to do garment sewing (instead of bag sewing) because of Pepperberry.

The thing is, I love the idea of Pepperberry clothes, being a veteran purchaser of bras from the mothership company, Bravissimo. I have also bought swimsuits and strappy tops with built in bras from them before. They really, genuinely GET that there are a lot of people who want different sizes than are available in your typical lingerie shop. So when they launched Pepperberry clothes I was all HI, YES, ALL OF THOSE CLOTHES, COME TO ME. Except then I saw the prices. And the quality is, I have to be honest, not all that great either. It's not unusually bad, by any means, but it's not great for what you pay. And my eternal problem with store-bought clothes is that the tops just aren't long enough for me because I am taller than average. Overall, there came a time when I was getting proficient at bag-sewing when I thought to myself: if I could just learn to sew blouses, I could make shirts like this for myself. I love a collared shirt, I wear them most days when I am working, and I usually have at least a dozen of various kinds spread across my seasonal wardrobes. The type of fabric you make them from is not especially expensive -- I've picked up some lovely shirting fabric for £4-5/m, and you need no more than 2m for a shirt with long sleeves. In short: these are things that if I perfected them, I would make and use a LOT.

So, let's talk about blouses. First of all, I have actually been using Pepperberry for inspiration when it comes to blouses. Here's a nice simple blue blouse that I thought about buying right up until I saw the price tag (£40) and the back (ugly) and the length of the blouse (6cm too short for me).

Apart from all those problems though, it's a pretty nice basic blouse, of a kind I would be quite happy to own several of for work.

If you click on the photo you can see more details. It's an armhole princess seam. It also has a waist seam, but I think that's for manufacturing reasons: Pepperberry make up to four bust sizes for each size: Curvy, Really Curvy, Super Curvy and also Super Duper Curvy in some styles (I take a Super Curvy). The only difference between those sizes is the front and side front pieces above the waist. It immediately makes sense that they would put in a waist seam to make it cheaper to make different sizes. I don't have to manufacture tops, but it's actually useful to note what part of the blouse needs altering: nothing at or below the waist, just the bust.

Pepperberry also do jackets and dresses, and I noticed that pretty much everything is princess seamed, mainly armhole princess seamed but some shoulder. That's prompted me to find princess seamed patterns that I can use to make simple blouses

The one I am working on at the moment is Simplicity 2225. This is out of print and it actually seems to be an earlier version of Simplicity 2447, which has the same two tops, plus a longer version and some sleeve variations. I picked the OOP one up from eBay for 99p plus p&p. I'm planning to make view A, but without the epaulets or the bias piece in the upper part of the front.

The pattern has an EPIC 7.5" of ease, which is kind of immense. It's sized 6-16, and I am making a 16. My full bust is 109cm. The finished garment is allegedly 116cm at the bust, and this prompted me to go through my closet trying to work out whether that was enough for me without any kind of FBA.

I do have one blouse I love enough that I own it twice over and it is also exactly 116cm at the bust. However, I've always felt it really could have done with some extra space at the bust line. It doesn't look bad, but it's definitely a very close fit at the bust and feels tight across the back as a result. Another blouse I have that fits slightly better at the bust (but absolutely horribly at the waist, hip and shoulder) is 120cm at the bust line. It gapes a little at the buttons, but this is in part due to terrible button placement. I still felt it needed at least another 5 cm at the bust to be really comfortable. For the sake of round numbers, I am going to try to add 10cm in total to the pattern at the bust line, using the FFRP method. The pattern is also insanely short and will need an extra 8cm in length.

Another pattern I bought was Vogue 9674. It's also out of print, and it's an armhole princess seamed blouse in the Vogue Elements range. I really like the look of this pattern package because the instructions are really very detailed with loads of pictures. I'll have to scan the packaging when I write up more about it because I can't find the pattern online. I think it's a late-90s pattern, but a plain blouse is pretty timeless, epic 1970s collars aside.

Finally, I have various patterns from the Ottobre magazines for blouses with darts in all kinds of variations, and I'm watching another pattern on eBay that I think might also be useful for a basic darted blouse with bust and back darts. My feeling is that it would be good to spend some time developing a really nice TNT pattern for each of an armhole princess, shoulder princess and darted blouse, and really focus my attention on that over the next few months.

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