Tuesday, September 29, 2009

LaFred - Athena Blouse

You know how all fashion experts say you absolutely, positively, must own a white blouse? Every season we are urged to buy the ultimate white blouse for that particular season because it is updated and, horror of horrors, you don't want to be seen walking around in last season's blouse?

How did I make it to the wizened age of fifty without owning a white blouse? I must have owned one at some point, probably in my more fashionable twenties, but I sure can't remember it. White is not a great color next to my face and I am all-too-prone to clothing stains that occur while eating over my natural "shelf" (and I don't mean my fluffy tummy). :)

Well, the time had finally arrived. I recently made some full skirts that screamed for a short white blouse. As I reported, I went to the Artistry in Fashion event last Saturday, and I bought my first LaFred patterns. I decided that the Athena blouse would be just the thing to become my white top. I liked the wing collar and the square armhole. My fabric would be a lightweight embroidered cotton with some added synthetic that gives the fabric a sheen. This fabric is very lightweight — almost a tissue weight. I had only two yards, so I had to make short sleeves, though I wanted longer sleeves. I cut the top in between the two offered lengths, though I ended up cutting it to be shorter than the short length. (I would have had enough for longer sleeves if I'd known!)

I cut a size Large, based on the 6" to 8" design ease in the pattern. Rather than my traditional 3" FBA, I made a more modest 1 1/2" FBA. When I was trying to decide where to angle the dart, I decided it might be interesting to make it parallel to the bottom of the square armhole to emphasize that design line. I also took out the waist shaping at the side seams. All my usual alterations.

Fred was an English major in college and it shows in her pattern instructions. They are clear, full of informative tips, and well illustrated. However, as the top came together (and it came together very well), I became concerned. The square armhole is deep and falls on the fullness my bust and I'm not sure I like that look. The top was fairly shapeless (I had removed the waist shaping, so no surprise there) and it was too long. The overall effect was dumpy. This pretty much happens with every top and make and it's why I have to spend so much time playing with the fit.

Since this is a fairly sheer fabric, I decided to try one of the seam finishes that Fred recommends in her instructions and it's a new one for me: A mock French seam. You sew the standard 5/8" seam, iron the seam open, fold the raw edges to the inside, and topstitch them together. I really liked this easy technique for this fabric.

Other changes:
  • I made the front a bit shorter than the back and there are slits in the side seams that begin at my waist.

  • The sleeve hem. In the pattern, the sleeves feature a "pinched cuff" hem treatment (optional on the shorter sleeve) where you pinch the fabric, pull the fold over and fasten it on a button. You can make two separate buttonholes (in thicker fabrics) or put a single buttonhole through both pinched layers (in thinner fabrics). I did neither, I just sewed the button through the layers. I don't see myself needing to button/unbutton the short sleeves. The resulting shaping at the hem makes the sleeve much more flattering.

  • The buttons. I arranged the buttons in pairs. Three pairs, to be precise. Just 'cause. :) (You might have noticed I have used these mother-of-pearl buttons before. My fabric store had them 12 for $1, so I stocked up. You will see them again, and soon. :)

I bought the pattern Saturday and had the top done on Sunday, so it really does come together very quickly as it has only four pattern pieces (front, back, facing and sleeve). Once I achieved the right length and took out some of the fullness, I decided that I love this top! The white is a soft white color, which helps. Over time, I will decide how I feel about the square armhole seam falling on the fullness of the bust, but the neckline is very flattering and the top will be very easy to wear.

Blame DD#2 for this pose. She was my photographer and she egged me on. :) You can clearly see the square armhole, at least.

I just hope I can remember not to wear it on pasta-with-red-sauce day. :)