Let’s get into this. Despite my smile for the camera (I do like my finished blouse), I am less than thrilled by this pattern.
I bought it as part of one of the pattern bundles the Monthly Stitch was selling in conjunction with Indie Pattern Month last month. I purchased the basic “Nine to Five” pattern bundle, & made all three garments. The weird part is that I don’t work. I’m a stay-at-home mom. But I felt the patterns could be incorporated into my busy schedule of library storytime, preschool drop-off, & wading pool playdates, right? It’s strange that this was the bundle I was drawn to, given that I was utterly convinced that none of the three would flatter my busty, apple-shaped figure in the least. But that’s motivation for trying them at a discount. Plus, sewing for yourself gives you an opportunity to find fitting solutions & incorporate new shapes & styles into your wardrobe.
While experimenting with new shapes & styles is all well & good, I just could not with the sleeves on this pattern. They look okay on other people (Heather B in particular really rocks that 40s bombshell look), but I was getting major Melanie Griffith in “Working Girl” vibes. Since the pattern specifies lightweight fabrics with a fluid drape, I decided to experiment with making it sleeveless & even more appropriate for summer.
I was very concerned that this would end up being a Boob Hanger blouse—you know, where the fabric just drapes off of your breasts like a waterfall, obscuring any waist you may have & making you look at least twenty pounds heavier. I suspected that it was a style that a slim, relatively small-chested woman could work, but I expected the worst for my shape.
I made a quick muslin & lo! I didn’t hate it! Like…at all! & this brings me to my first problem with this pattern & my suggestions for making it work for you: the sizing chart is all wrong. Based on the sizing chart, I should have cut the largest size, done an FBA, & graded up in the waist. Thankfully, I know to consider finished garment measurements before I commit to a size.
This blouse has enormous amounts of ease in the waist & hips. I’m talking 12+ inches. It is meant to be flowy (some could say billowy if they wanted to be a bit less charitable). All that really matters with this pattern is that you get the shoulders right. That’s the only place that is really fitted, & it’s where all the details (shoulder gathers) are. If you pick too large a size…let’s just say the blouse can easily have an “embiggening” effect. You need the armscye to hit right at your shoulder point & not a fraction beyond. Sew Over It includes some boilerplate fit tips with the pattern, explaining that their patterns are more “closely fitting” than the average home sewing pattern. That is not relevant to this particular pattern, so don’t size or grade up if you’re on the larger side of their sizing chart.
I wound up cutting a size 16 after mulling the sizes & considering things like bust ease & the relative narrowness of my shoulders. I probably could have sized down even further, but I’m happy with my blouse. Had I sized up, this would have been a wadder for sure (though I easily could have repurposed the fabric to make a circus tent or build a hot air balloon).
One complaint about the PDF: one entire page was blank, save for borders. What a waste. The fabric requirements for this pattern may also be overstating the case a bit. The suggested fabric layout is laughably wasteful. (Literally. I laughed when I saw it.) I did eliminate the sleeve, which saved some fabric, but even with the bonkers ease through the waist & hips, I probably used less than 1.5 yards of fabric for this blouse.
I made my own bias tape to finish my back neckline & armscyes. I hand-stitched, per the pattern instructions, but it’s really not necessary. I say hand-stitch if you like to hand-stitch (I do—I quilted an queen-sized quilt by hand last fall), machine stitch if you prefer.
The neck binding.
Hand stitches around the armscye.
Let’s talk construction. The instructions for this pattern are very detailed, & quite well-illustrated, but…not great. A few things are just head-scratchers, like being instructed to hand-stitch the bias facings when machine stitching isn’t going to make your garment spontaneously combust. Similarly, the instructions say to finish the cut-on blouse front facings with a zigzag stitch or serger. There’s no reason you couldn’t give them a proper hem if you prefer. This garment is so loosely-fitting, you don’t need to worry about hem ridges.
But the instructions for the drawstring hem are downright troubling. I know some people have left the drawstring off altogether, saying they don’t want to add “bulk”. Read again what I said about 12+” of ease at the waist & hips. When you’re trying to tuck that much fabric into your waistband, a drawstring is not going to be the dealbreaker.
The instructions say to just use a ribbon for the drawstring. Instead, I sewed lengths of ribbon to either side of a strip of 1/4” elastic. Only the ribbon shows, tied into a nice bow at the side, but elastic is much more comfortable & helps keep the shirt where I want it to be. I imagine I’d constantly be adjusting, retying, & jostling the hem if I was just using a ribbon.
Here’s the exact wording for adding the drawstring: “With wrong sides together, press the hem over by 1.5cm. Pin and edgestitch in place leaving a 2cm gap where the folded edge of the front blouse hem meets the right side seam for the ribbon to be threaded through. Using a safety pin to help, thread a ribbon through the channel at the hem and tie a bow to fit.”
That’s it. Do you see something missing? Like instructions on how to finish the casing? These are like instructions for threading elastic into a casing for pajama pants. It works in with pajamas because the elastic is entirely enclosed within the casing, which is sthen stitched closed. A drawstring is different. Both ends of the ribbon need to be accessible for tying, & these instructions seem to indicate that they should just be hanging out the unfinished hole in the casing, which is INSIDE the garment. It simply doesn’t make sense!
& here is where I’m gonna go deep. I made two sewing samples to show the differences between the Sew Over It directions & the method I employed, both to show how a drawstring ought to be made, & to illustrate the differences in the finished product. Just to warn you in advance: I didn’t knock myself out trying to do my all-time best sewing on these samples. But hopefully they get the point across.
So, the Sew Over It instructions say to sew up each side seam & finish (I serged the raw edges together & pressed to the back of the garment), like so:
I chose to finish one side this way. On the other side, I marked the side seam 1″ up from the bottom.
I sewed the side seam up to the mark & then clipped into the seam allowance at the mark, making sure not to actually clip into any stitching.
I finished the side seam like the other, save for the clipped part. I finished either side separately & pressed open.
I topstitched either side down.
From the front.
From the inside.
Now the Sew Over It instructions say to serge/zigzag around the entire bottom of the garment to finish. Like so:
& this is how the version with the folded in bits looks:
Not a huge difference there. Just make sure the serging doesn’t connect the two sides of the clipped seam.
Now Sew Over It says to press up the bottom to the inside the width of the casing. I used a 1/2″ for this, because my ribbon was 3/8″ wide. That’s why I clipped into my seam allowance at 1″. If you want a casing of a different width, you’d have to plan & measure accordingly at the clipping stage. You could also give your garment a proper small hem instead of serging, but you’d have to decide if you wanted to add length to the all-over garment before committing to that.
After pressing, Sew Over it says to edgestitch the casing in place, leaving a gap to feed the drawstring through.
& here’s how it looks from the front. Again, definitely not my best sewing. & if this was a real garment, I’d be using matching thread.
But using my technique, you can edgestitch the casing all the way around, starting at one turned in side & ending at the other. Ta da!
This is where the difference in construction really starts paying dividends.
& from the outside. (Just imagine it, you know, sewn nicely.)
Feed your drawstring into the casing. Here’s the Sew Over it version:
& this is my version:
& then tie your drawstring into a bow to fit. The Sew Over It version exterior:
Do you see how the bow just kind droops sadly from beneath the hem because the drawstring opening (if you can really call it that) is INSIDE the garment? You also can’t sew up the hole in the casing without stitching the ribbon in place, making it impossible to ever tighten or loosen it again. That is what I consider an unfinished garment.
Here’s my version:
Isn’t that so much better? The casing is actually finished all around, & the bow is on the exterior of the garment, where it is both functional for being tied, untied, & adjusted to fit, & decorative, in case you want to wear the blouse untucked.
Finishing the shirt this way is perhaps slightly more involved than doing it the way the directions are written, but it’s not some sophisticated couture touch. It’s a logical finish for a drawstring. This was my first Sew Over It pattern, & these instructions did not leave me with a positive impression. I’m the first to go ahead & alter construction order, install a different kind of zipper, finish a seam a different way, etc. But this wasn’t a simple matter of preference. This was fundamentally changing the instructions because the instructions as written would have left me with an unfinished garment!
I also found it a bit shocking that the pattern makes no mention of any kind of closure options. It just says that you can add a few hand stitches at the bust point if you’re worried about the wrap falling open. If you Google the pattern, you will find that most people who are wearing it have chosen to wear a tank underneath for modesty. Because the wrap WILL fall open. Unless you are a living statue busking at a street fair, you need some kind of a closure, & I guarantee that “a couple of hand stitches at the bust point” will distort the drape of the facings.
I fixed this problem by adding a few tiny sew-in snaps. I put the shirt on, pinned the wrap in place, & sewed in my snaps accordingly. They’re secure, they’re invisible from the outside, & they don’t warp the drape of the facings. It’s an obvious solution, employed not just by me, but also by designers making tops like this & selling them for hundreds of dollars. This pattern was inspired by the wrap blouses that Gillian Anderson wears on “The Fall”. Those blouses? HAVE CLOSURES. Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there. A pattern designer should take an inspiration image & translate it into not just an aesthetic copy, but also a functional one. A blouse that one cannot move in for fear of exposing herself is not a functional garment.
I circled my snaps in red, because they otherwise kind of blend in with the print. They are all sewn to the interior facing & underwrap of the blouse, & thus, invisible when the garment is being worn.
I do really like my finished blouse, & I’ve been wearing it constantly since I finished it. But I clearly have many caveats that preface any recommendation for the pattern. I think a person who considers what I’ve written here & approaches size selection & finishes accordingly can create a very successful garment, but in a perfect world, Sew Over It will revisit & rewrite the instructions. (I did drop them a line about all this already.)
Also, just for fun, I brainstormed some other, non-office-y ways this blouse can be worn. & will be worn by me, since I don’t work in an office. No sense making clothes that don’t fit into your existing wardrobe, right? So here are three completely handmade looks for this blouse:
It can work with full skirts! & it can be teamed with a sweater to be multi-seasonal!
Wear it with pants! They don’t even have to be high-waisted!
Go super-casual with shorty overalls! This is a great summertime playground look. Cute, cool, & practical.