Endangered species: The tailored blouse

lagatta commented, "But as a very busty person with very small, sloping shoulders (an old-fashioned body type) I am very relieved that t-shirts of the more elegant type (silk, hemp, fine cotton) can sub for blouses. Blouses were a nightmare for me, even if too large they gaped and unlike the Queen I couldn't afford to have them made to fit."

Of all the obvious corner-cutting in women's wear, blouses have suffered the most.

Shirts have held, but the feminine yet tailored blouse has nearly vanished. ("Blouse" in English generally means a shirt without tails, worn by women, girls and historically, young boys.)

This is what you see most of the time: the Brooks Brothers linen shirt ($98) with placket sewn straight to the shirt collar.

I hun
t lapel-collared blouses, in notched, wing or shawl styles. (Shown, vintage blouse from etsy seller greatestfriend.)

Ann Roth costumed Meryl Streep in "Julie and Julia" in mostly lapeled blouses, including this wing version.

Nearly-extinct details

You'll also have a hard time finding more than one of these details on a blouse:
- Pleated or gathered yokes, front or back

- Bust darts

- Straight, well-finished slit-sided bottom (so you can wear the blouse tucked or untucked in a dressier manner than shirt tails)

- French cuffs

- Prints or stripes
that match at seams and pockets
- Chest pocket
- Mother-of-pearl or covered buttons
- Thin half-shoulder pads, to create a shoulder line even if yours slope

- French seams in blouses of sheer fabrics

If you yearn for detail plus precise fit, you'd best
be pattern-shopping.

rda #8503 (from Pattern.com) has lapels, front and back princess seams, shoulder and sleeve darts, watch pocket and a cheeky weskit tail.

That blouse involves serious tailoring. And you wonder why today's mass market blouses don't fit?

with definite busts might choose a wrap style like this Lafayette 148 lurex stripe ($140 on Overstock.com).

It offers some flexibility at the bustline, but the shoulder still has to fit.

If you sew or have found your dressmaker-angel, Burda #8497 from Sewing.com is your wrap-blouse number.

I tried to have a blouse made by a men's custom
shirtmaker here and got a blank stare.They cannot deal with bust darts and really aren't interested.

And look at this, worn by Barbara Dalton, 1959 Runner Up in Glamour Magazine’s Ten Girls with Taste survey: a wool jersey blouse with draped lapeled collar by Dorian Macksound, crepe scarf by Sally Gee.

Like lagatta, I too resort to knits, but long for chic blouses and hoard those I've found from French makers such as Anne Fontaine and Alain Figaret.

Once you've found one, your work is just beginning. Only good for one wear, each takes a good 20 minutes to press those darts and facings. But it's small price for a womanly, graceful garment.


Nancy K said…
Like your first commenter, I have a large bust, narrow sloping shoulders and a short neck. RTW blouses do not fit me and the collar stand is not my friend. I have several blouse patterns waiting in the sewing queue that are very similar to those you've shown, minus the Brooks brothers, and they are shoulder princess seams with that open collar, no stand, or a wrap blouse also with an open collar and lapels. Getting tired of knit tops I have to say, so I really do need to get a move on these blouses. The ones you've chosen are much more flattering for a womans figure.
Gaping buttons? Sew a small snap between the buttonholes. RTW blouses never have a button at your bust height, so they gap even if they are large.
Glove Slap said…
I'm large-busted, too, but I like silk blouses that button or zip in back. I also like wearing a sheer one with a camisole underneath that's meant to be seen-- for instance, a rich brown one under a cream blouse, or gray under pale mint.
But I can't be bothered with ironing them, and hand-washing them fades the silk so I just dry clean them. The funny thing is, I buy them in thrift shops, so they cost more to clean than to buy.
NancyDaQ said…
Tailored blouses are problematic--yes, there's the fit issue but I also have a hard time with the maintenance they require. Even if you have them laundered, they still require touch ups before wearing. I'm tiring of knitwear too, but I'm not certain tailored blouses are the remedy for me.
materfamilias said…
I've got a few quite decent blouses from Banana Republic, but I admit to being quite easy to fit in RTW. And I also admit that I always have to add a snap to keep the (poorly-placed) bust button closed.
mat said…
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mette said…
I have very little to say here, as I don´t like the typical shirt with sharp, pointy collar lapels. A blouse with smallish, feminine lapels, or the Burda wrap shirts on your post are ok, but I would have very little use for them. My favorite is the traditional soft cotton version, half way buttoned with long sleeves.
Belle de Ville said…
I agree that Anne Fontaine and Alan Figaret make incredble blouses, but lately I've been really pleased with the button down, french cuffed shirts that I have bought at Banana Republic. The fabrics and the fit are both acceptable and I like to wear unusual cuff links.
Guess I'm being summoned to comment here, and I've copied the Burda pattern link - alas I haven't found that elusive dress or shirtmaker yet.

I had notched lapelled blouses that had belonged to my mum, but that was decades ago and back then didn't think of keeping worn-out clothes to make patterns. Probably just as well, I'm always trying to fight clutter and our bodies change over the decades.

Nancy K, back then (imagine, I had a 20-inch waist... she sighs) I did sew the little snap at the gap, but I simply don't find such blouses nowadays. And I don't want them quite "classic", certainly not white cotton. I love the 1959 woollen jersey number. That would have been a bit quirky, almost elegantly bohemian back then. Such fabric is still made in Italy.

I don't think any one of us would want to press those every day; I remember a story about the Blitz - think it was by Doris Lessing - in which the heroine has only one blouse to go to work in and atop all the deaths, destruction and terror, has to wash out and iron her only workworthy blouse every night. However, a couple that fit would be lovely to have.

Near me there is an enivoronmentally-and-health friendly cleaners using controlled water washing and a mineral-oil system rather than PERC-based dry-cleaning. Wouldn't want the latter next to my skin. I've never noticed silk fading with careful hand-washing - isn't the danger drying it in strong sunshine?
dana said…
My grandmother made her own. Suits, too. No wonder she always looked fantastic. On the day I took her home from the hospital after minor surgery, she went from a gowned patient to an elegant lady in about fifteen minutes. It was the blouse and suit. And silver wavy hair done up in a french twist. The nurses even commented!
Duchesse said…
Nancy: Shoulder princess seam is such a graceful effect.

Glove Slap: Dry cleaning every time would not appeal to me, there's the expenses and the to-and-fro. Wonder if you are British? That's where I've seen the coloured cami under sheer blouse.

Nancy: From what I have seen of your sewing, you prefer more relaxed styles. Tailored blouses are more formal- but you have the skills to make them!

materfamilias: Lucky! Some of the BR colours arr pleasing but they do not offer enough of those details to really thrill me.

metscan: I like the feminine ones, too. Masculine shirts are not right for me, as I am as tall as many men.

Belle: BR don't supply enough of those details I crave, but the fabric is pretty good. And cufflinks are so smart. My favourite blouses are Figaret.

lagatta: I'm on such an anti-drycleaning kick1 Handwash (or wash in lingerie bag on delicate) and dry on a hanger out of light- no problems, exception is several printed silk blouses. I'd wear that wool jersey blouse this very minute.

I liked the idea of that controlled water washing but my cleaner shrank several of my best sweaters with that technology.
Horrors, Duchesse!

I guess you can't sue them in small claims court. I've only had coats done there, and they often use mineral oil instead. This makes me hesitate to take in a boiled wool jacket I love - it is nicely fitted, unlike many of those that look schlumpy, and the most beautiful charcoal grey. I paid $5,99 for it at a charity shop, but it was brand new.

Conventional dry cleaning is very hard on the environment and on the health of their staff and even frequent users. I don't see how most silks would have to be dry-cleaned; after all, people have been wearing them in Asian countries since ancient times.
LPC said…
I really miss straight-bottomed blouses for wearing out of pants rather than tucked in.
Mardel said…
I like the blouses you show with the feminine details. As I am also tall, I find that the more masculine details do not work so well on me as I am tall and my shoulders are wide enough that I just look like a man. A softer fabric and/or softer details, even in a tailored blouse, are a must.

I started on a sloper for a princess seamed blouse before Christmas, but put it aside until after I had dealt with a few holiday pounds. I've not sewn much recently but think that with practice I can refresh my skills.
Frugal Scholar said…
I break out in a cold sweat when I even think about blouses--having to tuck things in was the bane of my girlhood.

I must brag a little--I was at a thrift in CA with my sister-in-law, a very very thin woman. There I found an Anne Fontane blouse in a small size. I made her buy it! I hope she's worn it. She's got the body for a blouse.
Duchesse said…
Frugal: I hope so too! In my experience if a woman is unsure about it, the lucky find is futile.
Alan said…
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diverchic said…
I had my first tailor made blouse made for me last year - a lovely yellow cotton with orange thread on the buttons for wit. Kevin Kung of SuMisura did the measurements and created the style; the shirt was back in a couple of weeks and OMG! No gap! It fits like a glove and makes me look and feel great. I think I paid about $125.00 for it.My Mom had given me a birthday gift. What a treat it was!
I find shirts very hard to fit, and needing lots of tailoring for my figure. And then the ironing!
Anonymous said…
I've been buying Lafayette for clients and it's working out great. Good basic, classic things at reasonable prices and sold where we can acquire them without too much trouble.
Anonymous said…
I just found this blog -- it's great! I'm 52 and very conscous of being stylish yet age-appropriate....all those young things in the office with their over-abundance of distracting ruffles make me think they're not comfortable with the simplicity of themselves. Right now I'm on a simple blouse kick -- white ones with some tailoring and then a sweater or scarf or jewelry to add a punch of color. Looks great -- fresh and clean. Theory and Teenflo make fantastic blouses if you can find them on sale. And Anne Fontaine of course.
Duchesse said…
Anonymous: Welcome. I admire you current simple style. When I walk though stores aimed at younger women I too notice what I consider a lot of embellishment and detail in may brands.

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