A very basic 1950s sleeveless top

I have my next Vintage Pledge item of the year to share! I believe I pledged to sew 5 things from vintage patterns, which I figured would be easy for me, since I sew with vintage patterns quite a lot in general. Though I haven’t been sewing as much this year, so it’s taken until May to hit #2 and #3. Soon you’ll see my second item, a wrap dress, as soon as I finish up the jewelry that’ll go along with it. In the meantime, here’s #3 that I finished Friday night, shortly after finishing the wrap dress. It’s a simple 50s shell that I’d actually started weeks ago and put it aside, so it just needed to be hemmed.

A very basic 1950s sleeveless top

This top is seriously basic, as you can see! Practically boring, honestly. (And really hard to photograph without looking dippy, as it turns out!) It’s just a little sleeveless top from a late 50s pattern, Advance 9030. Although as you can see on the envelope, there are a couple of other views with cute details going on. This view was meant to be cropped, but I did a narrow hem instead so it would hit just below my waist.

Advance 9030, late 50s vintage sewing pattern

It features a bust dart with kind of a nice shape similar to a French dart but less dramatic and…. well really, that’s it! In fact it was so simple I was tempted not to do a muslin, but I’m glad I did. I lowered the armhole by about 1/4″ and had to lower the bust darts a whopping 1 3/4″. I started by lowering it 1 1/4″ on the muslin (sort of guessing at that after comparing it to another well-fitting bodice, since it’s something I often have to do) and then went another 3/4″ lower on the real deal.

Below is my look of “hey the bust dart is in the right place and the armhole doesn’t gape, either” happiness!

50s-shell3

Honestly, the fit is pretty much perfect to me, exactly what I was hoping it would be! I would make no future adjustments, and that’s rare to say. No gaping at the back or the armholes, no bunching under the armholes, and not overly large considering you pull it over your head and it has no closure. Tops like this can go from cute and vintage to a trapeze or maternity top quickly, especially if you’re a bit busty. I’m happy this managed to avoid that look, although it obviously could stand to be ironed (sorry, I was wearing it all day).

50s-shell2

The wrinkles are really bad in the back as you can see below, and this is frankly an unflattering photo but I thought it would be worth mentioning I’m wearing these with my Butterick B5895 denim cigarette pants that have entered the it-should-almost-be-criminal-not-to-have-washed-these-by-now zone. For all the saggy wrinkles from the stretched out denim, they’re still better than some of my muslins of that pattern were! πŸ˜‰ I really need to make another denim pair as I wear them so often, the lapped zipper edge and some seams are showing wear from washing.

50s-shell4

Back to the top. The armholes felt suspiciously high when I was making the muslin, but I did some research, because it looked good, it just felt weird. After doing a lot of reading, I realized that apparently a higher armhole is more of a European fit (any Euro friends able to confirm that?).

And while it seems counter-intuitive, a higher armhole apparently gives you a bigger range of motion, too. So I lowered the armhole just a smidge, only 1/4″. With this higher armhole, you don’t get that thing where you raise your arms above your head and your entire shirt follows. Sorry, I forgot to photograph it, but trust me, this does stay put!

higher armhole

After getting used to the fit, my only complaint is that this top is black and it makes getting even “invisible” deodorant on it much easier. Oh well. But after wearing this a couple of times, I don’t even notice the feeling that my shirt is riding up my armpits any longer. So I’m glad I stuck to my guns and didn’t lower the armholes a bunch to make it roomier!

So now here’s something interesting to me and long-winded about the construction; just skip until the next photo if you don’t sew! I’m not one to get too fussy about the insides of things I sew. I mean yes, I want it to look nice, and there are certain places that make me nuts that never look good enough to me (the bottom end of a zipper springs to mind). But I generally don’t get too crazy about it. I also have no problems with some minor hand sewing in the things I made, either. But but but! This simple shell has a feature that tickles me to no end: an all-in-one neck and armhole facing… that I did entirely by machine! I mean 100%, down to even tacking the facings to the armhole side seams and being able to understitch all but 3″ or so at the top of each shoulder.

I was familiar with the idea of doing an all-in-one neck and armhole facing, and I think it’s a great little feature for sleeveless items if you don’t want to use bias tape. (It’s one of those… I hate working with bias tape… I hate facings… which do I hate more? kind of things.) I’ve done it for the lining on the Elisalex dress, which zips up the center back, and generally if you look online for tutorials, that’s the same type of tutorial you’ll find, but for facings. However, this method requires a center back opening, like this tutorial. If you’re not familiar with the concept, it may seem at first like couldn’t you just sew the facings together and to the right side and flip it all in? But you totally can’t. It’s just one of those facts of (sewing) life.

Anyway, point being this: my top has no opening because it slips over your head. And I didn’t want to use the instructions in my vintage pattern to do a combined neck and armhole facing, because it involved lots of hand sewing and overly fussy details. But the fact that the pattern did call for all-in-one facings instead of bias tape or separate facings got me thinking, and so I went on a hunt. Surely there was a way to accomplish this with no opening!

And lo and behold, I was right. There are very few tutorials, and unless this has changed in the last few weeks, the ones that exist are either pretty unclear or geared towards a specific project, and so have lots of extra details you have to kind of filter out in your mind, which isn’t always easy in a tutorial. The closest I got was this one from Colette, from the Rooibos sewalong several years ago, although it took some work to understand a couple of the steps because the photos weren’t super clear and you have to ignore all of the piping instructions. But finally I wrapped my mind around it and was on my way.

And I’m thrilled how it turned out! Looks nice and neat, was easy to do, and because they’re sewn together at the shoulders and side seams, the facings don’t go anywhere! That’s one of my biggest complaints: even when you tack facings at key spots, I don’t know about yours, but mine always manage to flip out. I love this so much I was tempted to write a tutorial even so I’d be able to easily remember how I did it next time, ha ha! Obviously not that many people want to do this or there would be more help out there.

50s shell facings

The fabric I used is a cotton lawn from Cotton + Steel called gnome pants, and the name sucked me right in, of course! But I actually decided to run the print upside down, so instead of pants, they’re like little crowns. Lawn was the perfect weight fabric for this kind of top, since I wanted it crisp but not stiff. Rayon would be too drapey and most mid-weight cottons would probably stand at attention too much.

I’d love to make more verisons in Liberty lawn or poplin (I need to figure out if we can get the poplin over here). Or vintage fabric. It used about a yard, so it’s perfect for special fabric like that!

50s-shell5

Well, that’s a hell of a lot to say about a very simple top. I paired it with tinsely faux lucite earrings that I made, and a vintage confetti lucite cuff bracelet that Mel gave me for Christmas.

By Gum, By Golly blue tinsel vintage-style earrings

vintage confetti lucite bracelet

Now let me change the topic a sec. Ladies who sometimes wear shoes of questionable comfort like me, be sure to take care of your feet. After wearing a few too many questionable shoes in the last few weeks and then going on a really long walk in non-supportive Keds, I caused myself some issues with my left foot. Don’t worryβ€”I’ve been very careful, and I’m being extremely diligent about regular exercises and massage and it’s already tons better after a week. Physical therapy is so important, can’t stress that enough!

But as a result, I’ve been wearing trainers and other supportive shoes a lot lately, especially when walking around the house (which is a lot since I work from home). So meet my gold and leopard print Gola slip ons! Had to show you, since they’re much cuter than the boring-but-insanely-comfortable-and-supportive Skechers I’ve been wearing more often. I don’t love having to do that, but I do love my feet feeling better. I’ll be back in “normal” me shoes more regularly soon.

So moral of the story is take care of your feets and don’t give them too much hell without a breather! They’re the only ones you get. πŸ˜‰

gola-shoes

Anyway, that’s all she wrote on this top and outfit. Since I’ve been wearing cigarette pants a lot lately, this slip over shell shape works really nicely for me and I can see it becoming a summer and spring staple. I was looking for some more collarless shirts in my wardrobe, and this is a good pattern to make a few! Throw on a cardigan if it’s chilly and I’m good to go. I could see it working well with pencil skirts perhaps, too, so it might give me a reason to get the Sew Over It Ultimate Pencil Skirt pattern. I loved Emmie’s version from winter!

I’ll soon share the wrap dress that I finished up and am mostly pleased with (it has some issues). Both were finished on my new Bernina! It’s the Tula Pink edition of the 350 and I’ve only been using it about a week but omg you guys. It was soooo worth waiting over a year to upgrade to a Bernina. I’ve already been able to do several things on her well that my old Singer made me feel like an inadequate sewist about. Soooo much love for Betty (what I named her).

Tula Pink Bernina

What to sew next?? I may take a stab at a different wrap dress pattern, or perhaps another pair of trousers, or maybe another version of this top. We’ll see!

Filed: Sewing, Vintage Wardrobe

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Golly, 42 Comments!

  • Love the fabric – and its name!

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  • I absolutely love your top, I love the simplicity of it, perfect to show off a special fabric. Now I’ve become a fan of high waisted styles I am coming around to shorter length tops as being really elegant and not endangering of flashing any flesh when paired with a high waisted style. Coincidentally I was reading about armhole depth this week (as you do) and about how the higher the armhole the more movement.

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    • Thanks, Kerry! Yes, with a high-waisted skirt or trousers it totally works! I usually wear tops that I have to tuck in and frankly it’s nice to have a change, especially as it gets a bit warmer and I start to like less and less “binding” kinds of clothing, if that makes sense… not that tucking in a shirt is binding, but you know, all that fabric strunched against your middle!

      So interesting about the armhole depth, isn’t it??

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  • Your top is fantastic! Love, love, love! Please write a tutorial–there are lots of us out here who hate bias bindings and facings showing…

    Fit is perfection.

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    • Thanks, Janet! I’ll definitely consider it if enough people are interested. I’m so pleased to have stumbled on a great way to do it. πŸ™‚

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      • No that is BRILLIANT. I hate facings with a passion, so I’ll generally fully line the whole thing to NOT have to do facings. Please please please show how you did it!

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        • Oh maaaaan, this tutorial is like the yoke ‘burrito’ one, only sideways. Since my summer is full of knocking out pullover shell after shell, this is truly going to be the summer song!

          Hey, cute top! Hey, lady, your gnomes are upside down!

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  • That’s a such a great “casual” outfit, so chic and put together. Now if only you could get everyone else in our great nation to look as put-together!

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    • Ha ha! How true. It’s a really basic look but paired with trousers like this it can be really chic. Like instead of denim, if they were a nice sateen or stretch wool, and add a nice cardigan, and it would be completely lovely for office wear or a casual night out, too!

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  • That’s a a great look you’ve got going there, love the top and the pants too (just ordered that pattern). I think that top is a prime example of getting the right fabric for the project. I’ve been sewing for just 20months or so, and getting the right fabric is truly a process/learning curve. I’ve sewn lots of things I never wear because the fabrics are just plain wrong, but it takes a while to see it πŸ™‚ I think this top avoids the maternity/tent look because the fabric is dark and has the right weight. I love the facing on this, very clean looking. Construction details are always very interesting to me! πŸ™‚

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    • Thanks! Yes, there’s definitely a learning curve with selecting the right fabric for the job, and you never do stop learning about it! πŸ™‚

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  • cute top Tasha! If you’re up to writing the tutorial, I’d love to read that as well. I’ve used a pattern with that style of finish, and the last step was the shoulder seam. Mine didn’t look nearly as neat at the shoulder as yours does tho. Would love to see how you did your top.

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    • I’ll keep that in mind! Yeah, this was nice and neat through and through. I don’t think you’d be able to do it with too thick of fabric due to the mechanics of it, but then the odds that you’re making a sleeveless top or dress out of something that heavy seems unlikely, anyway!

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  • You write: “my only complaint is that this top is black and it makes getting even ‘invisible’ deodorant on it much easier. ”

    Didn’t your mother (who, as you knows, sometimes wears nothing but black for days on end) ever give you any of these? http://www.amazon.com/Braza-Wipe-Out/dp/B001N7E4EC

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  • I’d like to chime in with a tutorial request as well. πŸ™‚
    That facing is EXACTLY what I need in my sewing life right now!

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  • fwiw, I was anti facing for a long time for reasons you mentioned. Just fell in love with facings again in the last week or so. Facings should behave if you machine stitch every step of the way – including understitching and tacking at critical spots. I’m so pleased with facings on a dress I just made I’m going to do it again. Still love my foldover elastic and coverstitch (another fallback ) but facings really do look RTW. Another trick that I’ve seen in lot of garments in the stores (Anthropologie is one) is to sew your Made by Me label smack dab in the middle of the back facing (on the inside of course). Do a big square of stitching. That facing will go nowhere nohow.

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    • Even with understitching and the like, tacking in the seams only usually does not keep my facings from flipping out when dressing or undressing, which is the part that annoys me. Especially likely with necklines. I know what you mean about the label, but I don’t actually add labels to my garment and I dislike the RTW sewn square lines you get on the outside, although obviously it would cure the annoying flip!

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  • 1. Way cute top.
    2. I like your hair.
    3. I’d be interested in that tutorial πŸ™‚
    4. Betty looks like a badass!

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  • Great job – I love this top, it’s super cute!
    Coming from someone who HATES bias binding, that facing technique looks great – I’d love to see a tutorial!

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  • I’m learning not to underestimate the power of super simple garments! This top is fantastic, especially in gnome crown pants. I have a similar pattern (actually I think it’s one you gave me!) and I alllllmost started making it the other day before I realized I should sew some basic skirts to wear it with first. I’d LOVE to learn how to do an all-in-one facing like this. I glanced at the Colette one quickly but it kinda hurt my brain lol. If you ever decide to do your own tutorial I’ll probably be the first one to bookmark it πŸ˜‰

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  • Your blouse is wonderful! I really love your all-in-one facing; please do let us know what you did in more detail. I also think facings (as well as fusible interfacing) were invented by the evil sewing fairies! I underline and/ or line 99.998% of my clothing just to avoid facings. If I can get away with flat-felling I’ll do that too. I agree that no matter how well I machine and hand stitch and tack and press, press, press those dang facings never stay in place! I guess in the end an all-in-one facing is just a partial lining, maybe I’ll consider doing that more often! Thanks for sharing!

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  • This is an absolutely adorable spring outfit! I was going to ask where you got the pants, but of course they’re the ones that you made. πŸ˜› Love the top, and that jewelry is just gorgeous. Great job matching the earrings to that pretty bracelet!

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  • Very basic – very neet.
    I like it a lot, darling!

    Marija

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  • I like that you turned the fabric upside down! Super cute top. The all-in-one facing is also so nice looking!

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  • I would love to read (and follow!) a tutorial on how you sewed in your facing. I had to walk myself right through an attempt to sew it right sides together and turn it inside out because I refused to believe it wasn’t possible! Also, I love your shoes πŸ™‚

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  • So cute and classic! I love the punchy hues and fun print of this shirt. They take a relatively basic shape and make it wonderfully lively (not to mention instantly memorable).

    β™₯ Jessica

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  • That is such a cute outfit! The shirt looks utterly fantastic, and with all the different colours in the print, you could easily pair it with any bright cardigan or blazer and look totally put together. I love the all-in-one facing, too. A dress I recently bought has one and it has me fascinated! My Anna dress has the flippiest facing ever and it’s driving me up the wall, so the all in one might be worth investigating next time I crack out that pattern!

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  • Claire Gittins May 18, 2015 at 7:29am

    I love your outfit and would wear it myself. I too have denim crop trousers from the same pattern. Fab aren’t they! I have a need for simple tops just like this and am very interested in a facings tutorial…..please…..

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  • Lovely top, makes a great outfit. Think I need to attempt something similar.

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  • Cute top, I like that it doesn’t need a lining, is that because the lawn is black? Would a lighter color necessitate a lining?

    Love your new Bernina! They make sewing so much more fun and the knee lift is divine.

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  • It looks great! I’ve got to make some basic tops for the summer. I like the princess seam view on the pattern as well!

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  • This is such a perfect top! A question for you: I have a crop top pattern (simplicity 3480) that buttons up the back–its too slim-fitting to slip over–but it has back darts, and this pattern does not. Do you think I would get the same pull-over effect if I simply left off the back darts?

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    • I’d have to say I suspect that wouldn’t give you enough room, but if they’vbe big darts it’s possible! I know there are tutorials on removing darts, maybe try that out with a muslin and see if you can pull it on over your head? It’s so nice to have a few non-fitted but still relatively trim tops that you can pull on!

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      • Thanks! I’ve found a few patterns in my size that don’t call for closures so I think I’ll probably just pick one of those up–vintage patterns are so easy to buy when they are so pretty and only like $5…

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  • […] either!). I committed to 5 #vintagepledge items and have sewn 2 that I’ve blogged so far (a sleeveless top and flannel skirt), with one more unblogged (yet!). The pattern isn’t actually for a cropped […]

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  • Would the Gnome pants turned crowns print match the orange capris? I grew up in a beach town in Florida, USA and I like color and crazy pattern matching/clashing.

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    • You know, actual time-wise, I believe I had the idea for the capris shortly after this blouse, it’s just that I didn’t get a chance to wear the capris until this year. So I think my initial inclination was to make an outfit out of them both. I will definitely have to revisit that, thank you for the reminder!

      Reply

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