Wings of madness: the blouse I never wanted to sew again (but now I do)

Earlier in the week, I was waxing on about my Ultimate Pencil Skirt and how happy I was with it. Now, let’s have a slightly less gushy sewing post, shall we?

The blouse I wore with that skirt was one I sewed from a vintage pattern. (Woo! It’s a bonus Vintage Pledge item since I already had reached my challenge of 5… actually I think there was a 6th floating around somewhere that I can’t put my finger on.)

It’s Simplicity 3266, a dramatic 1950s wing collar blouse. At least, I understand this collar to be called a “wing collar” but it doesn’t quite always seem to be called this, which makes searching for tips on sewing one difficult. Which I’ll get into shortly!

Vintage Simplicity 3266

I’m tickled that I sewed this because I posted this fabric/pattern combo on Instagram a couple of weeks ago, and mentioned I also wanted to make a matching pencil skirt. I often get brainstorms like that but sometimes my brain is 3 steps ahead of me, and I never get to it. This time though I actually followed through and sewed both the blouse and the pencil skirt to wear with it. Yay!

Wings of Madness

I’d sewn this blouse technically twice before, once a finished blouse and first as a muslin. It has kimono/cut on sleeves which we all know I loveI love the look, I love the ease and comfort factor, I love it all. On dresses, on blouses, LOVE. The pattern has front/back waist tucks and bust darts, though the busy print makes those hard to see. I could probably stand to either grade the blouse down a size or take the darts in more or reshape them for a slightly less blousy look, but I’m pretty happy with the fit and ease throughout. I’d likely normally wear this with a wide belt to accentuate my waist but when I took these photos I wanted to show off that I added a waistband to this skirt.

Anyway, I might re-address the blousiness down the road but after spending hours only-vaguely-successfully trying to control fullness in a different vintage blouse pattern that I sewed after this one, frankly I’m in no great hurry to do it again! 😉

Wings of Madness

You may not think a short-sleeved blouse fits into cool and cold weather wardrobe, but it does for me. I mean for starters, cool weather can obviously include short sleeves, of course. But also, while I’m a huge fan of button down shirts, I typically avoid ones that are long-sleeved because I hate the feeling of cuffs at my wrist under a sweater, and if I’m cold enough to want long sleeves I’m usually wearing a sweater. Although I’m now experimenting with sewing some 3/4 kimono sleeves in another vintage pattern and I surprised myself with how well I liked it (just a plain sleeve with elbow darts, no cuff). Anyway, my core gets cold but my lower arms don’t get as cold easily and I often like to push my sleeves up, so instead I usually prefer to layer a thin long underwear shirt under a short-sleeved blouse, with a cardigan on top. Therefore short sleeves like this are still well within my 3 season wardrobe.

But to make this particularly autumnal, I picked a Japanese cotton from Lecien that was in my stash. I think it was from their “old new 30s” line, and it definitely has a vintage vibe. I love their fabric, and I’d classify it (at least all I’ve sewn with or purchased) as somewhere between a normal mid-weight cotton and lawn, leaning towards medium weight but on the lighter side of that, if that makes sense. Hard to describe, but it makes for lovely garments. The only downside is most of the prints are decidedly summery and spring-like, but this one was an autumn winner for sure!

wingcollarblouse (Yes the buttons are on straight, looks wonky in the photo, whoops!)

I recalled when I sewed this nearly a year ago that the collar was the pits. If you’ve never sewn something like this, it’s pretty wacky. As far as I can tell, this is how most (all?) wing collars are constructed, unless it’s outerwear, and I can only attest to that since I have a wing collar vintage Pendleton jacket that is shaped in a different manner. For the blouses, there’s a shoulder dart that shapes the collar that’s cut onto the front bodice piece, and the front has an extension that wraps around to the back. The top of the dart meets at the shoulder seam and you clip into the pattern piece, so you get this T-shaped intersection which all sounds perfectly reasonable typing, but is not perfectly reasonable sewing. At least, not the first several times I’d sewn it. You staystitch and clip the curves to make it easier, but it’s still a bear.

It’s this simple looking little spot, riiiight here. Yeah, you can’t see it until I put an arrow, but trust me, that’s it:

collar

I think it’s easiest to understand this convolutedness when you look at the facings, because you can clearly see that you’re sewing right angles to a curve:

facings

It’s actually way easier to do this maneuver on the facings, by the way—there are no darts, although it’s still not foolproof. So when you throw the darts in for the front/back bodice and you’ve got excess fabric inside a dart you can’t really see that’s getting in the way, it’s super, super easy to sew in puckers in that T junction. And I kept doing that, repeatedly. To the point that halfway through this project I was so angry at the blouse I was looking up alternate patterns for the same kind of wing collar… to basically find out the construction was always the same (thank you vintage pattern envelopes for printing the shape of your pieces on the envelope). Drat.

It sat for awhile untouched while I steamed. How could I ever sew blouses with this type of wing collar (of any size, not just the gigunda version of this pattern) if I couldn’t sew that spot without it being puckery and weird? Sure, you can’t actually see it since it’s well hidden under the collar, but I know it’s there. And while I’m not a perfectionist in all areas of sewing, I pick and choose, and this is one of my pickier points. It just dogged me that I couldn’t get it looking decent. Not in the previous versions of this pattern, nor in a dress I sewed with a similar collar a couple of years ago.

Until I had an “AHA!” moment, honestly I felt really defeated about this. I mean we all struggle with fitting issues and things we find challenging, but it really annoyed me that I felt like this stupid tiny little juncture was going to prevent me from being able to sew a style of blouse I was really into. In fact I felt pretty down about it for a few days last week. “Simple to make” my ass, vintage Simplicity!

But then, lightbulb moment when I finally was willing to unpick things and start again!

I didn’t photograph this, but hopefully next time I sew it I will. Essentially, what I did was sew to juuust before the dot where you line things up at the shoulder seam and top of the dart, left the needle in the fabric, pulled the excess fabric back out of the way behind the presser foot (including the bottom layer so it didn’t get caught up in the seam accidentally), took one or so stitches, left the needle in the fabric again, pulled the excess fabric back out of the way again, and continued across the back neck seam to the next shoulder seam, where I repeated that all. It involved lots of slow fiddling with fabric, but it was time well spent as I was able to completely free that shoulder line from puckers of fabric!

Here it is below, with labels so you can tell what’s the shoulder dart, what’s the back neckline seam, and what’s the shoulder seam:

inside-neck

Then in a moment of true sewing stupidity, as soon as I’d sewn one correctly, was so gloriously happy I snapped a photo and then was about to unpick the other side and re-do it… I accidentally unpicked the side I’d just done perfectly. And shared this moment of stupidity on Instagram, which precipitated lots of similar amusing stories! So I then had to do it twice more. And then in the ultimate act of irony, I did what someone on Instagram commented that they sometimes did: I sewed the right side of the front facing to the wrong side of the back facing. I never do that! And I sewed the fabric into the seam several times at that! (That I do, ugh.)

So all told, it took me 9 tries to get those 4 angled shoulder seams all correct. NINE. But I think I may have this thing licked now, so I’m feeling more confident to give it a go on another wing collar pattern. And I want to do that, in part because I’m really into this fun collar right now vs. the more traditional notched convertible collar I usually sport, and in part to get more practice so I don’t feel like “gahhh I have to do THAT again?!!!” next time. 😉

And damn, I sure earned this blouse! I’m mighty pleased to have it!

Wings of Madness

Filed: Sewing, Vintage Wardrobe

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Golly, 15 Comments!

  • Amanda Thomas October 16, 2015 at 10:03am

    So cute! Love it!

    Reply

  • Love this! great fabric choice.
    I have a pattern with a wing collar that I’ve sewn twice and both times it’s driven me NUTS, just like you described. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who’s had problems! You’ve given me confidence to try the wing collar again 🙂

    Reply

  • I have the exact same problem and thought I was losing my mind but am always determined to complete something I start. I have made (I think) 7 different wing collar blouses now and they get easier and easier – probably have jinxed myself now – but they still fill me with dread although the finished result is well worth it. Yours is stunning, love the colour of the print especially since you have gone back to being a redhead – total admiration for all your work!

    Reply

    • Thanks, Michelle! I know what you mean about completing something you start. I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that this would have puckers at that spot but I’m so glad I put it away for awhile and figured it out, even if it’s still a bit difficult to work!

      Reply

  • Interesting collar! Most of the dresses and tops I’ve seen with collars that look like from the front have basically no back to the collar. Butterick 6055 is like that. Now I know why! Having a full collar in the back seems to really complicate the construction.

    Reply

    • Yes yes, exactly! In fact the blouse I’m working on for Halloween is that exact same construction, where you just fold the collar back and there’s no back collar. Having done both types in a row, I can definitely say the one without the back collar is 1000 times easier!

      Reply

  • This blouse looks great, and how satisfying to finally work this out. I have all sorts of blouse making plans in the next few months

    Reply

  • Definitely vintage! Nice job! I’ve sewed a collar with those kind of facings before. It drove me insane. Although it worked in the end, I am still uncertain how I actually accomplished it!

    Reply

  • Such a classic, stylish blouse. I adore the autumnal colour palette that you used here. Major swoon!

    ♥ Jessica

    Reply

  • Oh man, I want to try wing collars, but was always intimidated. I think now I might wanna brave one (or 4) after reading this post.
    The blouse is delightful, and the color is simply gorgeous, especially how it looks with your hair!

    Reply

  • Gorgeous blouse! I love autumnal colours in fabrics. I can imagine your frustration at sewing the angled shoulder seams 4 times! Well worth it though it looks fab with your pencil skirt!

    Reply

  • Oh thank you for writing about this Tasha! I’m making a vintage jacket that has this kind of collar and it’s proven to be quite difficult. I love how your blouse turned out though ~ well done for sticking with it! It was certainly worth it. ❤

    xox,
    bonita of Lavender & Twill

    Reply

  • The blouse is beautiful.

    Reply

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