Tea in a Teacup

Making a Shirtwaist Blouse

1910’s Edwardian blouse, made from cotton batiste

I made a Victorian Fan Skirt a while ago and recently made a bolero jacket to match, using the last of the leftover fabric. The next thing to make was a blouse, often called a “shirtwaist” during this period.

Blouses for women had increased in popularity during the second half of the 19th century. This new form of dressing for daytime meant that there was a bit more flexibility in shirt-and-skirt combinations than had previously been the case, especially when the mode of dress in previous times had been only gowns. This change in fashion during the Victorian era, from gowns to two-piece ensembles, really paved the way for a new element of women’s dress that would continue into the 20th century, gradually making women’s clothing more similar to mens.

I particularly wanted a blouse with a high collar, back-closing, with a pin-tucked front and insertion lace, and with sleeves that were not too full. In short, I can’t tell if my new blouse is an early Edwardian blouse or a late Victorian one!


I used a variety of sources to “make” my pattern.

Ladies’ Street Costume, Summer 1893, from “Authentic Victorian Fashion Patterns”.

The pattern I used for my bolero jacket (from Authentic Victorian Fashion Patterns, edited by Kristina Harris) included a pattern for a shirtwaist blouse. I used this pattern for the sleeves and the cuffs, as well as the back panel.

A free pattern from Ladies Treasury for a sleeveless blouse was helpful to use for the collar shape.

A free pattern from Vintage Connection for an Edwardian blouse was helpful to use for the enlarged front panel, which I needed to make the tucks.

I graded the different parts of the original patterns up and then made the necessary adjustments according to my measurements.

This blouse was made from white cotton batiste, with cotton embroidered insertion lace, cotton lace edging, and plastic “mother of pearl” buttons.

Construction Steps

Step One: First I did pin-tucks down the centre front of the front panel. There were fours sections of pin-tucking, each with four rows of pin-tucks each. Then the material was slashed in-between the two rows at the left and in-between the two rows at the right. This slash allowed for the insertion lace to be attached.

The front panel, with rows of pin tucks. The slash on the left of the centre front is for a row of insertion lace.

Step Two: As my insertion lace had a “seam allowance” on each side, I could not sew it the easier way. Instead I had to slash the material and sew the lace on right-sides-together. The unfinished raw edges were folded under on the wrong side and hand-stitched down.

The insertion lace pinned down to sew.

Step Three: The last thing to do on the front panel was to pin-tuck the shoulder seam area. This was tucked to fit the back shoulder seam. The tucks were released before the bustline, to allow a bit of extra fullness.

The front panel shoulder seam is tucked to fit the back shoulder seam. The tucks are released to form fullness for the bust.

Step Four: Once the centre front was completed, I turned my attention to the back panel. As the back panel housed the button placket, I prepared the centre back by folding over the centre back edges.

The back panel, with button placket preparation.

As it turned out, the back panel was not wide enough for my figure and I had to unfold this section and then add a separate button placket later to give me a few more inches!

Step Five: The side seams and shoulder seams of the blouse were then sewn.

Step Six: The top edges of the collar were sewn together. A small lace edging was also included in this seam so it would adorn the top edges of the collar when it was right side out.

The two layers of the collar was sewn right-sides-together. A small lace edging was also sewn in the seam at this step.

The collar was then attached to the garment, sewing the outer layer of the collar to the blouse with the machine, and then hand-sewing the inner layer of the collar, making sure all the raw edges are tucked under. I did gather (or heavily eased) the neck edge of the blouse to get the collar to fit better.

The collar finished, showing the lace edging.

Step Seven: The sleeves were then sewn. As this blouse needs a shirt-sleeve placket, it is wise to make the placket *before* you sew the sleeve seam (which of course is NOT what I did!). Here is a great tutorial on making a shirt-sleeve placket.

Once the sleeve seams were sewn, the head of the sleeve was gathered and set into the armhole of the blouse.

The bottom edge of the sleeve was gathered to fit the cuffs. The cuffs were sewn together, with the same thin lace edging around the outer edge that I used in the collar. Then the cuffs were attached to the bottom of the sleeve. (For more on the basic attaching of cuffs, see this tutorial.)

The cuffs finished, showing the lace edging, the button, and shirt-sleeve placket.

Step Eight: The final finishing steps involved hemming the bottom of the shirt and running a bias-binding casing around the waist. A cotton tape was inserted through this so it could be drawn up to fit snuggly underneath the skirt. Finally a row of buttons were sewn as fastenings down the centre back and on the cuffs.

Unfortunately I had not taken adequate measurements of my width, nor my height, nor my arm length! This meant that the centre back had to have an extra placket added (as mentioned above), the bottom of the blouse had a bit added beneath the casing to make it longer, and the sleeves still need to be pulled apart and re-made so they reach down to my wrists! This is one of the lessons I seem to have to learn again and again with each sewing project.

Anyway, here is the finished garment!

The front view, with three decorative buttons sewn down the centre front.

The back view, showing the buttons and the casing ties.

My daughter and I at our recent outing to see the new Anne of Green Gables movie.

My new ensemble was now desperately looking for a place to “go-and-show” and it was lucky that the new Anne of Green Gables movie was coming out in Melbourne at just the right time! My daughter and I got dressed in our finery, stocked ourselves up with some raspberry cordial and plum puffs, did our hair the best we could, and took ourselves off to the theatre.

My daughter wore her Anne of Green Gables outfit, while I wore my gored petticoat, fan skirt, bolero jacket and my new shirtwaist.

Needless to say, the movie was a great success! Whilst it could never compare to my own personal favourite Megan Follows, I am excited that a new series may reinvigorate a new generation to be Anne-ites.

Related Posts

Making a Bolero Jacket

Making a Victorian Fan Skirt

Making a Gored Petticoat

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: 1910’s Blouse at Adored Vintage

Authentic Victorian Fashion Patterns: A Complete Lady’s Wardrobe, edited by Kristina Harris – buy on Amazon

Sleeveless Blouse for Suits, c. 1905 – free pattern from Ladies Treasury

Edwardian Shirt Waist (Blouse) Pattern, c. 1903 – free pattern from Vintage Connection

How to sew insertion lace – by Wearing History

Attaching a collar – by Grainline Studio

The Shirt-Sleeve Placket – by Off The Cuff

How to sew a button cuff – Youtube tutorial by Professor Pincushion

Reflection on the White Shirt and Womankind – by Fashion Archeology

The new Anne of Green Gables movie – trailer on Youtube