Summer Blouse

July 1 was my birthday and I was dreaming of a summer blouse. White. Eyelet. Pleats. Wrap front and scalloped edges. Once I had the idea in my head and the fabric ordered from my local store I just had to get to work to make it happen. But it wasn't easy. 

Pattern: based off of Vogue #1178
Fabric: Elly eyelet in white
Cost: $41

The idea for this top started with the Forget-Me-Not Adeline Dress and Top. I saw a glimpse of it while it was in pattern testing and I couldn't get those beautiful pleats out of my head. As soon as the pattern was released I scooped it up. However, something held me back. While the top looked beautiful on a hanger, in many of the tester photos the pleats just didn't sit right. 

I decided to make a muslin first. And while I was convinced that I could tame those pleats into submission with some careful sewing and a good press, the fabric just didn't want to cooperate. It was like each pleat was pointed in a different direction. I pulled the file up in Photoshop and my suspicions were confirmed. Drawing down the center of each pleat you can see they go every which way, especially on the bodice front. Not good. 

I thought about how I could tweak the pattern but in the end I decided to start over with a pattern I had made previously - a simple wrap dress with darts from Vogue. 

Of course, if a professional pattern drafter has trouble with pleats, you can bet I did as well. The beauty of pleats is how they create fullness, but it is also their curse. Make them too big and it creates too much excess fabric in the bust and upper back. Make them too small and you lose that impact. I struggled with figuring out how to manage that fullness and yet preserve those beautiful pleats. I tried mimicking the pleats from the FMN pattern. I tried grafting on pleats from another pattern, but forgot that those weren't drafted at the natural waist so it created little spaces for boobs several inches below mine. 

Finally, I dug into the research on manipulating darts and did a proper adjustment, transforming the darts from the original pattern into pleats. (This is a good place to start if you want to do the same.) While I was at it, I made some other design choices for personal preference such as adding a waistband and switching out the ties for a button. The waistband is actually really great because there's less pressure to perfectly match up all those pleats. After my fourth muslin I was ready to go!

This fabric, which is a cotton eyelet, handled beautifully. It is sturdy yet lightweight and holds the pleats well. I cut it on the bias at the neckline and sleeves to preserve the beautiful scalloped edge and had no issues with it stretching. The bodice is lined a silk remnant that matches my skin tone and is very cleanly finished. I cut the lining out of the original Vogue pattern too so it is made with a dart instead of pleats to reduce bulk. That's a handy trick I learned from another Vogue pattern. 

That doesn't mean I still didn't have some more hurdles. I ended up taking a few inches out of the side seams to make it more fitted. After I had attached the peplum that I drafted (also originally with a scalloped hem) I removed that and used a circle-skirt shape instead. The shape really helped show off the fullness of the pleats and also better fit my body. I had also originally drafted ties for the closure but felt they were too bulky so I removed those as well. I had spent a bit of money on this fabric and really didn't want it to become a wadder!

I'm so glad I kept at it though because in the end I'm very pleased with the final results! Started at the end of May I finally finished the weekend before my July 1 birthday. I wore it out to a socially distanced picnic and it was perfectly comfortable and, even more importantly, didn't gape at the bust. I love working with such a sturdy yet feminine fabric. It had been quite a few years since I'd sewn with eyelet but I didn't find it to be too fiddly at all. 

Here's another shot of that back. 

Quarantine has been teaching me to slow down and this goes for this project as well. By taking my time I finally got the result I was after and learned quite a bit about pleats along the way. Oh, and it's also given me the time to make multiples. I'll be back soon with another version of this top without pleats from the original Vogue pattern. 


  1. Beautiful, perfect use of that fabric.

  2. Hi, I would be interested in the final pattern for the front and how the position of the pleats compare to the fmn pattern. I don't know if I get this right but the pleats should all have met at the bust apex, shouldn't they? To me, the center-most pleat looks off on the tester versions and it's also the one veering off on the pattern, but I have no training, so I just go by my own logic here. Or do I get it all wrong?

  3. Well done replicating the vibe of that pattern but with pleats that actually work! I think modifying a well-fitting or well-drafted pattern is often less hard work than trying to fix a poorly-drafted or poor-fitting pattern.


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