1930’s Great British Sewing Bee Vintage blouse

As I wait for the opportunity to take some photos of a recent make I thought I would look back as this vintage blouse I made in November last year.

It is the 1930s blouse from the second Great British Sewing Bee book, ‘Sew your own wardrobe’. I loved the look of this blouse when I saw it in the book and was just waiting for the right fabric to come along. I chose this orange blossom cotton lawn from Guthrie and Ghani. Given the length of time since I bought it, it is not unsurprising that it has sold out there now. I did happen to see it in John Lewis too a few months back. It is more light weight than the quilting weight cottons that I have tended to sew with mostly and has a lovely soft drape for a gathered blouse such as this one.



The difficulty rating is described as tricky which I would whole heartedly agree with, there are definitely several challenging parts. One factor for me is that the original pattern is a 1937 vintage pattern but it looks like it has been summarised for the book (the original may well have been the same) -either way I could have done with a few more illustrations and details in parts!


The blouse did look like it might come up a bit short for me as I do prefer tops that are a little longer on me. Judging by the blouse on the model, it is supposed to finish just below the hips (bit short for me). I therefore lengthened the front and back bodice pieces by 4cm. I cut a size 14 throughout.


Shirring is used at the centre front neckline between the 2 collar pieces.


This was a new technique for me so a couple of practice runs on scrap material was needed first. It is basically a gathering method that requires you to use shirring elastic in the bobbin so that the gathers have a little stretch to them. This is where my first bit of guesswork was employed. I didn’t find the markings for where you needed to do the shirring to and from very clear on the pattern piece. I basically did a bit of trial and error in order to get it the shirring the right width in order for the main front piece to end up the right width. Not brilliant when I only had one spool of shirring elastic, fortunately I had just enough!

The bottom of the front and back of the blouse is gathered and joined to the top edge of the peplum.

Side placket

Here comes my second piece of guesswork. I didn’t even know what a placket was when I sewed this blouse and when I did look up the meaning it referred more to shirt plackets. At the time I couldn’t really find any other versions on sewing blogs to gain inspiration from. Oh lonely me! Here is where I could definitely have done with some more illustrations. Once the placket is finished the side opening is designed to be closed with a hook and bar. I wasn’t convinced that was going to be sufficient to close the gap so elected to use some press studs instead.


HOWEVER, this is the most annoying thing about the top for me. Every time I stretch or bend the poppers come undone. You can actually just see from this photo that the placket isn’t closed properly as the underneath flap part (so not a technical term!) is not in place – therefore revealing bare skin!! Note to self – must pay more attention to details before taking blog photos! An invisible zip is definitely on the cards for me here – not a feature of an original vintage garment but hey, far less annoying! When I get round to it….

Neck facing

Attaching the neck facing and inserting the rouleau loop for the back button was a bit tricky but the instructions were clearer for this part thank goodness!


The sleeves are described as ‘set-in puff sleeves with side teardrop detail and fastening’. The buttons used on the sleeves and back fastening were from John Lewis. I used lime green versions of the same button in another vintage blouse which you can see here. I love these buttons!

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Final thoughts

So all in all I do love this blouse but was mighty pleased to have finished it! Once I have inserted the invisible zip I do think I will wear it more as the popper popping issue annoys me a lot! I do wish it was easier to iron too. With all of the gathering and puff sleeves it is a bit of a nightmare to iron so inevitably stays in the bottom of the ironing basket for ages until I can be bothered to do it. Top tip…..using a tailor’s ham makes ironing it a lot easier, particularly the sleeves! 

The use of a tailor’s ham when ironing is definitely recommended!

And I’m sure getting someone else to iron it for me would be even easier! Dream on….


Until next time…

Happy Sewing!

Lorna x


  1. Michelle
    June 29, 2016

    Hi love your garment. I am trying to make mine and I am clueless about making the front and back facing pieces. The illustration shows the rather rude looking peice being in the middle with a peice either side. But the front facing was cut in the fold and is one peice. I am a novice and probably shouldn’t have even attempted it but I’ve started now and I’m going to finish even if I have to make it up as I go along. As for the placket totally agree I have gone off Piest here and just double folded it and blind hemmed it so neat opening and tidy clueless how it was supposed to be. I have never done an open back facing before I am assuming that these are interfaced too? I could have done with more pics here particularly.

    • Lorna
      June 29, 2016

      Hi Michelle. Yes I agree, more illustrations would definitely been good. It was a while ago since I made this blouse so I’ll dig it out and try and refresh my memory and get back to you! Thanks for the comment!

  2. Tina
    June 20, 2017

    Could you tell me where I could get this pattern

    • Lorna
      June 20, 2017

      Hi Tina,

      It is the 1930s blouse from the second Great British Sewing Bee book, ‘Sew your own wardrobe’.

      Lorna 🙂

  3. V
    September 30, 2017

    Is it just me or are there some mistakes in the pattern markings / cut out instructions (e.g. where to do the shirring, cutting only 1 back facing on the fold) ? I’m in the middle of making this and the neckline collar and facings aren’t fitting together well at all – the sizing seems way off.

    • Lorna
      October 9, 2017

      Gosh I have to admit it was quite a while since I made this top but I do remember there being a few issues with it yes.The sizing was ok but the instructions could have been a bit more in depth with more illustrations/pictures.

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