Recently I had the fortune of being asked to recreate a blouse which my boss, Liz Poole had originally made for Sutton Foster in Anything Goes at the Barbican. This was because the original fabric wasn’t suitable for daily washing. As I had been involved in the production and Liz had previously sent me to the theatre, I was known to the supervisor. Liz allowed me to use her pattern, making it identical to the original.
Here is a photo of what I was recreating.
Before I go further, I want to say that yes, this was a huge break for my career but Liz had done all the hard work of drafting the pattern, fitting the garment and done all the troubleshooting. I just had to look at the original and copy.
So here’s a post on how I made it
The collar was the trickiest part, its the biggest feature and it incorporates handmade braid of two widths and applied with millimetre precision.
The collar itself was made first and then the braid was attached. The braid is made from bias strips, the narrower at 6mm and the wider at 9mm, the gap between them is 5mm. There was a lot of deep breaths, swearing and stomping around! Once positioned it had to be hand sewn with a tiny running stitch that could only successfully be done from the back. I actually ended up doing it twice, I wasn’t happy with my first attempt which took hours and then re-did it.
The blouse is made from a double layer of stretch satin. This acts as a backing and a lining so I constructed the blouse like a waistcoat: I made the darts, attached the shoulders and bagged out the armholes.
The collar was then attached and the neck was bagged out. The underbust seam was then gathered, and the front/lining were attached. All my seam allowances are now contained so that its neater and more comfortable for the actress to wear. The edges of the two layers of fabric were then finished with overlocking together so that the two layers could be treated as one.
The side seams were then machined together. These seams are just pressed open, leaving them easily accessible so that the blouse can be taken in or let out. Theatre costumes need to fit the actress they are made for but also be able to be used for other actresses for future productions.
The front opening is fastened with hook and eye tape for a no fuss finish.
The neck tie
Now the neck tie is added. Its actually not a proper tie as it needs to be pre-tied. It is attached at one shoulder and then there’s poppers on the other shoulder for easy dressing. Underneath the knot is four individual pieces which have been arranged and stitched into place with a piece of fabric wrapped around forming a fake knot and hiding the join.
Finally a pair of shop bought knickers with a zip down the front are attached. Why? The knickers help hold the blouse in the trousers while she’s dancing so that it doesn’t become untucked. If she didn’t have the knickers the blouse would have to be longer so that there is a bigger overlap between trousers and blouse. This would be inconvenient for quick dressing, there is still the liability that if she hasn’t tucked the blouse in properly that it might come out and its extra bulk in the trousers which isn’t so nice to dance in and could potentially show. By adding knickers, it streamlines the look.
And I can’t finish without showing you the costume in action
Please note that blouse in the professional photos and video below is Liz’s blouse. Mine is a copy but allows you to see how it looks on the actress and not just the mannequin.
Thanks for reading.