Make It Modern: How to Update a Classic Blouse

Clothing in classic silhouettes have a place in everyone’s wardrobe. They remain in fashion year after year and often help to balance out a trendy ensemble. For the home sewer, they are a must-have in any pattern library.

BUT even classic garments need a lift in style from time to time — a little something to give them a more modern look. In some cases, all it takes to elevate a classic style is to simply change the fabric profile from what is typically expected…

Ready to transform a classic blouse design into something new and interesting? Here’s how!

New ruffle

Take any classic blouse design. A basic shirt or blouse typically features a collar of some sort along with a button closure. But change the fabric profile, remove the collar and convert the button closure to a simple ruffle and the blouse becomes something altogether different and more in sync with today’s trendy looks.

rolled hem edges

Making the modification

These relatively minor modifications are fast and easy to do and are a great way to modernize an otherwise ordinary shirt. The technique requires altering just one pattern piece, the front bodice.

The usual front facing or placket is eliminated as is the collar. No buttons or the dreaded buttonholes are needed so now the shirt becomes a pullover version. With the collar removed, a facing for the back neckline will need to be drafted, but aside from these modifications, everything else pretty much remains the same.

Fabric selection

What is important is the choice of fabric. Classic shirting materials won’t work here. The crisp cottons or cotton/poly blends typically associated with classic shirts don’t fit the look or style of the new version. For the ruffle to drape softly along the center front the fabric should be lightweight and fluid as in a chiffon, charmeuse, voile or lawn.

Furthermore, if using a print both the right and wrong sides should look the same since the underside of the ruffle will be exposed.

classic blouse Vogue 8772

Here is an example of how to modify the bodice front pattern and create the pretty ruffle detail:

1. Start with a classic blouse pattern, like Vogue 8772. Or, frankly, any blouse or top pattern will do as the ruffle finish can be applied to any type of top, blouse or even a dress.

2. Do not cut out the collar patterns for both the front and back. Also, there is no need to deal with any placket details if they are part of the pattern you choose.

3. Take the bodice front pattern. Identify the center front and if there is no obvious line to indicate it, draw a center front line on the pattern.

4. Next, draft the ruffle by drawing a line 2 1/2″ beyond and parallel to the center front line from the neckline to the hem.

adjusted bodice pattern


Center front identified/ 2″ ruffle added

5. You will need to draft a facing pattern for the back neckline. Simply trace the back bodice neckline onto tissue paper. Draw a line 2 1/2″ from it to create a facing. If the pattern has a yoke, like so many classic blouse patterns do, simply duplicate the yoke pattern which will serve as the facing.

6. Finish the front neckline and ruffle edge are the first steps in constructing this version of a blouse/top. Either a narrow rolled hem done with a rolled hem presser foot or one done with a serger work best and give the ruffle a lovely, clean edge.

In either case, for a clean corner at the neckline, finish the center front edge first and then the neckline edge. Also, since the ruffle turns outward make sure the hems are rolled towards the right side of the fabric.

narrow hem serged
7. Once the edges are finished assemble the garment in the usual manner.

8. Once the bottom hem is in place the right and left sides of the bodice front can be joined.  Simply pin the two sides together and stitch a vertical seam down the front 2″ in from the ruffle edge and roughly 3″- 4″ from the top edge – or enough so the shirt will pull over your head easily.

bodice fronts joined

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