A Simple Period Shirt/Blouse Pattern
By Susan Johnson 

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For those of you that sew a lot, I'll illustrate a simple layout for a men's shirt that can also be used for a woman's blouse with some variations.

The best thing you can do is look at period pictures (and be sure to include group shots - not just portraits as this would be Sunday Best) and paintings to get an idea of what was out there.

A Simple Shirt

Cut the fabric as indicated simple shirt 1 large small.GIF (3618 bytes)

A. Shirt Body - Cut 1 length from front hip front to hip back and wide enough to equal 1/2 chest or hip measurement (whichever is bigger) plus and inch or two for ease plus seam allowance. Cut opening for head, remembering back of neck is a fairly flat curve and front is lower. Make the opening for the neck small at first as you’ll be surprised at how large it DOES NOT need to be. Remember that the seam allowance will make it bigger. Cut a slit from the middle of the neck to mid chest. Occasionally ladies may want to cut a bit of a curve into the armhole area to adjust the shoulder drop. Remember, however, this is a drop shoulder style.

B. Sleeve. Cut this the length from the drop of the shirt shoulder to wrist plus 2"-3" for movement. The width should be the circumference of the arm at the widest plus at least 3 inches. Need 2.

C. Gusset: this 3"-4" square is going to fit where the sleeve seams (1) and armhole seams (2) come together as illustrated below. This allows the arm to move well. Need 2.


simple shirt 2.GIF (1453 bytes)


D. Neck Band: Make this length the length of your shirt neck band (your neck measurement plus an inch or so for ease and the front placket and an inch for seams).and double to height you want it to stand plus 1" for a half inch seam. Need 1.

E. Cuff: Cut this the circumference of your wrist plus 1 1/2" - 2" for length and the height you want it doubled plus 1" for seam. Cut 2.

F. &G. - Front Placket pieces. One of Each. Since men and womem button their shirts on different sides - check your own shirts for which side uses which. The thinner piece will be a botton band and should be 2" - 2 1/2" wide and the length of the slit plus an inch. The Top band should be around 3" wide (wider if you wish) and the length of the slit plus 1"-1 1/2".

H. This is the sleeve opening binding band. It can be cut bias or on grain. You need two (or one double length) of the part of the sleeve seam you leave open at the wrist and about 1"-1 1/2" wide.


It’s easiest to do the neck and collar without the sleeves flopping around, so you might want to start there.

After you have the head opening and slit established, put on the lower placket (F) by placing the right side of the placket fabric against the wrong side on the shirt fabric. Sew together, tapering to the point. Iron flat and turn the placket to the outside, turn under a hem and stitch in place. Leave the extra at the bottom on the right side of the shirt.

Repeat this process with the top placket(G). Cut off the extra bottom placket leaving about 1/2". Fold under the bottom of the Top placket and pin over the lower bottom of the slit and the lower placket and stitch in place. There will be three buttons evenly spaced from collar to bottom of slit.


At this point you can do collar band or sleeves. For collar band, put right side of band to right side of fabric and attatch. Fold collar band in half, right side to right side and sew end seams together. Turn right side out, fold under seam allowance on inside and slip stitch to inside of shirt. Press.

simple shirt 3.GIF (1877 bytes)
Front placket

For sleeves, find the center of the sleeve and the center of the shirt side and pin together, right side to right side, (center of shoulder.) Sew together from about 2 3/4" from sleeve outside edge (if your gusset is 3" square) to the same distance from the other edge. Sew side seam and sleeve seam allowing for gusset and leave open at end of arm for sleeve opening. Press.
At this point I finish the sleeve as I do gussets just often enough to feel sufficiently clumsy with them that I put them in by hand. If it’s not a problem for you, put them in by machine at any point.

simple shirt 4.GIF (2615 bytes)

For: Sleeve ends/cuffs: Bind off the opening in lower sleeve with the sleeve opening binding band, placing the right side of the binding against the wrong side of the sleeve seam and stitch, staying near the point on the corner. Turn and press. Fold in half and turn under the edge for a hem and slip stitch or machine stitch on the outside. Attach the cuffs like the collar band and finish hem and button holes.

A Simple Skirt

If you want to make a simple skirt, measure the circumference of your hoop and add half that length to determine the minimal fullness you want for the skirt. Skimping on this makes it look much less attractive.

The length will be longer than a measurement from yout waist to the floor as the hoop adds an extra 3 inches or so to the length measurement.
Be sure to allow for a deep hem (4"-8" - see below).

To quick hem: There are two approaches to save you time - you can line the skirt using a light weight bargain fabric - make the lining the same circumference as the outer skirt and the length from waist to floor of the outer skirt LESS the hem measurement.

Put the lining and skirt fabric right side to right side and sew.

Press. Turn to side you'll wear. Pin lining  top to skirt top as
you'd wear it and press hem. Gather or pleat waist and add waistband.
(I add a pocket at the seam in the skirt that can be turned in,
which allows for your opening.)

Using this approach eliminates the need for a petticoat over your hoop.
(If you don't have one or the other, your hoop lines show.

The second alternative is to turn up a deep hem, sew it in place by machine and cover it by machine stitching ribbon or trim over the machine hem.