Inspired by antique Edwardian shirtwaists, I made an early Edwardian shirtwaist with wide tucks, cotton bobbin lace inserts, tucked bishop sleeves, pouter pigeon front, a hidden button closure and tapering tucks at the back to emphasize the waist. And as usual, I used a combination of hand and machine sewing – on my old treadle sewing machine – which is typical of the Edwardian era.
What’s The Difference Between An Edwardian Shirtwaist And Blouse?
Most Edwardian blouses were called ‘shirtwaists’ in the Edwardian era, especially tailor-made blouses made of sturdy cotton, linen or wool fabric with tucks and other plain tailor finishes. Shirtwaists were either worn with a dark wool skirt as everyday wear and to work. Or they were worn as bodice of a wash dress with a matching skirt made of the same fabric.
Related: Edwardian Shirtwaist Costume
‘Shirt waists and shirt waist gowns grow more popular with each incoming season […] This pretty and stylish waist is adapted both to the gown and to wear with the odd skirt’ (Los Angeles Herald, April 1904).
Blouses, also called lingerie waists, were dressier versions of the shirtwaist. Edwardian blouses were usually made of thin cotton or silk fabrics – like cotton batiste, (UK) muslin, voile, lawn or habotai silk. They were also embellished with cotton Valenciennes lace inserts, hand-embroidered broderie anglaise lace and other delicate whitework embroidery.
My Edwardian tucked blouse would’ve been called a shirtwaist in the Edwardian era.
Edwardian Shirtwaist Blouse With Tucks & Lace Inserts – Sewing Details
The materials I used for my Edwardian shirtwaist blouse are:
- thin cotton batiste
- cotton bobbin lace
- mercerized cotton crochet thread
- cotton sewing thread
- plastic buttons – even though these are modern plastic buttons, plastic buttons – made of celluloid or galalith – already existed in the Edwardian era
Antique Edwardian Shirtwaist Pattern & Inspirations
As usual, I drafted my own pattern based on antique Edwardian shirtwaist patterns. Except for the bishop sleeves I adapted a commercial pattern. I adapted the bishop sleeve pattern to make it fit the armscyes of my self-drafted shirtwaist pattern.
My Edwardian shirtwaist is inspired by this 1902 fashion plate of a shirtwaist with wide tucks at the front & sleeves, this free 1903 shirtwaist sewing pattern with wide tucks & embroidered bands at the shoulders, this early Edwardian cotton shirtwaist with wide tucks at the MET museum, this antique Edwardian photograph from 1901 of a shirtwaist with tapered tucks at the back and this antique Edwardian cotton shirtwaist with tucks at the sleeves. The cotton bobbin lace I used is very similar to the bobbin lace of this antique 1910s shirtwaist.
Tucks At The Front, Back & Sides
‘Blouse, or shirt waists made with tucks arranged in groups are among the designs shown for the advance season and are admirable for the new cotton and linen waistings of spring […]
The full-length tucks, at each side of the center, with those at the shoulder […] make a most desirable combination, while those at the back give the tapering lines that always are becoming. […] The sleeves are tucked to be snug from the shoulders to the elbows, but are full below and are gathered into straight cuffs.’ (Los Angeles Herald, January 1904)
My Edwardian shirtwaist has wide tucks with cotton bobbin lace inserts between them at the front. At the back there are tapering tucks accentuating the waist. I also added a wide tuck at each side of the shirtwaist. The tucks at the sides help to keep the shirtwaist flat and wrinkle-free.
And there’s also one tuck (or pleat) at each shoulder seam which continues into the sleeves. The sleeves are wide bishop sleeves which are gathered into lace cuffs matching the lace standing collar. It was so difficult to place the tucks so that they appear to run straight down on the curved bishop sleeves! 😉 But it was even more difficult to make the tuck at the shoulder where the front and back of the shirtwaist meet.
The shoulder tucks are a part of the sleeves. And it was so fiddly to finish the shoulder seam with a flat felled seam, insert the sleeves also with flat felled seams and then attach the shoulder tuck by hand so that it hides the shoulder seams of the shirtwaist. It was so stressful that the shoulder tucks looked good without any fabric puckering! I never do this again! 😉
To make the wide tucks with the lace inserts between them, I first sewed together a long strip of fabric with the lace. Then I pressed the wide tuck, stitched again, pressed again and only then I cut the long lace & tuck strip to fit my shirtwaist pattern and sewed the strips together to make an Edwardian shirtwaist.
And as usual, I finished all seams with flat felled seams: the most popular seam for shirtwaists in the Edwardian era because it’s tidy, strong and irons well.
Related: 34 Types of Seams
DIY Crochet Bands
Because I run out of lace, I had to come up with a way to finish the raw edges of the lace at the standing collar and at the cuffs. After trying different finishes I liked DIY crochet bands the best. I used mercerized cotton crochet thread and crocheted small bands. Then I finished the cut edges of the lace with my DIY crochet bands on the right side of the shirtwaist.
To finish the raw edges of the lace on the inside I used small cotton ribbon. I also used this cotton ribbon to finish the raw edges at the cuff plackets. The Edwardian standing collar and cuffs close with snaps.
Edwardian Bermuda Fagoting
It didn’t look good to just sew the two bobbin lace trims together for the standing collar and cuffs. So I sewed the lace together with bermuda fagoting. Bermuda fagoting is a hand embroidery stitch that was very popular in the 1900s.
Hidden Button Closure
The Edwardian shirtwaist closes at the center front with a hidden button closure. I constructed the placket so that it looks like a box pleat which hides the buttons. Some antique Edwardian shirtwaists had a hidden button closure instead of a visible button closure.
Related: 6 Ways How To Sew A Placket
‘The wide tucks at the front that give ample fullness […] and the broad box plait at the center are both new and desirable’ (Los Angeles Herald, April 1904).
The waist of my shirtwaist is gathered into a waistband and has a fitted peplum like this antique Edwardian shirtwaist. Edwardian shirtwaists with a peplum were always worn with the peplum tucked into the skirt. The peplum helped keep the shirtwaist tucked in.
‘The waist […] is gathered at the waist line, the back being drawn down smoothly, the fronts made to blouse over the belt.’ (Los Angeles Herald, April 1904)
Hook & Eye Connection
In the Edwardian era, skirts and bodices were usually connected at the center back: either with hooks & eyes or with buttons & buttonholes. This kept the bodice down and the dip waist skirt up in the back. After adding a hook & eye connection to my short Edwardian cotton dress, I liked it so much that I now add it to all my Edwardian bodices, shirtwaist blouses and skirts! 😀
Do I Like How My Edwardian Shirtwaist Turned Out?
I found it difficult to make the wide tucks with the lace inserts between them. The tucks also made it more difficult to finish the lace insertions in a correct Edwardian way so that no raw edges are visible.
Also, the cotton bobbin lace was from a seller I hadn’t bought anything before. And the lace is much stiffer than what I usually use for my Edwardian sewing projects. This lace together with the wide tucks made the blouse much stiffer than I would’ve liked. Even though I used a very thin sheer cotton batiste fabric!
But it was interesting to make the tucked bishop sleeves because I had wanted to make early Edwardian bishop sleeves with tucks for years. But it wasn’t easy: It puzzled me for days – or rather weeks! 😉 – how to place the tucks so that they run straight down the curved bishop sleeves! But I like how the tucked bishop sleeves turned out.
I also run out of lace. But I didn’t want to buy more. So I experimented with different finishes to finish the raw edges of the lace. This delayed finishing the blouse for a few more weeks! 😉 But I like how the DIY crochet bands blend in with the lace. I probably use DIY crochet bands again to finish raw edges! 😀
What I like best about the blouse is how it fits closely at the sides and back: there are no wrinkles and no excess fabric! After many adjustments, my self-drafted pattern finally fits like professionally made bodices fitted in the Edwardian era. Yay! 😀
Edwardian Underwear Etc.
Because of the lace insertion at the front, my Edwardian shirtwaist is see-through. With see-through Edwardian bodices it’s especially important that you wear the right kind of underwear under it. A wrong neckline, wrong embroidery, too colorful ribbons – all this could distract from the lace inserts.
I wear the following underwear under my Edwardian shirtwaist blouse (click on the links for photos):
- Edwardian chemise
- Edwardian unboned sports corset
- Edwardian broderie anglaise lace corset cover
- short Edwardian petticoat
- black cotton stockings
I also wear Edwardian-style black leather boots. And I wear my Edwardian tucked lace shirtwaist with my Edwardian blue polka dot cotton skirt.