Saturday, August 18, 2012

Simplicity 9723 Gibson Girl Blouse

Michelle Dockery as Susan Sto Helit in Hogfather, 2006.
If you've ever read the works of Terry Pratchett's Discworld or seen the movie Hogfather, you probably know who Susan Sto Helit is. Just in case you are so sadly deprived, I'll tell you - in the Discworld, she is Death's granddaughter, and one of my favorite characters.

Our local ComicCon is coming up in October, and I would like to do something with a bit of her flair.
In her role as a governess, she wears a simple striped blouse with a vest and skirt. I've found the pattern I want to use for the skirt, so now I'm working on the blouse. This first blouse project is a test-run. I had some horrible Symphony Broadcloth (a poly/cotton blend) left over from another project and decided to try out one of my patterns, to see if elements of it would work for the Susan costume.

Simplicity Pattern #9723
Now, Victorian blouse patterns are not thick upon the ground. Actually, they're a bit of a pain to find at all. So far, the closest I can get to her shirt pattern is something modern. Then I found this pattern, and wondered if it might be the right way to go.

Wrong! So wrong! Please visit my review on for the full story on this pattern. Basically, it's costume construction and not historical construction at all. The blouse is actually sewn to the skirt! Since I had already forked out the money to buy this out-of-print pattern on eBay, I decided to tough it out anyway. I'm actually surprisingly pleased with the blouse that came out of it, but I think I may be missing part of the pattern - I couldn't find the right sleeves for Susan's blouse, so I decided to make the puffier sleeved version instead, and just use the bodice to gauge the feasibility of using the pattern for the Susan costume.

I'm a little larger than the pattern, so I used the multi-size pattern lines to go up about three sizes. It worked surprisingly well, and the only issue was the shoulders - they were a little wide.

The front strip in the pattern was much thinner, which would have been pretty unflattering for my body type, so I decided to use a wider strip of fabric and frame it with black lace. Before I started this project, I had never used so much lace in my life! I am very glad that I picked up a 100 yard reel of the stuff last time I was in town for Fabric Depot's outdoor sale. I just wish I had found white at the same time!

Changing the blouse pattern from the sewn-in version to a standalone piece was pretty straightforward. I added about 6" in length and flared it towards the bottom a little, to allow for hips.

What gave me the biggest problems were the arms... specifically the long cuffs. I glared at the directions for a long time, then I asked my husband - who is in his senior year for engineering - to look at it. Finally, I went through my pattern stash and found something remotely similar to help give me an idea of what they were talking about. It took a long time, but I think the cuffs you see here turned out fairly nicely, all things considered. They even fit well!

Finally I came to the collar. I followed the pattern at first, but when I tried it on it looked more like a turtleneck than anything of the period. I shortened it by half, and it was perfect. It looked nice and allowed me some breathing room.

As a final touch, I added this wonderful "Lady of Death" brooch I found on Etsy. Made by ProjectPinup, I think it's a fabulous connection to the Susan costume I'm trying to make. I've learned a lot while working on this blouse, and I have another pattern that I'm going to try before I decide what to use in the final version.


  1. I am having the devils own trouble with the skirt can U help me!!!

  2. I didn't make the skirt, but I could take a look at the pattern for you. What are you having trouble with?