A redhaired white woman sitting on the ground. She is wearing a white embroidered top and print trousers. The top has short, slightly puffed sleeves and a gathered neckline, then falls straight, the gathered fabric smoothing out over the bust to show the delicate vertical stripes of the embroidery..

I thought I'd blogged about this finished sewing project, but I appear not to have done, so behold my wenchy top. The pattern is Butterick 4685, and the cotton is an embroidered batiste that I got online but the site has since signed out.

2020s lockdown had a big effect on me in many ways. Weight gain was one. I also found what I enjoyed wearing shifted a fair bit – without the opinions of other people to worry about, I was making different choices. So each year since, I've made a Pinterest board of clothes and styles that are currently grabbing my attention, just to help me see what I like, so when I go shopping or make things I won't be swayed by thoughts of how good other people would look in things, or whether they might approve or disapprove. 

This top is a direct result of those Pinterest boards. Very little on them is available now, they're a real mishmash of historical styles and fabric swatches. Certain things recur in 2021, ’22 and ’23: 1920s beach pyjamas (made something like them); tweeds (made a waistcoat); 1970s Biba dresses (watch this space); really flamboyant coats. In 2022 I was also really captivated by 70s Stevie Nicks (well, who isn't?) and Victorian/Edwardian lingerie – those beautiful confections of delicate embroidered cotton. I've always loved that fabric, and do have a genuine Victorian slip stashed somewhere, though I wore it when I was about half my current bodyweight so couldn't wear it now. What I really wanted was a top along the lines of a corset cover.

Finding the fabric for this top was the tricky bit. There's only one working Schiffli machine (which Edwardian cotton would've been produced on) left in the country, and that's in a fashion college and used for more artistic projects. Most of the modern embroidered cotton available is much less delicate, with bigger holes and less intricate designs. Even the embroidered trims available aren't up to the same standard. I was at the point of thinking I'd just have to buy a load of scraps on Etsy and assemble something when I found this. It's still not as finely detailed or as pretty as I'd have liked, but it's decent enough.

A redhaired white woman standing in an office stairwell. She is wearing a white embroidered top and print trousers. The top has short, slightly puffed sleeves and a gathered neckline, then falls straight, the gathered fabric smoothing out over the bust to show the delicate vertical stripes of the embroidery..

The pattern is dead simple, and because it's a loose fit I didn't even have to do the usual full bust adjustments. I did take a while to complete it, though, because I was obsessing over finish. Before cutting the fabric out, I pinned the two layers together to ensure the embroidery would be in exactly the same place on the front and back, and that it would all be perfectly straight. I French seamed the side seams and flat-felled the sleeves on, and made sure the hem was really neat. (It paid off; I wore the top to work yesterday and didn't realise till I got to the office that it was inside-out. The inside really is as neat as the outside!)

Anyway, I love it. So much so, I'm already planning to make another out of a marvellously Victorian gothic rose print fabric, with a black background and faded roses, and put some lace at the neckline, which I'll make slightly looser. There's a sage shade in the roses, so I think it'll go really well with both my black jeans and my moss-green ones. I've veered back towards the gothic styles I loved in my youth since lockdown. I'm not convinced a mashup of 60s spy-fi, goth, 18th-century menswear and Hobbit outfits is going to work, but I keep reminding myself of Vix's statement that 'if you wear stuff you really love, it'll all work together because it's your taste'. So I guess we shall see!

But I'm making a shirt for Mr Robot first. To the sewing machine!


  1. That top is absolutely gorgeous, I want one! I'm loving your shift in style, the post-pandemic Bohemian, hippy Mim is beautiful. xxx

    1. She's always been there, but over the years she's been squashed down by my own worries about what other people deem acceptable. Lockdown really did make me realise how much of myself I'd carved away over time, so I'm trying to get that back. Plus once we hit our age, people seem pretty much to decide that nothing's acceptable and we should just fade into the background, so nuts to that. If they're not looking anyway, I'm going to wear all the hippy-gothy tat I like.

  2. The top is so pretty and you look wonderful in it. So feminine. I love the sound of your future make rose print and lace; yes please! Lucky Mr. Robot to have his own personal shirt maker...

  3. Dressing to please yourself is the best. You did a beautiful job on the top.

  4. I love this top and can't wait to see the black rose one when it's done (no pressure!) Funnily enough I too seem to have found myself going back to styles I wore when I was younger thinking about it, it could also be a post lockdown thing.

  5. The wench-y style suits you - well done!


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