Folkwear's 1918 Armistice Blouse

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

1918 Folkwear WWI Armistice Blouse

This past summer I began putting together a late 1910s outfit for the current WWI centennial events. I wanted the iconic armistice blouse from Folkwear, as seen in so many reenactor's wardrobes, and litters my pinterest feed. It's such a practical blouse style that can translate between semi-formal and casual. Besides that, I've never seen an armistice blouse styled the same way. Every person who's sewn up one of these puts their own individual touches, either through antique laces, hemstitching, or embroideries.

Fabric & Pattern:

I took most of these pictures on my phone, long before I knew I'd start a dress diary, so apologies if the color and resolution is a little off. Anyway, I had three yards of Kaufman's cotton lawn stashed away for a rainy day, and the Armistice pattern from Folkwear. I was torn between using up some antique lace and dedicating some hours to embroidery. I choose embroidery in the end, because I like to make simple projects more complicated.


I spent a couple of hours trying to find examples of late-teens embroidery, but couldn't find anything I liked. I remembered I had some embroidery transfer from the 1950s in my pattern stash and decided to take advantage, even if it wasn't period correct. I thought it would be simple, but there is always one hiccup with every single sewing project, isn't there? The transfer was too old and barely adhered to the fabric, so I outlined it in washable ink. After I spent a few hours embroidering the design, I discovered the transfer wouldn't wash out. I tried every soap and spot cleaner, but the blue ink was forever sealed into the weave, and the more I scrubbed the more I damaged the weave. 

I ended up doing what I tried to avoid. I ironed the design on paper and then traced the embroidery pattern by hand. Honestly, it took less time that I expected. I'm just lazy and overestimate how much time these little detours take. 

Ick! Get the oxyclean, stat!

It took about two weeks, an hour or two a day, to complete the collar, blouse front, and sleeves. I cut the sleeves at elbow length because it was summer, and it wasn't an uncommon style. I used DMC cotton for the branches and sprigs, and rayon for the blossoms. I ended up washing out the marker in my bathroom sink and the fallout from my powder adhered to the material and threads. It took a nice soak in oxyclean and hot water to get it back to that pristine white. 


Holy wrinkles, batman!

I don't have any pictures of the construction, but I did a few things different from the pattern instructions. With the cotton lawn, I decided to sew french seams to hide the raw edges and keep the inside neat and clean. 

The Dreamstress had a useful blog post about her experiences with the pattern and I agreed with some of her conclusions. Yes, the pattern grading is a bit ridiculous, the sleeves are far too long, and the self-fabric facing is a waste of time. I measured the pattern pieces to find out the finished garment size and cut accordingly to the amount of ease I desired in the fit. I used hem tape as the facing, which saved time and kept the inside neat, and twill tape for the waist tie. 

Still needs another pressing, but it's a drastic improvement!

As a person accustomed to permanently pressed fabrics, I couldn't understand why lawn was so wrinkly after multiple pressings with an hot iron. Someone over at the 1910s & WWI sewing board advised using starch and I was immediately struck with amazement. Why didn't I think of that? I took multiple years of home economics in high school and using starch was never mentioned! I just always assumed it was for work collars and making pleats more crisp. You can bet I felt rather silly after this discovery. Thank goodness for internet friends. 

The Event:

I was able to wear my new blouse to an event at Locust Lawn, a historic estate dating back to the early 1700s by original settlers to the area. There's a great array of events hosted at the site, from Roman to Edwardian. It's kinda my home base for reenacting and living history events. Originally, it began as a small get-together, but then it turned into a public event where we created a display with all of our great war memorabilia. This is how my friends roll. 

The great thing about the late-teens is that you can grab some modern garments to wear with your old. I paired the armistice blouse with a 1980s skirt I picked up from the thrift store and still looked reasonably historically accurate.

Sass & Silk's as Theda Bara. When Eliza does a display, she. does. a. display.

Dawn at Dawn has some of the best finds, including an original wax cylinders and 78s of wartime music, which she often plays on her radio show.

I brought a few of my postcards and photographs to display.

Some of the pictures above were taken by Dawn at Dawn, and I just shopped them to look old, because it's fun!

Final Thoughts: Recommended. Folkwear is one of the few WWI-era patterns on the market, which is surprising to me seeing how it's the centennial. I suppose the titanic-era holds more appeal and to the costuming market. Folkwear's armistice blouse is the type of pattern that is a blank canvas, and requires a bit of creativity to set it apart from crowd. Invest in some winged needles for mock-hemstitching, unless you're one of the lucky ones to have that gadget for your antique singer, or antique laces for trimming and insertion. Follow the Dreamstress' advice for construction, and it will sew up smoothly.  

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