The ‘Betsey Johnson’ shirt

The Facts

Fabric: Approx 1m of paisley printed craft cotton, on sale for around $1.50/m from Spotlight (from my stash)
Pattern: Butterick 6979 – vintage ‘young designers’ pattern, by Betsey Johnson (also from my stash)
Year: 1970’s
Notions: 5 semi-matching buttons, 3 vintage snap fasteners. Approx 5c for the lot. (And yes, these were from my stash, too.)
Time to complete: Just under 5 hours by the time I made all the changes
Will I wear it? Yes – considering I had grave doubts about both the pattern and the fabric choice, I really like this top!

Total cost: About $1.55 (score!)

The Sew Weekly Challenge
This week, in honour of 4 July, the challenge was to pay tribute to a designer who calls America home.

My inspiration
I must admit, I know very little about American designers. Sure, I know some names, such as Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Anna Sui, Diane von Furstenburg and Donna Karen, but I don’t really know much about their style at all. Yep, there’s a large gap in my knowledge – American designers! Luckily one of the lovely Sew Weekly girls provided a link to a list of American designers on Wikipedia. Bit of a life saver, really! Turns out there’s a lot of them though – so where to start? Skimming over the list, one name caught my eye – Betsey Johnson. Thinking to myself “I’m sure I’ve seen that name somewhere….” I hunted through my fabric stash until I came across this wee beauty that came in a bundle of vintage fabrics I bought online. Butterick 6970, a ‘young designers’ pattern by Betsey Johnson of Alley Cat. Perfect!

I had a look through the Betsey Johnson website and tried to get a handle on what her current style is. What jumped out at me was pink, large floral prints, fitted tops and occasional boof-ey sleeves. And some lashings of punk-ish style as well. And you know what? This pattern, back from somewhere in the 70’s, had all of those on it’s cover. Clearly, it’s pure Betsey Johnson. :-)

The fabric choice
Since large florals, especially on pink backgrounds, seem to be quite a feature in Betsey Johnson’s style, I wanted to make this shirt up in one of those. Sadly though, I only had one fabric in my stash that met the pink-with-large-florals requirement, and there wasn’t quite enough of it for the sleeves as well. So I had to find a compromise – enter this white-with-pink-and-orange paisley craft cotton, that I picked up at Spotlight last Christmas when I popped into the store in Dunedin to say hi to my sister. (The trouble with having a sister who works at Spotlight – she knows exactly where all the great bargains are. And points you to them. Oops.) I had a lot of doubts about this fabric – I worried it might be too strong a print for such a strong style shirt. Turns out, it wasn’t – I really like how it looks. :-)

The burgundy buttons down the front came from a large pack of mixed green, blue and burgundy buttons I bought at Spotlight a few years back, to use as eyes when making softies. It must have taken me about 15 mins to go through the jar of them, trying to find 5 that were the right size and semi-similar! All 5 are different, but I think it adds a bit extra to the shirt, don’t you? (Or that’s what I’m telling myself, anyway!)

Pattern review
This pattern was nice and easy to make up. I went for the short-sleeved variant of the shirt, with wide gathered flutter sleeves. I wasn’t able to do my usual small bust adjustment due to the gathers at the bust line, but when it was sewn up it turned out I didn’t need them (yay!). I’d recommend this pattern – it sews up easily, the instructions are nice and clear (yes, I actually read them, for once!), and it’s a good fit.

I’m actually thinking I’ll make this pattern up again – the fit is nice and flattering, I don’t need to bother with a small bust adjustment, and I like the neckline. The only thing I’d change next time would be to widen the shoulders by about 0.5cm – I’ve got quite broad shoulders and could do with a fraction more room across them.

What did I change?
Yes, I admit it – I did different sleeves. Initially I did make this shirt up with the big, gathered flutter sleeves, but, although I must admit they were a bit ridiculous in appearance, I did kinda like the way they looked. Practicality won out, though – Wellington is just a bit too windy for big boof-ey sleeves, and a bit too cold all year around for a top you can’t fit a cardigan over easily. So, the sleeves came off. To make the sleeves the final top has, I took the two pattern pieces for the long-sleeved variant of the shirt, laid them over one another along the seam line to create one piece, and used them to cut sleeve pieces that were about the right length. Which seemed to work quite well.

Here’s how the sleeves were before I took them off and added new ones….

As you can see, the sleeves are kinda large….

They’re quite big at the back, too!

In fact, the sleeves were so big, I could wear them as a hat. (Maybe that’s what I should turn them into now they’re off the shirt? Hmmm…. Or maybe not.)

The verdict?
I surprised myself here – I really like this top! I can see it being a bit of a wardrobe staple. My second ever me-made shirt – yay! A massive thank-you to Amanda – she was kind enough to help me out with some suggestions when I posted about the issues I was having making button holes on my Sleepy Secretary blouse. I followed her recommendations, and lo and behold, perfect button holes! Thank you so much Amanda – coz of you, I’ve now overcome my fear of the dreaded button hole. :-) (And as a result, I foresee lots of button-up items appearing in my wardrobe in the future!)

Other random notes
Big thanks to my lovely flatmate Heather who took the large-sleeves photos in our lounge this morning.

And also big thanks to Steve, who took the photos in the afternoon once I’d changed the sleeves over. We went for a drive and ended up at the boatsheds out at Titahi Bay, where we took the photos. As you can probably guess, it was kinda windy. Considering how much my hair and skirt were flying about, it’s just as well I removed those large sleeves or they would have been flying back and hitting me in the nose on a regular basis.

And as another change this week – my hair is orange! Unintended orange, in fact. I went to dye it Vermillion Red, which is (in theory) a nice, darkisk bright red. Instead, I got bright orange. With no hint of red in it at all. I suspect the folk over at the Directions hair dye place mixed up the labels on their containers – this looks like their Mandarin shade to me. I’ve usually avoided orange, just because I tried it once and it didn’t suit me, but luckily this time around I kinda like it. So I guess I’ll be staying orange for a couple of weeks. It makes me think of Meg, one of the Sew Weekly girls who has a strong penchant for orange. (Hi, Meg!)


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10 responses to “The ‘Betsey Johnson’ shirt

  1. Score on mastering the buttonholes! I’m still afraid of that feature on my machine. =T

  2. I quite like the floaty sleeves but I think I would share the same annoyance at them flapping around in the wind! I think you made the right choice! And that fabric really suits you and your fab new hair! I like the little dress option too. Really cute. Perhaps the floaty skirt would balance out the sleeves!

    • Thank you! :-) I really like the illustrations on this pattern envelope – they all look so cute and happy in their little outfits. (Even the ones with what I’m thinking of as ‘clown sleeves’.)

  3. I like the whole outfit. With or without the floaty sleeves.

  4. Yay button holes! I’m so glad it worked!! I must admit there was much dancing (or something vaguely resembling dancing) and merriment in my household when I discovered le secret lever. I was so amazed at how easy button holes are when the thingy works! Button hole based joy aside, I love your top, it looks great. Another victory for the use of quilting cotton for clothing!

  5. It worked incredibly well. In fact, so well that it’s going to completely change how I view patterns! I can’t believe I’ve spent the last few years avoiding anything with buttonholes, when there was such an easy way to make them! Some day soon I’m going to make a button-through dress, just coz I can. :-)

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