1910 Shirtwaist



Carol James


(click images to to enlarge)

Outline the story …

My garment is a blouse worn by the character Clara Berg in the book "The Queen of Beauty" by Petra Durst-Benning, the last in the Century Trilogy set in the Edwardian period in Europe. I loved the whole trilogy of the 3 young women as they grow up and what happens in their lives. It encompasses the story of women in a world that is rapidly changing.

Clara is a woman newly divorced after an abusive marriage, setting up and working hard to make a new life for herself, using her skills to make hand and face creams and to create a beauty salon in the early 1900s. The writer’s inspiration for the character is the story of Elizabeth Arden who started a beauty empire name that still exists today.

I have taken Clara’s love of the colour lilac and lavender, the overall style of the era and what may have been worn by a working woman. It is based on the typical shirtwaist and long skirt. This is my altered pattern blouse and a readymade long skirt. I used Pinterest and images from the Chertsey and V&A museum to get ideas on the style for the period, along with family photos of my great grandmother and 2 times great aunts.

Outline the construction…

The blouse is a history bounding interpretation using fabric from my stash as I am trying to be sustainable in my life and also restrictions of budget and erratic delivery services. The pattern is taken from the Lutterloh System (The Golden Rule 1935), pattern numbers 45 and 46 supplement year 2015. I have made two garments using this system, a sleeveless shift dress, followed by a loose top and found the fit better than other companies. It has been a steep learning curve to use these patterns as there are minimal construction steps given but have used YouTube a great help.

The material was a remnant purchased online, best described as slippery and synthetic. I modified the pattern cuffs to give a more period look and added a drawstring ribbon at the waist to help give the slightly puffy look and self-drafted the collar. The collar can be worn up or down, the blouse tucked in or loose, with a sash belt which covers a larger time period than just the few years in the book.

I have made French seams for the first time by machine, using a dressmaking book and video for tips. I did the bottom hem and a few other seams by hand, which caused a flare up of arthritic pain in my hands and arms.




  1. Avatar Samanthalovestosew on March 11, 2021 at 9:42 pm

    I love the idea of a shirtwaist with skirt – so popular then and still practical now (and on my to-do list). The colours you have chosen work perfectly and are so imaginative. Great story and interpretation.

  2. Avatar Kristina on March 12, 2021 at 5:39 pm

    Great job and I hope that your hands and arms are better! I love the color!

  3. Avatar Margoton on March 13, 2021 at 11:51 am

    That’s such a lovely blouse! I enjoy the fact that you have chosen to make a long blouse to cover a larger time period. It looks really good on you, and I’m sure Clara would have loved it! I hope your hands are better now, it’s impressive that you’ve managed to make something like that even though you have arthritis. I have a particular fondness for those cuffs and this collar, they are really beautiful and striking!

  4. Avatar Manon L'Hostis on March 14, 2021 at 12:48 pm

    This blouse looks really good on you ! And you can easily see the hard work you put into it.

  5. Avatar Sarah Lowes on March 14, 2021 at 6:15 pm

    Clever idea to use that drawstring ribbon!

  6. Avatar Susie on March 17, 2021 at 11:40 pm

    Shirtwaists can be tricky, and this looks flawless! I commend your sustainability- I need to do more stash busting. Great job!

  7. Avatar Pia Palmer on March 18, 2021 at 7:16 am

    Great job Carol! I really like the fabric as well.

  8. Avatar teresa van twuijver on March 21, 2021 at 10:33 am

    ‘Less is more’, I say! Beautifully done, such style with such modest design

  9. Avatar AnnaCatherine Sendgikoski on March 24, 2021 at 4:58 am

    This is really cute! Very wearable in the here and now! Thank you!

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