Change in proportions

One of my key garments is a shirt-jacket. I had fun recently looking at older shirt-jacket wardrobe patterns on Etsy. There were dozens of very similar patterns published in the 70s to 90s.

Here’s one from the 70s. McCall’s 3280, 1972.
(Goodness, that summer I bought this house, so lived on crusts for several years. And I finished my thesis. It wasn’t a time I was thinking much about new clothes !)


This look was popular for decades. A recent pattern like this was only discontinued a short time ago, Butterick 4811.


In the late 80s to 90s, there was also another popular look for unlined casual jackets – oversized and collarless. Here’s McCall’s 7501, 1995. Huge oversize supported by huge shoulder pads, worn with a small skirt or full pants.


So, what is it about these styles that makes them look not quite up to date ?

Well, some designers have been showing oversized jackets in recent seasons, but usually without the huge support structures, and worn with slim pants or leggings. You Look Fab has a post about these here. Jackets like this haven’t reached this suburb (except for the students who buy men’s overcoats from the charity shops).

These days there’s so much freedom in fashion, you can find at least one designer who uses any given look. I’ve tried to focus on what’s frequently seen.

Here’s what I might replace those looks with.

New wardrobe pattern for wovens, Butterick 5821.


For a less casual jacket look, use the wardrobe jacket, but thigh length and without the hem casing. Add a waist casing for this season’s waist emphasis if that suits your body shape. Lots of seams for adding hip width if you’re pear shaped.

Or Nancy Zieman’s knits wardrobe McCall’s 6247.


I want a shirt-jacket wardrobe so would add McCall’s 6606, especially lower right.


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What are the differences compared with earlier styles ?
Ignore the curved versus straight style elements, a matter of personal style.
I think the key is proportions and silhouette.

Shirts and tops

Shirts are now often not mid hip length but low hip or thigh length.
Several common proportions :

The trendy shirt look is slim with slight waist shaping, such as Butterick 5678.


A narrow belt at waist is ‘this season’.

Or oversized but without the huge shoulder pads, such as Katherine Tilton Vogue 8748.


Or for overlayers, try the indoor poncho look in a woven fabric, see McCall’s 6603.
Actually, in the trendy mail order catalogues I’ve received this season, there have been knit sweaters this shape and ponchos, but not shirts. (The ‘arty’ catalogue always has an oversized shirt.)

Both slim shirts and big trendy tops are worn with slim pants/ skirt or leggings.

The current casual shirt look is looser fitting, as in McCall’s 6606 shown with the wardrobes above. Straight not shaped to the body, but not very loose fit. Even the new Palmer-Pletsch unisex shirt (McCall’s 6613) has 4 inches of ease not 8.
Worn with straight or boot-cut pants.

The ways style elements are used to emphasise the shoulders has also changed.
We no longer wear :
– huge shoulder pads or very dropped shoulders,
– wide spreading or high collars.
These days unlined casual jackets rarely have shoulder pads. And shirt and notch collars are usually not emphasised. Instead we have :
– yokes or epaulets,
– fitted or slightly dropped sleeves.

Shoulders dropped well down the arm are coming back as they’re essential for over-sized styles, but they’re not generally used. Though dropped shoulders are featured by some boutique designers – like the Katherine Tilton shirt – as arty rather than trendy personal style.
Raglan sleeves rather than dropped shoulders are currently used on gear for easy movement like sweatshirts.


Skirts are now usually straight or slightly tapered (pencil),
or subtle rather than full A-line.
Knee length or shorter, or below knee, or calf length.
Or short and flirty pleated (one of the very, very few styles I think is best worn only by the young).

You can wear a full skirt if you like the ease of movement. Make it in soft fabric so the silhouette isn’t wide and stiff (unless you’re going for a vintage look), and wear at lower calf length with a fitted top.
Such as Butterick 5650.


Pants are now usually slim,
or straight,
or boot cut rather than flared.

All styles in new Butterick 5818.

You can wear very full or very flared pants (with a high-hip length top) if you have the body shape for them, but happily we haven’t got to wear them if we haven’t !

P.S. Lovely new post by Imogen Lamport on what is in/out of style – letting go of trends.
Key question : “Could you go into a store and buy a similar garment today (if not, it’s gone out of fashion) ?”

– – –

Nowadays there aren’t many full wardrobe patterns in shirt-jacket style.
There are many patterns for shirt plus pants. Add a simple top, and a skirt if you wear them.

Would this be a good casual look for you ? – or do you feel as miserable in a shirt as I do in a blazer 😀

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Links available October 2012

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Explore posts in the same categories: current fashion, specific capsules

3 Comments on “Change in proportions”

  1. ejvc Says:

    Big shirts — hates ’em, I does. They camouflage my waist and have to go round my booty and I end up looking twelves sizes bigger. Because of the width needed to go round my hips, also, generally the shoulders are way too wide and therefore the sleeves are too long and the arms bind. They are truly horrible for me. Give me my centre back and waist seams, please, and otherwise stay away.

  2. ejvc Says:

    Should also have said, interesting post! Enjoyed reading it!

    • sewingplums Says:

      Yes Elizabeth – straight sided tops are a big problem for the pear shaped aren’t they !

      I forgot to mention that actually wearing the shapes depends on what suits your body shape. Thanks for the reminder 😀

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