Style Arc Blair shirt
Ever had one of those wonderful moments where the pattern you’ve been dreaming of (but aren’t quite sure exists) suddenly appears before you, drifting through your Instagram feed, a lovely ghostly promise of sewing joy and wardrobe satisfaction to come? I had one of those moments recently, involving a shirt.
The dream shirt that had been haunting me through winter was short-sleeved, loose, boxy and summery (I like to dream one season in advance). The dream shirt was a little bit modern, a little bit Gwyneth Paltrow in The Talented Mister Ripley – a casual but slightly glamourous 1950s rich person’s resort holiday shirt. A shirt that would be equally at home worn loose with jeans or tucked into something high waisted. Buttoned to the top or undone with a scarf. A shirt that would be the answer to every single shirt requirement I had for spring/summer. No pressure. Just a simple shirt.
I didn’t think I’d have any trouble finding a pattern – after all, how many shirt patterns do you think there are in the world? Thousands? Tens of thousands? I just needed to search for a while. So I searched the pattern stash. I searched my Japanese books. I searched my favourite pattern websites, filtering for ‘shirt’ or ‘blouse’, convinced it would emerge from the depths of some long-lost older collection and scream at me: I’m here (and I’m quick and easy to make and yes of course I come with an A0 file). But no shirt. Not the shirt.
And then, suddenly, there it was. On Insta, in a middle-distance NYC pic, worn by Sophie from Ada Spragg. The shirt! Hello Style Arc Blair shirt! It seems I’m not the only one to have been dreaming of this pattern – since that original sighting I’ve seen more lovely versions of the shirt and dress popping up (check out True Bias or Cookin and Craftin’ or Sew Brunswick or Bellbird) and there’s lots of excited chatter about the Blair. Funny how some pattern releases just seem to resonate – while others unfairly sink without much of a trace. It’s a tough old world.
This is the first Style Arc pattern I’ve made – I’d read many times that the drafting on their patterns is really good, but didn’t know that they sell their patterns in single sizes (at least for paper, not sure about PDFs). This ensures a very indulgent, tracing-free pattern prep experience, but means there’s not much room for amateur sizing adjustments. Which is fine if you select the right size, but may not be ideal for those who like to grade out patterns to custom fit their shape, or want to make another version for a friend… I ordered the size 10 and am relatively happy with the fit, but there’s plenty of ease and I can’t help wondering if the 8 would have been a little better around the sleeves? On the upside, my paper pattern arrived with a free Style Arc top pattern complete with little fabric swatches, and I’ll say it again – it was a luxury cutting out the single pattern – no tracing. NONE!
The instructions for this shirt are pretty sparse, but the diagrams help and the drafting is so good that it came together quite easily, with just a couple of minor hiccups at the button band stage. To save your sanity I wouldn’t recommend the Blair as a first shirt project – I relied a lot on what I learned from making a Grainline Archer a few months ago, and referred to the Archer sewalong a couple of times to make sure I was on the right shirt-making track.
The fabric I used is a textured-stripe cream linen I bought in Japan and love deeply. I wanted to flip the stripes to emphasise the bottom panels of the blouse, but didn’t foresee the challenges that lay ahead with stripe matching (mine’s a little dodgy), and weight (the fabric’s slightly see-through and the pattern has a double layer on the bottom panel – I was worried that the contrast would have been a bit busy together with the stripes, so I skipped the panel lining and instead dropped the side curves by a couple of inches).
I also didn’t foresee the complete fray-induced hell I was about to enter when I cut into this fabric – the looser stripes literally unravelled before my eyes once I started working with the pieces, and it’s led to some less than perfect finishes and a lot of hand-sewing to reinforce potential trouble spots. The buttonhole at the collar also threatened to come apart, and I had a few issues with button placement, hence the very wonky collar in these pics (I’ve since repositioned the button and it’s much better, I promise). With all of these challenges, I have a deep fear that this shirt will fray to pieces after a couple of washes, but fingers crossed it lasts, because despite the many little flaws and fumbles in my version, the Blair is everything I dreamed of and I’d like to wear it more than a couple of times. Please.