Hot! The “Deco Echo Blouse”

The Facts:

Fabric: Scraps of silk crepe from the bottom lining of a very damaged vintage 1930s kimono
Pattern: Self made
Year: 2012 does 1932 via Japan with 1930s materials.
Notions: None
Time to complete: 2 hours (not counting ripping apart and washing the kimono)
First worn: All day Saturday at Napier’s Art Deco Weekend 2012
Wear again? As often as the weather permits!  Sadly, in Wellington that isn’t often.
Total price: $5 (though I still have all the outer kimono silk to play with, so really, $1.50 or so)

Weekend before last I went to Art Deco Weekend in Napier.  Planning my wardrobe for it I looked ahead at the Sew Weekly challenges to see if I could make any of them overlap.  Make Do, Make Anew seemed like an impossibility.  I almost never buy things to remake.  In fact, I have a rule – If I have to redo it, I’m not allowed to buy it!  I’ve bought far too many things meaning to remake them, and have just never done it.

So I went ahead with my wardrobe, and top of my list was a pair or beach pajama pants made from fantastic Art Deco inspired fabric.  Problem.  The fabric is maroon and dark teal on white.  And maroon and dark teal are not colours I usually buy – it’s just so hard to find fabrics in them that don’t look cheap (why is that that some colours always look cheap in most fabrics?).    I don’t own any maroon and dark teal fabrics!  What on earth was I going to do for a top?  I completely turned over my stash, to no avail.  Nothing.

And then…a miracle!  I remembered a very damaged (torn and missing a sleeve and most of the lining) 1930s kimono that I had picked up for $5 at a local shop because the lower lining (the susomawashi) was such a glorious shade of dark teal.  The silk lining matched perfectly, but I only had a tiny amount of it – a long thin rectangle piece, and three rectangles each approximately 13″ x 15″ inches.  I pulled apart the kimono, washed it, pinned the pieces to Isabella the dressform, and figured I could make a blouse from them.

Sadly, I didn’t take a photo of the kimono I pulled apart, but here is a similar one:

A kimono similar to the one I pulled apart, with an aqua susomawashi

I had one of the long panels you can see at the front, and then the three rectangles that go around the hem.

The blouse was super quick.  After all, it’s just a series of rectangles.  Two of the hem rectangles for front and back, the long narrow one divided in half for each side, and the third rectangle cut into thirds and sewn together end to end to form the piece that goes around the waist and ties in front.

I finished all the edges (including the interior ones) with rolled hems, made a turned back collar in front, and the same in back, with a slit in the CB to form a back V-neck with a split collar – very 1930s.

I wore the blouse all Saturday with my beach pajama trousers.  It was lovely and cool and comfortable, and great for running around on the beach and taking photos and generally having a good time.

I’m not sure that everyone ‘got’ that it was a reasonably accurate 1930s outfit, but at least this Air Force Officer looks pleased to be posing with me and another beach belle:

I love that this remake looks just like a 1930s garment, but also manages to honour its origins by using the exact shapes of the kimono it started as.  The symmetry of a 1930s kimono having its own life, going into a rag pile, being pulled apart in 2012, and becoming a 1930s style blouse makes my heart happy.

The blouse was so easy to make that I’d make it a dozen times more if I thought the weather would support that kind of wardrobe.  Alas, as that isn’t the case I’ll be posting a tutorial on how to make the top on my blog in just a few days, so that at least other people can try it!



Leimomi Oakes - The Dreamstress

Leimomi Oakes learned to sew as a child in Hawaii, and hasn't spent a day without doing it in the-more-years-than-she-would-like-to-admit-to since. When she was 18 she was nicknamed 'The Dreamstress' and bought the domain name, and now she's stuck with it. After getting degrees in Art History, Costume Design and International Relations she worked in a number of fabulous museums before going freelance as a textile and fashion historian and historical seamstress. She lives in Wellington New Zealand with a lovely husband and a world-famous cat.


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  1. Great refashion! The outfit together looks effortless and polished. I love the back collar!

  2. Looks so comfortable. Nice job.

  3. I want that blouse and those pants! Very well done!

  4. I love the whole outfit! You look very glamorous in the pictures too-

  5. Beautiful! I love the whole look– with parasol, sunglasses, hairband, and what look like espadrilles.

    • Thank you! The parasol I borrowed from a friend (can’t believe I forgot to take my own), the headband is just a piece of extra fabric from the pants, and the shoes are just flat, canvas beach shoes, not period, but look a lot like period examples.

  6. I would love a tutorial on the blouse – it is super cute, and looks fairly easy, but I am lost without guidelines!

  7. Such a gorgeous outfit, I love that you have remade a ’30’s style outfit from a ’30’s kimono.

    • Thank you! So do I! I wasn’t sure the kimono was that old until I washed the fabric. Even in cold with gentle soaps this runs a little, but the outer brown silk was the real giveaway – they haven’t used that brown-purple dye since WWII. I was so excited! (No one has ever been that excited about a dye that runs like Forrest before or since!)

  8. you look fabulous…I am planning to go to Art Deco weekend next year, so fingers crossed we get the weather it looks like you had! (and that I can come up with an equally glamorous outfit)

    • Oh, that would be fantastic! I’d love the meet more of the Kiwi sewers. And I’m sure you would make something adorable!

      You can cross your fingers for weather like this, but I pray like mad for cooler weather. 28 is just too hot for me! I spend all day in the fountain, and my feet swell and none of my shoes fit.

  9. Lovely! I have been swooning over all your pictures from Art Deco Weekend, Leimomi. Each piece you made was divine and this blouse is no exception – I love that back collar detail, especially. When I first saw it with your beach trousers, I assumed it was a period piece you owned. That it came from a 1930s kimono and turned into this darling blouse of the same era is such wonderful sewing kismet! What amazing vision you have, to pull such a restyle off.

  10. Wow! Fantastic out fit Leimoni. Lovely photos, I have always wanted to get to Napier’s Art Deco Event. Wouldent it be great to plan a NZ meet up there?

  11. I miss Marine Parade. It looks just stunning, and it must have been such a fun weekend.

  12. Nice fabric, looks comfy to wear.

  13. Can’t wait to see your tutorial – this is such a cute top. A top-notch refashion.

  14. Yes, that flattering top is to die for. I want to make one! Are you really going to make a tutorial? That would be so nice. Love your photos, you really captured the spirit of Art Deco.

  15. I will sooo be making one of these. Isn’t it amazing how many styles from the 30’s “translate” well into regular life? I would probably wear something like this quite often… And thanks for explaining about the robe, it’s really interesting.

    :) You look lovely.

  16. I adore those pants. Loveliness.

  17. I love the whole ensemble, and bravo for repurposing that lovely teal fabric! The top is delightful and I hope you do get several opportunities to wear it!

  18. It’s really beautiful – and so inspiring that you could envision this blouse looking at just the little bit of fabric you had in front of you.

  19. I agree with Jennifer, Beautiful!!

  20. It’s a wonderful blouse. Thank you for posting about it.

  21. Stunning. Absolutely. Both garments, the photos, you… a dream. Bravo for picking apart that kimono and giving it new life. I love refashioning, but if I’ve given something a higher value (as I would the kimono), it becomes more difficult.

  22. Wowzers, this is brilliant, well done! great photos too.