Style Crisis: Silky slinky shirt

Blog front page image for slinky shirt

It was a comment on my ‘Classic cotton shirt’ post that planted the seed. I chose the ‘Archer’ shirt for that post and the one preceding, while casting around for a top to wear with my Wide-legged cropped trousers. I knew very well it wasn’t the perfect accompaniment for those trousers, but I’ve discovered I do love a good shirt. I also love a challenge, so when Marion (a regular and incisive correspondent who’s about to spit out her morning coffee at this namecheck) posted:

Take it up a notch – what about something silky and a bit slinky?

well – I’m never one to ignore a gauntlet.

Baby steps to a slinky shirt…

My first response was to make up a blouse in our summery ‘Fescue’ mahogany & ivory block-printed viscose fabric.

Ivory block-printed viscose fabric

I used it to make up the ‘Holly’ Woven Blouse from Style Arc.

HOLLY-TIE-TOP pattern from Style Arc

This was undeniably drapey – and very cool to wear – but not at all slinky or silky. I felt that somehow I’d not risen to the challenge. Moreover the delicacy of the fabric wasn’t quite right I felt, for the discernible linen texture of my trousers. On the plus side, I did find myself wearing it through the hot weather of the late summer when the drape and the relaxed styling looked and felt right. Although I didn’t have time to post about it, I wore it regularly, mostly over rolled-up jeans. Here it is…

Fescue blouse - predecessor of slinky shirt

However as the weather turned, so it seemed less appropriate and the search was on for a successor.

The irresistible allure of a slinky shirt

Truth be told, even before Marion’s encouragement, I’ve always loved the louche, languid look of a silk shirt. Although I’m not one for imitating celebrities, I can think of so many women I admire who look rather fabulous in a slinky shirt. Kristin Scott Thomas comes to mind, as does Mary Portas who regularly layers a silky shirt…Mary Portas in slinky shirt

Isabelle Huppert rocks one like you’d expect a french woman to…

Isabelle Huppert in slinky shirt

and Sandra Oh (or ‘Christina’ as she’ll always be to me) is always so damned cool.

Sandra Oh in slinky shirt

And of course the Good Wife & The Good Fight is silk shirt nirvana, with Christine Baranski…

Christine Baranski in slinky shirt

…and Cush Jumbo showing that silky slinkiness can be a powerful asset.

Cush Jumbo in slinky shirt

I could go on. So why, WHY I wonder, have I never worn one?

Scared of wearing a slinky shirt?

For the purposes of this post I sat myself down over a coffee and undertook an interrogation. The response?

  • I’m not ‘grown-up’ enough.
  • Aren’t they a bit shiny and show-off?
  • Aren’t they just for dressing up? I rarely have the excuse so it hardly seems worth it.
  • Aren’t they a bit sexy? I don’t do sexy. You having a laugh?

Before you all have a field day with those feeble attempts at justifying the absence of a slinky shirt from my wardrobe, save yourselves some typing. I’ve given myself a good talking-to and I promise I listened. I suspect it’s a tale familiar to many of you and besides, any one of these answers could spark an entire post. Just for the record, my riposte went along the lines of:

For heaven’s sake woman, you’re fifty five years old – how long were you planning on waiting? Just because you were told off for prancing around your great-aunt’s living room at the age of six doesn’t mean you can’t wear a bit of satin – and who says you have to keep it for best? Besides, no-one’s asking you to wander off down the Victoria’s Secret runway so loosen up a bit and get over yourself…

Or scared of making a slinky shirt?

That, of course is before we even touch on the potential difficulties of actually making a slinky shirt which include – but which are not limited to:

  • Difficulty cutting and sewing
  • Handling fine fabric with dry hands
  • ‘Fiddly bits’
  • Static cling
  • ..and finally… the horror of ‘Buttonholes on slippery fabric! AAAGH!  *cue dramatic piano chords*

These are indeed barriers, real or perceived. But the gauntlet was thrown down and I’d already begun to seek out inspiration.

Slinky Shirt Kit inspiration!

In my head was the idea that this might also be the ideal project for our next ClothSpot Kit. We’d had some amazing feedback from our Coatigan Kits including comments such as:

  • Keep the pattern simple so you can adapt it if you want – but you don’t have to
  • Try and find designs that work for different body shapes and sizes

Thank you to everyone who chipped in – we really were listening. The overriding message was that people liked the reassurance that a particular fabric would work for a specific garment and pattern design.

The challenge then, was to find a pattern design for a slinky shirt I might feel comfortable in – and which offered solutions for those sewing difficulties.

Finding the perfect Slinky Shirt pattern

Despite my love for a casually-unbuttoned slinky shirt, it was clear that buttonholes at this stage were going to be a bit of a hurdle, both for me – and likely for lots of others too. That led me to a more tunic-based design. I considered using the ‘Holly’ Woven Blouse pattern by Style Arc that I’d used for my summer shirt. It would certainly fit the bill but by this point, time was a little short for getting hold of copies from Australia. Plus, the Style Arc instructions are a little terse, lacking the explanations that less experienced sewers might rely on.

After lots of paging through pattern sites, I fell upon Vogue 9204.

Vogue Pattern 9204

It’s a ‘Very Easy Vogue’ pattern and although it lacks the front darts and gently-gathered front yoke of Style Arc’s ‘Holly’, I thought it might work. No tricky buttons, an elegant tie neck and a relaxed fit – what more could I want? The answer (nope, not pockets this time) was that I’d quite like a sleeve with a little more to it than a straight line and plain hem. The obvious solution was to gather the existing sleeve very slightly into a simple cuff, which is what I did for my version of View B. It’s a really simple but elegant solution which we’ve since turned into our Slinky Shirt Sleeves Pattern Hack.

Sewing satin

Selecting fabrics for our Slinky Shirt Kit was an absolute delight. I’m sure there’ll be more to come, but our initial offering includes our ‘Paloma’ emerald and turquoise paisley satin fabric.

Emerald & turquoise paisley satin fabric

There’s a 70’s cocktail vibe to the colours and the printed which I thought would suit the pattern design. And without doubt – it’s a slinky fabric. But what of all those sewing worries I listed?

Sewing and cutting difficulties

Well to be honest – the first thing I did was to take a deep breath. Then made sure I had plenty of time for what on the face of it, should be a fairly simple project. And that, readers, was probably the best thing I could have done. There are lots of other hints and tips for working with slippery fabrics that I remembered or researched along the way – and we’ve listed them all in a handy Sewing with Slippery Fabrics page. Please – if you have any tips not listed there, then let us know! However TAKING TIME and NOT RUSHING, ALICE, were by far the most effective.

Fiddly bits

Honestly – there really weren’t any awful ‘fiddly bits’ to report with this pattern or none that plenty of pins and some careful basting didn’t deal with. No top-stitching, buttonholes or darts. Went together like a dream.

Dry hands

We really do suffer from dry hands here at ClothSpot. We’re handling fabrics a good deal and even though I don’t head off into the Fenland winds without gloves between October and April, my hands frequently end up in a real state, so much so that even typing can be painful. Running dry hands across satin? Aaagh, stop! However we’ve recently discovered Seams handcream. It’s a bit of a miracle and it really does work. A couple of minutes after applying and my hands were ready to pick up a needle again for my handstitched hem, with no need to wash it off five minutes after putting it on.

Static cling

Despite claims to the contrary, static cling can happen with most fine fabrics, even cotton lawn. We did a blog post about it a couple of years ago. There’s no doubt that this satin was a culprit right from the start. However we have a stash of unperfumed tumble dryer sheets in the ClothSpot workroom. A quick wipe across the wrong side of the fabric before cutting and hey presto – no more static cling. That single wipe lasted through the whole making process and two wears since.

The final result

I cut my slinky shirt out late one Saturday afternoon and made it up through a leisurely Sunday with a bit of rolled-hem hand-stitching on the sofa that evening. And voilà…

Slinky Shirt

Later that week it was worn ‘in anger’ for a day in York that involved an early start, a train journey, a morning meeting, a run around the shops, a dash for the train and back in time for tea. I eventually took it off before supper as it hadn’t been photographed yet. Minestrone with your paisley, madam? Perhaps not…

I know that the tie can be done up in a bow but I like the ‘undone bow tie at the end of the evening’ look which feels more ‘me’.

Slinky Shirt

I can report that there was only one brief incident of slightly clammy wafting required – and that was because I went to the wrong platform for my return train. The rest of the day was spent in elegant comfort – as this is a lightweight satin the air does circulate a bit and the design is fairly loose as you can see.

Slinky Shirt complete

On the sizing front, my back/bust size of 37″ suggested that a 16 might be the option to go for but I sized down to a 14 and was glad I did. There was plenty of room. The fit across the front  upper shoulder is close but that just means that the V-neck moves up when my arms do – which I’m quite happy with. The back hangs nicely from the pleats into the yoke.

Slinky shirt

Here’s that simple cuff pattern adaptation up close.

Slinky shirt cuff

The result is not just a new shirt for me – but also – for your own personal version – the ClothSpot Slinky Shirt Kit!

It’s being worn here with my ‘Leah Lounge Pants in triple crepe – and there’ll be more to report on the trouser front in my next post.

Meanwhile do let us know what you think of my excursion into slinkiness. Have I picked up the gauntlet with sufficient resolve – or have I been found wanting? Do you have any suggestions for patterns I might try for additional slinkiness? And what about your experiences of working with satin fabrics – we’d love to include them on our advice page…

Finally – thank you again to Marion for the challenge – and to all of you who’ve encouraged and suggested on my way to this point in resolving my Style Crisis. If you’d told me 18 months ago that I’d be posing happily (well – sort of happily) in a vibrant turquoise printed satin shirt – well I would hardly have believed it. Onwards and upwards!

Final fling slinky shirt


5 thoughts on “Style Crisis: Silky slinky shirt

  1. Marion George says:

    You did warn me, but now I really have a swollen head. Two mentions, I’m just so very flattered. Ok, to the top, wowzer, it’s super. There really is nothing quite a lovely silky blouse that lightly wafts round the body. I love them and have several, that get lots of wear. Not handmade, I have Monoprix to thank as they do great, inexpensive silk crepe blouses. I have been looking at pussy bow top patterns for sometime and just as you were shy of slinky I’ve been shy of bows. Too formal, would the ties dangle in the washing up, would I look like Margaret Thatcher? But I can see that is not the case and your kit is perfect with jeans or casual trousers.

    I have a feeling that you’re not keen on cowl necks but they do slinky, drapey like a dream.

    Better go, the coffee is getting cold!

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Oooh hurrah I got a ‘Wowzer’! Thank you for making my week, Marion – and for the nudges that got me there. You’re absolutely spot on – MT pretty much did for pussycat bows as far as many of us are concerned. I have tried doing mine up in a bow but unfortunately I make inappropriate faces every time I do – it just doesn’t work. I do like the ‘louche, undone’ look and feel though. As far as cowl necks are concerned, although I love the look of them, on me they just look sad and unfulfilled… 🙁 I have tried, I promise – and was so disappointed!

      I hope you’ve enjoyed an unspoiled coffee this morning – nothing to disrupt this week I promise…

  2. Jill says:

    I’m glad to see it correctly called a pussycat bow. A pussy bow just sounds a bit odd … but the blouse looks gorgeous, more tunic than shirt, and so wearable I might even have a go myself.

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