The Folkwear 210 Armistice Blouse is typically associated with the romantic aesthetic of the Edwardian period. However, there is more to it's story. This blouse became synonymous with the fight for women's liberty in the early 20th century. The "War to end all wars" would unexpectedly create new found opportunities for women both state side and in Europe.
With WWI raging in Europe, women were asked to take on the roles previously held by men, who were called to fight on the battlefields. Filling the roles once held by men gave women a sense of purpose and the resulting independence was liberating. These new challenges empowered the minds and spirits of women to new possibilities.
The war would allow for a new day to dawn that would not be turned back and women took their opportunity to demand change. Women fought to claim the freedoms they had been previously denied. The Suffragette movement was established, uniting women like never before and transforming a generation of women, setting a lasting precedence. After a long and determined fight by both Black and white women, women's right to vote was partially won in 1920. This right was only granted to white women over the age of thirty, however. Black women were pushed aside by many white Suffragettes both within the voting rights movement and in the larger movement for civil rights for all. The fight would continue.
Nannie Burroughs holding banner reading, "Banner State Woman's National Baptist Convention" posed with eight unnamed women
Library of Congress, Lot 12572
The popularity of the Armistice blouse coincided with this time of great social change and unrest. This shift in society caused women's fashion to change as well, creating an irreversible fashion trend towards less cumbersome and restrictive clothes. Both white and Black women were called to work outside the home and their clothes required the practicality of movement. This resulted in clothing that liberated the body (a bit) while remaining feminine.
While the Armistice blouse, with its shirt-waist style is generally thought of as romantically Edwardian, it was a transitional garment that physically removed the bindings of previously restrictive clothing, leading the way to our modern fashion aesthetics.
The easy straight forward construction of the Armistice blouse made it popular with women of all social and economic classes. While the blouse design itself was basically the same, each wearer could make a version uniquely their own. The front center "Vestee" was the focal point of the blouse design, with or without it's framing collar. The Armistice blouse was a perfect canvas for encouraging varying creative uses of scraps of laces, trims, tucks, and embroidery. The Armistice blouse became a proud rallying call of women's solidarity, while creating an opportunity for feminine individuality to shine.
The Folkwear 210 Armistice Blouse exemplifies a cut that was popular throughout the decade, with long rectangular lapels over a center panel called a "Vestee.” Until about 1915, this vestee was collared demurely like Gibson Girl blouses of the Victorian era (see the Folkwear 205 Gibson Girl Blouse Pattern or PDF Version), but by 1917 it had become a simple squared inset. Because of a steadily dwindling supply of fabric, waistlines were less defined and casual deep necklines, lapels, and cuffed sleeves were much in favor.
Our blouse can be made in a simple untrimmed version or trimmed with lace on the collar, cuffs, and Vestee (as seen illustrated on the pattern cover). Tucks and/or drawn-thread work can be added on either version. Other variations you may wish to try include making the collar and cuffs out of contrasting fabric or novelty laces, or adding tucks to the front and the shoulder. You can learn more about all the beautiful techniques for embellishing the Armistice blouse in the bonus material included in the pattern.
Traditionally the Armistice Blouse was made of sheer gauzy white fabric. This was in part because dying technology had yet to be perfected, making white the main fabric choice. White also shows off fine hand sewn details that are synonymous with the Edwardian period.
In the spirit of liberty and celebrating the women who have set the path for our own freedoms, I hope you will join in making the Folkwear 210 Armistice Blouse. The blouse is on sale throughout the month and it is also available in a PDF version.
Economist, attorney and civil rights activist, Dr. Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander in a vestee-fronted blouse paired with a matching skirt. Note the very sheer fabric on the pleated vestee front and the sleeve ruffles. source BlackThen.com
In the next blog, learn to use the 210 Armistice Blouse Pattern to make a simplified-easy-breezy-everyday version to liberate you from the summer heat!