Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life

Sewing The Seventies: Make 1 – Popover Shirt in Liberty Tana Lawn


Liberty Shirt

The first seventies make I’ve made this year is this shirt. It is a classic popover shirt. I suppose at first glance it doesn’t look very much like a seventies pattern. It is from the later half of the decade and I can see that its boxy shape is a nod to the eighties. However, it does have a large collar which is definitely a seventies detail. I suppose it shows that fashion changes in a gradual manner and the styles at the beginning and end of any decade could easier be taken for fashions of the adjacent decades.

Butterick 5024

Butterick 5024

I selected this particular pattern simply because I’d never made a popover shirt before. In fact, I’ve actually never had a popover shirt in my wardrobe, so breaking new ground both for sewing and my wardrobe. I also liked the checked shirt modeled on the pattern envelope. Can’t we can all be swayed so easily by pattern envelopes? Although I love the checked shirt, I decided that I had better choose some fabric from the stash, which definitely needs reducing. I had purchased some Liberty Tana Lawn at Birmingham market at the Sew Brum event. Obviously, Liberty have been around since the nineteenth century, so someone sewing in the seventies would definitely have been familiar with their fabric and designs.

I’m feeling very relieved that I’ve finished this make. It was actually quite an involved sew; there were many details such as the pockets, epaulettes, the front band to be sewn. Perhaps this is something that needs to be considered with vintage patterns – the assumption being that women (and after all it would be women) had lots of time to sew and could spend time on intricate detailing.


I wanted to pattern match the pockets. This was tricky as there were pocket flaps to consider as well, but the effect is largely that the pockets are almost invisible except for the buttons!

Spot the pockets!

Spot the pockets!

I was somewhat perplexed by the order in which the shirt instructions were put together. The front button bands are sewn on, but the bottoms of the two front bands are left flapping without being sewn to the front of the shirt. Meanwhile, the rest of the shirt including the addition of the back and sleeves follows and then as the last stage the front band is completed. I found this order was a bit tricky and would probably have completed the sewing of the front bands before adding the back of the garment; it would certainly have made managing the garment on the sewing machine easier. What purpose is there to sewing the shirt in this order? It seems odd to me.

The last step of the instructions

The last step of the instructions

Anyhow, I thought I’d also mention why this shirt has taken me so long to construct. Fairly early on when I was ironing the fabric and before cutting out, I noticed a small nick in the fabric. It wasn’t a problem as I realized I could easily place my pattern pieces around it. However, once I had cut out the fabric, I discovered two other small nicks in the fabric, which I hadn’t noticed earlier. (Possibly, the fabric design is so busy that it’s hard to notice these problems).  I also realized that I didn’t have enough fabric to re-cut that pattern piece. (Of course the problem would have to be on the largest pattern piece, wouldn’t it?)

Fortunately, the nicks are at the bottom of the back piece and I thought I could just “get away” with slightly shorter length. Certainly, it would only make the shirt as short as some of my other tops so I wasn’t horrendously bothered. But when I was finishing the shirt and deciding on the length, the shirt proportions didn’t look right when un-tucked. So, I set about repairing the two holes. I used some of the left-over fabric and sewed on two small patches. Now I was thankful for the busy pattern on the fabric as the repairs are scarcely visible! (see below) They are also right at the bottom of the shirt and are half included in the seam allowance. I’m hoping my repairs will stand up fine in the wash. The whole experience though, made me feel less inclined to finishing the shirt and a bit dispirited.

My repair

My repair

I didn’t deviate much from the instructions, but I did make a curved hem on my shirt, partly to cover up the repair.

I’ve now been able to wear my shirt and I’m feeling far more positive about it now. I love the fabric – it’s a really mad busy design. I’m proud of the patterned-matched pockets. And that shoulder-warmer of a collar is a real statement!

Liberty Shirt

Liberty Shirt

I’m wearing it in the photos with my skinny black jeans and an old RTW cardigan. I think wearing the shirt with a cardigan tones it down a smidge!

Liberty Shirt

Author: steelyseamstress

Sewing a new wardrobe

7 thoughts on “Sewing The Seventies: Make 1 – Popover Shirt in Liberty Tana Lawn

  1. So fun to see you sew that blouse!! I have that pattern and have it set aside to sew out of a plaid shirting to make a replica of a blouse my mom wore in the early eighties. I have the fabric sitting here and staring at me but I can’t for the life of me figure out where I put the pattern! It must have gotten misfiled so I guess it’s time to go digging. This is a good reminder I wanted to wear this blouse this winter. Maybe better to target next winter at this point 🙂

    • It’s a good pattern and I’m quite jealous that you’ve found a perfect fabric to use. I suppose I’m just going to have to make this shirt again when I’ve found some brushed cotton tartan (as we call it here!) I think I’ll sew it up in a different order than in the instructions though, which involved finishing the button/ button hole bands last and a may tone that enormous collar down a bit…..

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