Women's Shirts and Blouses

Women's Shirts and Blouses - Ready Made & Custom




Caveat Emptor - Women's Shirts and Blouses

by Alexander Kabbaz, Master Shirtmaker

They peer through the window trying to take a measure of our studio. Some turn away. Others hesitate yet overcome fear and enter. Invariably they ask, "Do you make shirts and blouses for women?", obviously hoping for an easy exit after the expected, "I'm sorry, we don't."

Yes, I'm describing our typical new woman custom blouse client. Her most frequent lament is, "I've wanted to have my shirts and blouses custom made for years, but I have no idea at all how to tell you what I want." Funny...I can always see those words coming. They follow directly every new lady client's first words, "Let me see your styles."

Am I striking some responsive chords here? If so, you're not unlike the vast majority of our clients. Why?

With gentlemen, it's different. Many are trained from an early age to purchase custom clothing. Most arrive around the time they graduate from college... and stay for life. Their education begins early in the mysteries of bespoke clothing and by the arrival of middle age, they've usually become quite sophisticated in their selection and styling.

Women, on the other hand, are usually pushed in the direction of finding a ready-to-wear designer who "works for them"; one whose basic patterns suit their figure type and whose styling agrees with their desired image.

That's wonderful...until the designer goes through his seven year metamorphosis, lowers his quality to increase profits, or changes her styling to "keep closer in touch with today's trends".

The designer's clientele is expected to ignore the fact that her garments are marked up more than 1500% above cost. And to ignore the fact that bust measure, as the sole criteria around which to size an entire shirt or blouse, makes as much sense as trying to determine your height by your hat size. In return for ignoring all this, the client is allowed the privilege of paying a fortune for mass-market quality - which often bears not only scant relation to what she sought in the first place ... but often showcases the offending designer's logo emblazoned on the front of the blouse. Are we seeing polo ponies here? It's no small wonder she's unsure of herself when she first steps into our studio!

  Two women's custom shirts
Although I wrote this article based upon the custom work we do, the ideas expressed apply equally well to shirts purchased "off-the-rack". If they don't fit properly - and due to their construction your alterations tailor will be unable to make the necessary adjustments, don't invest. You wouldn't buy a stock that doesn't mesh with your portfolio goals. Don't saddle your wardrobe with useless items. Keep looking. Better yet, find a local tailor or dressmaker who can either create anew or alter properly. Or you could call us ... but that's a completely different scenario.
Two women's custom shirts

Permit me to set your fears to rest once and for all.

It's not essential for you to tell me what you want.

It's up to me to find out.


So ... how do you tell a custom maker or boutique saleperson what you want? Permit me to set your fears to rest once and for all. It's not essential for you to tell me what you want. It's up to me to find out.

We've decades of experience and know what questions need to be asked; what concerns addressed. Our initial conversation will lead us toward the desired styling.

Combining favored elements from garments already in your wardrobe and styles in our vast repertoire will take us further. Perhaps you've seen some new idea in a store or recent fashion magazine which appeals to you.

Going shopping? Bring pictures. Bring your favorite blouses. Be prepared to show your salesperson what you want. A pocket from this one. The sleeve style of that one. This collar. That front style.

    Women's Shirts are nothing new!

  Women's Custom Made Shirts have been around for a very long time!

In any case, a careful and considered combination of our mutual ideas will result in the first try-on model. From this first model, we'll build, change, add, subtract and rethink to elicit further models until an optimum pattern is achieved.

In pleasant contrast to the frustrating search from shop to shop through row after row of ready-made clothing is the statement made by most new clients after we've begun to work together. "I'm so happy that I found your shop! It was ever so much easier than I'd imagined."

Getting Started ... On To Specifics:

In our Overview of custom-made ladies shirts and blouses we spoke in generalities concerning our methods. Now it's time, whether custom or ready-made, to consider specific details.


Fullness & Drape
The primary areas to be defined are the appropriate fullness and the desired drape of the garment. Without first establishing these basic criteria, working on specific styling areas is to put the proverbial cart before the horse.

Fullness, or ease over body measurements, can range from skin-tight to bloussant. Somewhat mandated by design, fullness is a function of personal preference and body type.

Drape, or degree of crispness, runs the gamut from buttery soft to crinoline stiff. Integral to the styling and directly related to the type of fabric selected, drape can be varied as well by the weight of fabric and the use of the thirty grades of interlinings we stock.

   The selection is vast
Having established these basics, we begin to specify each ingredient of the blouse. Rather than what could be a multi-volume treatise expounding on the features of each design detail, we present instead a listing of options. A careful study should enable you to select from each area for your first Basic Pattern.

Some of the style details are entities unto themselves; most just general titles under which fall many varieties. If you keep in mind the words, "to name but a few of the many options available', you'll compensate for this writer's lack of space.

   Fittings are essential

Made-For-You Try-On Samples and Fittings are Essential


Basic "gentleman's" collar with band, bandless variations, shawl, notched, convertible, lapel, sailor, tie, band, Mandarin, Nehru, Peter-pan, detachable, stand-up or lay-down, wrap-around, tie collar, wing, pin, tab ... or none.

When the choice is for no collar or certain collar types such as the shawl or tie we must determine the depth, width, and shape of the neckline. Plunging, for example, can be round, vee, or oval and a wide, high design could be square or rounded. Other options include jewel, faced, turned, laced, ruffled.

Sleeves must end, usually in a cuff such as one, two or more buttons, French, convertible, overlap, scalloped, western, link, or by simply hemming the bottom of the sleeve.

   Lapel Collar
Silk Brocade  

You can design-your-own-shape or select from ours. Pockets can have side, top, or slanted openings and can be pleated, with or without flap or button, set-in, patch or bellows. Variations include double, pencil, glasses, hidden, and fake.

The first choice to be made is front, rear, or side opening. Next comes the type of opening. Most common are the top center placket, French, and plain with inside facing which is meant to be worn open. Others include the pullover, keyhole, fireman's, cossack, double-breasted, or jewel neckline.

Once opened, the shirt or blouse must then be closed using buttons-shown or hidden, hooks, loops, frogs, snaps, zips, bows, belt, rhinestones or jewels.


The innumerable variations of sleeves include cuffed long sleeves, cuffless long sleeves, gathered, puffed, butterfly, raglan, dolman, tied, short, short cap or, finally, sleeveless.

Front & Back Treatments
The list of Front & Back Treatments is endless. A few of the more popular include vertical, slanted or horizontal stripes, bibbed or dickey fronts of which we stock more than 200 types, combinations of multiple fabrics, pleatings, ruffling, laces, and fabric, leather, suede, alligator, or snakeskin decorative inserts.

Sometimes an integral part of front or back, a yoke is the shoulder piece. Options include split, epaulets, western, pleated, one piece, shoulder pads.

   Many treatments are possible
More ideas...
Popular designs ofttimes commissioned include riding or show shirts, shirtdresses, tennis & golf shirts & skirts, safari shirts, doctor's & lab coats, pajamas, robes, karate and judo uniforms.

One of the main attributes of custom made clothing is the ability to order coordinated accessories. These include matching scarves, ties, belts, pocket squares and handkerchiefs in various sizes.
   Four styles


Having completed the fit of your Basic Pattern and the styling details of each model we move on to the part we'll all enjoy most.

The decision of which of our thousands of available fabrics you'll want to try first... and in which of your styles... can be a great deal of fun if sensibly approached.

Style Tree:

You'll need to determine the following for each top:

Wearing Season
Fall-Winter . Spring-Summer . Resort
Primary Wearing Occasions
Business . Formal or Casual Social . Sporting
Accompanying Clothing & Accessories
Clothing Color Family . Garment Styling . Fabric Type
Resulting Shirt or Blouse Fabric Guidelines
Color Range . Fabric Weave & Weight . Fabric Pattern or Solid

Creating a Style Tree such as this for each outfit will successfully narrow the basis for each selection. We can begin to show you fabrics and those you prefer will be swatched for you to take home and coordinate with each outfit.

   Wide selection of fabrics


Cool, Comfortable, Classic Cotton
The most important point to remember is that our 4000+ Swiss and Italian cottons are so fine that they have attributes of both cotton and silk. Draping superbly yet remaining cool to wear, they have the body of cotton and the softness of silk. For business wear and casual social or sport use, the excellence of cotton is difficult to beat. Cottons are available in many weaves and weights including: Broadcloth, voile, pique, poplin, gabardine, mesh, denim, flannel, jersey, twill, jacquard, brushed, oxford, pinpoint. For a more detailed understanding of the various cottons, read my Discourse on Shirtings.

Lustrous, Luxurious, Silk
Silks offer three distinct positive characteristics not available in cotton. These are Color, Sheen, and Hand. Silk takes dye colors with a brightness not obtainable in cotton. The natural sheen of a silk yarn far outdistances even the best mercerization of cotton. Finally, the hand of silk fabrics is unmatchable. On the other hand, silk is generally not washable unless specially prepared. It has nowhere near the longevity of cotton and does not permit easy stain removal. In short, the care of silk is difficult at best. Silk comes in many types:
Crepe de Chine*, Charmeuse*, Peau de Soie, chiffon, taffeta, Dupioni, shantung, broadcloth, twill, jacquard, damask
*single, double, quadruple weights

Other Shirting Fabrics
The better varieties of the many other available shirtings include:
Linen, Wool challis, cashmere, silk & cashmere, wool & cotton, velvets, Vyella, wool & cashmere


 Cashmere shirt jacket

Sarah is wearing a cashmere shirt-jacket with lambskin trim

In order to better understand how the process of having custom blouses made works, following is our method. Makers differ in their processes, but if your selected artisan doesn't include most of the steps below, rethink your choice.
The Kabbaz-Kelly Method
Designing Your Basic Pattern

Perhaps designing is the wrong term. Planning and building for the future would be a more apt description. We usually create a Basic Pattern of moderate fullness in what is called the "man-tailored" style. The front closure will be normal, the shirt will have cuffed sleeves, and there will be a collar band.

The reasons for this are many. A few of the more important ones include: determining how high we can make the armhole yet retain comfort, the ease over neck size, correct shoulder slope, balance, length of sleeve, and placement of darts, if any, for bust and waist. Should you desire only one style and be certain that you would not want to differ, we would skip this and work directly with the final style. In any event, the process works as follows. References to "shirt" mean shirt or blouse.


Shawl Collar

Once your basic "tops" pattern has been created, departures such as robes, pajamas, and other shirt-weight garments is simple.

1 On your first visit, we'll chat for a while in order that I might gain a proper sense of your requirements. We'll discuss styling, fullness and drape while I take some 35 measurements and notes.

2 Later, I'll design, strike, and cut your individual pattern. This will incorporate the basic fit we discussed and is the springboard from which we'll develop other styles. I'll use this pattern to cut, stitch, and launder an initial sample which tests our ideas and my measures.

3 A week after your first visit we'll meet for you to try-on this sample. I'll pin-fit while we discuss how well I captured your desires. Then I shall alter the pattern to reflect our further discussion and pin fitting. It is important to know that this sample is not one you keep. It is used only for testing your pattern and is eventually donated to charity.

4. If the test was reasonably correct, we'll craft your first style pattern. If you need more than one style, we'll create a pattern and cut a cotton try-on shirt for each. You will be asked to wear this at home, have it washed by your usual launderer, and come in to show me the results when I'll make final notations. If the adjustments are more than minute, we'll repeat this step. Again, unless by chance these are perfect, they will be donated to charity.

5 We've arrived at a "perfect" pattern and shall now cut one of each style from your selected fabrics. This we'll send and ask you to wear, have cleaned, and wear again. We would prefer that you then stop by so we might see our final creation and to confirm your approval or request minor adjustments.

6 From the final adjusted patterns, your first order of six will be cut, sewn, hand-monogrammed if desired, and delivered in three-six weeks.


Your pattern is then permanently kept on file. Before you place a subsequent order, I'd prefer to see you in at least one shirt or blouse of each style. Over time, fine fabrics tend to shape and adapt themselves to the wearer. Only after this has been fully accomplished can I make the final little nips and tucks in your pattern. Nipping & tucking, by the way, remain an ongoing process. After all, our only advertising is the answer you give to the question, "Where did you get that blouse?"

You can either call to have us send current fabric samples for your perusal or instruct us to repeat previous selections. Be sure to inform us if size or other changes are necessary and your order will be crafted from your permanently filed pattern. You can stop by any time to update your pattern due to a change in size or to work up a new style. Since we already have your Basic Pattern, new styles can be created much more rapidly. Reorders normally require three to six weeks.

Deliveries, quickest in January, February, & September, require more time in busy seasons.

Rush Service: Should time be short or you be in town only temporarily and you are willing to make yourself available for fittings, this entire process can be completed in just a couple of days.
Minimum Order: Our minimum Initial Order is six comprised of a maximum of two pattern styles. Each additional style requires three shirts. Reorders from existing patterns without style changes may be for any quantity.


Just click the Contact Link. Ask your questions and I'll be happy to answer.