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Pirate or Secretary?


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I wasn’t sure what to call this outfit.

Monochrome lady pirate?

Patti Smith meets 1970s secretary?


This blouse started with the fabric. I found this absolutely gorgeous cream silk crepe at Mill End and knew it wanted to be a blouse. It is the softest, most luxurious silk in the world. It has a great weight, and the color is perfect. Not too white, not too yellow, just a lovely creamy shade.

I wanted a blouse that would be feminine and soft, so I dug through my stash of vintage patterns and found these lovely lasses calling to me:


I asked on instagram and facebook which version people liked, and practically no one chose the version I made. I think they might have had a point, because I kind of feel like a pirate in it. It’s just a lot of fabric for me, especially in the back.


I used some of these teeny milky white pressed glass buttons from my stash for the cuff and back buttons. The cuff closes with a continuous lap placket, and the back has tiny little thread crochet loops. I finished all the seams on the inside with French seams.


Not sure how I feel about the bow. It’s sort of floppy and sad. But it definitely adds to that 70s thing. It kind of reminds me of something Lily Tomlin might have worn in 9 to 5.

I originally thought I’d wear it tucked in, but it’s just far too voluminous for that. It bordered on Renn Faire attire.



I thrifted these stack heel loafers a while back, and they were in just awful shape. They looked like they’d been through a flood. I took them to our local shoe repair on the off chance they could be salvaged, and for $5 they came back looking shiny and (almost) new. Shoe repairs are such a good deal, aren’t they?

So, the final verdict? I’m not sure. I sort of think this blouse looks like something I picked up at a thrift store, except that the fabric is so luxurious (i.e. not polyester).

Blouse: Vintage 1970s Butterick 3319 in cream silk crepe (purchased locally)
Pants: Black Levis skinny jeans
Shoes: Thrifted 1970s loafers

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.

Comments 53


To be a lady pirate you would need the appropriate pair of pirate boots and that would be perfect ;-)
For the bow, maybe if you add something (like some a glass pearl) at the ends, it would perk it up.


I like it! Definitely 70s secretary look. LOVE the lovely little details like the crochet loops at the back. I think it doesn’t matter what you wear it’s how you rock it. I know what you mean about shoe repair places – I’ve given an old pair of boots that I though were beyond repair to my local shoe guy and the next day they were good as new for $7 – never seems to charge me more than that! I love people who can fix stuff – seems so hard to find nowadays.


I like the volume of the top, and I especially like it paired with tight jeans. Whatever vibe you come across as, I think you look great!


It’s a pretty blouse- that really is a perfect cream. I think I do like your version best. I was never a fan of the huge bows at the neck. If it’s too voluminous, what if you belted it instead of tucked it in? Maybe a belt or sash in something soft that was embroidered or quilted?
I’d avoid the leather and buckles kind of belt unless you’re feeling the need to rock the pirate vibe, me hearty. Yar! : )


I love the huge 70s bows, but I don’t wear them. I always feel ridiculous when I do. Which is funny, because I wear scarves all the time.


I think it’s lovely. I’d definitely wear it as is.


I think it’s fine and lovely, except for the self-fabric throat bow. That’s just a little too twee for my tastes. I would personally remove it and substitute something with contrast – a brooch, a cameo, perhaps a coordinating silk scarf tied as a jabot.

I would definitely try it belted with a fabric belt over skinny trousers or a pencil skirt, but I think it looks great as you’re wearing it. And it must feel delightful.


Yeah, I’m thinking about taking off the bow, but I don’t know. I definitely feel like it needs a little detail like that.


how about a broach instead of the bow?


I think it’s divine the way it is. What if you did it with more masculine boots, to sort of reverse the femininity of it? Or a plaid jacket?
I would wear it over navy shorts.


I didn’t think about plaid, that would be cute! It would look great with a blackwatch type tartan.


I lurve it. I think the blouse is gorgeous – bow and all – and you look lovely.

I know how you feel, though. Sometimes my projects look great in my head but the reality is just…not quite right. I’m always more apprehensive of wearing a self-made item when I’m not sure of the style – somehow taking a risk with store-bought items seems easier. We invest little bits of ourselves into the items we sew, and it’s way easier to dismiss something we don’t feel comfortable in when we’re not in control of all of the details.

BUT…I think taking sartorial risks is great! This may not be something you feel is immediately “you,” but from an objective standpoint, I think it’s really beautiful. I hope you grow to love it more and more over time!


That’s so true, Emma. We are way more doubting when we’ve made it ourselves.

On the other hand, I feel like sewing opens us up to possibilities we might not otherwise explore sometimes.


My favorite part of that blouse is the back. For me, the bow would be too much but otherwise I love it. Looks like something I would wear to work frequently.


I really like the blouse! If it was me, I would wear it with a shorter skirt. Like a straight mini or a pencil skirt & add a shrunken blazer to have the whole “high school uniform from the 70’s” vibe to the outfit.


That would be really cute, you’re right. I like the pencil skirt idea.


I like it, I think you look great! You did a beautiful job sewing, it looks like a blouse
you could get at Madewell!


I think it’s fab and would be a great layering piece. Perhaps under a sleeveless Laurel? Or worn with a high-waisted tweedy pencil skirt — you’ll look like Faye Dunaway in ‘Network.’ And Patti Smith could always rock a vest; that might help take away some of the volume you’re worried about.

Regardless, even if it’s not ultimately your style it looks like you did a beautiful job.


Yes, that is what I was thinking too! I think it would look great under a sleeveless dress. I might try that next time.


Love this. Might pair the whole thing with leather boots or a faded denim or tweed vest that goes up high in the back!


I think it’s perfect and looks adorable on you.

Adri H.

9 to 5!! Definitely secretary. You need more poof in the lower sleeve to really be rockin’ the pirate look. :D Either way, it’s cute.

Jill Collins

I personally think if it had a curved hemline, it would be perfect. You have done a beautiful job of sewing the blouse. I’d also do black boots. It does look great on you.

Dolly Hanson

Love it, love it! Looks so comfortable and not quite as fitted as some of our blouses are now. Instead of going monochrome, add some color: a pin, a scarf, colored jeans.


I think it looks great on you. I was thinking more casual elegance than pirate though I did start to notice it once you pointed it out. I probably wouldn’t have otherwise though!


Well the photos are certainly selling it!! I think it looks lovely on you, and very chic with your slim black pants – kind of sweet rocker girl, y’know? :) Maybe it just needs time to grow on you, but I think it’s worth the chance… and dat fabric MMMMMM ^__^

gabriel ratchet

it’s beautiful….but having actually worn those bow tied blouses to work – choke! i’d lose the bow fast, and i’d tuck the black pants into tall black boots and do big earrings if i was going for talk like a pirate day…. or vintage jewelry (pearls?) instead of the bow, and black flats… or tucked into a high waisted pencil skirt and belted with a wide, obi style belt — a colorful one, if it breaks the figure in the right proportions, one that matches top or bottom, if you need to move the visual break line up or down…


I think it looks so lovely and your pictures capture it expertly. What I like about it is it looks quite different from your usual style. That color is fantastic. I’ve got to get to Portland one of these days and check out that Mill End store. Great job.


I am totally into this top! But I love all things 1970’s and to me this is a classic version of that style. I’ve seen this a lot lately on chic Parisian ladies too – think 1970’s boho French lady. I like the suggestion of pairing it with a super short skirt and tights, though with the pants you do have a Pati thing going on. And the bow? Sue me, but I love those little floppy bows better than the big ones that envelop your whole chest! I say it’s a keeper!

Moz B (@enquery)

I love this blouse. I think it looks fab on you.


I love the blouse- that bow too- could you set off the bow with a vintage stick pin of sorts? It is so hard to find blouses that you can use that type of pin on and yet there are some really beautiful ones out there- i bet you already have some… also, you love to knit, this would be pretty under a sweater or cardigan, even a short sleeved version or vest or short length wise – it would gather the material in around waist and provide contrast- I think it would take a knit with low scoop neckline similar to the dirndl vest–hope you’ll share some of the ideas you come up with


Oh, perhaps a contrast black pick stitch sort of coco chanelesque on the neckline and bow and etc

Really, sometimes pieces like this end up being favorite because they take you down a road to reframe and explore new twists on our signature style, because they take you out of comfort zone as you make them work within your wardrobe- ps, love the b&w photo looking from waistline up- the blouse is lovely( as are you!)


I love the idea of adding a little black or a little hand work. Some subtle embroidery could be lovely on this if you decide you won’t wear it any other way.

And if you’re looking for a swap for the pussy bow, maybe something similar to this:

That blouse and tie with a sleek a-line miniskirt and tights would be like that Mod/Victorian look in all the right ways. I think it should be clear to you that I want this blouse now. =)

Lady ID

I think it’s cute. I find the bow a little twee so a larger bow would be my personal preference.


I think it’s great and I really like it with the black skinny jeans – it takes away any possible tweeness. The photo with you smiling is really nice too. What does it look like with the collar unbuttoned?


Super cute! I say secretary. The sleeves aren’t blouson enough to be pirate! ;)
Funny – I picked up a VERY similar pattern at the thrift store just yesterday with a similar fem idea in mind. I love it! Hope it grows on you!

Katie Williams

I actually think this looks gorgeous on you, but yeah, I understand your hesitance around the loose shape. It’s why I’m so hesitant to try out so many of my hoarded vintage patterns, I think.

But being a pirate is badass.

Philippa gloria

Actually, I love it. 70’s is a neglected decade! & the shoes are adorable. Perfect with trousers.


I really like it. It looks perfect as you are wearing it here, with black skinny jeans. I think definitely more Patti Smith and less pirate!


I don’t get pirate at all from this top! I have one similar from a thrift shop that I wear with high waisted boot leg jeans. Sometimes I tie the bow a bit lower and leave the top two buttons undone. Smashingly beautiful make!

Lissa B

I love it. It’s feminine and soft and pretty. Definitely a prim secretary, though, not a pirate. I wouldn’t change a thing. You could probably wear a little sweater over it to be even more secretary-like.


Patti Smith meets 1970s secretary, definitely!! In a good way!

Alice Elliot

I think it’s really a lovely looking blouse. You could just wear it when you’re in the mood for the way it looks. You obviously made just the right size, it fits perfectly and doesn’t look too full anywhere. You’re just used to more fitted clothes. The fitted jeans look great with it, as would any fitted skirt. And the idea of a plaid blazer is terrific!

cynthia gehin

Soft, pretty. Hey! How about a poet blouse pattern in Colette’s future?


Definitely Patty Smith- love it!


I love the blouse!! I actually don’t think either pirate or secretary at all when I see it – I was thinking more Victorian, or something historical-ish within the past 200 years (but not Renaissance). I’m picturing it with a knee-length (or above), pleated, high-waisted skirt, which would even out the volume at the top (the gathering at the shoulders) with the volume of a full-ish skirt on the bottom. Maybe a wide belt could mask any fullness or poofiness that would result from tucking it in….just a thought!


I think its fab on you Sarai! I dont think its 70’s at all, its very London street style chic!


This looks adorable! I think the look is “cute librarian.”


Well, even if you end up not wearing it you’ve learned something from making it. Is that worth it to you? :-)


I think it is beautiful on you! I’ll bet less contrast on the lower half would feel less piratical. On the other hand, lady pirates are awesome…


Mmmm… I don’t think that giving it some shape would be difficult.
Sometimes all a baggy blouse needs is some tapering in the sides to become perfect.

Joyce Giordano

I like the blouse, Sarai and the fullness offsets the narrow pants or a narrow skirt beautifully. I especially like the back. The blouse is definitely 70s secretary, but not with pants. I was a secretary back in the 70s and we definitely did not wear pants to work. Regarding the comments on boots – yes! They would look great with that look.


After seeing your post about how you hate to look “cute” I think that may be the problem here. That little bow just pushes it over the edge into cuteness.

But I agree that it does need something there – the suggestions of embroidery and brooch would work, or even a special button (sort of a permanent brooch, lol). Or if you wanted to be more modern (and still flexible) some sort of statement necklace – layered chains or something colorful and chunky. The more modern (asymmetric? mixed chains/pearls/even fabric?) the less 70s (or 1470s, lol) it will read.

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