27 In Styling Tips

Black and white gingham blouse gets redone, again

Gingham blouse gets alterations

How I wore this blouse this summer


Okay, my friends. You’ve seen me in this black and white gingham blouse before. But look closely. Something’s different. Can you tell?

If you’ve read about this blouse, you knowI’d been on the hunt for a non-tailored blouse; something fanciful. I’d been fascinated by the gussied up blouses with sleeve details that I saw every place. Last year’s Halogen top from Nordstrom got my attention because of my love of checks. The next attractive feature I fell for were the fancy sleeves. This blouse winks at tailored details (gingham, cotton) while being feminine in a lighthearted way.

Only problem: It has no stretch and no darts, and it’s boxy. If you don’t do something with the volume in the body of it, it wants to stick straight out in front. I wondered about it in the dressing room, but I was sure I could fix it somehow. Truth-0-meter: I loved the checks, liked that I had finally found a fanciful sleeve that seemed manageable, so I let it slide that the fit was odd and bought it anyway, something I do not recommend others to do.


Belting a boxy blouse

Boxy gingham check blouse needs volume control


Boxy problem solved with my dad’s tie

I fiddled with the styling of the blouse until I came up with my first fit solution, which was to belt it, but not with a real belt. A real belt didn’t look good. The cotton just puffed out more like uncovered hair does after a 30-minute tear along the LA 405 freeway in a convertible at midnight. Not a good look. Instead, I used my father’s tie as a belt and added a bolero jacket. I liked it. No, I loved it!


Using a man's tie as a belt

Using Dad’s tie to add a curve to the straight body of this blouse


For the anatomy of the complete outfit and to see the man wearing the tie himself (he’s a good-looking bugger) check out the post about turning a man’s tie into a belt.


Removing bulk by pulling at one end and tucking it into a belt loop

This spring I found a way to control the volume of the blouse and create waist interest with the Cheryl Tucker Tuck.

Everyone needs to know the Cheryl Tucker Tuck. She’s an instagram friend of mine, @northwesternmountainliving. I admired the way she was wearing a blouse (it was asymmetrical), commented on her post, and she told me her secret.


Cheryl Tucker tuck

Pulling the fabric to create a tail


You pull one end, make a tail, and tuck the tail into the belt loop. If my gingham blouse tail had been longer, I’d have had more confidence during the day that it wasn’t going to slip out and hang straight again. I had to keep an eye on it to be sure it was behaving.


Cheryl Tucker tuck on Brendakinsel.com

Threading the tail through the belt loop


Here you go if you want to read more details on managing the bulk of a blouse with a tuck. (Thanks again, Cheryl.)


Mixing polka dots and checks

I enjoy the waist detail created by the Cheryl Tucker Tuck


Cue the drum roll, it’s time for the third boxy top solution

So you saw how I wore the blouse last fall (Dad’s tie-belt), and how I wore it this spring (Cheryl Tucker Tuck) and now, my friends, it’s time to view the summer version.


Cutting down the amount of bulk in the blouse

Bringing in the bottom edge with two tacks


Here’s how it started. I was getting dressed and heading to San Francisco to see a client. I was hungry to wear the black and white gingham blouse. I put on my Vince Camuto black ankle pant, slipped on the blouse and started lamenting. Why couldn’t it be different? (Insert whiny voice here.) I didn’t want to tuck, I didn’t want to add a belt, I just wanted it to manage itself, gosh darn it.

The Serenity Prayer came to mind: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.


Bringing in the volume of the blouse

Now I have sleeve interest and less bulk in the body of the blouse


I took a deep breath. I couldn’t change the way it was. It was a blouse with bulk where I didn’t want bulk. I’d been willing to overlook that fact in the dressing room. I take responsibility for that.

I looked at my reflection in the mirror. Maybe I could alter the bulkiness by creating a fold on each side, right around the pelvic bone, and tacking it down along the bottom edge. I created the fold and eyeballed it in the mirror. Then I turned it to the inside and saw I’d taken it in by the distance of the tip of my thumb to my knuckle, a little over an inch. I have a small sewing kit in a drawer of the vanity. I pulled it out, threaded a needle, and tacked it down. I repeated it on the other side. The gingham check is so busy that if it wasn’t exactly equal on both sides, no one would notice. Besides, I’m pretty good at eyeballing after all the years of sewing garments. That answer to prayer took all of five minutes. (Thank you, God!)


Blouse alteration

Removing bulk from my blouse


I accessorized and headed for the City. The first thing Erin said when we met at our client’s house was, “I like your blouse!” I was so excited to tell her about my five-minute-blouse fix. “It looks more expensive this way,” she added. It felt more sophisticated to me with the two tacks I’d made. It wasn’t too bulky; it wasn’t too tight. It felt finished. I could wear it without a jacket and still feel polished.


what I wore to work

Never go to SF in the summer without a jacket!


Of course, let’s get real. San Francisco in the summer is freezing so I did bring a jacket with me.

I’m so happy with my blouse fix! Will you celebrate with me? What tricks do you apply to garments to get them to fit just right?


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  • Reply
    August 7, 2018 at 2:58 am

    Oh Brenda, that’s clever. I got rid of a gorgeous green blouse many years ago because it stuck out at the front, I wish I’d thought of this trick.
    You look amazing as always and that purple coat is stunning on you.

    • Reply
      August 7, 2018 at 8:25 am

      Thank you! I’m looking at that purple coat through your eyes right now and thinking I should bring it with me when I travel at the end of this week. I really do think it’s an amazing color too.

  • Reply
    Kathleen Bayne
    August 7, 2018 at 4:27 am

    If it’s a soft material, I tie a knot on the side at the bottom. I’ve also gathered the fabric in the back at waist level and sewed a button or two on to add some interest and solve the problem.

    • Reply
      August 7, 2018 at 8:23 am

      You are brilliant! I love, love, love that idea about sewing a button or two on the back! That will have to be my next project on a top. I have done that knot at the side with other tops. This one is just too short to really get a knot to hold. I’m going straight to my closet to find something that needs buttons in the back!

  • Reply
    Sandi Mcdougall
    August 7, 2018 at 5:35 am

    You are a genius Brenda!

    • Reply
      August 7, 2018 at 8:22 am

      Just call me GB for short. You make me grin. Hey, how about Friday! It’s coming up soon! Can’t wait to see you and Paul in Fargo.

  • Reply
    August 7, 2018 at 5:41 am

    Thank you for this great idea, Brenda. I find clothes are getting ore & more voluminous– no doubt as a result of how fat our population is becoming, and this may he one solution for those of us who are smaller. I’m very happy to make small, simple changes to clothing, especially ones I can easily do by hand, like this one!

    • Reply
      August 7, 2018 at 8:21 am

      That was the beauty of this, Cara. It was such a small change that made a big difference. If you could measure the before by how I felt about it and the after it would be like no smiling face and a big smiling face!

  • Reply
    Jill Garrett
    August 7, 2018 at 6:19 am

    Love this idea and will probably have to try it! Does it bunch up when you sit down?

    • Reply
      August 7, 2018 at 8:20 am

      Actually, no, Jill. It doesn’t bunch up. I did get a crease near the bottom (you can see it in the pic) from where I was sitting in the car buckled up for an hour on my commute to the city. I’d just pull it up and away from the waist strap next time to avoid that.

  • Reply
    Susan B.
    August 7, 2018 at 6:27 am

    What a clever solution, Brenda!! It looks fantastic.

    • Reply
      August 7, 2018 at 8:18 am

      Thanks, Susan! Just a little nip and tuck!

  • Reply
    Michele Nidiffer
    August 7, 2018 at 9:18 am

    I think it’s a keeper! It’s so very YOU! I’d pair it with colorful pants or white jeans for fun. Red, rust, turquoise… or even a skirt. Tucked in and belted. Oh, and in the fall a fur vest will be fab with those sleeves! Definitely keep.

    • Reply
      August 7, 2018 at 10:11 am

      Yes, I think I almost like it this way the best. I will definitely wear it with white jeans! It’s surprisingly lightweight. It probably will get retired by the end of September and brought out again next spring.

  • Reply
    August 7, 2018 at 3:33 pm

    So cute! What a clever idea. I randomly try on tops that have that problem and reject them. Now I have a solution if I find one I love otherwise. Thanks!

    • Reply
      August 14, 2018 at 5:21 pm

      Yes, where there is love, it’s always best to try to find a way to make it work. But if it doesn’t, walk away. Don’t you have a girlfriend who would have benefited from that advice for her love life? I do! What works for fashion works for other things in life, too.

  • Reply
    Trinnie q
    August 7, 2018 at 3:50 pm

    Wow, how clever, you look gorgeous as usual ! Sending love from Oz x

    • Reply
      August 14, 2018 at 5:20 pm

      Thanks so much, my dear! And tonight I am sending love from Perham, Minnesota in Dad’s assisted living facility. Feeling so blessed. xo

  • Reply
    August 7, 2018 at 3:51 pm

    Brilliant!!! Thanks for all these tips — I love it when you repeat items and show us how you change the look each time

    • Reply
      August 14, 2018 at 5:19 pm

      Thanks so much, Cynthia!

  • Reply
    August 7, 2018 at 4:29 pm


    • Reply
      August 14, 2018 at 5:19 pm

      That’s because you’re so tall! The more the merrier. You have the real estate to pull it off. I covet your advantage!!

  • Reply
    August 8, 2018 at 12:44 am

    Last summer I bought a lovely light summer dress, white with a big rose pattern, pink with tiny black outlines. When I managed to lose some weight, it was too bulky – alas! The shoulder line was much too wide.
    Standing in front of the mirror I discovered that if I produced a fold near the neckline, I would obtain a v-neck instead a round neck and the excess fabric would disappear in that fold.
    Now! Brenda! I used a lovely big ornamented black button to fix the fold in the one strategic point through all three fabric layers – tadaaa! The newly created v–neck is very flattering (with a short red or black necklace in it) and the fold forms a nice A-line, still keeping the swinging seam that is so nice at hot weather.

    • Reply
      August 14, 2018 at 5:18 pm

      Doris, I love your fashion ingenuity! BRAVO!!! It sounds like such an great dress made even better with your fashion finesse. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Bettye Rainwater
    August 8, 2018 at 5:17 am

    Bravo on multiple workarounds! I love a good workaround 🙂

    I also love all the tucks, half-tucks, front-tucks, asymmetrical tucks, etc. I see…but they’re not for me. It just sort of highlights my belly flab poofing out over the waistband of my pants. Not generally a good look 🙂

    But sometimes I do THIS sneaky thing…if a dress is a tinch too long (I’m 5’3″ so ALL the dresses are a tinch too long) and I’m wearing a long cardigan/blazer, etc over it, I’ll tuck a tiny bit into the waistband of my underwear in the back. It pulls it up just a little bit and so many things are uneven-hemmed these days that when it makes it slightly shorter in the back, who knows who cares. It’s not a permanent solution obvi, but if I’m trying to make a grand entrance (yeah, cuz THAT’S what I’m doing) or good first impression…or just take a photo…it’s an easy cheat.


    • Reply
      August 14, 2018 at 5:16 pm

      Brilliant, Bettye. You had me laughing while reading this. I LOVE sneaky tricks. Thanks for sharing this one!

  • Reply
    August 16, 2018 at 8:30 am

    My tricks for too boxy tops:
    1. If the blouse or top is of a fairly soft material, I quickly sew in two tacks. Both are at waist level, approximately below each breast. In some cases, this creates a peplum look. Depending on the style of the garment, I’ve sometimes tacked on the side seams instead. If the top is super boxy, I’ve put in four tacks – two in front and two in the back.
    2. Other times (or sometimes in addition to the tacks), I’ve shortened the top or blouse – usually to 2-3″ below waist level. That can make it look it look cropped and swingy, rather than big and shapeless. Even though I’m tall, I look better in shorter tops, period.

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