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Oct 22, 2012

The Poet's Shirt or "Name That Tune-ic!"



I guess I was in denial.

Deep down I had a very good idea that Michael's Aladdin shirt was nothing more than a version of the infamous poet's shirt -- otherwise known as the pirate shirt, the Renaissance tunic, or -- as immortalized on TV's Seinfeld -- the puffy shirt.  Also the caftan top.  Granted, mine lacks ruffles, but the basics are the same: the oversized cut, the puffy sleeves, the bland beige color. 















Readers, do you think any poets actually wore these shirts?  I wonder.  Wouldn't those oversized sleeves get all inky?  When exactly did puffy shirts make a comeback -- the late Eighties/early Nineties?  I've repressed all memory of them since having to wear one every day when I played Rancid Harry, the village leper, at the New York Renaissance Festival years ago. 

Anyway, I'm almost done with my version.  As you can see it's a big, slightly sheer, beige tunic.





Instead of using bias trim (see Saturday's post), I made decorative flat-felled seams on both front and back.





The front placket came out very nicely.



I used my June Tailor board to open up the collar seams -- I love that thing.



Monday evening and it's starting to look like a real costume!



Friends, do you abhor poet's shirts as much as I do?  Do they have any redeeming qualities whatsoever unless worn under a brocade vest, ideally by Johnny Depp -- or better yet, Errol Flynn? 


Do you agree with the MPB reader who sent me a personal email over the weekend telling me not to use muslin for the shirt because it was too boring?  Would cotton gauze have made much difference?  I mean, the muslin I used is pretty sheer and very drapey.   And most of this shirt will be hidden under a vest, anyway.

In closing, did you or anyone you know ever wear a puffy shirt?  Do you still?  Be honest!

And why are there SO many patterns for them?

Have a great day, everybody!

32 comments:

  1. Rancid Harry? no wonder you hated the shirt...and as for the June Tailor board, I ordered one immediately after your post about them and it is sitting proudly on my hearth, adjacent to the television and the ironing board. I use it as a centerpiece on bunco night because it just makes the other girls drool.

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  2. I still have the pattern I used to make my first "puffy shirt" when I was a teenager, and the copyright on it is 1994. It was out of some sort of slippery beige-colored polyester something from my Mom's stash. I thought I looked very glamorous at the time. Now I'm wondering why I still have the pattern; I guess just in case the look comes back in 2022 and my daughter wants one. Come to think of it, it really doesn't look too far off from some more newer patterns. The same pattern recently sold on Etsy. http://www.etsy.com/listing/110465834/misses-mccalls-7213-sewing-pattern so somebody must be making them yet.

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    1. I think on women it's a whole other thing: much more acceptable.

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    2. That's probably true. It didn't even occur to me that there could be some 2022 trend that would have my boys asking me to pull out an old puffy shirt pattern.

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  3. I'm in the process of trying to make a chemise for my Halloween costume, sort of the same idea. Only mine looks like total amateur night compared with yours. I used some thin black fabric I had lying around that I will never use for anything else because it pills like crazy. Then there's the bodice to go on top. If it ever gets finished, I will probably look more like a crazy cat lady on her way to the Renfaire than the saucy wench I imagined.

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  4. I'm a poet, and I love those shirts :)

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  5. I will never forget going on my honeymoon to a resort in Mexico in 1979 and this fellow who befriended us wore a 'poet' shirt. It might have even glittered. He was from Long Island...need I say more. I can still picture him. Everything he wore said DISCO!!! I was a little hippy chic and hated DISCO...but he was from Longgggg Island. He HAD ruffles on the sleeves. I kid you not. He was around 28 years old at the time. Gosh I wonder what he looks like now. Oy.

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  6. Great job on the shirt and looks smart (in a costume-y kind of way) on both of you, but I think your dog is laughing at you in your picture Peter.

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  7. What always gets me about your photos is the little dogs in the background. They are so cute.

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  8. I actually am a fan of poets' shirts, but seeing those patterns is a reason to run. I have a Step by Step pattern for one I want to try (90's). And an older Donna Karan. It's about the proportions. Not to boxy. And fabric that is a bit filmy, like batiste. Love them in white, pale peach silk, black. Had a deep purple one I loved. Cathie in Quebec. And your shirt looks terrific. Love those seams!!!!!!!!

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  9. I make them constantly for my theatre company but the closest I got to wearing them was as drum major of my high school band circa 1980. Do they even still make "Quiana" (sp)!?

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  10. I had one that was supposed to be a "nightshirt" but I never wore it to sleep in. It came from a catalog in the early 1990's - probably the Victoria's Secret catalog. I wore it as an alternative to a white shirt when I was in college.

    My mom made a shirt for my husband that looks exactly like view B of the Simplicity 3519, but instead of muslin she made it from unbleached Osnaburg, which is like muslin but has a much larger/coarser weave. He wears it when we go to Ren Faires and the like - it looks best with his kilt. I won't let him go out in it on a regular basis.

    I like your seams as an alternative to the inserted bias binding - subtle, yet decorative. It's the details like that, the ones you have to get close to see that really make the outfit.

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  11. This can easily be recycled for other costumes: pirate, village idiot, Fabio....

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  12. I have a soft spot for them, especially when worn by a good looking man.

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  13. I don't care for the full-on ruffles of the simplicity patterns, but I do like the traditional eastern European men's and women's embroidered shirts, which are in the same vein. Like the vyshyvanka in this article: http://vidomosti-ua.com/volyn/50368

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  14. I wore in the 80's. I don't think I can bring myself to wear them now. I happen to know a bloke or two who would wear them ...

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  15. I can't help it, Peter, I love them. I blame Colin Firth. There is something so manly about a poets shirt (with no ruffles mind you, they are a load of nonsense!). Where would Wesley be without his black Dread Pirate Roberts shirt? And I love to wear them too - I have a linen one with lace insets in the sleeves and ridiculous lace cuffs (engageates) that cover my hands. But then I am a sucker for most looks based in historical menswear, for either sex.

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  16. I agree with Mrs C above, I adore poet shirts (on men), and blame it on Colin Firth and Wesley as well, and Johnny Depp hehe! Tried to get my husband and the groomsmen to wear them at our wedding 16 years ago now, he declined for some reason :)

    The costume looks wonderful.

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  17. Another positive vote for the poet shirt! Must be the "sophistication" connected with "history" they reflect.

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  18. Marty (Martha) in KSOctober 23, 2012 at 8:48 AM

    They are great for non-dressy wear with a kilt! And a man in a kilt is beyond great! ;)

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  19. Well, I think they all come from historical specimen that were actually truly worn as shirts... and that meant, practically, underwear. With that in mind, I see no problem with them when worn underneath something, in historical context. Otherwise... it all depends on the cut and the man inside.

    Folk costume shirts, too. It would not have the same flair with a modern shirt, you have to admit that.

    Also, MrsC has a very good point about Wesley and Dread Pirate Roberts.

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  20. If a lurker may weigh in: I had a friend back in college - handsome, charismatic, smart, got all the girls - who not only wore two of these shirts but had actually sewn them himself. They were from some kind of historic pattern relevant to 19th century life in our region and also kept him from getting sunburned, but were essentially poet shirts though fairly subfusc. This was in the mid nineties and they were not a common thing. None the less, they did not look as dramatic as you might think - they looked like Simplicity 4219 above done in cotton muslin and with button-up collars.

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  21. Oh dear, I made a version of this shirt once, the fit was terrible. The cuffs and collars were way too big and the shirt was so wide the shoulders were almost halfway down my arms. also, the pattern didn't call for enough fabric! I had to shorten it by about a foot.
    After a lot of alterations though, it became a fairly good shirt and I do like this style very much, when worn with a nice vest.

    The sleeves don't get in the way too much as long as the cuff is buttoned up, and as long as the cuff ruffles (if there are any) aren't too long.
    I love how the costume looks so far, how did you tie the turban?
    Your pattern must have been way better than mine, Michael's shirt looks great.
    Also, keep the pearls, they rock!

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  22. I wish a had one of these. There, I said it! I have a few patterns, and WILL get time to make one this winter, hand sewn and all!

    There is an explanation, I promise. I am a medieval reenactor and LARP'er, and these shirts are a great stable in any medieval/renaisance wardrobe. They are easy to wear and make (with mostly square pattern pieces) and I have never had problems with the sleeves.

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  23. I have an undue love for poets' shirts. The ones with the built-in ruffles can be a bit silly, but pair a plain-collared one with a good jabot, and I am a happy Six.

    Wikipedia tells me that we can blame Byron for the name "poet's shirt."

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  24. Hi Peter, looking at the pic of the lovely Michael wearing the shirt (and pearls) I wondered if the shirt sleeves are on back to front? Why is the placket opening over his thumb not over his little finger?

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    1. It's on correctly, but unlike a dress shirt, the placket for this sleeve (not a true placket, btw) sits on the seam itself, rather than being cut at a spot closer to the little finger, as on a regular dress shirt. I also think it looks weird in the photo because it's just pinned closed. Good eyes!

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  25. Byron probably did. His were better made.

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  26. I must confess, I love a good poet shirt. I've made my husband two, and they look great. Though they are at their best under a nice, fitted vest.

    Michael's costume is looking great. :D

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  27. I wore my first pirate/poet shirts in the early-to-mid 1970's, when I was in college. I still love the look, and when I saw Duran Duran wearing them in their early "Planet Earth" video (especially Nick Rhodes), I was enraptured! I have several patterns for such shirts nowadays--all I need to do now is get a sewing machine and learn how to sew! (By the way, do you use a ruffling attachment with your machine?) Then, I can learn to make not only this kind of shirt, but vintage-style (ala Roy Rogers and Gene Autry) cowboy shirts as well!

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  28. I am a fan of poet shirts, I just picked up a kilt and figure a poet shirt would look best with it.

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