How to Sew a Sailor Collar
If you cosplay anime and manga characters with any regularity, there’s a good chance that at some point you’ll end up needing to sew a classic seifuku. There are any number of variations on the basic idea, as seen in everything from Sailor Moon to Kill la Kill, but the sailor collar ties them all together – and once you have that essential piece figured out, you can easily translate it to any character.
Let’s start by taking a look at the pattern M7141. The package includes a jacket, vest, blouse with standard and sailor collar options, and pleated skirt in two lengths. For most characters the pattern is just going to be a starting point, given the huge variety of skirt and blouse styles, collar shapes, and trimming variations out there, but these basic pieces will get you started. For this tutorial we’ll be using the sailor collar option, view D.
Turning the separate collar into an attached collar
The first step is to match up the front and back pieces along the shoulder line, lining up the symbols at the neckline edge. Place the collar piece on top. Check that the shape matches the back neckline from the center back to the shoulder seam and redraw the curve or move the shoulder seam marking if necessary.
Next, put the front piece on top of the collar, matching the shoulder seam markings and pivoting so that the front point of the collar matches up with the center front line. Trace the outline of the collar onto the front piece so the necklines match.
The button placket gets in the way of the collar meeting at center front, so in this case the front piece will be cut on the fold instead. This top has enough ease that you should be able to pull it over your head, but if you’re using the collar with a more fitted style of blouse you may want to add a side zipper so you can get into it. You can cut along the center front line indicated on the pattern (it’s the line that has marks for buttons and buttonholes) or you can just fold the excess out of the way if you think you might reuse the pattern. Also fold or cut away the old neckline before cutting out your pieces.
The easiest way to finish off the neckline edge is to add a facing. Create facing pieces by laying a new piece of paper over the neckline in front and back, then tracing the center line, neck, and shoulder edge on both pieces. You may wish to draw in the stitching lines as well. Then, use a ruler to draw the lower edge of the facing about two inches from the stitching line all the way around the neck.
Sewing the sailor collar
Assemble the rest of the blouse as directed, ignoring the part about the front button placket. Stop after staystitching the neckline.
Construct the collar, but only sew around the outside edges – you will need the neckline seam allowances to attach it to the blouse. Don’t forget to clip the corners so you can get nice clean points when you turn it right side out. Turn the collar and embellish with your selected trim, then baste the neckline closed about 1/2″ from the edge.
Sew the collar to the staystitched neckline. Don’t allow the left and right sides to overlap at center front – instead trim the points so the stitching meets exactly at the point of the neckline. If you’re using a soft or lightweight fabric for the body of the shirt, you may wish to reinforce the corner with a small piece of fusible interfacing so you can make this point nice and sharp. (Pardon my rumpled fabric in these photos – the actual seam is smooth but this muslin wrinkled if you so much as breathed on it.)
Cut the back and front facing pieces on the fold, and sew them together at the shoulders. To edge finish the facing and interface it in a single step, make a second copy of the facing from your chosen interfacing. Sew the facing and interfacing together 1/4″ from the outside edge, with the seam allowances and sticky side facing out. Then turn the whole piece right side out, smoothing the curve with your fingers, and press to fuse them together.
Pin the facing on top of the collar, right side facing down, and sew around the neckline once more. You may want to sew from the blouse side so you can see your previous line of stitching – you want the final row of stitches to be just inside the previous row so that the stitches will be hidden from view when the collar is turned right side out.
Trim the neckline seam allowances to about 1/4″, and clip into the curves to help them lie smoothly. Press the seam allowances to the facing side and understitch the facing to the allowances to give it a nice roll to the inside. Turn the facing to the inside of the blouse, and steam and press the neckline so it lies nicely. Tack the facing to the shoulder seams with a few stitches to keep it from flipping out while you wear it.
Adding a panel to the neckline
Some versions of the sailor top have a dickey or modesty panel to fill in the V of the neckline. This can be made in the blouse or collar fabric, trimmed to match the collar or embellished with an embroidered monogram or school seal. Here are the steps to create this piece:
Trace along the neckline stitching line (not the cutting line) for as high up as you would like the panel to go. Draw straight across from that point to the center front line, meeting it at a right angle (1). Add 1/4″ to the edge opposite the center front line to give it a bit of an underlap (2), then add seam allowance all the way around (3). Cut two copies on the fold and sew them together around the outside edge (4), leaving a gap to turn the piece right side out (5). Add any embellishments you want, then hand or machine sew the panel to the facing on one side, and attach small sew-in snaps to keep it closed on the other (6).
If you want a different style of sailor blouse, it’s easy to use the same collar with any pattern you choose. Just line up the front and back pieces along the shoulder seam as we did above, and follow the steps to redraw the neckline so it matches the collar piece. If you’re making a winter uniform, it may make sense to cut a full lining using the front and back pieces instead of making a facing. Just remember you’ll need a way to get into the top, so if you’re removing the front closure from a fitted blouse you’ll need to add a side zipper to make up for it. And that’s it!