How to Sew a Sailor Collar

Modified M7141 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.

Modified M7141 sailor collar

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.

M7141 school uniform costume pattern options

 

Turning the separate collar into an attached collar

While the sailor collar on this particular pattern is constructed as a separate piece, it’s a super easy alteration to turn it into a more traditional attached collar.
Line up the front and back pieces at the shoulder seam and mark the seam position on the 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.Line the collar point up with center front and redraw the neckline

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.Cut away the front button placket and old neckline

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.Create facings by tracing the front and back neckline on a new piece of paper

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.

sewing and embellishing a sailor collar

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.staystitch the neckline and sew in the collar

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.

sew facing on top of collar, trim, and understitch

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:

Adding a modesty panel to a sailor collarTrace 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).

How to sew a sailor collar at the Cosplayer by McCall's blogUsing the sailor collar with another pattern

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!

 

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18 comments

  • Would I be able to use this to help create a cape for a Huntress costume (like the first picture on this Wikipedia article http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huntress_%28comics%29) ? The problems I was having were a) the cape is woven but it attached at the front neckline to a (lycra) leotard and b) it’s supposed to be gathered at the front then flaring out at/from the shoulders.

    • Hmm, it might work but you’d have to do some experimenting. You’d definitely need to add a lot of fullness at the back to get a nice-looking cape, and you might be better off looking at an actual cape pattern just so you don’t have to figure out where that would need to be added. You might be able to use both, and blend the collar and cape patterns together at the shoulders to get something you’re happy with.

      As for attaching a woven to a knit, my main suggestion would be to stretch the leotard the same way it’ll stretch when you wear it. Put the leotard on a dress form, or on a friend who’s about the same shape and size, and baste the cape in place before you take it off and sew it. That way you’ll know how much give you need to allow for and it won’t bunch or pull oddly when you put it on.

  • ahhhh where was this when I needed it?!?! I see what I did wrong now!
    I have one question though, when you understitch is just stitching the facing or is it stitching the facing to the shirt?

    • When you understitch you’re sewing the facing to the seam allowance underneath it, and the outside layer stays free. That way it helps the facing to roll to the inside and stay nice and neat, but the stitching isn’t visible from outside the shirt. Does that make sense?

  • Is there a way to sew the stripe trim on the collar while staying equidistant from the finished hem on all sides without sewing through both layers of the collar?

    • Sure. You can chalk in the stitching line so you know how to place it, and then sew it just to the top layer before you sew the collar layers together. Or, if you sew it on by hand after assembling the collar but before you attach it, you can put your hand inside the collar and sew only through the top layer. Just make sure you press the collar really well if you use these methods, since you won’t have the topstitching to keep the layers together.

  • This is amazing! Just what I needed.

  • This is a much better method than the one included in a vintage pattern I’ve been using, but I still run into a problem at the point. When I see the facing and then turn it to the inside, there is bulk in these am allowance, even after I’ve trimmed it way down, almost to the stitching. I also had a problem where my points did not line up exactly with the center seam (my shirt has a front center seam since it is dolman sleeved). Sooooo, I ended up evening the two sides out a bit so that the collar point are about 3/4″ away from the center seam. I will make a self fabric bow, though I am not sure how to attach it. I wish I could get mine to look like yours. Any suggestions for adding the bow? Any additional pointers? Btw, I sewed the points on my collar together before attaching because I could not figure out what you had done withe raw edges of your points.

    • I wouldn’t sew the points together, probably – they’re trimmed on the bias so there shouldn’t be much fraying to worry about, and you need the seam allowances to be able to spread apart when you flip them to the inside. That might be part of your problem. Make sure you sew exactly to the corner and not a stitch beyond, and when you clip the point of the V make sure you get all the way into the corner. That’s why it’s actually a good idea to reinforce that area, because you need to get within a thread or two of the stitching for it to turn out neatly. (Just make sure you don’t cut through the stitching, or you’ll have another problem on your hands.)

      For the bow, you might want to attach it to a snap so you can remove it for washing or switch out the color if you like. Or, I think some uniforms have a little fabric loop there that you can tie your bow through. If you’re sewing it on, do it by hand so you can just stitch through the underside and it won’t be visible from the front. You might want to put a small button on the inside of the blouse and stitch through that to help support the bow’s weight and prevent it from stressing the fabric. Does that help?

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  • I’m so happy to find this tutorial. I will be sewing the seifuku top and skirt for a class project. I’m new to sewing, and wondering what is used for the collar facing? Is this just more of the shirt fabric, or some kind of interfacing? Pardon my ignorance.

    • May have jumped the gun on this question. I missed the last bit of the tutorial. Sorry.

      • Did your question get answered? We cut the facing from the same fabric as the blouse, then interfaced it to make it a little stiffer. If you prefer, you can instead cut the facing from the same fabric as the collar so there’s less risk of it showing around the neckline. Just be careful if your blouse fabric is white or a light color, because a dark-colored facing might show through.

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  • How do you see the trim when turning a corner at the back of the collar?

    • You fold a little 45º angled pleat in the trim so it creates a right angle, with the fold going diagonally across the corner. If you play with it a little you should be able to see how it works.

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