Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Fabulous Forty... and the blogger's not looking too bad either!

Today is my 40th birthday. Happy Birthday me! I'm actually currently on holiday. Nowhere exotic, just the East Neuk of Fife, but it's a holiday! In the meantime, though, I wanted to share a special birthday make, so this is a scheduled post.

I haven't sewn myself a birthday outfit before. No real reason other than there is usually quite a lot going on in December already thank you very much, but this year I decided to something a little different. The idea started when I saw one of Kerry's recent makes, and clocked the year her pattern was printed. An idea grew... why not make something from a pattern that was the same age as me? I'm not a huge fan of 70's fashion, but I did really like Kerry's dress and I figured I could probably find something similarly simple, not too "70's fancy dress" and make it wearable.

Easier said than done, particularly since I didn't have a lot of time to play with. I needed to find a pattern that was a style I liked and was wearable, was my size (no time, energy or inclination for grading) and was in the UK (no time for postage from the US). Oh, and it had to have been printed in 1974!

A trawl of Etsy and Ebay eventually led to this dress pattern.

The dress has a slightly bloused bodice with gathers at the waist on both bodice and skirt (reminiscent of the gathers on the Colette Peony). The bodice has a stand up collar and an all in one facing at the neckline. The skirt has 4 gores and is A line in shape.

I wanted to make the dress in a modern fabric, and recently fell in love with this viscose from Atelier Brunette that I had spotted on their Instagram feed and which I bought from Guthrie and Ghani.

I made view 2, but with the short sleeves from view 1. View 1 is kind of cool with the quilting on the hem, collar and sleeves, but with such a busy pattern, I though it would get lost.

I muslined the bodice which fitted fine - a wee bit big, but definitely wearable as is. I initially thought the neckline was super low - indecently so - but when I went to make the change I wanted to the pattern piece, I realised I'd just sewn to the wrong marking!!! Luckily that was the only daft mistake I made as I was really up against it time-wise to make this. I only had a week, which for me, is not that long. I finished the hemming (machine sewn - no time to hand sew) at 10.30pm the night before the day I wanted to wear it!

Where I originally thought the neckline sat!

In terms of construction, I followed the pattern, only making the following changes:
  • invisible zip instead of standard zip
  • I didn't make the tie belt
  • I omitted the decorative buttons on the front
  • I took 1 cm off the skirt pattern piece when cutting, due to fabric limitations (I managed to get this out of 2m of fabric), and then took a further inch off the length when hemming.
  • Insides are finished with French seams where possible, and the rest are overlocked.
  • Added pockets
  • Used a strip of fabric, rather than the seam binding that was called for, for the waist stay.
Invisible zip with perfectly matched waist seam. Win!
I'm really happy with the dress. The facings at the neckline are a bit annoying and flappy - I've had to tack them down with invisible stitches to stop them flipping out. They are not interfaced, which I think doesn't help, as the collar is interfaced and they don't have enough structure to support the weight of the collar. If I was to make this again, I'd try to do something different there.

Weird selfies so you can see the collar and neckline better.

Actually, I've just remembered I made a second daft mistake - I borrowed my pocket pattern pieces from Simplicity 2360 which has the top of the pockets caught into the waist seam. No problem, I could do the same here, only I managed to catch them into the back skirt pieces rather than the front ones - so the pockets were backwards! I only realised after I'd French seamed the waist. I didn't want to have to unpick the whole thing, so I have to say I hacked it a bit - I unpicked the second stage of the french seam, just at the pockets, and then cut them. I then flipped them forward and sewed them in place over the top of the french seam. My insides are now a bit messy, but I'm not too bothered.

The fabric is lovely. Soft with a beautiful drape. Really nice to sew with and to wear, although it does crease quite easily. All in all it's what I wanted: a really wearable, comfortable dress with a nod to the past, that is special to me.

I am not pregnant again, despite the fact I look it here!

I actually wore the dress over a week ago - as part of my birthday celebrations, my mum treated my sister and I to afternoon tea at The Balmoral Hotel, which is an iconic, old hotel in the centre of Edinburgh (where JK Rowling finished the last Harry Potter book). It was a lovely afternoon and the dress was perfect for the occasion- sorry I didn't take any photos while we were there, but suffice to say there was plenty of sandwiches, tea and cakes in beautiful surroundings!!

Palm Court - where we had afternoon tea!

Right, I am off to spend my 40th freezing on a Scottish beach, eating fish and chips in the local pub, and drinking champagne!  

ETA: forgot to add that I will be adding this to A Stitching Odysey's #vintagepledge



  1. Happy Birthday! Your dress is lovely - what great fabric and it looks really wearable. If you're a fan of viscose you should definitely come to Gold Thimble with me, they have a fab selection.

    If you'd told me a few years ago that I'd have started loving 70s patterns I would have laughed but taking aside the wild ones, there is so much scope for lovely practical and wearable clothing, as you have shown perfectly here.

    Enjoy your champagne and fish and chips and I hope it's not too cold - you may need your thermals on under that dress :-)

    1. Thanks Kerry! I have to say, it does make me rethink other decades that I wouldn't normally consider. And yes, I'd love to go to Gold Thimble with you at some point!

  2. Happy Birthday! Your dress is gorgeous, love the fabric!
    Hope you have had a fab day, A x

  3. What a beautiful dress. The fabric has just the right amount of drape for the pattern and the colours are good for you too. I like patterns from all eras and I always enjoy reading posts when someone has made something different. It's perfect for afternoon tea. Happy birthday!

    1. Thanks Philippa! I am as guilty as the next person of making the latest patter, but it is refreshing to see something different for a change. I must do it more often.

  4. All the best people were born in 74! Happy birthday Helen!

    I really like the 40 meets 70s vibe of the dress - gorgeous!

    1. Ha! But of course they were, Jo! And thanks. X

  5. Love the dress H it's fab! Brilliant blog post. Happy birthday again from me. Kirsty x

  6. Happy birthday to you! Hope you have a wonderful day :) This is such a fantastic idea to mark the day too - I must remember this one! Your dress is just lovely on you; that fabric is gorgeous. I always love seeing vintage patterns made up like this - not at all costume-y, just eminently and enviable wearable! Enjoy your celebrations oxo

    1. Thank you Danielle. Kerry always manages to see past the era specific drawings on the patterns, something that's not usually a skill of mine, but I must try it more often. It's so nice to make something a bit different. X

  7. Happy birthday! Great dress. It's very flattering on you. I love the idea of a birthday dress from the same year you were born - may be borrowing that!

  8. Thanks Bobbi and feel free! Perhaps I should start a hashtag?! :)

  9. what an amazing dress! i love the idea, but not sure 1981 will have somethings as nice! Hope you had a great birthday!

    1. Ha! I bet Kerry could find you something!

  10. What a great idea, you look amazing. Hope you had a great birthday.


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