My birthday wrap dress

Happy Birthday to me! :)

I wanted to finish up a sewing project in time for my birthday today! With my megaproject jacket complete, I was able to resume some regularly scheduled sewing. Which right now is all about filling in my spring and summer wardrobe!

I pulled a pattern out of my stash that I’d been wanting to sew forever. It’s a 1962 McCall’s pattern for a wrap dress. But some of you who collect vintage clothing may recognize this as basically a Swirl dress.

It’s okay if you don’t have any idea what a ‘Swirl dress’ is. I didn’t either for a long time! I’d see bloggers referring to Swirl dresses and wondered if it was just a geographic-specific name for a wrap dress. Ha! Instead, Swirl was a brand name that started in the 1940s. By the 50s they were making tons of variations of a wrap house dress. I know that Fleur de Guerre is so well known for loving them that Heyday’s wrap dress is named the Fleur after her (and dag nabbit, I can never seem to manage to get my hands on one when my size is in stock!). Original Swirl dresses are collectible and tend to be pretty expensive for a cotton frock.

Sometime in the last year or so I picked up the pattern above in the hopes of making my own Swirl. It’s such a perfect pattern to jump off from! I’m envisioning different necklines, different pockets, different skirts, all with the signature overlapping back and tie front. Brilliant. Seriously, I think I’ve planned about 5 in my head so far (and have bought fabric for 2 of them already). And all slightly different.

But the first one is my birthday dress!

I only made one major change. I don’t wear many 60s styles, but the pattern definitely transcends decades (especially when worn without a flip hairdo like the envelope, ha ha). To help it along, I drafted skirt pieces from a 1946 dress pattern in my stash with a gathered (instead of pleated) skirt, a feature in a few of my 40s skirt patterns. Especially worn without a full crinoline, the dress definitely has an earlier look, I think.

When all was said and done, I think the left back piece was about 1/3 wider than the right piece, and 1/3 of the gathers fall to the right of the lap and 2/3 to the left (there was math and little sketches to get me to that point). According to the measured pattern pieces I had to add 1″ of ease to the waist of the bodice since a 14 in 1940s McCall patterns has a bigger waist than my 1962 pattern, but it turns out I can cinch this in much tighter anyway (so some of my math was moot).

The fabric is cotton from in my stash, nothing particularly special but I bought it ages ago specifically to test drive this pattern (I knew even when I bought it that once I sewed it, I’d want to again and again). It’s supposed to look like a repro of 1930s floursack fabric.

As I can finally see spring around the corner, the tiny floral print feels perfectly in season (even if the temperatures keep dipping back to winter periodically). After my Alma blouse and pink diamonds skirt I kind of swore off sewing with pink, but with this dress under my belt and pink appearing as an accent color in a future version of this dress, maybe I like pink more than I think I do. Hmmm!

It does go quite nicely with my new rose china, don’t you think? A week ago my mom and step-dad drove across country to visit. They brought me my step-grandmother’s Danish modern hutch and rose china, which you may have seen on Instagram and you’ll definitely be hearing more about soon!

I now know why Swirl dresses were/are so popular. So comfy and cute. This would be pretty easy for a beginner sewist, too! There are facings (which are always a pain in the rump if you ask me), but only one buttonhole, with no other closures, and no sleeves to set in. And with the wrap style, it’s a forgiving fit.

It closes with a simple vintage button at the back of the neck. On future versions, I’ll probably handwork this buttonhole… just because!

The right tie slips through a hole in the left side. I edge stitched it per the pattern, but also reinforced my stitching a couple of times on the seam opening since it’ll see a lot of action.

I lined the inside of the pockets with rayon bemberg leftover from my Sew for Victory jacket. In fact, I used the same lining technique I used on the jacket pockets. I just ordered more in fun colors!

The pockets do tend to stick out a bit (more in person than the photos show). I already made them smaller than the pattern, so I may tweak that even more in future versions. Since the only things I tend to put in pockets are my cell phone, a measuring tape or my hands, they don’t need to be quite so big. But I do like them as-is, too.

(By the way, I did this photoset without my glasses, obviously. I’ve been toying with getting contacts again for the first time in years so I wanted to see what I thought but I don’t know, I think I like glasses best.)

As I’m finally sewing regularly, I’m starting to think more about the things I do and don’t wear in my wardrobe (vintage or handmade). Last summer was so hot that almost anything with a collar was out because the extra fabric on my skin made me crazy. Set-in sleeves weren’t high on my list for the same reason. So the slightly scooped neckline and kimono sleeves are a great summer match up! Some kimono sleeves on vintage patterns have turned out too big for my narrow shoulders, but these are just perfect.

Right now it’s definitely too cold to wear this outside, but with a cardigan I think it’ll do just fine until summer!

I must admit: I’m completely smitten with wrap dresses now! And I think this one makes a perfect birthday present to myelf. Speaking of, this weekend Mel is taking me on a road trip to a state park along the Iowa/Illinois border so we can get some hiking in. A perfect gift if you ask me!

But wait, I have a birthday gift for you. The owners of Popina Swimwear are offering my readers 15% off after the giveaway. Use the coupon code ‘tasha’ when you check out!

Anyway, I apologize in advance if all you ever see me wear this summer are variations of this dress. What can I say, I’m in love!

Filed: Sewing, Vintage Wardrobe

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Golly, 94 Comments!

  • I love it! This dress looks so gorgeous on you!!! I am always kind of unsure about wrap dresses, but this makes me want one! :) HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!!!!!!!! I hope you have a fabulous day!!! xx

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  • Both you and the dress look very beautiful Tasha! I love it, just so pretty and wearable. Have a wonderful birthday. x

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  • So, so lovely Tasha! Looks very comfy and easy to wear. I’ve already started stalking this pattern too :)

    Also – Happy Birthday!!

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  • What a lovely dress! Pretty fabric and a really flattering style. Plus a dress with pockets is always a winner!

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  • Yay happy birthday! The dress is beautiful, and I love how your cardigan makes the green pop out on it.

    Question: the tie doesn’t show in the back? Like, if you made it in a contrasting color, you’d only see it at the front?

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    • Kristicraft, I don’t know how it’s supposed to look in Tasha’s pattern, but having already made a dress somewhat similar to this one (Colette Pattern’s Crepe Dress (http://www.colettepatterns.com/shop/crepe) if you care to know), I can tell you that the ties cross first at the font, then at the back, and finally – if they’re long enough for that – one last time at the front. So yes, if you make them in a contrasting color, they’ll show in the back.
      @ Tasha : this pattern is really awesome! I don’t claim to know a lot about Swirl dresses (although I was lucky enough to snatch one last year on Etsy) but it really looks like THE precise pattern on which they were based! I can’t believe your pattern is from 1962 because it looks so 1940s. And once again, you’ve made a great job…and a lovely dress!

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    • For this pattern if you wear it like shown, the strap doesn’t cross in the back, so it might look odd with contrasting ties (I thought of just this last night when pondering other versions, lol).

      The ties are possibly long enough that I could wrap back around my waist and tie it in the back with a very short bow, but it would be very easy to make them longer to cross like Juliette mentioned!

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    • Ah, thank you both! Looks like the crepe might be a good place for me to start =D

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  • I love it! I would like to make one myself, but I don’t think I even qualify as a “beginner” in sewing. It looks great.

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  • Happy Birthday beautiful!

    What a start to a new age :D You look stunning and the dress is delightful xxxx

    Bundana
    @ http://www.bundana.blogspot.co.uk

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  • Is that not THE perfect dress? Absolutely beautiful! I wish that you could open a shop on my street and sell your creations. I would be SO broke but SO styling!

    Happy Birthday to you!

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  • So cute! And your bangles match perfectly! I too am thinking about ditching set in sleeves this summer. And I just so happen to be wearing a wrap dress today too! :)

    Happy Birthday!

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  • Happy Birthday! The dress looks great and easy to make. Perhaps I’ll make one myself…

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  • oh this pattern is gorgeous! i think i’ll be on the lookout for something similar. happy birthday!

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  • Gorgeous dress! I love it! Happy birthday!

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  • Happy birthday!! The dress is lovely – I must hurry to find a pattern like it for me!

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  • An easy dress and so flattering, too! A winning combination, definitely. Happy Birthday!

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  • Tasha,

    I am an avid reader of your blog, but I’ve never commented before. I love this dress–so cute and comfortable looking! Must. find. pattern. Have a wonderful birthday!!!

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  • That print is so pretty! The style is lovely too, and I like the alterations you made. Do you find the wrap is substantial enough for windy days?

    Happy birthday to you!

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    • I haven’t been able to give it a run outside yet, but if this helps: according to the measurements, there should be about a 3″ overlap between the sides. However in practice on me it turned out to be much more, so I should be somewhat safe from wind gusts… but that remains to be seen this spring. ;) It would probably be pretty easy to alter the underlapping side to be wider to help give more coverage if needed, though (it might just mean you couldn’t use the same bodice piece for both sides).

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    • Happy Birthday! I hope you have a fantastic day!

      Your dress is so cute! It looks fabulous!

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  • Happy Birthday Tasha! The dress looks fantastic! I’ve been wanting to don my skirts and dresses but out weather hasn’t cooperated. It’ll be beautiful and sunny one day; the next cold, windy and gray. I’m so ready for a nice,warm spring days. I also need to make lighter, more breathable blouses for the summer months. Nothing worse that look great but sweaty.

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  • Happy Birthday Tasha!!! The dress is beautiful – the perfect, flirty Birthday dress in fact! And the china you are holding made my heart skip a beat too…I hope you share more of that with us soon ;o)

    P.S. I think you look stunning with and without the glasses. The glasses certainly add to the vintage vibe, but I’m sure it’s nice for you to have the choice of ‘with or without’ when the mood take you!

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  • Happy Birthday! I love the dress and the fabric – looks great :D

    -Amy (www.thatssewamy.com)

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  • JOYEUX ANNIVERSAIRE!!!!

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  • Pretty! Happy Birthday!

    I honestly thought it was a Fleur dress when I saw it. :)

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  • Happy birthday! And what a lovely dress you’ve made to celebrate it, you look marvelous! :)

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  • Happy birthday, ma’am! I’ll always remember your birthday, since you share the date with my little brother :) I don’t blame you one bit if you wear that dress all summer – it looks great on you!

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  • happy birthday!! :) That dress is so cute, I like the fabric very much, and pattern looks so good!

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  • Happy birthday! What a great gift to yourself! This is such a great dress, I’m not surprised you want more of them. I also want to tell you that I just love all your photos – you really have a gift for setting up a photo shoot!

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  • Gorgeous dress – and about the glasses/contacts decision – it doesn’t hurt to have both options to interchange. Plus you have a very pretty face.

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  • I love me a wrap dress!! Great job Tasha! And as a glasses wearing gal, I feel ya on preferring them, I do too.

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  • Happy birthday! Love the dress :)

    My mom pretty much wore those or the skirt version all summer long when I was growing up. I am pretty sure I had a mini version as well.

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  • What an adorable dress! And you look great too, I love the way you styled your hair.

    Happy birthday! :)

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  • C.U.T.E. You look amazing-A burst of brightness on this grey day. I hope your birthday is swell! Also, I’m jealous of your weekend hiking plans. Which park are you headed to? I grew-up with Starved Rock in my backyard, and I never realized how much I took for granted being able to spend time there.

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  • Your dress came out so beautiful. I love the fabric choice, button, pockets, everything! And a very happy birthday to you my dear!

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  • That’s such a beautiful dress, and you look fabulous in it. No wonder yo are smitten. It looks wonderful with the bright green of the cardigan too. Have a fab birthday.
    xxx

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  • Happy Birthday! LOVE that dress! I can never seem to find my size in the fleur wrap dresses I want from heyday either. Always out of stock ;-( If only I knew how to make my own as you have done!

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  • Wow, that really is the perfect summer dress. And I love the pockets. And Happy Birthday!

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  • Happy Birthday! Cute dress!

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  • Happy Birthday, Darling!!! I ADORE this dress! I’m going to have to keep my eye for a vintage “swirl” dress pattern now. I think you’re right, the lack of collar and set in sleeves sounds absolutely perfect for summer. Though, with all the snow we still have in Vermont I can’t picture EVER seeing a summer again haha! I swear I’ve forgotten what it feels like to be warm. I need a new dress like this to lift my spirits :)

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  • Happy Birthday!

    I absolutely love your Swirl dress and your green cardi. Is that a self knit?

    HRF

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  • Happy Birthday. The dress is lovely – I am tempted to try one. Thank you for sharing.

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  • When you find a style you love, stick with – especially when it looks as flat out fantastic as this wonderful frock does on you. I’m smitten with this iteration (that fabric is so cheery and perfect for spring!) and think you look completely gorgeous, dear Tasha.

    Happiest birthday wishes, my friend! I truly hope you have a stellar, super fun, vintage filled year ahead.

    ♥ Jessica

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  • Happy Birthday! I made about five variations of that dress last year so I can totally understand the appeal. I have three real Swirls too, luckily found at thrift stores for a fraction what they normally go for.

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  • It’s perfect! I also have a “swirly” pattern that I have been dying to sew for ages. You’ve inspired me to hunt that thing down and whip up a few for summer. I have such a hard time with original swirls because of the small waist-big bust thing causes a huge gap in the back where the wrap is supposed to lay nice and flat so I think sewing my own “swirls” is the only way to go! :) Happy Birthday to you!! x ps. the hair is rockin’!

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  • Happy Birthday.

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  • I love the dress!! It looks great on you!
    What a great birthday present!
    Happy birthday!

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  • Soooo pretty! You could try putting a little pinch pleat in the top of those pockets to close ‘em up a little then accent them with buttons like the one on the back neckline maybe??

    Happy Birthday btw!!

    Px

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  • Happy Birthday Ms. Tasha! Hope you have a lovely b-day weekend with Mel.

    Your dress is lovely and I look forward to seeing you made a half-dozen for the summer months. :)

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  • Happy birthday! Hope you enjoyed it in your new dress. You look so spring-ish in it. I like you better with glasses, though, if you asked for opinions. :)

    Thanks for the link + discount for the swimsuits. Definitely worth a peak while waiting for the summer sun. It snowed here in Denmark today. Seriously! Snow in the middle of April? Any excuse to dream of sea, sand and summer very much appreciated ;)

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  • Happy birthday! Hope you enjoyed it in your new dress. You look so spring-ish in it. I like you better with glasses, though, if you asked for opinions. :)

    Thanks for the link + discount for the swimsuits. Definitely worth a peak while waiting for the summer sun. It snowed here in Denmark today. Seriously! Snow in april? Any excuse to dream of sea, sand and summer very much appreciated ;)

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  • Happy Birthday darling girl! Your dress is amazeballs and looks so comfy! I must get one soon! Love it on you! I hope your day with extra special! Muah! xox

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  • Happy birthday! I hope you get to go out and celebrate in your beautiful new dress!

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  • Happy Birthday! That dress is just too sweet. All you need is a straw hat and some nice weather so you can go traipsing through fields of wildflowers!

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  • Happy Birthday! Hope you have a good weekend..
    So pretty, I think you suit no glasses just as well :)

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  • this dress is fabulous!

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  • Happy birthday – I am an April baby too, mine was on the weekend :)
    I just love your dress and now feel compelled to make one (some). They seem so practical, like the equivalent of jeans these days. Fabulous :)

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  • OMG! SO cute! I was lucky enough to find two Swirl dresses last year for $15 each and have become a pretty enormous fan myself. I definitely have to get my hands on that pattern!

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  • Firstly a massive happy birthday! I hope you have a lovely day. And secondly, holy cuteness that is an adorable dress! Every time you sew something I want to fly over there and steal it from your wardrobe and this is no exception. Absolutely gorgeous!

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  • You look so beautiful !!!!! and with your cardigan it’s marvelous !!!!!

    sorry for my bad english

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  • Happy birthday! That’s a fab dress. *Has dress envy*

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  • Happy Birthday pretty lady!
    The dress is just daaaarling! <3

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  • Happy belated birthday!!! Lovely dress! Just adorable print, and the button is perfect for the fabric and the style. Totally see why you’d want a bunch of these! I’m looking forward to seeing the different variations you have in mind – I find it fascinating how one pattern can look so totally different with just a different fabric or a tiny designalteration =)

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  • I hope you had a lovely birthday, all best wishes!
    The dress is very beautiful! I love the cut. It is interesting to see how the definition of a wrap dress changed in half a century, if I think of a wrap dress I always think of one wrapped on the front.
    I am still in love with the reprinted Butterick wrap dress pattern (4790), after seing your version of a mid-century one I am even more tempted to buy it.

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  • happy birthday!!! i just popped in to see if you two(hi mel) went to viva this year we were talking about how we probably wouldnt so i thought to check in. it is my birthday too! First let me say i adore adore adore this dress!!!!! you did a fab job…swirl was my first vintage love and i bought as many as i could get my lil fingers on…but oh my word sooooooo expensive!!! you sew amazingly…& would wear this one every day if i could! so i will be glad to see all the ways you wear it! ;) any chance you would sew for hire????????????????? i would adore a wrap dress like this in my size hmmmm…think about it and name your price;) huggs Cat~The Vintage Housewife

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  • LOVE the dress — makes me wish I knew how to sew! Also, I thought I liked it by itself, but then I saw it with the green sweater — AMAZING!

    The sense of accomplishment of making your own dress, and the feeling you get when wearing it must be a wonderful birthday present!

    Happy Birthday!

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  • Oh Happy Birthday Tasha! The dress is amazing and paired with this cardigan is a must!! For the pockets, try to stitch small triangles at the top of the pockets it helps to stay in place, that is a trick I learn by sewing Laurel from Colette Patterns. Oh I love your tattoos too!!

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  • This dress is fab! I have a Fleur one from Heyday and it looks like this and is so comfy – love the pattern and pink is my new favourite colour for the wardrobe :)

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  • Happy Birthday!!!! I hope you had a wonderful day. Sometimes it’s the “easy” projects that are the most rewarding for me. The things that take the most work and technique often get worn the least. Obviously, this great piece will get miles and miles of happy wear. Great job!

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  • Happy birthday, Tasha! What a spectacular dress!! You look lovely in pink! And that green cardi?? Fabulous!!

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  • Happy Birthday Tasha!
    I have to say, I think I am in love with your dress too :) I even have the pattern I can use I keep eyeing up ;)
    Enjoy your trip!

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  • Happy birthday! And this is exquisite, absolutely lovely!

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  • So great! I love my Fleur HeyDay! dress. Hopefully one day you can get your hands on one! Happy Birthday!

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  • happy birthday from germany, too!!!
    you really look sooooooo nice (and not only in this dress!) :-)
    i hope you had a great day :-)
    nadine

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  • A very happy birthday to you! And what a beautiful dress to enjoy it in!

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  • Happy birthday!! The dress is fabulous…I love how it has more of a 40s feel!

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  • Happy belated birthday! You and the dress look beautiful! I think you look great both with and without glasses.

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  • Gorgeous dress, beautiful! And HAPPY BIRTHDAY! sorry I’m late xx

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  • I love the dress, so versatile! Gorgeous tattoo’s as well!

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  • I saw this on instagram and have only got around to coming over to have a proper look! It’s lovely, I do wish I could sew, I’m just far too lazy!

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  • This is so wonderful and now I want a Swirl dress even more than I did before. Happy birthday! Nice work.

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  • Happy Birthday Tasha!
    That’s a really lovely dress (its the spitting image of the Fleur dress, so cool).

    I can see your pin-curl maker in the background in the pink boxes – are you having much luck with them?

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    • Eagle eyes! :D I’ve only tried it once so far and was kind of all thumbs, but I am really kind of all thumbs with pin curls in general, so I need to give it another try.

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    • I dont know – you can knit, and that’s pretty co-ordinated!
      If it makes you feel better I can’t master it (or pin curls) either :P mine are in the back of the cupboard… lol…

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  • Great dress, I have been looking all over a wrap dress pattern with that top.

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  • I nominated you for The Liebster Award on my blog :) Hopefully you haven’t already got it, but if you have then yay :) http://www.thatssewamy.com/general/i-won-an-award/

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  • Happy belated, darlin’. You look absolutely gorgeous in that dress (and I love the green cardigan!!)
    xo

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  • The 10.april was the birthday of my son Max,too—>he becomes a Teenager :-)
    I hope You had a wonderful day- the dress is so really nice- the color is friendly and I would wear it too! Ines

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  • I love it! May I ask what size you would wear in normal off the rack clothing? I would love to make this as well, just trying to determine what size is best.

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    • Thanks! I really am not sure as I don’t buy much off-the-rack and brands all seem to do their own thing size-wise. But I’m about a 27″ waist/35″ bust currently.

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  • I am in love with this cardigan! What pattern did you use?

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  • […] year, I sewed a wrap dress for my birthday. Ironically it was the only dress I sewed last year and this year I’m a dressmaking machine. […]

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