My birthday balloon dress (aka Sew for Victory wearable muslin)

Happy birthday to meeee!

It’s a pretty great day. Spring is finally here (omg, a few things are even blooming and the grass is slowly turning from brown back to green!). We’re taking a trip to Dublin at the end of the month and I just can’t wait. I have a fabulous gift from Mel waiting for me to open later (yes, I already know what it is). And I love birthdays!

Last 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. But I liked the idea of having a tradition of sewing myself a dress specifically for my birthday, so hey, as of the second year in a row, it’s now a tradition!

Birthday balloon dress

This dress is actually a wearable muslin of my Sew for Victory dress, using McCall 6116, a pattern from 1945. It’s a seriously worn and tattered envelope, but a very cute dress! A scoop neck and shirtwaist bodice, back waist ties, two sleeve options, patch pockets and a faux placket down the front of the skirt.

McCall 6116 pattern (1945)

I knew going into it that I might want to make some changes to the final pattern, but not enough that I could be bothered to do a real muslin. (Cheeky, I know.) I changed the sleeves for the first version because we’ve already established that I much, much prefer kimono sleeves on dresses. (And yes I’ve been asked so many times, I will have to address a tutorial on drafting this change, hopefully in late spring/early summer!)

Birthday balloon dress

I kept the neckline and shirtwaist front (although I omitted the buttonholes because they’re inoperable anyway, so why fuss with them?). But I ditched the slightly dropped waist because I just don’t like them, and ditched the waist ties at the back while I was at it, because that limits the wearability to seasons I’m not wearing a cardigan. A lump above your butt, under a sweater? No thanks.

Birthday balloon dress

I must admit I winged the skirt a bit and it didn’t quite work out like I expected. I knew I wanted to omit the faux placket on the front, because when I looked at the instructions carefully, I realized it wasn’t sewn down. It literally was like a 1″ flap that was only tacked at the waist and hem. I could have worked out another way to do it, but I wasn’t crazy about it to begin with so at that point I just left it out.

When I was comparing pattern pieces I don’t know why I didn’t just use the skirt from Simplicity 1523 (like my Singin’ in the Rain dress), which (like this pattern) is gathered at each side, above the pocket. So instead, somehow my skirt pieces ended up too wide to gather the excess at each side, so I had to gather it around. It was definitely one of those “why am I making this way more complicated than necessary?!” sewing moments.

Birthday balloon dress

When all was said and done, I must admit: I was kind of meh about this dress, although I’ve since changed my mind. It came out a little big, which wouldn’t have bothered me that much as a little more breathing room for summer is always nice. But somehow that combined with the fact that I thought the bodice was a little short, so I felt like I was wearing a 90s baby doll dress. Insert look of horror here because, for the record, 90s revival will never be happening with me. (Also for the record, that “Is the bodice too short? Is it just right? I can’t decide!” issue has been dogging me this year but I’ve finally sorted that out once and for all and confirmed that my dresses are fine, I really am just that short-waisted.)

However, even though I was a little disappointed with it right off the bat, I’ve already worn it a handful of times and once I saw myself in it with makeup and shoes and my hair done and such, I kicked the baby doll worries to the curb for good.

(Oh by the way, I did line up the print on the bodice front, though I think it looks a little more accurate in person.)

Birthday balloon dress

The fabric is organic cotton from Cloud9 that I purchased from Hawthorne Threads. It featured the red balloon from the timeless children’s book Goodnight Moon. I love how, from a distance, it looks like big polka dots, but up close… surprise! Balloons.

So how could a dress with balloons on it not be perfect for a birthday??

Birthday balloon dress

I clearly had big red balloon-like-objects on my mind, as I accessorized with a 1940s plastic cherries necklace, and a vintage bracelet with big marbled beads paired with two Bakelite bangles.

1940s cherries necklace

bangles

I also tried out a pageboy hairstyle. Not my favorite, but it’s fun!

Birthday balloon dress

Overall I’m still quite pleased with this dress, and took away a couple of changes to make on my final Sew for Victory dress, which is a cute and summery yellow polka dot. (And is already complete, so I’ll share it later in the month.)

In a society where women are generally made to feel like the inevitable process that is aging is a BAD thing, I’m happy to be in my late 30s and still learning about life, love and happiness. And to anyone worrying about age-appropriate dressing? Give me a break! I’ll personally wear what I want and have a damn fun time doing so.

Red balloons for my birthday and all! 😉

Birthday balloon dress

outfit details

1940s dress: made by me
Bakelite earrings, bangles: misc.
1940s cherries necklace: Urban Recycle
shoes: Swedish Hasbeen Fredericas

Filed: Sew-alongs, Sewing, Vintage Wardrobe

Tagged: , , , , , ,

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Golly, 46 Comments!

  • Happy B-day! You look fab 😉

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  • Happy Birthday! And what a great dress to celebrate with! I, too agree that aging isn’t so bad, lol. When I turned thirty I decided that from then on I was going to wear what I liked and forget everyone else. I’m 33, so only a couple years into it, but am loving wearing what I like instead of what I think others will like. Part of the fun of growing older is not caring whether or not you’re “stylish”, and I think it’s also part of growing older gracefully, because everyone would be better off wearing what flatters them and what they feel good wearing instead of trying to copy the younger crowd. I like to think I’m aging my own way and that’s the only way I can. Besides who really wants to be sixteen or even twenty again? Not me! Everything about my life is WAY better now.
    Sarah

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  • Happy Birthday. Such a lovely dress, anything from Good Night Moon is fabulous. As far as aging goes, enjoy every year, we need to find joy in everything. I’m in my early 60s and couldn’t be happier.

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  • Adorable dress! Happy Birthday!!

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  • Happy birthday!! Hope it’s a great one!

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  • It looks like a perfect little day dress, especially with those pockets. I actually like the way it has some ease rather than fitting too close to the skin. I think a little bit of ease usually makes a dress look more attractive. Anyway, enjoy! I wish I had your sewing skills.

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  • HAPPY BIRTHDAY! As always, you look amazing and I love your projects…such cute fabric choices, too! Thank you for explaining all the modifications you made with the pattern…this is helpful in learning what you did with the piece and how it contributed to the overall look…I really appreciate how your methodology makes vintage patterns so wearable for everyday use! : ) I’ve gotta try this pattern, now!

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  • Oh my gosh, sooo cute! I love the balloon print- definitely perfect for a birthday! I did totally think it was polka dots at first, but when you get closer, it’s such a wonderful surprise! You did a great job making it! I wish I was such a great seamstress! And Happy Birthday! 🙂
    -Melissa

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  • Happy Birthday! All the nicest people have April birthdays, mine is tomorrow! The dress is lovely, I really wanted to make myself a birthday dress, but no time, so I’ll be wearing my green Emery dress tomorrow instead.

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  • Such clever changes to the dress! I think your modifications make for a much more flattering dress. And I’m hitting the big 4-0 this year and while I can’t quite comprehend how fast that happened, I’m feeling mostly pretty good about it. I know so many people who have hit that milestone already and they are such inspirations to me, so I feel like I’ll be in good company.

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  • Aw happy Birthday Tasha! Hope you have a wonderful day in your beautiful dress. With balloons! I’m totally with you on the age thing, I loved my thirties and I’m loving my forties, bring it on! x
    ps. Nice shoes (again!) x

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  • Happy Birthday Tasha!

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  • I hope you have a wonderful birthday!

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  • Whoop! Happy Birthday!! 🙂 Perfect dress for a birthday party!
    I live in Dublin so let me know if you’re looking for any tips or info for your trip (I’m @ladystitchersue on Twitter).

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  • Happy Birthday! Love how the balloons look like polka dots, but then up close it’s a fun surprise. Also I don’t get a 90s vibe at all from this dress, so no worries there. 🙂

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  • Happy Birthday! And your dress (muslin) is great. I love the change to the sleeve and can’t wait to see how it is done! Adorable fabric and you certainly know how to accessorize for maximum style.

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  • Happy Birthday! 😀 I love this dress. It’s a subtle novelty print and so cute!

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  • Happy Birthday Tasha! 🙂 So excited for you to be going on your trip to Dublin soon.

    Another winning combo of dress and accessories. You’re coming out with them so fast, I can’t get over it. Cheers! And Yay for Spring!

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  • HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Your birthday dress is wonderful! I like the changes you made to the skirt. You can tell that you really feel fabulous in this style dress. It shows. I completely agree that we should all wear what makes us feel gorgeous and happy. Age is a number. Personally, I feel better about myself and know myself better every year, so I don’t mind growing older. Have a wonderful time in DUBLIN!!!

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  • I think the dress is just right. You’re like me, short waisted and sometimes when looking at the pattern/dress, when it’s not on, can be deceiving. Hope your birthday is wonderful!

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  • Happy Birthday!

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  • Happy Happy Birthday!!!

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  • So, so cute! Those balloons are adorable and just the thing for a birthday dress. Wishing you many happy returns!

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  • this dress is TOO DAMN CUTEEEEE! and so are you! happy b-day honey 🙂 I’m loving the new haircut on you!

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  • Happy Birthday! This dress looks wonderful. I can sympathise with the short waist. I am still working mine out

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  • Deborah Garretty April 10, 2014 at 11:45pm

    Happy Birthday! Fabulous dress, love it. Hope you enjoy Dublin (I know you will).

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  • Omgoodness! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! and a huge thank you for sharing your life and all your beautiful makes with us over the years! I love your blog! Thank you for always looking fab and inspiring me in so many ways! Cheers to you!!

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  • Happy birthday! I love your tradition of making a dress for your birthday each year – it’s actually something I’m doing myself this year, so I hope it becomes a tradition for me, too 🙂

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  • Happy Birthday! Totally in love with all your fabric choices! The pattern looks great.

    I may have to steal your ‘dress for your birthday’ tradition!

    Lx

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  • I love the pattern and the dress looks so gorgeous! Such beautiful fabric and I adore the button up front! It’s such a lovely tradition to make a dress for your birthday. XxxX

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  • Happy Birthday! The dress looks great! And the print is really cute too. Last year I made a special dress for myself for my birthday as well. I’m thinking of doing it again this year, so hooray for traditions. 🙂 The dress I made ended up being a wearable muslin as well because I didn’t want to risk my “good” fabric with a pattern I had never used before. As it turned out I didn’t need to make any major adjustments so the next time I use the pattern I should be good to go! Now I just have to decide do I use that same pattern for my birthday dress this year or a different one? 😉
    -Emily

    Emily’s Vintage Visions

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  • You are positively glowing. Happy bird-day, as we stupidly say in our family!

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  • Tasha, this is the perfect celebratory dress! I absolutely love it, but then again, when do I not love your creations? I particularly admire how you always seem to have beautifully painted nails and gorgeous accessories to boot!

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  • Happy Birthday! This is a sweet present for yourself 🙂

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  • Unendingly happy birthday wishes to one of the loveliest, most talented, wonderful, and perpetually inspiring ladies I’ve ever had the great pleasure of knowing!

    ♥ Jessica

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  • Happy birthday!! I love your birthday dress & a birthday dress tradition is a great idea! One of the best things about getting older I think is getting more comfortable in yourself – wear what makes you happy!

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  • Goodnight Moon is my favourite book! I can recite it off the top of my head hehe. So it is very cute seeing the balloon on your dress.

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  • This dress is the cutest! Also love the matching necklace and bracelet 🙂

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  • I can totally relate to the question if whether the bodice is truly at my natural waist or too short or if I indeed just have a short torso. Hmph! But if it’s any consolation I didn’t think baby doll when I saw this. Also, I thought late thirties were supposed to be the time when people STOP giving you shit about the way you dress? Also the hairdo looks really cute!

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  • Happy birthday! I loved reading about your adventures creating this dress and especially felt uplifted by your sentiments in the last paragraph. One of the best things I’ve done for myself as I’ve got older is to find blogs like yours, it’s so inspiring to see others dressing and living creatively.

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  • Happy Birthday. Wonderful dress, I think it looks lovely.

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  • I know I already told you a million times via text, but next year when you mention you’re sewing yourself a birthday dress and then I realize I almost forgot your birthday like the good friend that I am, and I look back on this post and wonder if I commented to say happy birthday or not I need the answer to be yes I did ;P

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DARLING!!!!!! Gorgeous dress, as always.
    <3

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  • […] couple of weeks ago you got to see my Sew for Victory wearable muslin, and today I’m sharing my finished dress. Now, this is nowhere near as complicated of a […]

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  • Happy (belated) birthday! Always love reading your blog, and even better to hear that you’re coming to Dublin. It’s a gorgeous city, especially right now. The parks are just becoming colourful again, and we’re not completely flooded out of it with summer camp kids from Italy and Spain so you can take your time exploring everything!

    Cafe recommendation: Queen of Tarts, in Temple Bar. It’s lovely.

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  • […] birthday dress. “Mini tradition” as I’ve done it twice before: last year’s balloon dress and the previous year’s vintage wrap dress. And I kind of liked the idea of keeping it up as […]

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