Sweetheart cowgirl birthday dress

Happy birthday to meeeee!! In keeping with the tradition that I started for myself three years ago, I’ve sewn a dress for my birthday.

It’s my birthday cowgirl dress, featuring a Western novelty print and a sweetheart neckline, modeled in our Southwestern themed den!


The pattern is Butterick B5748, a reproduction of their vintage pattern from 1960:

Butterick B5748

I’ve had this pattern for ages but only got the impetus to sew it when I had a false start trying to muslin the By Hand London Kim bodice. I love that cute big, open sweetheart neckline and wide-set, narrow straps (Roisin always kills it in her versions, making my super envious). But none of that worked on my body, and with the type of bra I like to wear, and with it having princess seams both front and back that make moving straps inwards difficult. That’s a critical trifecta: if a casual day dress doesn’t work with my daily retro shaped bras (which are kind of like toned down bullet bras and typically have pretty beefy straps—Bali Flower and What Katie Did cone bra), I’m just not going to wear it. Kim was cute but required more modern round-boob bras (I have an ancient post discussing this topic), and those just aren’t for me.

Anyway, the other thing I liked about Kim was the scooped back, and then I suddenly remembered this retro Butterick pattern, which has it too. So I did a muslin for the Butterick pattern after Kim, lowered the neckline slightly, and raised the back neckline just a tad. I had a couple of tweaks to make but easy ones—lowering the bust darts, and fixing the shoulder seams. For some reason the shoulder seams were rolling forward (odd, as my shoulders roll forward so if anything, I expect seams to go backwards) and the straps were too long. Once that was settled I got to thinking… hey… I could totally make this into a sweetheart neckline!

In the below photo, the yellow stitching (where it’s clipped) is the original neckline (which remember, I’d lowered slightly to start). The purple is where I drew on it where the line of my bra was when I was wearing it, so I didn’t cut past that. And the orange stitching is the sweetheart neckline, which I copied from the Kim bodice, although next time I’d probably lower it a bit more than that, closer to where I made the purple asterisk. But I decided to play it safe at first.


I’m quite pleased with the sweetheart neckline I cooked up, and with covered bra straps to boot.  Not the diminutive straps of Kim, but quite lovely in its own right.


I trimmed the neckline with large rick rack just for fun (thanks, Mom, for the suggestion of turquoise instead of the green I showed on Instagram!). That’s no easy feat when you’re only doing it on the front bodice, so it ends in the shoulder seams (I did a center back zipper and didn’t want to fuss with the rick rack and zipper). But in the end it came out pretty perfect!

Sweetheart cowgirl birthday dress

Like the v-neck of the dress I made from Gertie’s book, I stabilized the front neckline well to prevent it from stretching out and to keep it hugging my body: staystitching to prevent stretching when handling, stabilizing with fusible stay tape since the fabric was pretty lightweight, and then easing stay tape a tiny bit shorter than the seam, into the seamline. Very very slow process, but totally worth it in the end.



As well as changing the front neckline, I raised the back just 3/4″, and I really love the way it fits. I already know I want to make more of this dress, since the straps stay put, aren’t too wide set, and the back neckline is so pretty!


(Yeah, I’m inside, outside and now inside again. My camera just wouldn’t cooperate outside! So I had to move indoors.)


And a look without the belt bunching things up on my back:


I matched the pattern across the back and I’m totally laughing that I didn’t move that white horse’s nose over a bit so it wasn’t on the seamline. Sorry horsey dude, your nose is on two sides of the zipper!


I only matched the print on the bodice, not on the skirt, which I subbed out from the pattern’s circle skirt because of the directional print. I wanted to try and get the fences placed nicely on the skirt. I couldn’t match them at the side seams (and there are actually three rectangular panels, an idea I got from a vintage pattern) but it’s so busy, you can’t tell. And I really like where the fences fall!


Like the vintage pee wee cowboy boots I’m wearing? I got married in them. 😉


Isn’t the fabric the best? It’s a print I got from on Etsy (here), and it’s Nick and Nora fabric, which makes me think somewhere there’s little kids sheets or pajamas made out of it. It’s definitely like a sheeting or lightweight cotton, which is a weight that I like to wear but just doesn’t hold a crisp press for long, which disappoints me a tad. It’s a lot better in person but I always find those cottons (like my Gertie dress and various other things I’ve made in Lecien Japanese cottons) never look quite pressed enough, especially in photos. It’s hard to explain… they press creases well, but then always look immediately kind of… unpressed. But like I said, a lovely weight to wear, and buttery soft.

Anyway, moving along, I think the only other thing I have to tell you about this dress is that something caught me off guard: I shortened the bodice for the muslin 1/2″, but was so busy paying attention to the shoulders and neckline that I forgot to see if it was hitting me in a good spot. It turns out the dress sits a full 1″ higher than my waist! Which also means the skirt hits above my knees. No matter—the waist can be solved with a wide belt (and easily fixed on future versions), and since this is a pretty warm-weather print, I don’t mind that it’s above my knees.


So that’s all she wrote about my cowgirl birthday dress! I’ve been having a lovely few days leading up to my birthday today, capping it off last night going out with friends to celebrate with tasty Italian food and cocktails. I plan to have a pretty relaxed day today, probably working on plans to organize my sewing and craft studio space in the basement (finally after four years in our house, sooo excited!), do some knitting, and have a lovely day at home. 39 feels fine! 😀

I’ll leave you with this outtake from my favorite photo bomber who jumped up on the sofa behind me at one point! 😉


I hope you all have a wonderful Sunday!

outfit details

dress – made by me
1940s pee wee cowboy boots – eBay (for our wedding)
turquoise bracelet – gift from Mel
earrings – Meteor Jewelry Co.

Filed: Sewing, Vintage Wardrobe

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