(Belated) birthday sarong dress

Happy belated birthday to me!

My birthday was actually last Wednesday, but my site had gremlins that had to get fixed, and then I was busy preparing for a trip (more on that below), and so you’re only getting the post I planned for my birthday now. Better late than never. 🙂

As I’ve done every year for several years, I sewed myself a birthday dress!

It’s a tradition I’ve enjoyed keeping up (last year’s was one of my favorites!), even when sometimes the timing isn’t always the best. This year, we’re preparing to go to Viva Las Vegas for the first time in 8 or 9 years, and I’ve been sewing up a storm. Not because I have to, and not because I always sew a lot of things for trips. I actually don’t tend to. It’s really for past Tasha.

Past Tasha used to dream about being able to be the person who sewed her own vintage wardrobe, so when past Tasha last went to Viva many years ago she sewed one thing I think, and wished her skills were such that someday she could make more and/or impressive items.

And now, current Tasha can do all that! So current Tasha has been sewing furiously to show past Tasha that she really did learn all those skills and can essentially sew whatever her heart desires. My wardrobe at Viva will be kind of like a present to my past self!

So where were we? Right, my birthday dress.

Truth be told, I ran out of time to sew the birthday dress I’d been envisioning for awhile, and since it wasn’t an item I was planning to take to Viva, it got ditched. Down to the wire last week I had one last dress to sew for the trip, so I decided, “Guess what, you’ll be my birthday dress.” Ha!

It was a long story as to how I arrived at this fabric and this dress, but I’ll try for the shorter version: I was trying to think of one more dress in my closet or one that I could sew that would coordinate nicely with Mel one evening. For some reason, I then remembered a piece of tropical fabric buried deep in a fabric bin. I bought it several years ago—probably around the last time we went to Viva!—after the recommendation of my friend Moe who also blogged at the time and who was the first friend I knew who sewed vintage clothes for herself. (A fact I learned at our first Viva. Love how many full circle stories there are here!) I ordered the same fabric and when it arrived, didn’t know what to do with it, and while it had been described as cotton it was definitely rayon, and that scared the crap out of me at the time. Stuffed into a bin it went, never to see the light of day for years.

Fast forward to me randomly thinking about it, finding it, pulling it out, and realizing it was quite a bit more gorgeous than I remembered! The print was really a dead ringer for vintage rayon. Plus, the bright orange in it matched a Hawaiian shirt of Mel’s, and so that clinched it. I had to do a dress.

I knew I’d do a sarong skirt… I mean the fabric just kind of demands it right?!

But I waffled on the bodice. What I really wanted to recreate was the bodice of a vintage sarong dress I’d seen on Pinterest, which was less typical than most of the bodices on the vintage or reproduction ones you see.

Source: old Etsy listing via Pinterest

That one is a princess seam bodice, and while I have a great-fitting princess seam bodice (that got used twice for Viva outfits in fact) it’s a strapless and the princess seam line comes up too close to where the strap would be and a) I thought it would look weird and b) I didn’t know how to change that easily to curve it closer to the armpit. So I started off with the bodice of a vintage Vogue reproduction, V8974. My plan was to do the bodice without buttons at the straps, straighten out the back bodice line and make the straps just go straight down in the back and not cross. Seemed easy enough.

Holy hell. 4 muslins later and I still wasn’t satisfied and thought it didn’t look very good on me. It really felt like it was squishing my chest despite having enough room… I don’t think French darts and no waist darts are for me. I could have fussed and rotated the dart into bust and waist darts, but instead I modified the neckline of another strapless bodice with bust and waist darts already (a pattern I’d muslined and tweaked last summer but never turned into anything), vintage Butterick 6956. Much better!

In the end the bodice is just how I wanted it, though not without minor issues. The area above the armpit I never could get perfectly smooth against my body even with a little eased in stay tape, and due to the slipperiness of the rayon sometimes the bust darts slide around a bit and cause a little bunching underneath. But it’s a busy print and it’s really hard to tell any of that and I love the dress and I don’t much care!

So if those are my biggest complaints for this dress that’s fine! Because…

LOOK AT THAT PATTERN MATCHING.

Did you even notice there was a center front seam until this closeup? And I love the placement of the print across the bodice as well. You can bet I spent a looooong time hashing that out!

I practically broke my Instagram stories feed when I showed that back zipper! Boy people really like a good pattern matched seam! In the back it’s matched across the bodice, and then across the back skirt pieces. It’s probably what I’m most proud of with this dress. Perfectly matched in slippery rayon with a lapped zipper. Someone pop the champagne cork!

I could not be more pleased at how the center front and center back seams came out, or how I placed the print, too. No palm trees in questionable locations like my crotch, right under my butt, or my boobs. And a perfect print matched up across the bodice front, bodice back, and back skirt.

I had two people tell me I was the queen of pattern matching and you know what, I will gladly wear that crown! 😉

The skirt is from the reprint of Simplicity 1168 from Lady Marlowe. It’s a wrap dress with a sarong skirt, so I used the skirt without it tying to the bodice.

I did a muslin but didn’t modify it except to shorten it (only 3 1/2″ shorter, which is surprisingly not much for me since I’m 5’2″). The way I cut it meant cutting down a couple of inches from the width of the flouncy bit at the left hip which I thought I’d like, but I think wasn’t the best idea in the end since every time I look at it, it’s not laying the correct way. So I may take a few stitches at the very top to keep it folded right, although not sure that’ll work. I may just need to be on flounce patrol when I wear it. This photo below was about the only one where it was hanging right, ha ha.

One feature I liked about the skirt pattern, versus a reprint of a Polynesian Patterns sarong dress by Eva Dress I did a muslin of first and which was awful (ugh let’s not even speak of it), is that there’s a facing on the entire length of the front right skirt, all the way to the hem where it meets the right back skirt. The Polynesian reprint only had a facing for part of the way down and then at the part that’s the curviest (i.e. the most difficult place to ease a 2″ hem), it stopped and you had to just fold up the rest of the hem to the side seam. Nope!

I fully lined the bodice, and boned both the back darts and the side seams. It helps keep things up but honestly rayon is so slippery, even with a cotton lawn lining, it still slips around a bit. But not a big deal.

If you look veeeery carefully at the photo above you can see my straps are safety pinned in the back. I’m always nervous about getting the length right so I wanted to actually wear it without committing first. You’ll also see this pattern has an interesting double bust dart.

Overall, this is a winner of a birthday dress in my book. After the failed first sarong skirt muslin, I’m thrilled with the fit of this sarong skirt, and love the whole dress. So glad my vision for it worked out! I’ll leave you with a couple more photos because I can’t help it!

It’s not warm enough in Chicago to wear a sarong dress right now of course, but I’ll be wearing it one of the evenings at Viva Las Vegas this weekend!

Past Tasha would be floored to know she’d be able to make this in the future. Happy (belated) birthday indeed. 🙂

Filed: Sewing, Vintage Wardrobe

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Golly, 16 Comments!

  • You always get such a perfect fit! I’m always scared to start fitted projects because I know it’s my weak point (which is a problem given everything was fitted in the 50s). Any tips? Is it mainly just take the time and make as many muslins as it takes?

    Reply

    • Thank you! I would say my biggest tip really is making muslins. It has helped me so much over the years come to understand how I want things to fit, mark up trouble spots, re-do, etc. Even figuring out if you’re picking the right size to sew. You’ll also come to start learning what tweaks you might normally need. Like I know I almost always need to shorten the bodice length, so most times I go ahead and do that to a pattern even before I do a muslin, so I’m more likely to have a better fit right off the bat. It does get better over time I promise. 🙂

      Reply

  • OMG THIS MAKES ME SO HAPPY! I even wish I was going to Viva so I could see you guys and this dress in person. And I LOVE the full-circleness of it all. It means so much that I had some tiny part in inspiring you to sew your own vintage because you inspire the hell out of me all the time now! Have a blast at Viva and I can’t wait to see the pics and stories.

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  • I am sure you know from my constant comments on your posts but I find you so inspiring. Everything you said about past Tasha and now describes perfectly how I feel about making my own clothes. I am completely new to sewing and now I am more motivated than ever to keep trying. Thank you so much for sharing your life with us, and you look stunning.

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  • Sew perfect! It is a fabulous print, a great combination of patterns and I hope to see a pic with Mel in her coordinating shirt ;o) Happy Birthday and happy VLV!

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  • Charlotte Newland April 18, 2019 at 4:14am

    this is beyond epic!!!

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  • this is just the best. i love the whole dress and am so impressed with your ability to finish dresses that look so dang good!

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  • Oh wow! It came out incredible! I love the colors of the fabric you’ve chosen!

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  • I love that you take the time and effort to share your projects with us. Thank you! This dress is so fun and skillfully put together.

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  • Just Stunning!!!

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  • It’s simply gorgeous. Such an achievement!

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  • Happy belated Birthday!!! And this may be my favorite of your birthday dresses!! Seriously, it is downright perfect! And I am blown away by the job you did!

    xoxo
    -Janey

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  • Lynne Johnson April 21, 2019 at 10:23am

    You have a fabulous fit and superb pattern matching that ended up creating a wonderful birthday dress! I have a personal question and hope it doesn’t overstep. Could you share what bra you are wearing? It provides a perfect shape underneath the bodice. I’m looking forward to seeing your newly sewn garments in future posts.
    By the way I was thrift shopping lately and found a box of new patterns from the early ’50’s. Most of them happened to be in my size. I was so thrilled and bought a bunch for $3.00 each. Sewing a lot is in my future!

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  • Oh my goodness, you are indeed the queen of patten matching! I didn’t see the centre front seam until you pointed it out! This dress is all kinds of amazing, the fit on the bodice is perfect, the pattern matching, the zip – it’s awesome, and looks fabulous on you. Happy wearing!!!

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  • I love this dress! And your hair, I am very jealous!

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  • Man, this thing is utter couture. So happy to get a new post. I finally read through your whole blog and I have been in withdrawal. 😀

    Reply

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