DIY Birthday Dress + Furry Bonus

ADA SPRAGG // DIY Birthday Dress - Burdastyle Gathered DressJust so you know, you’re in the presence of a ‘big deal’ dress here. Possibly even bigger deal than my actual birthday and being a Leo and all, that’s kind of a big deal. But I’m a chivalrous beast at heart, so I will step aside and let the dress sing…’It’s my partyyyy, I’ll DIY if I wannnnt tooo’. I’m sorry, it has terrible taste in music. Grab your maracas…this here is my first official hand-made birthday outfit in the history of ever! Momentous on it’s own, but  now I feel I’ve arrived at some kind of winners circle where the seasoned Birthday Dress Makers reside…

ADA SPRAGG // DIY Birthday Dress - Burdastyle Gathered DressWhich is cause for celebration! I mean Birthday outfits are a pretty important business. And maybe I chose the wrong outfit, maybe it was a bad astro crossing but last year I had a definite case of the birthday blues and if you’ve ever felt sub-par on your birthday, you’d know that it is truly suckfull. So this birthday, 28 by the way, was gonna be fabulous! It HAD to be fabulous! For a few years now I’ve been observing this really lovely tradition amongst the sewing community of DIY-ing your own birthday outfit. And each year I’ve toyed with the idea and each time gone the ready-to-wear option. Unlike sewing a swimsuit or jeans or lingerie, making a birthday-worthy outfit is a sewing milestone I didn’t even know I had. But when you voluntarily choose a hand-made option over something store-bought for your big day, it’s a big f$%*ing fabulous deal!

ADA SPRAGG // DIY Birthday Dress - Burdastyle Gathered DressLike all good birthday frocks, this one has a story. A tale of sewing triumph! But first, the deets. The fabric: a swimsuit lycra by one of my fav Aussie swimwear / fashion labels Zimmerman, and pretty much the only way I now have a piece of ‘Zimmerman’ hanging in my closet. The Fabric Store ended up with a few end-of-rolls of their swimwear fabric this year and I picked up a couple of special pieces, as you do when you unearth a trove of amazing lycra knits, but got slightly more of this one, with no particular plans in mind. Update: This fabric can also be found online at Tessuti right here! The pattern: Burdastyle Gathered Dress. Aka, my favourite broad-shouldered girl’s neckline and pencil silhouette in one pattern. With the addition of just a few harmless gathers, not so different from a Bombshell, right? RIGHT?!
ADA SPRAGG // DIY Birthday Dress - Burdastyle Gathered DressADA SPRAGG // DIY Birthday Dress - Burdastyle Gathered DressErrmm, not quite. This is probably the part where I tell you that this is actually my second attempt at this pattern. It may have something to do with the 60 pattern pieces you need to tape together. Wait, did you say SIXTY?!!!!! The first time I printed it out,  over a year ago, I thought I must have made some mistake and printed it twice. Nuh-uhhh girlfraand, those sixty pages are all very much meant to be there and they’re waiting for you with your kinder scissors, sticky tape and sad face. And it may have had something to do with the 15 pattern pieces (that’s before you cut two of most), within those 60 pages, half of which are for the main fabric and half of which are for the lining. I’m sorry, did you say LINING?! Isn’t this a knit dress?! I didn’t sign up for lining. Next you’ll probably tell me it has DARTS! Oh, I see, it has darts. And it may also have something to do with the picture-less instructions, which is standard for Burdastyle, but all of which meant that last year I got as far as taping the 60 pages together. As for the “”instructions””, I could not even begin to get my head around WHY there were two layers of fabric, let alone how they merged together into one dress and what was all this talk of draping?! I actually wondered if maybe the pattern included two separate dresses and one of them was the one I was supposed to make. All in all, a total head you-know-what. So I did the thing that annoyed me almost as much as the pattern itself: I gave up. And donated the 60 pages, to Archie’s paper aeroplane factory.

ADA SPRAGG // DIY Birthday Dress - Burdastyle Gathered DressSo, if you’re wondering what was so different the second time around, this is the truly exciting part. A year on, and obviously in a different sewing head space altogether, the thing that got me started again and past the taping stage was this glorious vision of that pattern with this fabric. I could not let it go to the point that I was just like ‘NO! This is going to work DAMMIT!’. Between this dress and these pants it has felt like a huge sewing confidence boosting month. Call it determination, stubbornness, whatever; a pain in the ass in everyone else but an absolute asset in the sewing room. And just personally, I think that sewists makes for better lovers: when you’ve just conquered a pattern the size of the Serengeti and ended up with a svelte hand-made birthday dress, you don’t need someone else to tell you how great you are. You KNOW how great you are! You just became your own hero. Which sounds lame as I type it now but pretty sure it’s healthy. Sewing = life skills!

ADA SPRAGG // DIY Birthday Dress - Burdastyle Gathered DressDramatics aside, the instructions were o.k. and the construction was complicated but interesting. I eventually figured out that you have two dresses worth of fabric for a reason. The whole dress is made up of triangular pieces, which are gathered in different sections. Every gathered outside piece has a corresponding lining piece and the job of the lining layer is to sit flat against your skin (hence the darts, though I’m still not convinced they were necessary) and act as a base for the draping outside layer. So before you sew the triangles together into something resembling a dress, first you have to gather every individual outside piece to a particular length, which would then match perfectly in size with it’s lining piece, and you sew them together. Each little bit that worked out gave me confidence to move onto the next section!

ADA SPRAGG // DIY Birthday Dress - Burdastyle Gathered DressThis is the first time I’ve made what Burdastyle categorize as a ‘tall’ pattern. Just looked it up and all it means is it’s drafted for a height of 176cm (69 1/4″) and up. I’m about 174cm, so it’s a pretty good length but could easily be shortened too. I cut a size 76, then deviated a little from the rules after that. The pattern requires you to add seam allowances but after comparing the width of the pieces to the width of my finished Nettie bodysuits (awaiting blogging) I made a judgement call and decided to only add seam allowances to the top and bottom edges of the pieces, therefore adding height but not width. A gamble that totally paid off…the fit is so good its not funny.  ADA SPRAGG // DIY Birthday Dress - Burdastyle Gathered Dress ADA SPRAGG // DIY Birthday Dress - Burdastyle Gathered DressTechnically this dress is also a swimsuit! I used swimsuit lining for the inside layer as it was really the thinnest fabric I could think of that would still make this dress wearable in Queensland spring / summers. I really like the original winter version on the pattern cover and was going to keep the long sleeves, until I realised it’s wearability would be reduced to about 2 months of the year. Instead I traced these little half-cap sleeves of a favourite t-shirt of mine and just love them! I think as miniscule as they are, they create more width at the shoulders which adds more to the illusion of curves. One thing to note, is the original sleeves on the pattern, are extra long, about 20cm, and they’re also kind of poofy at the top, which you may like but I was not in love with. If I was going to make a long sleeve version I’d be pinching the sleeves of the Nettie bodysuit or similar. I was really impressed that the pattern included a facing for the back neckline. Well, you had to draft it yourself, but it was just a rectangle, folded into a smaller tube and sewn in. It made the whole area super neat and pretty and possibly more so after I got to COVERSTITCH it in place, thanks to the  lovely Lizzy lending me her baby for the weekend. Oh and while we’re checking out the insides, help yourself to a laugh at my one-up one-down darts. You’re welcome!

ADA SPRAGG // DIY Birthday Dress - Burdastyle Gathered DressAs you can see, things were going pretty swell. And then the Birthday Cat arrived…

ADA SPRAGG // DIY Birthday Dress - Burdastyle Gathered DressAnd I was all like ‘awwww’. And he was like ‘should have taken a left back at the park’.

ADA SPRAGG // DIY Birthday Dress - Burdastyle Gathered DressStill we bonded real good and at the risk of being banished from the entire sewing blogging community forever more…I’m not even a cat person! More a chicken person. Not sure what that says about me. But the rules say if the Birthday Cat comes to visit, you will get three birthday wishes. But first you must rub his belly! And because I can’t tell you what they are, I will just say that one of them sounds like Maybe Sock…

So how about you: would you consider sewing / have you ever sewn yourself a special outfit?

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  • Kellywrote:

    OH MY GOD you look so gorgeous in this!! I am in awe of your perseverance, I have yet to decipher a Burda pattern. A completely fantastic birthday dress. Happy happy birthday pretty lady!!

  • Janewrote:

    Wowsers you look smokin! Fabulous dress

  • Nillawrote:

    WOW! I have pretty much made all my special dresses myself since the age of fifteen, but they sure don’t compare to yours! 😀

  • Gemmawrote:

    Beautiful! A stunning birthday dress. I think I might start sewing something for my birthday too- it sounds fun. Sewing is such a confidence booster isn’t it? I love it.

  • Joannewrote:

    You look gorgeous in it – what a clever idea to use swimsuit fabric. I bet you start a trend! Happy Birthday too

  • Laylawrote:

    That is awesome! I made that dress once for a friend and I remember a lot of swearing and ripping out. Luckily I used the magazine so no taping together only tracing which is bad enough.
    Totally worth it though, you look fab.

  • Deborahwrote:

    Wow – what a fantastic dress. Well done for coming back to it and making it look so spectacular. I wonder if I should start on a birthday dress for myself?

  • Nickiwrote:


  • Bec Stitcheswrote:

    Gorgeous dress lady:) Eep I’m also 28 in like 2 weeks and freaking out zone is kicking in lol. Maybe I should try make myself something fabulous to feel better..
    Also sock for ur bday wish?

  • Blogless Annawrote:

    Stunning! And a birthday dress is a big deal! Enjoy your dress & all the celebrations.

  • Yzowrote:

    Happy birthday! Leo’s are the best – I should know cos I am one ;). Love the swimsuit dress! Perfect for jumping in the fountain at your birthday party.

  • Laura Bwrote:

    Um, that is amazing!!!!! I am jealous you had the patience! (Something I lack….) fantastic!

  • Marionwrote:

    What an amazing feat…just reading your struggles makes me want to award you aPhD in perseverance! I just love the way the chosen fabric flatters the curvy curves. A fitting end for a monstrous effort – this strikingly beautiful dress.. I must say the ‘furry bonus’ is not what I expected …I’m glad it turned out to be a cat 🙂

  • Karinwrote:

    Sophie, you look amazing in this dress. Love these colours on you, gorgeous! And a very happy birthday of course. I hope all of your wishes will come true!

  • Amandawrote:

    Oh wow! This is such a lovely spring birthday frock! (I know it’s winter but let’s call it spring already!) Zimmerman has such relish fabrics and this is a great fabric/pattern match!

  • Bellawrote:

    Maybe sock…. Baby Lock??? Gorgeous dress, you look fab! I would have never thought to use swimwear lycra but it totally works!

  • poppykettlewrote:

    I think this needs to be named “The James Bond Dress”. Because it’s incredibly stylish and suitable for either cocktail parties or just generally looking utterly fabulous… and because it clearly has hidden super powers. Like doubling as a swimsuit. And that Fabric? ohmygawdithinkiloveyou. Zimmermann fabric… be still my beating heart. Many, many happy birthday returns to you, my dear Sophie!

  • Marionwrote:

    I hope you will be giving out more hints than ‘Maybe Sock’ – I will not sleep till I’ve cracked the code. Lol

  • Natalie from Sewoutnumberedwrote:

    oh my… best dress evaaaahhhhh!!!! Your patience is admirable…not sure I have it in me?!

  • Carolinewrote:

    Bloody brilliant! What a babe x
    Happy birthday too!

  • Debbie Ileswrote:

    Absolutely stunning! And a big happy birthday too you too. That dress is just made for parties. Pool parties even 😉

  • Naomiwrote:

    Girl, you have got the best taste in fabric! This looks great and I love your photos – the kitty looks like a real princess.

  • Alicewrote:

    Gorgeous! At first I was like “I’m going to make that dress!” and then the more I read the more I decided that I probably am not going to. But it is stunning on you!

  • lisa gwrote:

    wowza! you look amazing! swimsuit fabric? whoah. never would have thought. but if you accidentally fall into a pool while celebratng you’ll still be good to go… love it. happy birthday!

  • Heather Louwrote:

    This is the best. I love it soooo much! I would never conisder making a bathing suit dress but it’s kind of inspired – the fabric is kinda of scuba-ish and you get to work with such fun prints! So happy you figured this beast out and HAPPY BIRTHDAY DARLING!!!

  • jessicawrote:

    28 looks great on you, and your birthday dress is fabulous! I definitely need a special sewing project for my next birthday. Hope yours is absolutely wonderful!

  • Gillianwrote:

    Hot damn – that is the sexist bathinsuit dress ever! You look fab in it. Well done, persevering through it! (Oh, and a word of warning: Colette PDFs are regularly 60 or more pages, so watch out for them if you don’t like assembly!) Happy birthday!!!

  • salliewrote:

    Whoa Whoa Whoa!!! *Fans herself* Someone call the fire department cuz things just got HOT in here!!
    I LOOOVEEE this! This is such a fabulous silhouette for you, and I love that you used swim lycra! The construction process sounds like a bit of a beast. I often find myself yearning for more complicated patterns, but then I hear about something like this and I’m just like… Nah! Sack dresses it is! Haha! But the outcome? So worth it! Glad you persevered. Perhaps Birthday Cat was looking out for you? And, just an FYI, you have been my #1 sewing inspiration these days. Everything you make is just eye candy! Love it! Aaannnddd….

  • Katiewrote:

    Gorgeous!!! Happy birthday to you!

    I have never sewn a birthday dress before (at least not for myself). I’d think about it this year except I’ll be in trial on my birthday

  • Lindsaywrote:

    You are GORGEOUS! What a stunning dress! I unfortunately learned to sew with Burda patterns, but since I found indies I haven’t looked back! This dress may make me reconsider though…

    And Birthday Cat is appropriately white lion-esque for a Leo! It also supports my theory that cats are bigger in Australia – I was in Sydney for an overnight layover earlier this year and I swear every cat I saw was gigantic! And I always thought everything was bigger in Texas, haha!

    Happy birthday, lovely lady!!! I hope all your Birthday Cat wishes come true!

  • carolynwrote:

    Happy birthday, Sophie! 28 never looked so good 🙂
    I am in awe of this dress and all the work that went into it. I was exhausted just reading about all the taping, and cutting, and fixing! You are a sewing goddess!
    And good lord, is that a big, fluffy cat! I’m allergic to cats and I’m not a sure I could stop myself from petting that thing!

  • Catdoesitwrote:

    This writing made me smile, I guess you ARE happy with the dress. A great symbol of what a good year to celebrate in your birthday 🙂

  • maddiewrote:

    I haven’t sewn my own birthday suit, but maybe I will this year! So glad you picked up this pattern a year after you threw it away. This was a dream project!

  • annawrote:

    happy birthday! and you must let me in on your beauty secrets, seriously, you look so happy and fresh! Jeepers, I feel old.

  • Melizzawrote:

    What a way to not give up. Well worth all the work you put into it. You look gorgeous! Happy birthday!

  • Kirstywrote:

    What an inspired idea to use that fab swimsuit fabric. It looks amazing and the fit is unbelievable. You look stunning. Happy birthday xx

  • Andrea Bwrote:

    Oh heyyy we’re the same age! Ish. I have never had birthday plans that would call for such a smokin’ dress, though, since it’s more likely I’ll be slurping down margaritas in a shady Mexican restaurant, spilling salsa down my clothes. Love your dress and the idea to use swimsuit fabric. So shiny and purty! Hope you have a happy birthday. xo

  • Velosewerwrote:

    Wonderful dress Ada and happy birthday too.

  • prttynpnkwrote:

    Dang. My envy meter is pinging like crazy.
    You and the Birthday cat look fierce!

  • Debwrote:

    Stunning! Your perseverance definitely paid off! I made my first birthday outfit for my 40th birthday and I felt like an absolute princess, there is no better pick me up for the big day! Happy Birthday!

  • Gingerwrote:

    GIRL!!! This is SO HOT! You look amazing! Happy birthday, you stone cold fox, you!!!

  • Utewrote:

    Your dress is magic!i am sure this is why birthday cat arrived!you look stunning and i hope there will be dresses like this every birthday now!happy birthday to you!

  • Amywrote:

    A-MAZ-ING! You look stunning. I hope you had a fantastic birthday.
    And that kitty’s tail in the first pic kills me: foof!

  • Chie - Vivat Veritaswrote:

    so cute! Happy Birthday!!

  • Sewing Tidbitswrote:

    Awesome! I just moved out of 28 and into 29 (and of course I made a a dress for it!), enjoy it!!

  • Gwen Gyldenegewrote:

    OMG, I am so in love with the fabric and the dress. You look amazing!!!!!!!!!! Swimsuit fabric is the BEST to make any fitted piece in my opinion. So comfy and it looks so damn good. Happy Birthday!! Love the cat commentary too.

  • Reana Louisewrote:

    Happy birthday you fan-fucking-tabulous thing! Also the ‘one up one dart’ had me in giggles, and your dress has me in swoons xoxox

  • Lisawrote:

    I’m swooning over everything – i LOVE that neckline and those sleeves and the shape and the fabric and..well…ALL of it. Happy birthday lady! x

  • Kimwrote:

    Wow! You look superhot! (as always, but especially hot in this dress) I love it! Happy belated birthday!! I’m hoping that I’m going to be able to make a special birthday outfit this january.. Who knows, it might just happen!

  • A simple black Nettie dress – Sewing Tidbitswrote:

    […] keep enjoying them on other blogs and once in a while fall for distraction bu, sewing my “birthday dress” meant sewing something that will come out of my closet every time I need to […]

  • Thewallinnawrote:

    Happy, happy birthday! Best wishes and many more beautiful dresses!

  • mokoshawrote:

    happy birthday! fantastic dress! sounds like a lot of work (i despise taping pages), but it totally paid off, you’re looking swell in your new dress! and welcome to the ‘diy birthday dress club’!

  • Cerianwrote:

    This is gorgeous! I love the fabric and the shape is just stunning.
    I’ve just finished making my birthday dress which is a hot pink Georgia By Hand London dress 🙂

  • Lizwrote:

    I knew you would totally conquer this pattern! You look totally amazing and smokin’ hot! Happy birthday chickadee! Hoping your babylock dreams come true, but in the meantime, you are welcome to keep borrowing my machine 🙂

  • Jennifer, WORKROOM SOCIALwrote:

    This is just so beautiful! Super impressive! And such a clever make.

  • IZABELwrote:

    MAGNIFIQUE .Une merveille de fraicheur BRAVO

  • Good Morning, Sunshine! | StitchTalk.comwrote:

    […] candy and I find her overall approach to sewing to be incredibly inspiring. (Have you SEEN her latest dress???) Yep, definitely a blogger who sets the bar very high for all of us. Keep up the good work, […]

  • Dariwrote:

    Fabulous dress!!! I am actually planning on working on my birthday dress this week. My birthday is in three weeks, but I always like to give myself some extra time. Funny that you mentioned the Nettie too, because that is what I plan on making (the dress version, with a fully covered back.)

  • Rikkiwrote:

    Oh wow! I freaking LOVE this dress!! You look so fabulous in it & you did a fantastic job! I’ve made several ruched dresses (a couple of them were for my Birthday:) I thought I recognized the burda pattern. I adore the cap sleeves, and I totally want to make a dress like this now! Not sure if I’m going to purchase this one or hack up one I already have?? Lol. I’m late commenting, I hope you see it eventually.

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