Saturday, December 3, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me!

I've never been one to make a big deal about my birthday. Maybe it's the fact that my parents are super Chinese and you should be celebrated when you've achieved something, and making it through another year isn't really an achievement per se. Maybe it's that my birthday came right after UC apps were due senior year, and everyone was exhausted from writing essays. Maybe it's that my birthday falls right before finals week for colleges on the quarter system, and people were always busy studying. And even with a really early December birthday, it's still possible to get joint-birthday-and-Christmas presents. Okay, the tiny pity party is over.

This year, since my husband will be busy studying for finals on my birthday (okay, so maybe that was the afterparty), I decided to make myself a birthday dress. Like many of my other dresses, it came together a little haphazardly, is slightly costume-y, and cost less than $10. It's also likely never to be worn out, given that it's 1) long, 2) white, and 3) has unfinished edges. But hey, it's my birthday, and if I want to make myself an impractical wedding-ish dress for flouncing about the house in, that's my business (and my husband's, since he has to watch me flouncing around).

I ordered the lacy fabric for this dress on a whim. Yes, ordered. Online. After professing to teh interwebs my love for recycled fabrics that I could feel in person, I went and ordered not one, not two, but THREE yards of stretch lace fabrics from It began when I decided I wanted to knock-off the Dulcie Dress from Anthropologie (don't worry, that's still happening). I couldn't find any appropriate lacy sweaters at the thrift store, nor fabrics at the fabric stores for a reasonable price. After waffling for two weeks, I finally purchased some from, but not before also adding this stretch lace in cream/metallic gold. It's only because of their insidious practice of putting "You May Like:" boxes on the right side of the page. When I saw this pattern, I immediately thought, "That looks really Rohirric." As in, originating from the kingdom of Rohan in Tolkien's Middle Earth. So of course* I had to get it. I only bought two yards, though. What was I thinking.

When it arrived, it was both wonderfully drapey and horribly polyester. It felt like those suits you see in thrift stores month after month because nobody wants one. Which is yet another reason why this dress will never make it out of the house.

Anyway, I sewed it up using one of the few long dress patterns that I have, Simplicity 8722, View 1, as a starting point. Appropriate, considering that it's a 70s pattern and that was also the height of polyester madness. The 1.5 yards that I ordered were barely enough to cut out such a long dress; even then I had to squeeze my modified sleeve patterns into the scraps leftover. I've never so thoroughly obliterated any fabric in my stash. Unfortunately, after sewing up the darts and shoulders and sides, the dress was utterly shapeless. Not quite the svelte shieldmaiden look I was going for. So I started pinching and pinning and resewing the sides, and after three rounds of this, I finally got the look I was going for.
I added the sleeves, trimmed the hem, and then ran into another roadblock. The edges on this are horribly unfinished, but I have no idea what to do about them. I don't want to just fold over the edges, but I haven't been able to find gold bias tape, nor do I want to make any. Ideally, I'd find some decorative gold ribbon, but nothing I've seen seems right so far. Also, I'm not sure how that would work on a curved neckline. And while I'm at it, I want to get a full-length slip and a gold chain belt instead.

Awkward elbow pose!

I will add this to my collection of dress-up clothes, of which this is the least goth. And the most bridal. Happy birthday to me!

Fabric: 98% polyester, 2% lycra stretch lace knit in cream with gold stripes woven into it.
Notions: None! I really do love that this pattern requires no closures of any kind when done in knit.
Hours: Fairly quick for me...three hours, and it would have been less if this wasn't a beast to pin, and have the pin stay while I took the dress off and walked it over to the sewing machine.
Techniques used: This was my first (and second) double fisheye dart. Not the best ever; they're lumpy at the ends, but I'll blame it on the slipperiness and meshiness of the fabric.
Will you make this again? A day may come when I actually make up Simplicity 8722 with a keyhole in the front. But it is not this day!
Total cost: 1.5 yards at $5.08/yd, total $7.62. Not bad!
Final thoughts: I have to admit, I would never have tried this if I hadn't seen Tanit-Isis' fabulous 70s white maxi dress. But I did, and now I have a random white maxi dress that I'm pretty excited about.

"But who knows what she spoke to the darkness, alone,
in the bitter watches of the night, when all her life seemed shrinking,
and the walls of her bower closing in about her,
a hutch to trammel some wild thing in?"

*Of course, because Rohan is my favorite of the cultures in Middle Earth. Maybe it's my childhood obsession with horses, or the fact that Eowyn is one of my favorite heroines in SF/F lit, or that Theoden King has the best speeches. The elves are my design inspiration, but I love Rohan best. So much so that one time, driving through, San Francisco, my best friends and I saw a tiny restaurant/bar called Rohan and had to go try it out. It had nothing to do with LOTR, but it became one of our favorite places until it closed.


  1. Haha! Now I'm wondering if my white maxi ever actually got worn out of the house. I think it did once or twice, on our few really hot days. It really needs a slip, too, though. My cream lace dress (which is shorter) gets out a bit more.

    If the fabric won't ravel, I think unfinished edges are fine (and won't weigh it down or stiffen the lace) but you could also do a matching stretch-lace edging to make it look a little more finished.

    Or leave it as is as a fabulous house dress, because who doesn't need a few of those? :D

  2. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! Rohan is my favourite culture too (though tied with Elven)....The dress is lovely and is perfect for flouncing :)

  3. I completely agree with you on Rohan! The wildness of the scenery in the films and the Rohan music is what I loved the most of that trilogy! And a very happy birthday to you! Your dress is beautiful - impracticality in clothing is what makes it all worth the work. Wear it with much health and happiness in the coming year!

  4. Son of a....I just wrote a comment and it got deleted!!

    Anyways, to recap what I just wrote, I totally thought shieldmaiden and Eowyn before you mentioned the two!!

    Also, are these pictures taken with the new camera?? They are amazing! There is this clarity and depth to them that is absolutely breathtaking!

  5. Also, I've started reading LOTR!! I love the movies, my absolute fav, and I figure, books are ALWAYS WAAAAAAY better than the movie, so why not?

  6. You are hilarious! Love the dress and Happy Birthday!

  7. Happy Birthday! Your birthday dress looks great.

  8. First of all, Happy Birthday!

    Second of all, you never fail to amaze me with your creativity and talent! What a beautiful dress!! Who cares if it's bridal-ish (actually i don't think it looks that bridal at all. White, long dresses are so in these days). It fits you so well and why is it that you look amazing in anything that you wear? :)

  9. oh and your hair is just so darling!

  10. you look so good in that dress! great fit, and i love the fabric.

  11. Happy Birthday, beautiful lady! Wow! You literally took my breath away. This dress is simply amazing! It's really unique and special and the perfect birthday dress! I love your hair, too!

  12. This dress is absolutely STUNNING. Seriously fantastic. It about broke my heart when I read that you might not wear it out. I think you should wear it often and everywhere :) Happiest of birthdays!!

  13. Ooh this breath is breathtaking on you . You look like an empress! Happy belated birthday to you and thank you so much for sharing at Sew& Tell.

  14. I knew I had found my wedding dress when I realized I felt like Galadriel in it. Score!

    I love this dress. Maybe gather the sleeves so they flutter? I know nothing about sewing, so maybe that's a dumb idea. It's too bad you don't have enough material to make long bell sleeves like Eowyn had; that would be gorgeous. Or! Maybe if you had a enough of a solid material (ie: not lace) in the same (or similar-enough color) you could swap them for the lace sleeves! :D A gold belt would really set it all off, too. You're really inspiring me to be more creative. I might even learn to sew once I can clear the cats off the table so I have a space to do it. :)

  15. You HAVE to open your own clothing shop! The dress looks amazing on you!


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