The ombre denim Gimlet birthday dress

Happy (slightly belated) 38th birthday to meeeeeeeee! My birthday was on Saturday and, after the stinker that was last year, I had a blast! I have a tradition where I like to sew myself something special to celebrate the occasion, and this year I decided to make myself a cocktail dress - rather fitting since I invited my friends out for cocktails on Friday to our favourite little whisky bar. I've been utterly enchanted with the Gimlet dress pattern from the moment Capital Chic released it. Granted, Sally is a friend and I respect her work and design aesthetic so much, but this dress in particular was just too "me" not to make! I mean - sheath dress (tick), asymmetric (tick). And that's pretty much all I need to add it to my To Sew list, ha!

Happy (slightly belated) 38th birthday to meeeeeeeee!

My birthday was on Saturday and, after the stinker that was last year, I had a blast! I have a tradition where I like to sew myself something special to celebrate the occasion, and this year I decided to make myself a cocktail dress – rather fitting since I invited my friends out for cocktails on Friday to our favourite little whisky bar.

I’ve been utterly enchanted with the Gimlet dress pattern from the moment Capital Chic released it. Granted, Sally is a friend and I respect her work and design aesthetic so much, but this dress in particular was just too “me” not to make! I mean – sheath dress (tick), asymmetric (tick). And that’s pretty much all I need to add it to my To Sew list, ha!

But of course my Fun Sewing time has been severely limited thanks to writing my book, so even though I muslined this dress back in early February, I didn’t get a chance to make it until now. Based on my measurements, I cut out a size 18 (the largest size, eep!) and when I tried on the muslin, it didn’t quite have enough wearing ease to be 100% comfortable when sitting, so I added a tad onto the waist and hips to allow a bit more breathing room. As it turned out, low carb eating plus marathon training meant that I’ve dropped like 6kg and several centimeters since the muslin, so in the end I ended up taking back out all the extra room I added in, as it was a big too big with my extras, ah well!

Initially I wasn’t sure which fabric to use for this dress, but then it occurred to me that I had some amaaaaaaaazing lightweight denim in my stash that Claire had generously gifted to me a few years ago. Let me just say that I adore this fabric, and I’ve never seen anything else like it. From a distance, it appears to have bands of ombre print at various intervals along the length, but when you look closer you can see it’s actually woven into the fabric itself, like a starfield that changes in density! SO COOL.

So my choices were to either put the denser areas at the hem and neckline, or concentrate them at the waist instead. I went for the latter since I thought the effect might overpower the interesting neckline detail, and I’m pleased I did it this way.

My favourite feature of this pattern is definitely the exposed pleats, which give a peek of the lining at the front and back necklines – so chic! Once I decided on using the ombre denim, I used Capital Chic’s Outfit Designer to play around with various colours for the lining alongside my fabric (I had a photo on my computer so I could play with the actual fabric in the designer). After a few minutes I settled on lipstick red as the best contrast with the denim, though bright yellow was a close second.

I didn’t have any red lining fabric in my stash, so I actually stopped in at Borovick Fabrics in Soho when I was cycling through town one day (note that the cycling parking in Berwick Street is practically non-existent, ugh!! Much better at Goldhawk Road) and paid way too much for 2m of cheap red poly satin. But it was the colour I wanted, and I didn’t have to wait for shipping to cut it out. Granted, you only see a bit of it at the neckline, but I know it’s there, and I love seeing a peek of a bold lining every now and then.

The construction of this dress is easier than you’d think considering the details – if you can sew a basic sheath dress, you can sew this! The only real change I made (and didn’t undo later!) was to move the side zipper to the centre back instead, as I just prefer back zippers myself.

This meant I didn’t get to use the instruction’s clever roll-up method for finishing the neck and armholes cleanly – I used the more basic, standard method since my CB was no longer on the fold. I did get to use the very clear back walking vent instructions, which were top notch (and well illustrated, I might add! Something I definitely notice now as I’m spending half my life creating technical illustrations).

So not only did I wear this dress out for cocktails (and a haircut just before it), but James and I have a tradition where we take each other out for a mystery dinner on each other’s birthdays, so I wore it out for that on Saturday, too (our local Gordon Ramsey restaurant, if you’re wondering). And with no shortage of summer parties and drinks coming up, I have a feeling this one will be in heavy rotation for years to come!

…if Nishi will ever relinquish it and let me hang it up, that is!!

38, you’re off to an excellent start!

If you recall, I always make myself something nice and special for my birthday each year…

Past Birthdays

37th – This birthday sucked. I’d been continuously ill for three months, we spent six hours stuck in traffic and got turned away from the restaurant (no bookings). I couldn’t even summon the enthusiasm to post about it, let alone make anything.

36th – A pair of jeans to take along for a week’s trip to NYC, where they saw active duty in our intensive, immersive theater schedule

35th – A galaxy-print sheath dress, using a Manequim pattern and a purple exposed zipper.

34th – A satin Matthew Williamson designer dress, made with his pattern from BurdaStyle magazine and a rich, plum duchesse satin.

33rd – A leather iPad case, protecting a new gift against the rigours of a transatlantic work trip the following day.

32nd – Manequim silk blouse: still being worn and loved many years later!

31st – LMB draped birthday dress in teal silk jersey:

30th – Green silk birthday dress using a Burda magazine pattern a emerald green silk satin:

29th – A bolero and jeans, on which I put the outline of the Thames on the back pockets, and lined the bolero with some vintage apron fabric from my Granny:

28th – I was homeless and living out of a suitcase in my boyfriend’s parents’ house, watching the Shipping Forecast every single day, hoping for good weather to sail our boat across the North Sea. My sewing machine was in storage, so I couldn’t make a new outfit, and frankly, ALL I wanted was for our boat to arrive. And it did, on the evening of my birthday.

27th – New Look 6429 in a fun sparkly knit from Walthamstow Market (and then about three days later decided to lose all that excess weight for good!).

26th – (probably the first year I was really into sewing) my favourite vest pattern with a red vinyl square neckband:

Does anyone else share the same birthday sewing tradition?

20 Comments

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  1. 4
    PsychicSewerKathleen

    Happy Birthday Melissa! I am so looking forward to your book release – just have to say 🙂 Love your party dress! Beautiful fabric choice with the red peeking out at the neckline under those intriguing folds!

  2. 6
    G

    Oh you made the Gimlet! This is on my list and already printer on A0. I just have to figure out a FBA on it 🙂 Happy belated birthday!!!

  3. 10
    JenK

    Wow, I think I’ve been reading your blog for 9 years!!! If not it’s really close to that because I remember those birthday items.

  4. 12
    Ginger

    Happy belated birthday. Love your dress. Your hair looks lovely in the bathroom selfie. I tried on a shirt, at a store, with a similar neckline. Might have to get this patterns since I did not buy the shirt.

  5. 14
    Elle C

    I so love this dress. Unfortunately I am exactly the wrong body type for a sheath dress ;( .The lining peeking out at the neckline is brilliant. The perfect meeting of fabric, pattern, and execution. Perfect.

  6. 18
    fionaparker17

    You looked fantastic in this on Wednesday Melissa! It is indeed a design made for you and you made so many good choices! That fabric is amazing and red is perfect for the contrast plus the red topstitching really elevates it. More cocktails soon please!

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