Hot Mess Birthday Dress


Last year I cheated on a birthday dress project because my mother-in-law gave me a beautiful vintage 1950s lace dress

This year I got SewBusy with less than a week to spare. That is the SewByTheSeatOfYourPantsSewBusy way.

Naturally I opted to pick a dress with at least 15 bodice pieces… because that is the ObstinateSewBusy way.

Naturally I opted to match a fabric with the pattern which was an IN YOUR FACE SewBusy option.

At the Melbourne Frocktails fabric trip in September, we spied a bolt of black/white gingham sitting on the counter at Alannah Hill. Several of us loved it, I think it was MyMessings, Petticoat & Peplums, Busy Lizzie and Bimble & Pimble (I’m getting old – forgive me if you are not in the list…). I suggested we do a Gingham Face-off and see what happened. We decided it could be paired with anything: piping, contrast fabric and whatever took our fancy – just use 2 metres of the fabric (I’ve used much less I think I have enough for a sleeveless shirt!).

I originally planned a shirtdress (my first thought), then I thought a Grainline Archer, then a strapless dress… then I was seized with a severe bout of IndecisiveSewBusy.

Then in one moment, I decided it had to become this…

Simplicity 2250

Simplicity 2250 – Cynthia Rowley design

Oh course! Let’s pair regular gingham checks with an irregular darted, pleated, seamed bodice with a crazy pleated, gathered skirt – hell yeah. And make those perfectionist stitchers’ eyeballs boil looking at all those mis-matched gingham checks… that’s the SewBusy way.

And I give you The Hot Mess Birthday Dress…

Too short!
Hot Mess is also v.short!

Today is (or was) my birthday. I totally understand if you don’t approve (of the dress – not the birthday). However I love it.

This dress has had mixed reviews… personally, I adored sewing it. I think it’s a little too short – but I love the pattern and would definitely make it again.

Hot Mess Birthday Dress - the back view

Hot Mess Birthday Dress – the back view

In typical SewBusy way, I loathed this pattern on sight. It was only when I pictured it with this fabric I went YES!, punched the air and purchased it.

Personally, and I totally get if some of you are rubbing your eyes at my crimes against pattern matching right now, I love how this pattern teamed with directional prints or a plain fabric. I think the whole point of all those crazy darts, pleats, tucks, gathers and more, is that you ‘see’ the hot mess of the bodice and skirt. It’s madness and I love it.

The craziness going on inside the bodice!

The craziness going on inside the bodice!

The bodice has tucks, darts and pleats. The bodice is underlined and lined. The bodice – without the contrast band, back bands ties and straps is a mere 15 pieces. The skirt is pleated, gathered and flat in places. It’s all kinds of crazy. It’s a blast to sew.

Things I did differently…

I attached the lining to the zip in the same way that the Sewaholic Cambie bodice is lined. I think the way this bodice is finished is messy *sniff*. The Sewaholic way of finishing conceals all the seams – soooo much nicer.

I boned the bodice with Rigalene – it’s easy enough, you just sew the boning to the wrong side of the bodice lining seams (minus the seam allowances). It provides a nice structure to the dress – I recommend this!

I changed the ties to have a straighter shape, the petal/balloon shape of the pattern ties just scared me.

I did do a tiny bit of pattern matching down the centre back bodice seam – don’t know why I bothered as the ties cover it… I marked the seamline on the pattern piece – I find this the easiest way to match checks.

Matching checks technique

The line under CB (centre back) is the 5/8 inch seam allowance – I use this line to match the checks

Freaking me out…

The length of the skirt… I added 1.5 inches to the contrast band. I wished I added 2 inches to the main skirt pieces, it’s just sooo short! If I make this again, it’s going to be loooonger.

The Hot Mess Birthday Dress
The Hot Mess Birthday Dress

Final thoughts…This dress has had some shaky reviews and some good ones. It is not a walk in the park but it’s not that difficult either. Really. There are a billion and one steps (I never exaggerate) however if you mark all your notches, dots and more, it’s not that complicated. Really. Just go slow.

Check the finished measurements and choose your size from there. I like about 1 inch of ease in a fitted bodice so I made size 6. If I went by my body measurements, my size would have allowed 2.5 inches of ease in the bodice… way too much for this style of fitted bodice/dress in my humble opinion.

Pattern: Simplicity 2250
Fabric: from Alannah Hill, $10 a metre with black rayon fabric contrasts.

Confessions of a birthday blogger… I have more pictures of the interior of the dress… but it’s my birthday and I wanna have a drink, it’s late… *shuffles off stage left with a glass on Nant in hand…*

On the beach before Birthday dinner

On the beach before Birthday dinner

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66 thoughts on “Hot Mess Birthday Dress

  1. Ooh very cool! I love the contrast at the bottom and the top. I really need to get cracking on my project. It’s all cut out and just waiting on my sewing desk. I love what you did with your fabric.

  2. Wow, what a birthday dress! I’d never have thought to use this fabric with this pattern, but it looks amazing! I’ve had this pattern in my pile for ages but the number of pieces and construction has put me off making it. Now it’ll be top of the list next summer (it’s currently very cold and wet here in Bristol), though I’ll defo add a few inches to the bottom! Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. Happy birthday, we’re fellow Scorpions! You have amazing patience to finish that dress let alone in the short time frame you gave yourself, but don’t we all sew best with crazy deadlines?!

  4. It’s beautiful…love the gingham with the black borders!!! Also, Happy Birthday…you share the same one as my boyfriend (and millions of others I’m sure)!xxx

  5. I like it in the gingham – it shows the interesting pleat details off really well with the added bonus of one of those slightly hypnotic magic eye effects. I love the contrasting band too; the proportions on the skirt look just right (gingham and solid rather than length!). It’s a very very cool hot mess of a dress!

    • Thanks VK 🙂 I agree, I actually love how the checks don’t match on this dress. I had looked at patterns with princess seams and was concerned about matching the checks (and in that case I would have had to) but it occurred to me that NOT matching checks on this pattern would actually look fabulous. So happy with the Hot Mess experiment!

  6. I am laughing so hard at you talking about how short the dress is, on me it comes to well below knee length and that’s without the contrast band added. Oh to have your long legs!
    Have an awesome birthday!

    • I thought about that – still thinking about it… Can’t decide if it would work or not visually. The contrast band is doubled over so it conceals the hem seam (the interior of the dress is immaculate – and I’m not sure I want to mess with it… ironically!

  7. First & foremost, { HAPPY BIRTHDAY }…
    Now for the dress : its all kinds of crazy but it sure is my kinda crazy too…absolutely love it, especially with the black trimmings! I bought this pattern on sale a few months ago & I really hope I can do it as much justice as you have for next summer. You did crazy good 🙂

  8. not too short, and definitely not a hot mess! i kinda love how the gingham goes crazy, great fabric/pattern pairing! the contrast bands really do wonders to set it all off nicely. hope you had an awesome birthday!

    • Thank you – I did think about using a colour for contrast but I really love the black and white together. I’m seriously tempted to make this dress again – but with wider straps and a longer skirt! Heaps of fun to make!

  9. Beautiful! The fabric and the contrast were great choices. I am going to have to give this one a try taking all of your suggestions. I love it and you have wonderful pictures, as always. 🙂

    • I also found that cutting out the pieces as I went made things not so onerous. I had plenty of fabric so I could take the risk. The bodice pieces are small enough to cut out on the ironing board so that made life easier.

    • I love the challenge of a complicated pattern – weird! I cut out the pieces as I went and I think that made it easier to get through as I went step by step. I had being faced with a ton of pieces!

  10. Happy birthday! I love this dress. I love the piecing on the bodice and think gingham is a fine choice. You really got the proportions right too, with the band and the bodice contrast. I’ve been wanting to make this dress out of a stripe for ages, but of course haven’t gotten around to it. I think I would really have a blast making it, though, lots of steps appeal to me!

  11. Happy birthday baby! Hope you got everything your heart desires. I love the bodice of this dress. The pleating and layering look very complex and interesting in the checked pattern.

  12. Happy Birthday Foxy Chick, I for one love the hot mess dress!! I can understand personal preference means you would prefer it longer but it looks good all the same xx

  13. I love it!! I just made this dress and I agree, although sewing all those pleats was a total mind game to me it was a fun dress to make. I made mine in a printed floral fabric with my contrasts being polka dots. It’s a super fun dress and I want to make it again as well.

  14. Happy birthday and great dress, it doesn’t look too short! I just got myself into a spin making another Anna dress! I don’t think I’ll be trying this pattern out for a while!

  15. What a fabulous dress and much better than the pattern envelope! I don’t find it a “mess” at all – it just all works. Gorgeous! It also doesn’t look too short, but maybe I am used to seeing much shorter skirts up here!!
    Hope you are feeling ok today after your b’day drinks 😉

  16. I love it! And I love the length too, but hey – I’m all for short skirts and short shorts. Yay for short! Love the gingham and the solid black mixed like this – and wowsers – what a bodice! You look gorgeous. Nothing new there. x

  17. That is just gorgeous. Its funny I wouldn’t look at gingham to sew with as I was tortured with it by the nuns who taught me to sew… after 40 and more years I might reconsider! PS Council should pay you as a Port tourism sales ambassador.

    • I guess the secret to this gingham is it doesn’t have that cheap thin feel to it, it’s quite soft and drapey. I’m the same, I usually avoid it but I don’t mind b/w gingham so much, feels less ‘uniformy’

  18. Congrats on finishing the dress – it turned out beautiful! My striped version is simply a mess right now & regulated to the bag of shame & scraps. The ease is ridiculous & sizing it down midmake has proved troublesome. Your completed version is inspiring me to give it another go despite the currently freezing temperatures. When it works it really works & yours does!

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  20. Great dress. I love this pattern and loved how it turned out when I made it for my youngest. Hers is fully lined with no visible “mess” too but I think I will check out the cambie way- as I just winged it! I am making this one again for her for Christmas as it has turned out to be her favorite… (I am looking for a black with some sparkle- but whenever I envision a fabric I can’t find it and have to settle! lol)… I think the checks look super and I really like how you added the solid black as a contrast! (I will remember that in case I have to settle!) Happy birthday- a little late! ~Laurie

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