one-piece wardrobe

Vintage Gil Aimbez x Butterick 5450

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As I write this, I’m sitting in a friend’s apartment in Manzanita, with a beautiful view down the main street of town to the Pacific Ocean. Manzanita is a town with 600 year-round residents, a pocket community that’s shielded from much of the typical moody fog of the Oregon coast by Neahkahnie Mountain to the north and Nehalem Bay to the south. I’ve spent the last 10 days here on a work trip, and it’s been a beautiful reprieve from the heat of Portland summer.

Three years ago, I rented a little furnished cottage here for six months, just a two block walk to the beach. It was my first experience living in what could be described as the middle of nowhere (and my first time doing a mini-purge of stuff and packing up the rest into long-term storage). I spent my days foraging for mushrooms and searching for the secret beaches and waterfalls that were hidden away from the swarms of tourists that descend upon the tiny town in the summer.

It must seem I spend a lot of time traveling from one beautiful place to another, and it’s true that I’ve been fortunate enough to have done so for longer than the history of this blog. But living this nomadic life was not something I planned for when growing up; it just seems to be something I’ve gravitated towards in the last several years. I sometimes think of my grandma who, as a military brat turned military wife, has moved 50 times in her 91 years on earth. She had moved 20 times by the age of 20, attending 7 high schools and 4 grade schools. Her mother, a bibliophile, invariably packed a barrel of fine china, a trunk of linens, one cast iron pan, a wooden spoon, and twenty boxes of books. My grandmother has lived in 11 states and one foreign country, “and I loved every minute of it,” she says. “I was so lucky to have lived that kind of life.”

I guess it’s no surprise I inherited her nomadic nature, but I’ve also fortunately inherited her gratefulness. And though I’m so thankful for these opportunities to travel, I find myself having to channel the strong women who came before me for their optimism, finding ways to pack only the essentials or investment pieces, and finding the heart to start building another new community of people.

It’s been a treat to spend the last week and a half in such an idyllic place, but I’m yearning now more than I ever have for home. Perhaps it’s because I know that home is where my love lives, or that for the first time in many years, I’ve been able to invest in a space with the knowledge that it’ll be my safe space for years to come. Regardless, my mental countdown has begun for when I return to Germany.

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The Pattern: Vintage Gil Aimbez for Butterick 5450
The Fabric: 100% Cotton vintage yarn-dyed plaid and 100% cotton brushed indigo remnant from Fabric Depot
The Size: 10

The world of Gil Aimbez patterns was opened up to me last December when Jillian from Sew Unravelled shared her zig-zag swimsuit make, Butterick 5449. I fell in love with the cut and the crisscross back and immediately sniffed out the google rabbit trail. While I still haven’t been able to get my paws on the swimsuit pattern in my size (I run a search every few weeks with no luck), I now have in my possession a mini-collection of two Gil Aimbez for Butterick patterns that I’m only mildly obsessed with, and this apron-style wrap dress is the first of the two I’ve sewn up.

On a totally coincidental side note, I also own one of the ugliest sweaters known to man, hand-knitted in a beautiful variegated muddy mauve. I came across it at a yard-sale for $5, and I couldn’t resist the combo of it’s cheap price and avant garden nature. I’ve never worn it, though I’ve tested it out by wearing it around the house at least once a year, but every year I come to the same conclusion; it swallows me whole. And while it’s ill-fitting and impractical, I somehow can’t come to part with it. As I found out through my tenacious googling for Butterick 5449 though, this sweater is, in fact, by Gil Aimbez, so I guess we could say my strange romance with his designs started further back than I’ve acknowledged here.

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The dress itself is made up of two base parts, the front apron and the back skirt, which are then buttoned together by the straps in the back. Both parts have center seams (which I sewed via felled seam), the front seam being somewhat curved at the bust and the back being straight. There are a couple of darts on the back skirt, but other than that, the construction of this dress is extremely straight forward and beginner friendly; it’s essentially just a lot of bias tape!

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I used a vintage yarn-dyed cotton plaid I found in my stash. I’m not sure where it came from, but the weave is flawed in ways only a human could produce, with some stripes in the weft wider than the others. You can see on the back of the skirt how one pink stripe is considerably thinner than the rest. I realized the only way to plaid-match would be to cut on the cross-grain, and, not to toot my own horn, I’m pretty proud of my plaid-matching on those center seams. Now that I’ve come up with a fairly reliable system that runs from cutting the fabric to pinning the seams, plaid-matching seems to be getting easier (or at the very least less daunting).

On a similar note though, I decided to omit the front Kangaroo pocket because I didn’t want to have to deal with plaid matching a pocket over a seam where I had already plaid-matched. Between the irregularities in this fabric and that center seam, I’m not sure if I would have been able to overlay a matched pocket at all. And while I did consider making the pocket out of that indigo cotton, I just didn’t have enough yardage for it. I think this fabric is busy enough, though, for the dress to be great as it is sans pocket; the only true bummer is that I don’t have a pocket for my phone, or in the case for blog photos, my camera remote.

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Because of the strappy-wrap style of the dress, modifying it from a criss-cross back with the front wrapped over the back (as shown in the sample) to a simple spaghetti strap with the back wrapped over the front is as easy as moving the button holes. In fact, I haven’t done so yet, but I intend on adding additional button-holes so I can have some versatility in the same dress.

As for fit, I’m mostly happy. It’s really hard to complain about a loose-fitting wrap dress, but in the future, I’d likely decrease the width of the top of the dress by an inch and I’d also shorten the torso (between the torso and the ties). While my bust measurement are correct for this size, I’m fairly petite in my high bust and underbust and I don’t quite fill out the top enough for me to feel completely modestly covered. However, worn over a cute bralette or a crisp white tee would solve the problem entirely. And a white tee would easily carry this dress into fall.

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I’m going a little against my norm on this one and omitting photos of the inside of the garment. The reason mostly being that, honestly, this dress looks exactly the same from both the inside and the outside and there’s no reason for that kind of redundancy. The remaining, more practical bit of reason is that I had shot photos of the garment on a honey-colored wood table, and I only realized in photo processing how much the table clashed with the dress. I really think if I built those photos into this blog post it would take away from the beautiful scenery I’m standing in front of. So, for today, let’s just admire Hug Point for being one of the most beautiful spots on the Oregon Coast and for simultaneously having one of the cutest names. (Fun fact: Hug Point is not named after PDA, but because before highway 101 was built in 1926, people driving on the coastline could only get around that cape I’m standing in front of by “hugging” the rock wall with their buggy during low tide. The more you know…)

Thanks for reading through and accompanying me on this journey. I’ll leave you with perhaps one too many Sakis for a single photo; as mentioned on my IG, I had a lot of fun with photoshop for these blog shots. I hope you all have a wonderful week!

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8 Comment

    1. Hey Sarah, it’s a vintage pattern but it looks like it’s somewhat readily available on etsy and such! It’s not super rare, and I found mine for ~$10USD. I think that’s standard. Good luck!

    1. Hah! Thanks Sarah! The sweater’s quite bad isn’t it? Especially those mutton sleeves… but maybe that’ll be on trend now for #yearofthesleeve A/W? 😂

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