I have FINALLY made this dress! I have read maybe a dozen posts where people made this and said ‘I must be the last person on the internet to make this!’ Nope. And I won’t be either, but boy it did take me a while to get around to it. Although my email tells me I bought it in February 2014 – I had thought it was longer than that! I got it from sewsquirrel, who I really recommend. Great range of patterns, equivalent prices so you’re not paying the Antipodean Tax, free postage and they send them out really quick!
I first muslined this some time in 2014, at a Craft Camp. I tried the size 18 and it clearly needed an FBA – it was pulling at the side seams and the back wouldn’t meet up. So last June I took it to Craft Camp again and did the respobsible FBA adjustment and muslined it up again. It backfired – it was massive on me.
Not exactly the elegant, figure-skimming dress I was hoping for – and that the first muslin had promised. Plus weird wings of fabric at my underarms, and all kinds of fitting issues. I threw it in my WIP pile in a miff and sewed other things. I thought about it now and then and eventually I thought I’d try sewing the original bodice onto the skirt and see how that went.
It was perfect.
Ok not perfect, still a little right in the stomach area, but… pretty perfect! I have lost a teeny bit of weight, mostly off of my boobs, so perhaps that is why? I wouldn’t have thought it would be such a drastic change but if there’s one thing I’m slowly learning after having it hammered in to me by dumb mistakes, it’s that a little difference can hve a huge effect, when it comes to fitting.
So I got to sewing, because not only had I been dreaming of this dress for a while, but I had an event in October that I wanted to wear it to. Besides, I was reading Genevieve Valentine’s VMA recap (if you don’t read her blog you should, it’s great) where she comments on all the ‘leg pops’. So I figured that the trend will be over soon and I’d better get on it!
Fabric is rayon from DK fabrics bought ages ago with the Anna specifically in mind. It was pretty narrow so I bought 5 metres and I used most of that. I initially cut the skirt as the pattern specifies, because I wanted to see how the length was. In the end I took about 6″ off, though, so I could probably squeeze this out of 3 metres of wider fabric – it’s the long skirt pieces and the way they flare out at the bottom that makes this a fabric hog. That 6″ would mean I could do some tesselating and save some fabric.
I did initially try toget it out of some other rayon I bought at the same time, which is wider but was a bolt end so I had something like 2.4m or some odd number, and it wasn’t quite enough. Enough for a midi version though!
This rayon is quite thick and heavy. I have to hang it folded over the hanger because if I hang it normally it sags and pulls at the waistline. Plus side is, if I hang it to dry, gravity pulls all the wrinkles out!
I french seamed everything except the skirt seam where the split is, which is overlocked and then sewn as a regular seam, and the split turned twice and stitched. I could have been more precise in this – the split angles out a bit but since the split is quite far to the centre, I don’t think I would get the appropriate amount of leg flashing otherwise :P. I shortened the split considerably – by about 6″ – because I am not comfortable flashing that much leg, and also I always wear bike shorts so it would be a moot point. My longer shorts do still peek out. I’m considering doing some unpicking and shortening the split another 4″ or so.
My sweetie, S, took these photos for me in the Botanic Garden, which was lovely. It was actually really fun, and people were very friendly and nice about us hogging the path. Someone even stopped and offered to take a photo of both of us, which turned out great and is nice to have because S hates having his photo taken so I don’t have many of him! I was really shy about having my photo taken in public but it was actually great! I wish I’d had the energy to try a couple of different locations, especially because the shadows make this black dress hard to see. But it was the end of the day and we were both tired.
I took a bit of a wedge out of the front bodice to deal with the hollow chest effect, and stay stitched the neckline pieces IMMEDIATELY after cutting, to prevent sagging out. This worked really well and the neckline sits wonderfully. Oh, except, I used a facing as per the pattern, and facings are the devil. God I hate facings. That said, once I wrangle it into submission after putting it on, it does sit nicely – a bias finish wouldn’t look as neat. Next time I would consider lining the whole bodice so I didn’t have to do a facing!
I went and took a quick backyard selfie so that you can see how the pleats release a bit strangely. I’m not really happy with how they sit but I fiddled a bit and couldn’t seem to make them any different, so I gave in and accepted it. I was unwilling to keep fiddling if I wasn’t sure it would fix things. Maybe if I made three smaller darts?
I read Mary saying that she made the darts bigger and that fixed it but it didn’t seem to help me. I also tried tapering them in, which also appeared to do exactly nothing. In the second muslin I converted them to darts to solve this problem so I guess I could try that. I’ve already lowered them and that did help but there seems to be a sweet spot and I’m as close as I can get to it and they still do that weird hollow thing. If anyone knows how to make them sit nicer, please let me know!
After typing all that out I went and had another look at the By Hand London site and all of theirs release like that, too. So maybe I’ll just get over it :P
I took the neckline in about an inch – just drew the shoulder line another inch out and then used my french curve to re-draw the neckline. As drafted it would have exposed my bra straps.
The only other adjustment I made was to sew the pleats and skirt seams in the stomach area a bit looser. I wasn’t very precise about this, but I added probably 3/4cm all up. I need to trace off the skirt pattern pieces so when I do that I will also retrace the bodice, and adjust all the front pattern pieces a bit more precisely. I did have to do a bit of easing to get everything to line up, and it’s still not perfect so it would be good to have it prepared for next time. Still, the black hides a multitude of sins.
In the end, this adjustment worked perfectly, it fits very comfortably, and I ADORE how I look in this dress. I feel like a goddess, and the rayon scroops as I walk.! I am going to make the midi version out of the teal rayon I have, and I am contemplating mashing this bodice together with the Japanese Flowers skirt for another version.
The event I wanted to wear this to was a Spring Picnic with a ‘things of the forest’ theme. I found some sparkly poly mesh in Spotters and decided I would make my anna and then make an overskirt for it. I made the anna skirt again, and sewed some ribbon on for the waist, and tied it around, and ta-da! Costume!
I think this would look really good for an overskirt sewn in to the waistband, too, and caught and turned with the split seam. I just tied it so that the opening of the ‘wrap’ skirt was over the split.
I am so glad I finally made this dress. I know there have been some comments on the internet as to the quality of the BHL drafting. I’m not sure I can speak to that – I do know I found it very hard to adjust, so I guess I’m glad I magically fit into it again! It is a lovely finished dress, though. I can’t help thinking how lovely it would be in silk, like Foxgloves and Thimble’s version. I’ve been planning this dress for a couple of summers now, I’m glad to finally have it to wear!