At the end of last year, I was a pattern tester for the Alix dress. You might remember my long sleeved version of this dress.
The original version of this Alix dress had beautiful long sleeves. A silk dress with long sleeves is dreamy, but ocassions to wear it are few and far between. It’s not warm enough for Spring, and yet, by Summer, I really don’t want to wear long sleeves of any description. The natural solution was to chop off those sleeves.
The Alix dress works beautifully as a sleeveless dress. There is just one thing you need to know about doing it. The armscye in the original pattern is designed to be close fitting, because it’s a pattern for a woven, sleeved dress. It needs to higher in a sleeved dress to achieve a fitted look and allow for good arm movement in a woven fabric. However, a high armscye is unnecessary and uncomfortable in a sleeveless dress. Some of the lower armscye needs to be scooped out (lowered) in order to suit a sleeveless design. I shaved about 1/2 inch off the bottom of my armsye. I could have probably taken off a little more.
I simply bound the armscye in two parts. I dealt with the lower armscye first and then re-stitched that to the yoke. Finally, I applied bias binding to the part of the yoke that was left raw. It all folds under and is nicely hidden. I should also mention that as this was a test version of the Alix dress, the bust darts are a little pointy but if gathered (as per the updated pattern), the bust area would look smoother and awesome.
I’ve been dreaming of this version of the Alix dress since I first sewed my tester version. I’m glad I have it in my closet now. I can definitely see myself making more.
I recently did a bit of pattern testing for By Hand London. You might have seen a few sneak peeks of their new design on Instagram. I’m happy to say that it is finally available.
The Alix dress is a very flattering, easy-to-wear, slipover dress, with the perfect smidgen of 70’s vibe. I made mine up in a very cool striped and spotted silk crepe de chine.
The particular version you see here was made up according to the test instructions, so there has been at least one small modification to the final version. My dress has under bust pleats which can be a bit pointy. I think the final version gives the option of gathers which will produce a much smoother result.
I should also list the other small fit modifications I made. Like many people, I’m not a standard size, so I graded from a US 8 (bust) to a US 6 (waist and hips). I lengthened the sleeves by 1 inch (long arms). I also found the underarms a bit tight initially, so I let out the underarm seams out by about 1/2 inch in total post construction. This is not a reflection on the design, just simply a post-construction fit for my broad shoulders. I would normally slash and spread either the CB or shoulder seams (design dependent) by about 5/8 inch in total to adjust for my broad back/shoulders. A US 8 (35 inch bust) is the perfect bust/chest fit for me but my shoulders expand above my bust so I need to accomodate for this increase in back width without adding volume to the chest area.
My only other change was to shorten the maxi length version by 4-6 inches, shaping the hem in a slight hi-low fashion. I basically just made myself a midi. Cutting lines for all the dress lengths are included on the maxi length version so it is very easy to cut whatever length you desire.
I love my new dress and I’ll be holding on to this pattern for future versions too. It would make a lovely Winter dress in a lightweight wool. But actually, my brain is already working overtime, thinking how I might possibly be able to modify this pattern to make a sleeveless version next Spring.
I was waiting for the right opportunity to sew another Anna, so when I saw the criteria for the first week in Indie Month, it was a no brainer. A dress, you say? Just a dress?! Well, hello! I was already raring to go on this one, with the perfect fabric and a tested pattern lined up on my table. I was just waiting for the right incentive (or a tough pill) to go and get cutting.
Some of you may have seen my gorgeous Cracked Glass silk on Instagram already. I fell in love with this fabric the minute I saw it. It’s a beautiful crepe de chine from Tessuti Fabrics in Sydney and I really do need to send out a big thank you to the lovely Colette for sending this amazing treasure my way. I am one exceptionally lucky and ever so thankful gal!
I’m sure you will all recognise this dress as an infamous BHL Anna. But you can probably also see that I’ve made a few changes to it. Given the quality of the fabric I was using, I felt this dress deserved a lining. I fully lined both the bodice and the skirt in China silk from Mood. To do this, I kept the facing pieces and simply lined them up to trace over the remaining bodice pieces that would attach to it.
Other changes I made were:
- dropped the front neckline by 2cm
- dropped the armscye. I wanted a looser, drapier look around the armscye. I’d also drafted cuffs to attach to them but I chickened out on this at the end. I was seriously TERRIFIED of ruining this dress! I still have the cuff pieces and can still attach them if I change my mind.
- lengthened the bodice by 1cm
- ditched the skirt and drafted a simple gathered skirt instead. Of course, I added big in seam pockets too because every skirt needs pockets!
And that is it. I love the longer, tea length in dresses and skirts right now. And I love the pretty, whimsical feel of this dress. It is magnificent to wear and it meets the strict princess criteria set by my three girls. Hubby is going to have to take me out on a date now so I can wear it!
After waiting what seems like an eternity, I have finally found an excuse to sew my first Anna from By Hand London. I purchased this pattern months ago, about the same time that I discovered we would be moving to Kansas. Exciting as this was, it meant that my sewing focus also changed from summer clothes to winter gear and my poor old Anna was put on the back burner.
I very nearly didn’t make this Anna either, since the sheer quantity of fabric required (a mere 4.5m!) basically eliminated nearly all of my stash. That is…except for one very pretty roll of slightly flawed floral chambray. I purchased this amazing $10 roll in a Tessuti sale several months back, envisioning pretty little girl dresses and pants. The only flaw in the fabric is what appears to be a little sun damage on the edges. I tried to cut around this as much as possible, but in the end, I had to use these bits. I also had to cut one panel of the skirt on the crosswise grain. I read somewhere once that RTW clothes sometimes have their pattern pieces placed on all sorts of angles in order to get the best commercial value out of the fabric. Whether it’s true or not, I like to remind myself of this whenever I need to do the same.
This little Anna is actually only a wearable muslin, but what a fabulous muslin it turned out to be. I LOVE the bodice shape with the bust pleats. I think it is quite flattering to a small busted lady like myself, but at the same time, I can see how this same bodice would also fit someone who is better endowed.
Overall, I’m very happy with the way the dress fits. It clearly needs a good press (as usual photos were a bit rushed). Unlike others who have stitched up this Anna before me, I didn’t have a problem with back gape. But this is most likely because I have a rather broad back. I purposefully didn’t make the broad-back-adjustment that I would usually make to all my close fitted tops. It fits me across the back nicely, so I can see why more petite ladies would need to take a little wedge out to improve the fit for them.
I made this dress in a size 10/UK 12 with no major adjustments. I did grade the hips down a size to have the skirt match my measurements better. I could have graded it down even further but I don’t mind a more relaxed fit for the everyday. And because it was only intended as a muslin, I also took a few shortcuts by topstitching seams instead of blind/hand stitching, which accounts for the ugly ripples along the front slit. By the time I got to the hem, I’d stopped reading the instructions, I am not sure what size hem they recommend. Mine was turned up about 1.5″. I’m 178cm tall and wearing heels, so you can see that the length of this dress is very generous.
I am really happy with how my Anna turned out and I can totally understand the hype surrounding this pattern. It is just such a cleverly simple and flattering design that really would suit so many different body types. I am beyond pleased with the result and will definitely be sewing this one again!