Anna and me

August 4, 2015

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The wedding season continues! As my blogging schedule is very chaotic, I’m not showing you these dresses in the order I made them, but rather in the random order in which I manage to take pictures. After wedding number 1 in Virginia, wedding number 2 in Toulouse (where I wore the rockabilly cherries dress) and wedding number 3 in California, I went to Portland to attend wedding number 4. As far as weddings go, this one was pretty laid-back, so I had a lot of freedom when it came to my dress (as well as my hair, as you can see on the pictures as I recently dyed it blue..!). I went for a more casual one than for the others, with a By Hand London Anna dress in diamond-printed rayon.

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This is the first time I’m posting a dress made from a BHL pattern on this blog, but Anna is actually the third one I’ve made from this brand: I made a Flora last Fall, and an Elisalex in April for the first wedding of the year. If I haven’t shown them here, it’s because I wasn’t really happy with them. The faux-wrap version of Flora was a nightmare to adjust and I’m very unhappy with the resulting fit in the bust, and Elisalex looked nothing like the pattern pictures (the difference in the skirt is so extreme it is plain shameful). I’ll tell you more about these two on the day where I manage to get motivated enough to whip up some pictures, but just know that I had quite a bad first and second impression of BHL patterns.

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However, I still had a third pattern to sew: when I bought Flora and Elisalex, I had also bought Anna, and I had only seen good feedback about this one on the blogosphere. I also happened to have three yards of Cotton and Steel rayon that I had bought for another project (the Carmen dress from Ralph Pink – anyone tried this one?) but that had turned out not being enough yardage because the fabric was too narrow. The approaching #internationalannaparty on Instagram gave me the final push to give its third chance to the london girls (all of this to end up posting my dress too early on IG because I messed up with the time difference! Woops)

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Things didn’t start that well with Anna either, because when I started tracing the pattern in size 6/10, I realized that the lines for that size and the 8/12 one had nearly exactly the same dot pattern, with just a slight difference in the density of the dots. With the dots not being super visible to begin with, it makes it a real pain to follow the lines; I had to stop regularly to count and make sure that I wasn’t accidentally tracing the wrong size. And I am used to Burda patterns, so it’s not like I’m new to this. It’s just… if you are going to make different types of lines for different sizes, why would you put the two identical ones next to one another? I don’t get it…

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Well, the good thing with this pattern is that it has only 8 pieces, including the facing, so it still went quickly. The only adjustement I made was to directly add 7/8th of an inch to the front and back bodice to lenghten it, as the waistine on Flora and Elisalex was really high on me.

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Putting it together was also pretty quick and straightforward. After several projects of lined dresses with a lot of different pieces it feels great to sew something unlined and sleeveless. Sewing the dress took me only one evening (not counting cutting the fabric, I had done that on the previous weekend).

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Unlike Elisalex and Flora that I had to do a bunch of adjustments and fixes on, I sewed Anna as-is (except for lenghtening the bodice).

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I was expecting to have to take the upper back in, because it’s something that I often have to do, but after basting the zipper I noticed that I didn’t have any excess fabric there so I skipped that part. I think the fit from the back and side is nearly spot-on. Looking at the pictures I’m thinking maybe I could have done some type of swayback adjustment, but I did not notice that when I was wearing the dress (also, the pictures were taken at the end of the day, and a lot of the wrinkles just come from sitting for a long time, not from fit issues).

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I like how it looks from the front, but I’m not completely in love. I feel that it makes my bust looks somehow… saggy-ish? Also, I don’t like the vertical folds that start at the shoulder/neckline. It’s a problem I sometimes have with dresses that have a high neckline, but I don’t know what adjustment I could make that would fix this. Any ideas?

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I know that some of the lines just come from the kimono-sleeved bodice, but the versions I’ve seen online don’t seem to have so many of them, so I’m thinking there might be something I can do about it.

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Another thing I’m not crazy about is the color of the fabric, that I find a bit too drab. I was expecting more of a navy blue but the background is actually blue grey, and in association with the high neckline it feels a bit too serious and sad to me. Otherwise, this fabric is absolutely wonderful: it’s from the “Frock” collection by Cotton and Steel, and it’s rayon with just enough thickness, a great drape, and so, so soft. Fabrics from that collection are quite expensive but given the quality I’m thinking I might end up ordering more of them.

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So in the end I have mixed feelings for this dress. I like the result a lot but it is not my favorite. And even though I had a much better time sewing Anna that I had with Elisalex and Flora, I think I’m going to stop there with By Hand London patterns for now: I love their style (retro dresses are kind of my jam after all), their packaging, and even their crystal clear and friendly-tone instructions, but I find the patterns themselves a bit disappointing. I find other patterns from the brand a bit simple (Zeena, Sabrina, Holly… I already have similar ones in my Burda collection), or they’re just.. well.. nope (Sophia for instance, I love the drawing, but I hate the actual pictures with the godets). What about you, did you make any BHL patterns? What did you think of them?

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Anna Dress
Anna – By Hand London
Size 6/10
Cotton and Steel rayon bought on Fabric.com

Comments

  1. Sarah

    - August 4, 2015

    I’m afraid I have no answers for your fitting concerns around the shoulders! I think it looks nice enough but to be honest this pattern has never really appealed to me…. I’ve made the Charlotte but wasn’t thrilled with the fit over my hips (and seen the same issue on many others) and I’m making the elisalex to wear as a skirt right now. I’ve had to take an awful lot of length off it and redraft the hemline so it can actually be hemmed without drama so I kind of know what you mean about their patterns…. Great PR but some of the finer details could do with polishing…

    • Camille

      - August 11, 2015

      Thanks for your feedback on the Charlotte! I’ve been wondering if it was worth a try given that I already have other pencil skirt patterns, now I think I’m going to pass.

  2. Jo

    - August 4, 2015

    I (also) can’t help with the fitting around the shoulders, but I felt compelled to say a massive THANK YOU for being so honest in your feedback. It’s refreshing to see, and is really valuable when considering patterns to make next. Same goes for Sarah – very useful feedback, so thank you too for the food for thought. It’s also great to see a dress made up in this fabric – I think you’ve sealed the deal for me to try some of this rayon now.

    As for the dress… I think it looks great on you, serious looking or not! I see what you mean with the shoulder area, but the overall dress looks great. How about brightening it up with a well placed bright bright cardigan to hide your areas of concern?

    • Camille

      - August 11, 2015

      Ah I’m so glad it is appreciated. I also really enjoy honest feedback, after I made the Flora dress I was very frustrated with the pattern and so I was extremely relieved when I found this post on the blog Michelle, ma belle… tres bien ensemble: http://www.tresbienensemble.com/home/unpopular
      Not that I’m on some kind of anti-BHL crusade, I just like when people go past the trendy/marketing aspect and actually give concrete feedback about the sewing experience and the drafting of patterns.

      For the dress itself I have to say, since I wrote this I like it more and more, I wore it the other day and it didn’t seem sad at all. I’m going to take your advice on the cardigan, I have a turquoise one that will look great with it 🙂

  3. Diana

    - August 4, 2015

    I have an answer for the baggy boob area! I’m working on my second Anna right now, and I altered it to be sleeveless. In the process, I somehow ended up with that same sagginess between the gals. The newly-sleeveless shoulders also didn’t fit quite right. I pulled up on the sleeves, and both the mis-fit in the shoulders and the sag between the bewbs disappeared. So, in other words, I think that either raising the shoulders or extending the dart/tucks up so that the pleats end right under your bust would probably help with the sag.

    For the lines coming from the shoulders/neckline, have you considered rotating out the excess into the waistline tucks? I’m not totally sure on that one, as I lowered the neckline for my first Anna and am using the same lower line for my second; those higher necks combined with my relatively erect posture make me feel like I’m choking. I think the way the kimono sleeves are drafted on the Anna contribute to those lines.

    And please do share your Elisalex! I bought it at the same time I bought my Anna pattern but have yet to make it up — I’m very curious to know what it looks like on someone with a small waist and larger hips, as I haven’t really seen many folks with bodies similar to mine sharing photos of their Elisalexes on the internet.

    • Camille

      - August 11, 2015

      Ah thanks for the advice! I’m not sure I’ll make a second Anna but if I do I’ll make sure to try raising the shoulders on a muslin first.

      I’ll make sure to share my Elisalex as well, but I have to wait a bit as it is way too heavy to wear in this weather so I can’t take pictures of it yet. The silhouette is a bit strange because of the very exaggerated hips, it is not necessarily unflattering but it looks a bit alien. I’ll send you something via email so you can see for yourself.

  4. Sonja

    - August 13, 2015

    I think this looks really pretty on you! As far as the shoulders go, vertical lines usually indicate excess length. Next time you’re wearing it, maybe try pinching a little horizontal tuck across your upper chest to see if that gets rid of the lines. But like you said, you’re always going to see some folks when you have kimono sleeves. But this is the sort of thing that no one would notice but you. 🙂

    • Camille

      - August 18, 2015

      Ah thanks Sonja, I’ll try this!

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