Throwback to a Flora dress fail

October 24, 2016


Having been without a sewing machine for more than a month, my sewing productivity is at an all-time low. I picked up knitting again but I’m very slow so I still don’t have anything new to show here. Now the only thing left to do is to show the pictures of this dress I made two years ago. Do you also have projects like this, which went so wrong, or left you so disappointed, that you procrastinate blogging them for weeks, months… years?


This dress was my first experience with By Hand London patterns, before I made Elisalex, Anna, and Zeena. It’s the Flora dress, whose pictures completely won me over as soon as it was released. The wrap bodice variation, more precisely, with this white eyelet version and this other in a floral print, both of them fitting the BHL model to perfection. The strapped bodice, however… I don’t know, the high neckline proportions are a little… weird I guess?


I was a little disapponted by the fit of all the versions I had seen on the internet, as they all seemed to have some weird fabric folds on the bodice, but I thought I had found the solution in this post by Sew Busy Lizzy: adding clear elastic to the wrap bodice edges, to prevent them from stretching and bagging over time.

I started by making a first muslin in size 6/10, following the size chart. The result was a disaster: the bodice was wrinkling and sagging all over the place, with the fabric on the bust bagging on the sides, as if my boobs were suffering from exotropia and were looking outwards. I was at a loss, not really knowing what to change to fix this. I decided to use another method and pick my size based on my upper bust measurement (so a size 4/8) then do an FBA using the BHL tutorial. Then I made the huge mistake of cutting directly into my fabric without making a second muslin.


After assembling the bodice, I realized that my divergent breasts problem was very much still there. The apex pointed by the darts was nearly two inches to the outside of my actual bust apex. In a desperate “make it work” moment, I took in width from the center front by augmenting the overlap of the wrap, and modified the skirt pleats to match the new bodice width, which unfortunatly removed any wearing ease that was left at the waist (BHL patterns having very little ease to begin with). I also tacked the wrap edges together at the neckline, which seems to have made it a bit better.


The end result is wearable, but only because the fabric is black… It’s alright from afar, but looking closely you can clearly see that not everything is where it should be.


I was really sad to have wasted my fabric, a beautiful textured rayon found in the Toto fabric store in Montpellier, with a subtle chevron pattern. If I could go back in time, I would take the time to do another muslin before cutting into it, but to be honest I’m so sure of what I could have done to fix the pattern. Does anyone have good resources on adjusting a real of mock wrap bodice?


It’s a shame that this bodice didn’t work out, especially since there are other aspects of the pattern that I really like. The skirt pleats are gorgeous, and the high-low version works really well thanks to the amount of flare in the skirt – even though now it’s already a bit dated. The back of the bodice is also very pretty, with its subtly scooped-out armholes, and I think it is really flattering (sorry for the bra straps on the picture though!).


I definitely won’t use this pattern again for a dress: I’m still not liking the other bodice, and after reading Michelle’s post I’m convinced the wrap bodice is not worth struggling over to make it work. That said, now that I’m looking at these pictures (from a trip to New Orleans this spring) I realize I do like the skirt a lot, and that I’d like to make the non-high-low version someday. I’m keeping the pattern for the day I want to make another pleated skirt, maybe that will make me feel better about this failed project!


Any positive or negative experience with this pattern? Wrap or mock-wrap bodice dresses to recommend instead? I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on the subject!

Flora Dress
Flora – By Hand London
Size 4/8 with FBA and makeshift adjustments
Textured rayon and solid black rayon lining from Toto tissus


  1. Rachel

    - October 24, 2016

    Huh, it’s interesting that that gorgeous looking bodice doesn’t fit. I’m up to my third muslin on it and can’t quite get it to fit either. I’ll keep working though, hopefully it’ll work eventually. I like it too much to stop now!

    • Camille

      - October 28, 2016

      I’m sorry you’re struggling with this pattern too! I really hope you can make it work.

  2. Caitlyn

    - October 24, 2016

    It’s a shame that all of your effors couldn’t salvage the dress. (And a shame that the pattern needs so many alterations just to be wearable.) Since you like the skirt so much, would you consider unpicking it from the bodice and making it a standalone piece, or does the design not really allow for that? Here’s hoping you get your sewing machine back soon and your next project is a smashing success!

    • Camille

      - October 28, 2016

      I would, but unfortunately I’m afraid the rayon I used would not survive being unpicked 🙁 Oh well, I’ll still wear it, even if only with a cardigan on top. Thanks for the encouragements 😀

  3. Sarah

    - October 24, 2016

    Such a shame (I’m totally with you on the hi Lo skirt hem being past it’s used by date btw). I’ve never made a cross over bodice in a woven, only a knit. Have you ever seen Sew it or a Throw It? Eliza made a vintage wrap dress a few months in a woven where the bodice pieces were cut on the bias which created such a lovely fit…. so maybe that’s part of the trick? Good luck!

    • Camille

      - October 28, 2016

      I didn’t know this blog, I LOVE the concept! Thank you for the recommendation 😀

  4. Liz

    - October 25, 2016

    I’d recommend the Palmer Pletch ‘Fit for real people’ book or craftsy courses, they cover adjusting wrap fronts and mock wrap, essentially you have to do a FBA on one side and then a pseudo-semi-FBA on the other side so you cover both boobs with each piece. However I’ve been trying this for a long time and it’s not the most straightforward thing unless your neckline sits above the boobs, on something like this with cleavage it’s tricky and I’ve only won when doing mock wrap with pleats at the waist join so you get extra fabric but can tuck it back at the waist.

    I find BHL patterns, as gorgeous as they are, not so FBA-friendly. I lose count of the number of Anna muslins I did and still have something that’s a bit odd. It works in plain cotton but they are fans of the pleat rather than bust dart and if you are north of a D cup it’s a great big look-at-my-boobs!

    Skirt is great though!

    • Camille

      - October 28, 2016

      Mmm that’s interesting, I need to get my hands on that book! Sorry you had trouble with Anna! I was pretty lucky with this one but I can definitely see how the bust pleats + the high neckline would not work on a larger bust..!

  5. Christine

    - October 26, 2016

    The dress, especially the skirt, look absolutely lovely but I see what you mean about the fitting. I’ve never tried this pattern but had such a fitting nightmare with the BHL Anna that I’ve never wanted to touch another of their patterns. The neckline was far too wide, the bust too short, the bust not large enough but the back too big. The problems were so innumerable that I didn’t even know where to start with fitting. I got through 5 muslins, none of which solved the major issues, then passed it to my mum who had exactly the same problems. So I’ll be keeping my eye on this thread to see if anyone turns up bodice fitting suggestions generally for BHL patterns.

    It’s weird – I’ve never had so many problems with any other garment and can usually adjust pretty easily. And so many class this pattern as beginner too. I’d be terrified to attempt Flora, even though I loved the look of it when it first came out.

    • Camille

      - October 28, 2016

      Oh man, five muslins! That sounds so frustrating… As I said above, I was pretty lucky with Anna as it fit me relatively well out of the envelope, but since I made it after Flora and Elisalex (which was also a disaster, even though in the end I salvaged it), the bar was set pretty low…

  6. PsychicSewerKathleen

    - January 16, 2017

    2017 is my year to get my fitting just right – I’m signed up for a live sewing class with a local sewing goddess and I’ve been watching lots of videos. I see so many garments made by people online who have their fit spot on and I drool! That’s such a crucial aspect – in fact more important than style or fabric because you can forgive the others so much more easily if the fit is perfect. I’m so impressed you keep your “fails”! I get so upset into the bin they go! My husband is always telling me to hold onto to those too but I just get so discouraged by them I don’t want to see them 🙂

    • Camille

      - January 22, 2017

      That’s such a great goal for the year! I do tend to hold on to failed projects but that’s more because I’m a bit of a hoarder sometimes, and also that I don’t want to admit that they are fails! Now that I blog though it’s easier to get rid of the ones I don’t wear because I still have the pictures as a souvenir…

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