Happy new year! I hope you had a great new year’s eve and that you are as enthusiastic about 2016 as I am! As usual, I have several dozens of resolutions for the new year. One that involves this blog is that I’d like to get better at posting about my finished projects. Right now, I have a handful of dresses in my sewing room closet that are still waiting to be photographed, some I made over a year ago! The one I’m sharing today was finished last April.
With this huge tulip skirt, there’s no mistake, it’s the Elisalex dress pattern from By Hand London. What drew me to this pattern at first was not actually the skirt but everything else: princess seams, a wide neckline, a low V in the back and elbow-length sleeves, that’s everything I like.
I had some doubts on the wearability of the exaggerated skirt in my day-to-day life, so I waited until I had a special occasion to sew it. Last year I had to attend a few weddings (more like a LOT) and I wanted to dress-up a bit, so I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to make Elisalex.
I used some fabric that I found over at Ragtime Fabrics when I was visiting Virginia a couple years ago, a slightly shiny black and grey print, with a fiber content unknown to me. This fabric holds its shape well without being too stiff, so it’s great for the tulip skirt, plus it has a bit of stretch which is a nice touch for the bodice.
There are a number of things I like about this dress. I find the princess seams very flattering. I like the shape of the neckline, not quite a U shape but not quite a boat-neck either, it’s a nice change. I also really like the shape of the back, it stops just at the right height.
However there were other things I was less happy about with this pattern, even borderline angry…
The main issue, which is pretty well known on the sewing blogosphere, is the length of the skirt. The pattern pieces are just huge. So, yes, the pattern says to hem it at the desired length, but in order for it to stop a my knees I had to remove over 30 cm and then make a very large hem. Not only it’s a huge waste of fabric, but it changes the shape of the skirt. And when you look at the pictures and drawings on the online shop next to pictures of the actual result (take this one for instance), there is a big disconnect. It’s one thing to have to chop off length at the hem, but it’s something else to have presentation pictures that do not reflect the finished product.
Same thing for the sleeves: on the technical drawings, there are either long sleeves for version 1, or short sleeves for version 2, but on the actual pattern pieces the short sleeves are elbow length! That’s not too bad for me, as I like this length better, but once again the product pictures are not pictures of the actual pattern! What’s more upsetting, though, is that they are also pretty wide, they looked more like t-shirt sleeves, and I had to take in a lot at the seam so that they would look somehow flattering, and now I have a lot of folds at the upper arm.
I also had to take in over an inch on each side of the upper back, because it was gaping a lot. That’s an adustment I have to make from time to time on certain patterns because I have a relatively small back, but never to this extend, so I’m wondering if this too has something to do with the pattern.
One last thing that bothers me, but this one is my fault, is that the bodice is very short and I should have lengthened it. I have a long bust so I do this systematically for some brands (for instance, I always add 2cm on Deer&Doe bodices above the waist), and the Elisalex bodice is particularly short, but back then it slipped my mind. I think it makes the dress a bit unbalanced, but in practice it’s not too bad because that resulted in some wearing ease at the waist, which, in association with the large pleats of the skirt, makes it the ideal dress for eating a huge meal incognito. I wore it at Thanksgiving and it was perfect!
In the end, I have a dress that I like a lot, even though the short bodice and the over-the-top shape of the skirt put it off of my top ten. I love how it looks on the pictures, too! But even eight months later I am still annoyed when I look at these presentation pictures that differ from the final pattern…
Have you made Elisalex too? How much have you taken off from the skirt?
Elisalex – By Hand London
Fabric from Ragtime Fabrics
Great review! I feel your frustration!!! Why on earth would your product photos not match your pattern design!?! Thankfully I had read some reviews about the craziness of the skirt and only bought 2 yds of fabric (if that) to make this dress – the skirt was crazy long, as well as the sleeves. I shortened both. And I also should have made a longer bodice. Maybe next time I try this dress, I will actually blog about it 😉 You look lovely in yours! Amazing fabric, styling, and fit, as per usual 🙂
Ah yes, I remember seeing the picture on Instagram, you looked lovely! It actually convinced me that it would be an appropriate dress for a wedding! Never too late to blog, though 😉
This does look lovely on, and I didn’t notice the sleeves until you pointed it out! I’ve only made this as a skirt, and yes, I took a ridiculous amount off (and I’m quite tall). I was annoyed that I had to draft my own hem due to the pegged nature of the garment. I’m thinking of trying it as a mini as I love the poufy pleats but I’ve no interest in trying the bodice!
Oh a mini would be a good idea. I like the shorter version on the pattern pictures, which by the way is not pegged at all. I definitely should have drafted a hem facing too, you can see on the second and third pictures that the hem is not falling properly… Yeah, this was a very disappointing pattern. (Oh and I LOVE your blog name by the way haha)
Really helpful review. I was loving the dress on you, but your frustrations would definitely put me off trying it. I’m only 5’4″ so would have a lot of trouble with the skirt.
Thanks! Yes, for reference I’m between 5’8” and 5’9” so you’d have to chop off quite a lot to make the skirt knee-length!
I agree with everyone else — this looks great on you! I’m in the (very slow) process of making the Elisalex dress and have only dived into bodice-making and fitting, so far. I was also annoyed about the “short” sleeves coming out to elbow length — I think I’ll be shortening them more, like the pattern illustration. I’m glad I read your post before attempting the skirt! I’ll be sure to try to shorten the skirt before cutting it out! I hope I can keep the cool pouf shape in tact!
I’m looking forward to seeing your version! I think the skirt might look very different when reduced from the middle and not the hem so I’m curious 🙂
Oh, dear, that is an annoying experience! I must confess that I’ve had this pattern stashed away for ages, but never found the time to cut into it. I’ll carefully measure the pattern before cutting into fabric if I do end up making it– thanks for the review!
You definitely should! I would also advice to reduce the skirt length from the middle, instead of cutting from the hem. Maybe that will help preserve the pegged shape.
Thank you for your review. There are so many glowing reviews out there that seem to skim over the issues! I made the Elisalex dress a couple of years ago and was so frustrated by the pattern that I haven’t bothered with any By Hand London patterns since. I’m nearly 5’9″ tall with a shortish torso and usually have to add length to skirts, but I had to remove a lot of length from the Elisalex too – I cannot imagine what height the skirt length was drafted for, and the dress was certainly not marketed as suitable for the ultra-leggy. Although I managed to remove length at a good place – and keep the tulip shape – the hemming instructions and drafting were as if for a pencil skirt. From memory I think you were just supposed to turn the fabric under and hem, but of course that doesn’t work when you have very angled side seams. Also, when BHL blogged on fitting the dress, they advised to make the bodice super tight; I know we all have different perspectives on fit but I was so disappointed when I followed their advice and ended up looking like a stuffed sausage. Maybe I should have looked at the photos and seen that their own dresses were very tight, but then again their dresses didn’t come down to their ankles…
Yes, I think they’ve made adjustments on their dresses and that they don’t really reflect the actual pattern. That is so, so frustrating to me. Glad to hear that feeling is shared!
Lovely result! I haven’t blogged my Elisalex yet, but I agree with Gabrielle. I was absolutely shocked that the shaped skirt was drafted without a shaped hem. And the instructions just tell you to turn and hem as usual, even in the sew-along. Madness! I cut tons off and finished mine with bias tape. The sleeves were…. very different from my standard sloper sleeve. Once I set them in, I couldn’t move my arms at all. I fixed it by hacking them off to a tiny cap sleeve. That could just be due to my shape. Overall, I find BHL to have very sloppy drafting.
BUT. I love them. I have to alter any pattern anyways, so any pattern is really just a suggested guideline to compare to my sloper. I really love the BHL “suggestions”. I love their style. And, yeah, I manage to wear party dresses a few days a week. I love my finished Elisalex.
Ah yes! I think my fabric has a bit of elastane in it, which might be why I could move my arms! I do love the style of the early BHL dresses (and I like their hip londoner style too!) but I’ve been really disappointed by the latest releases. The Zeena for instance, I like the idea but the dress is way too oversized for my taste, so I’d rather go back to Burda magazines and Big 4 vintage repros to get my party dresses fix.
Oh man, it is so great to read an honest review! I am sick of reading reviews which pussy foot around and don’t call it as it os. I started following your blog when I read your Coco review – you had the same reaction as I did….
BHL make cute dresses but their drafting is rubbish. I bought the famous Anna dress, and gave up on it for a number of reasons, part of wh
Thanks a lot! I really try to be honest and as exhaustive as I can when I talk about patterns I’ve sewn, even though sometimes it’s awkward when the pattern really didn’t work for me. Which explains why I still haven’t posted about the Flora dress I made over a year ago, I was so upset that every time I tried to write about it it turned into an angry rant… I did make the Anna though and I didn’t have that many issues. One more reason to share feedback on it to understand what works on whom and why!
Darn tablet is too smart for me:). Anyway, mainly bad drafting… thanks for a great review, and congrats on another gorgeous dress. I love it.
[…] Camille’s Elisalex dress by By Hand London is stunning, the silhouette really looks amazing on her. […]
Thanks for your honest review. I wish I had found it whilst I was toiling it, I wouldn’t have felt quite so bewildered with some of the drafting quirks.
I had lots of fitting problems with Elisalex, some I expect (FBA + sway back) but I was really surprised at the shape of the sleeve (for a fitted bodice) & the length of the skirt, even before I toiled it but I made it up in sheeting as per pattern as I had seen lots of lovely versions out there…and what do i know? I ended up drafting a new sleeve as in the original I could hardly move with out them pulling the neckline off my shoulders, also the V neck at the back was gaping something awful. I made quite a few bodices in sheeting before making it up in my fashion fabric a crushed velvet from the ’90’s, so I wasn’t concerned about meterage, I was going to make it fit!
It is a lovely silhouette, that suits a lot of people once the fitting is sorted. Yours looks great.
Thanks, yours looks lovely too after all these adjustments! Apparently BHL took down the pattern a few months ago to make some adjustments, and it hasn’t been back on the shop since. Hopefully they can fix most of the drafting issues!
[…] London’s instructions and construction methods for this dress, as was already the case for Elisalex and Flora (which I still haven’t shown you). Some of the seam allowances (bodice side seams, […]
I am SO glad I am not the only one surprised by this skirt! Having done all the work of an FBA, and getting a bodice that fits almost perfectly (its the closest I’ve EVER gotten so I’m stoked), to find that the damn skirt is mid-low calve length is so annoying!
I was however pleased with the length of the bodice – since I’m normally hacking 2cm off bodices!
Now I’m off to hack a considerable amount off the hem so I end up with something vaguely pleasant to wear.
[…] 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 […]