Dresses, Pattern Review

John and Val get married Part 1: My Anna dress

My goodness, it’s been so long since I’ve posted anything substantive in this poor neglected space that I hardly know where to begin.

I guess I’ll dust out the cobwebs and just dive right in with MY handmade dress that I wore to my baby brother’s wedding.

The wedding was in Bradenton, FL (outside Sarasota) and while fall has arrived in the Midwest, Florida was still decidedly warm and muggy.  Since we would have someone to stay with the kiddos after bedtime, Albert and I were able to go back to the reception and boogie the night away, so I knew that I needed something that could move and breathe.

Initially I planned to make a 2-piece set for the wedding, using the Named Vanamo 2-Piece Cocktail Dress.  But I just wasn’t feeling it, and I certainly wasn’t feeling the heavier, stiffer fabrics that it would have required.  So about a month before the wedding, I totally shifted gears, sourced some ah-mazing silk crepe from Stevie Saint Fabrics‘ etsy shop and broke out the By Hand London Anna Dress.

BHL Anna Dress sewn by Katie @ Creative Counselor
With my guy in my Anna Dress. It’s so rare to get a picture of the two of us with no kids!

Let me start by talking about the fabric.  It’s perfect.  Ever since I first read about this shop on Kelly’s blog, I’ve been eyeing her fabrics, but hadn’t had the excuse to buy anything yet.  When I finally decided that I needed to make a floral silk floor-length Anna dress for John’s wedding, I popped over to Stevie Saint Fabrics to see what she had.  My eyes lit on this gorgeous floral silk crepe (for a mere $10 per yard!!) and the search was over.

I’d like to say that there’s still some left for you all to buy, but that would be a lie!  When I messaged Stevie for a private listing (since I needed 5 yards), she told me that she only had 6.5 yards of this fabric and would I just like it all?  Would I?  Hell’s to the yes!!

So yeah, I bought it all.  Every last inch.

It turns out that was a good decision because 5 yards would have left me a little short on fabric. See, even though I was pretty sure that this silk crepe was opaque enough that the facings wouldn’t show through, I didn’t want to take any chances.  So I ended up omitting the facings and doing a full bodice lining for a nice clean finish on the neckline and sleeves.  Because I had to cut the bodice pieces twice, I probably used more like 5.5 yards to make this dress.

BHL Anna Dress sewn by Katie @ Creative Counselor
See how nice the neckline looks? Here with my Spanish sister Elena.

But the result was really nice.  The Anna Dress calls for finishing the neckline with facings and then just turning the sleeves under and stitching.  That’s all fine, but really a bodice lining is so easy and gives such a nice finish on a dress like this that why wouldn’t I opt for it?

I really love how this dress turned out, but I’ll be honest, it was a lot of work.  The pattern itself is actually quite straightforward and wouldn’t necessarily be labor-intensive, but because I was making this dress in a lightweight fabric for such a special occasion, I took the time to finish it really well.

As mentioned, I lined the bodice for a nice clean finish and to enclose all the bodice seams.  I also did French seams on all the skirt seams, which took for-ev-er.  There are 7 panels in the skirt, and those maxi seams are looooong.

BHL Anna Dress sewn by Katie @ Creative Counselor
I’m not very tall, but those panels are still long!

I also did a lot of hand-stitching on this dress.  In addition to hand-stitching the bodice lining at the waist seam, I also hand-stitched the seam at the front slit as well as the center back seam to the bottom of the zipper.  It really wasn’t as horrible as I was expecting it to be and it gives a nice finish, so maybe I’ll tackle hand stitching more often.

As for the pattern, I absolutely love it!  It is very well-drafted, the packaging is gorgeous and the instructions are good.  But the best part is that this silhouette is so flattering on just about every body type.  Admittedly, my body is pretty easy to fit, particularly now that I’m done breastfeeding and my boobs have shrunk back to a normal size.  Still, whether an hourglass, pear or square, I’m pretty sure this dress would look good on just about any body shape.

I particularly love that the front bodice uses pleats in place of darts.  They’re generally easier to sew, eliminate any worry about pointy darts, and I just like how they look.

This dress was absolutely perfect for my purposes.  It was appropriately fancy for an evening wedding, swingy for dancing, and didn’t bog me down in the rainy, humid Florida weather.  A win all around!

BHL Anna Dress sewn by Katie @ Creative Counselor
The sister shot. All ready to get our baby brother married off!

Pattern: Anna Dress from By Hand London, View B

Size: US 6/UK 10

Fabric: Silk crepe from Stevie Saint Fabrics.

Modifications: I lined the bodice to clean-finish the neckline and arms.  My only other modifications were in terms of finishing.  I French-seamed the skirt and hand-stitched the slit and center back seam.

Fit: Great.  I love the V neckline and the dress is perfect through the waist and hips.  I did end up taking about 6 inches off the length, but that’s not surprising since pretty much all patterns are drafted for someone taller than me.

Pattern Format: A wonderful, lovely paper pattern.  The BHL girls offered patterns in PDF for a while but recently made the decision to remove PDF patterns from their shop.  I was wholeheartedly in favor of this decision because they have beautiful paper patterns that are just a joy to look at and work with.

Pros:

  • Pretty much universally flattering cut.
  • Great instructions with diagrams.
  • Easy to fit.  The front bodice uses pleats instead of bust darts, which aren’t as fussy to sew or to fit, and the 7-panel skirt offers lots of possibilities to tweak the pattern for a perfect fit.
  • I love the V-neck and find it to be flattering on every figure, but the slash neckline is also very attractive for those who aren’t comfortable in a V-neck.
  • Incredibly versatile.  Make Anna floor-length in silk for a formal wedding, or knee-length in chambray for a casual sundress.
  • Works with a wide variety of fabric.  I made mine in silk, but other sewists have made Anna in quilting cotton, eyelet, even denim.  And of course lots and lots of silk.

Cons:

  • I got some gaping at the back neck and shoulders again.  This is becoming a fairly common thing for me, so I probably should figure out what modification I need to make to correct this.  I didn’t think it was particularly noticeable on dress, though, so I didn’t bother trying to fix it.
  • Hemming this dress in silk was truly a pain in the rear.  My rolled hem just wasn’t working well (the fact that it was 11pm the night before we left for Florida may have contributed), so I ended up doing a serged rolled hem.  Not my ideal for this dress, but it worked and no one but me was going to notice that this was  truly lazy way to finish this off.

Overall Grade: A.  This may be my favorite silhouette of any dress I’ve made.  It’s super comfortable and really flattering. I felt like a million bucks while wearing it!

14 thoughts on “John and Val get married Part 1: My Anna dress

  1. WOW, it’s perfect and you look amazing!! Such a beautiful dress, nice work! Isn’t that shop great? I can’t even look or I’ll end up buying something, her prices are so good too.

    1. Thank you!

      I love her stuff. I was lurking around there just this morning trying to find something for another special-event outfit for later this fall/winter!

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