Monday, August 26, 2013

A Break from Shirtdresses - The Anna Dress!

The British blogosphere is abuzz with the Anna Dress from By Hand London!  I finally gave in and bought it when I saw the Anna Rose dress by Lizzy and Taracat's second version where she dances solo in front of the camera.  Because, really, how can you resist a pattern that makes you dance?  I actually put the vintage shirtdress I was in the process of making aside to make this dress, which never happens.

Without further ado:

Okay, these aren't the best photos - I thought taking them outside in the sunlight would be better, but no dice.  Here's a close up of the bodice:

An invisible zipper was really required of this dress since the neckline was so narrow - the pattern calls it a "slash neckline" which is a term I've never heard before.  As anyone who has read my blog for more than five minutes knows, I'm not a fan of sewing invisible zippers, but this one was okay, I guess:

Here's the skirt slit which I lowered several inches, so that it hit about four inches above the knee.  The original marking was much higher than I felt decency allowed: 

Since I wore it to work, I wore it with a sweater:

Okay, here are the details:  

For me, who buys the big four patterns when they are on sale for $ 1.99, this was an expensive pattern.  The cost of the pattern, plus shipping, plus the exchange rate, all added up to nearly $ 27.  Since I spent so much on the pattern, I felt duty bound to trace the pattern off just in case I guessed wrong on the size.  As you know I hate tracing patterns; I don't hate it as much as I hate putting in an invisible zipper, but I still hate it.

To make it palatable, I copied the facings on a regular copy machine, using 8.5 x 14 inch paper.  Problem solved there.  Then I traced the bodice front and back - I really didn't have much choice about tracing the front bodice as the slash neck and the v-neck were on the same bodice piece and I wanted to make sure I could make the v-neck version later.

I used a cotton lawn called "Modernology" by Art Gallery Fabrics which was 60 inches wide.  This pattern works best with a drapey fabric that is opaque enough not to show your unmentionables.  I originally wanted a rayon challis which has lovely drape, but I couldn't find one I liked locally, and I'm hesitant to buy rayon challis on-line as rayon challis quality can really only be determined in person.  I've used Kaffe Fassett rayons with great success - they are very high quality, but all others are suspect until I make my personal inspection to make sure they aren't too thin or too wrinklely.  

Interestingly enough, the instructions don't have you use any interfacing on the facings.  That was different, and I just rolled with it.  It worked great - the lack of interfacing meant the facing wasn't too stiff for the dress.  (I suspect modern patterns probably have us interfacing way more pattern pieces than necessary.) The bodice was easy - four pleats in front, two darts in back, sew on the facings, and hem the sleeves with a 1/2 inch hem (I topstitched mine).  

I tried on the bodice and decided the size I choose - size 8 US/12 UK - was perfect and didn't bother tracing the four skirt pattern pieces.  I couldn't stomach it.  Not only were there four pieces, but each piece was nearly 48 inches long.  My tissue paper would have to be piece together to even begin the tracing.  Life is too short.

It all went together in a day.  I used french seams on the skirt since your seams tend to show when you walk because of the slit.  They weren't hard; it was just a lot of straight sewing.

I held off on hemming until the next day, which was the smart move.  At five foot five inches, I don't think of myself as short, but hemming this dress was the most challenging part of the whole shabang.  Before I cut out the skirt, I measured the length of a maxi skirt I had made a couple of years ago, and figured I could wack about six inches off the skirt pattern.  I have, however, learned to rely on my math at my own peril.  So I limited my wacking to only 3 inches when I cut out the skirt.  After trying it on repeatedly (I really do need to get a dress form!), I turned the hem up another two and 5/8 inches.  I then trimmed the hem allowance to one and 1/4 inches, turned the raw edge towards the hem fold, and then machine stitched down the hem 5/8 inch from the fold.

Before I even finished the dress, I bought some fabric to make the "midi" version - the shorter version whose skirt is about 23 inches long - but after wearing the maxi dress all day, I can't imagine wasting time making the shorter version; the maxi dress is just so fabulous to wear.  The long skirt, with the slit, moves in such a wonderful way that feels elegant and lovely.  (My photos just don't capture this; Lizzy's photos of her Anna Rose dress does.) This dress is both modern and old fashioned at the same time.  Your skirts swish in a most expressive way - you can swish the skirt as you turn a corner, or you can pull your skirt back to show your disgust, which isn't possible with a short skirt, much less pants.  

Not to mention how the long skirt makes you look tall and thin!

The best thing that By Hand London did with this pattern was provide the finished garment measurements with their instructions - this is vital in choosing the best size, and something independent pattern makers usually fail to do.  The size 8 US/12 UK had finished measurements of 36 bust and 28 1/2 waist - I knew this would work for me.

To say I want to make the v-neck version now is like saying RGIII wants to play football.  And I've spotted a nice black-and-white rayon challis print at the local Hancock's I'm waiting for to go on sale.  So if you live in Richmond, don't buy it all before I get there, 'kay?


Threadie said...

THis is a great dress. I love the fabric you used. I finished mune last week and I'll certainly make another one.

Loy said...

Nothing quite like a skirt that shows your disgust! Great dress, Kim!

Vicki W said...

Take that sweater off! Very flattering.

Anonymous said...

This is so pretty! The fabric is perfect and I'm not surprised you're planning another, this style really suits you. I've made the midi slash neck version in a black and white polka dot, it's just waiting to be hemmed.

Audrey said...

Fun fabric and a flattering silhouette! Best combination in the world. It does make you look extra tall.