An Anna dress for all seasons, except probably not winter

Hello, dearest readers! I’m wrapping up a short holiday break from work, which means more sewing and more blogging! I got a new friend for Christmas, and she’s here to help me introduce you to my latest and happiest dressmaking adventure, the By Hand London Anna dress:

BHL Anna dress

That’s right, I am the proud owner of a dress form! I have named her Bluebell (we’ll see if it sticks), and I’m pretty excited to have her. It would have been nice if she had been in my life for dear Anna’s construction, as there was A LOT of fitting and tweaking involved, and when you are your own fit model, you end up doing a lot of sewing in your underwear. Here’s to a future of sewing fully clothed! Anyway. Let’s talk about the dress, shall we?

The gals over at BHL call this dress “effortless,” and I’ve seen many a well fitted version floating around the internets, but for me things were quite a bit more…effortful. Not in terms of construction per se (which was made even easier by leaving out the zipper) or ease of wearing (truly a great design), but certainly in terms of fit. In my attempts to get this little number to both fit and flatter, I went through 4 (!) bodice muslins and made some major edits to the skirt. Worth it for a great fit, but woof. I’m going to focus on the fit issues in a later post about the full bust adjustment I ended up settling on, but suffice it to say that I learned with this project that even if a pattern matches your measurements, a good fit is not guaranteed.

In addition to the bust adjustment (Cliffs notes version: I lengthened the bust by 2 inches and added a 2 inch side seam dart), I also raised the waist by 1/2 inch to account for my short waist. I probably could have gone a little higher but I didn’t want to truncate the bust pleats too much. In the end, I think the fit through the bodice turned out really well.

Anna dress, front

Anna dress, back

Looking at this second photo, I think the back is still a little long, or perhaps in need of a swayback adjustment? I would not be surprised if this is my next fitting challenge, but I’m going to ignore that extra fold of fabric until I fully conquer the whole bust adjustment business. For the time being, I’m proud enough of the fit I was able to achieve.

Then we come to the skirt; this is where I was rather worried about flattery. My first skirt bodice confirmed that the hip-skimming design just did not work for me. I have admired many an Anna with an alternate skirt (this and this are particular favorites), but I wanted to maintain the paneled skirt because I like the look. And I REALLY didn’t want to totally redraft the pieces to create a fuller skirt. With those parameters, what’s a girl to do?

I’ll tell you what this girl did: she trimmed 2 1/2 vertical inches off the skirt at the waist seam. This created a skirt that was probably 4 inches wider than the bodice, so some easing/gathering was required, but it gave the skirt just the fullness I wanted around the upper hip. This plus raising the waist did result in a skirt slightly shorter than I’d envisioned, so if/when I make another Anna I will need to add some length to the bottom of the skirt, but it’s certainly not indecently short, so I’m satisfied. The view below probably best shows the final length.

BHL Anna dress

The fabric is a lovely, buttery Joel Dewberry rayon that I picked up at the delightful Finch Sewing Studio in Leesburg with this dress in mind, and on a return trip I noted that the owner Nicole had made up an Anna floor sample in the very same fabric, proving that great minds do think a like. (To answer a few questions: yes, as in Leesburg, Virginia, and yes, I have driven there twice for the sole purpose of visiting this shop, and yes, I know I am crazy, but it’s totally worth it. Go there, you will not regret it.)

I bought the pattern this fall thinking I’d take part in the Anna sew-along, which given my schedule at the time was laughable, but the fabric was selected with a fall dress in mind. That was itself a stretch. After construction actually started, I briefly convinced myself it could be a holiday dress, but the length, weight of the fabric, and short sleeves ultimately have put this dress solidly into the spring-summer (and maybe fall) wardrobe.

That did not stop me, though, from getting dolled up and making my sister brave the subfreezing temperatures for a Christmas day photoshoot. It was cold (see picture 3), but at least my theatrical shivering pose took my hands off my hips for once. Though I suppose everyone needs a signature pose, and “arms akimbo” is certainly more fun to say than most. Please ignore my dayglo white legs.

Anna dress triptych

Ack, I just love this dress so much, and styling it was so fun. Maybe I can reclaim it for winter with a nice cardigan and woolly tights? Never say never.

Stay tuned for the aforementioned FBA post later this week (non-sewing friends, you might want to skip this one, unless you’re eager to learn about adjusting sewing patterns for an…ample bosom). And with that, I leave you with perhaps my favorite pic from the frigid photo session. Hope you had a very merry Christmas and wishing you a fantastic New Years!

Anna dress holiday greeting