Fit (Anna) Now, (Anna) Party Later

Mic check…is this thing on? 🙂

I seem to have temporarily neglected my own corner of the internet–oops! I have been BUSY. I have been cleaning the house, spending time with my family and friends, helping my husband fine-tune our homemade Neapolitan-style pizza-making skills (SUCCESS!!!!), and taking another pattern class. On top of all of that, I GOT PROMOTED!!! I am now the Market Research Analyst at the company where I have worked for over 5 years, and I am beyond excited. So with all of this stuff going on, my sewing mojo has been well and truly zapped into oblivion…until now.

(WARNING: lots of words ahead!)

I am mildly ashamed to admit that, apart from the sewing I needed to do for class, I have done hardly anything in my sewing room since I last posted. I did make one thing for myself from a pattern Nina mocked up–it’s a nice, slouchy kimono-sleeved knit top–but I haven’t decided if it’s worth blogging. (I love the top, of course, but it’s not the most exciting thing in the world, particularly for people who are not me!) But recently, something prompted me to get off my ass (couch) and get back on my ass (sewing chair) to tackle a project that has been in my head for a couple of months: a silk maxi dress!

You may be having a total WTF moment right now, and I get it. Of all the things to work on, why a terribly impractical silk maxi dress? If you’ve read here for long, your WTF may be further magnified by your knowledge of the fact that I have never before worked with silk. (Unless purchasing it counts as “working with” it, in which case, I am a boss.) My only explanation is: International Anna Party.

Well, let’s back up: it all started on Instagram. The lovely Ms. Rosie tagged me in a comment on a photo, which turned out to be an “invitation” (this sew-along is open to anyone, so no invite needed; still, I wouldn’t have seen it if not for Rosie!) to participate in the International Anna Party, which is basically a sew-along/post-along celebrating the Anna dress pattern by By Hand London. I actually own every BHL pattern in paper form (thanks to backing their Kickstarter campaign) but have never made one of them; no reason for that, really, apart from being more drawn to other projects. I am aware of there being some debate in the online sewing community as to the quality of independent sewing patterns and the technical expertise of many designers, but I suppose that in the end, I don’t really care too much one way or another. I spend my money how I like, and will deal with whatever fitting issues arise if/when I get around to a particular pattern–that goes for vintage, Big 4, indie, etc.

ANYWAY ( 🙂 ), a couple of months ago I treated myself to an order from Gorgeous Fabrics (aka one of the most dangerous websites on the entire internet if you like amazing fabric) and included some ombre silk crepe that I’d been coveting for a while. I bought 4 yards (at 57″ wide, that was overkill, probably) because I knew what I wanted to do with it: a full-length dress that fully utilized the amazing coloration of the fabric, preferably with a nice, sexy split in the skirt. The Anna pattern was the only one I had in mind, honestly–it seems to look good on everyone who makes it and is very simple, allowing the fabric to really be the star (well, the fabric and whichever leg I choose to reveal). My long-term goal was to have this mythical dress done in time for my company’s holiday party in December–see? Super manageable!–but this Anna Party business gave me an extra push to get started. Just imagine it:

A perfect pairing, if I do say so myself...

A perfect pairing, if I do say so myself…

THAT SILK CREPE, THO. Red to coral to orange and back again, starring Bilbo Baggins...

THAT SILK CREPE, THO. Red to coral to orange and back again, starring Bilbo Baggins and maybe a dragon…

(So far, I am thinking of having the red focused at my waist, fading from orange/coral at my shoulders and then back out again past the waist. Thoughts??)

Obviously, I am aiming to have this dress finished before July 17, so that I can post photos to my Instagram feed (hopefully the entire blog entry will be ready in time, too) during the allowable time frame of the Anna Party. I don’t care about winning any of the prizes; I tend to join sew-alongs (or IG-alongs, apparently!) just for the motivation to finish something. To facilitate this, I have started with my fittings already:

Anna bodice 1.0, back view

Anna bodice 1.0, back view

Anna bodice 1.0, front; note the cringe.

Anna bodice 1.0, front; note the cringe.

The first muslin is straight from the pattern. Thanks to Nina’s teachings, I am learning to see probable fitting issues in a pattern before I do anything with it, but I wanted to see the fit out of the envelope on Anna, since I’ve never made a BHL pattern. It turns out that I need a LOT of fitting adjustments! The most necessary thing was to add length to the bodice, because it came up wayyyyyyy too short for me, as expected. The difficulty is that I needed all that length between my shoulders and bust, as opposed to needing it between my bust and my waist. Do not be deceived by the above photos: I held that bodice down while Tom pinned it to me–it rides wayyyy up. I added 2″ of length and shifted the shoulder seam so that I had more length at the back than the front, and got this:

Anna bodice 2.0, back view; definite improvement, I think

Anna bodice 2.0, back view; definite improvement, I think, apart from Tom’s questionable pinning! 😉

Anna bodice 2.0, front. Still cringing, but a little less. =)

Anna bodice 2.0, front. Still cringing, but a little less. =)

My second muslin confirmed that I need to: stop sewing the pleats about 2″ before where I stopped them on Muslin 2.0 (they were lengthened after v. 1.0), scoop out the front neckline a little, and shift the side seams toward the back by about 1.5″ (tapering to nothing at the armhole). What do you think? Am I on the right track here? I can definitely see an improvement from 1.0 to 2.0, but I worry that I’m suffering from confirmation bias!

Once I get the bodice where I want it, I will be making any complementary changes to the skirt side seams and CF panel seams (if needed), and lopping some inches off of the skirt length. From my waist to the floor, I need about 42″, whereas this skirt is about 46″ as drafted. And bear in mind that, at 5′ 8.5″ tall, I am taller than the average bear lady. I suspect that the extra length is due to Anna’s designers opting to factor in very high heels (rather than drafting for exceptionally tall people), but I am not intending to wear mine with more than a 2.5″ heel. I’ll do the math after all this other jazz gets worked out though–priorities, people!!

Speaking of jazz, I will leave you with a shot of me in all my vintage glory, 1920’s style! As many of you know, vintage is what got me into sewing in the first place, and I still adore it (despite my foray into more modern sewing projects of late). I was fortunate to be asked to assist with an event at a local historic mausoleum, which involved me talking to people and looking nice and era-appropriate. Easy as pie! 🙂 I had not gotten to wear “Princess Peach” (yes, I named both of my 1920’s evening gowns) yet, so she was the obvious choice for the evening. She looks pretty good for ~90 years old, huh?

20's silk gown, early 1900's ivory pendant, and 1920's (or earlier) metal mesh handbag!

20’s silk gown, early 1900’s ivory pendant, and 1920’s (or earlier) metal mesh handbag!

16 thoughts on “Fit (Anna) Now, (Anna) Party Later

  1. I feel your pain about fitting adjustments. If I was making that dress, I’d likely have to adjust for the fact that I’m short waisted, whereas you appear to be long waisted. Either way, it’s no picnic! If it were me, I’d be tempted to place the darkest color of the ‘ombre’ at my waist to make it seem smaller, but your waist is petite already, so….I’d think you could get away with doing whatever pleases you :). I love your vintage dress, “Princess Peach. Such a beauty! It deserves to go out for a spin….

    • Yes, fitting is so vexing, isn’t it?!? Between that and the cutting scheme with the ombre, this dress may drive me over the edge! And I will pass on your lovely comments to Peach; I think she is enjoying her retirement, LOL! Her beads have seen better days so I try not to ask too much of her.

  2. Oh YEAH! Quick work Mads; I haven’t even thought about starting mine! It does take quite a bit of fitting though: I’ve made two which are Not Quite Right , though am hoping for third time lucky! I think number 2 will be grand if you lower the bust pleats a bit. I cannot wait to see the mega glam result!
    And PRINCESS PEACH!! My goodness, how dreamy! Where on earth did you find her? xx

    • Thank you, my dear! Hopefully we both knock our Anna dresses out of the park–I know I can’t wait to see what you come up with for #3! Princess Peach (who thanks you for your lovely comment, btw!) came to me via the vintage store where I work now and again; she was originally in the “not for sale” section, but ultimately I was given permission to admit her to the “‘Mads House’ Home for Retired Vintage Bits and Bobs,” LOL! Being 90ish, she has seen some things, so hers is a life of mostly-retirement punctuated by rare formal outings. =)

  3. I think you are doing very well with your fitting. I agree the darts maybe should “break” before the start of your bust. But I can’t remember where they land on the pattern drawing. It’s going to be fabulous in the silk! I can’t believe you managed to get your hands on that beautiful dress, Princess Peach!

    • Thank you, Linda! Yes, my boobs may be small, but they need more room than I’ve given them in 2.0 for sure! The pleats should probably stop a little below where a bra underwire would be, but every chest is different! xD And yes, Peach is so special–I consider it a great honor to care for Her Royal Highness in her retirement, haha!

  4. Ooooo I can’t wait to see your Anna! Sometimes it takes a number of tries to get the fit right. Kind of a pain but worth it in the end, don’t you think?

  5. I agree with having the red at your waist, then fading out from there. That’s going to look so cool! I can’t wait to see the finished product.

    Wow, you look great in 20’s style! That’s a look I can’t really pull off so I’m a bit jealous. :-p

    • Thank you, dear RED–we are on the same wavelength for sure! (Get this: Tom thought I should slice the bodice up into pieces so that the red would be out at my shoulders and fade to orange at the CF, which is a brilliant idea from someone who DOESN’T sew…husbands, amirite???)

      And you are too sweet: my 20’s wardrobe really does most of the heavy lifting here, and I just slap on some makeup and smile. 😉

      • Sometimes the husbands come up with some brilliant ideas! I know I’ve taken a few suggestions from DD. 🙂 God bless them!

        Hey, if all you need to look fabulous is 3 simple things, then I’m super jealous, LOL! And now I’m laughing at the mental image of literally “slapping on makeup.” This needs to be a YouTube video…

  6. I have been reading your post in different places, I finally managed to finish it. I will have to agree on the dart placement too. I think it will be worth it in the end, the Annas I have seeing, where the fit was good, looked amazing and with such a beautiful silk this is what you need. Looking forward to the finished dress 😉

    • Oh I have been there–I sometimes “like” a post when I first see it but don’t have time to read it, and come back later to comment, LOL. And I agree with you completely: with a dress and fabric this special, it is worth all the practice to make sure everything is right! 🙂

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