Channeling my inner Elisalex

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The Goal: I’ve been eager to sew this dress ever since I got the pattern in the mail (all the way from England!) and I also wanted to do some stash busting. I don’t have a huge stash but I do have some fabric that’s been sitting around forever yearning to be made into a super cool garment.

The Pattern: By Hand London is a new indie pattern company! Right now they have the Elisalex Dress and the Charlotte Skirt pattern out, both named after some of the ladies who founded BHL.

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The packaging is pretty cool – the pattern comes with a cover with a cutout to reveal the design illustration. The inner envelop has pattern info, more images, instruction booklet (with lots of graphics, yay!) and the pattern itself.

What’s nice is that they list each size in typical US and UK sizing and the instructions are thorough and detailed. Luckily this dress is pretty self explanatory so I didn’t even need to reference the instructions that much. The whole dress came together surprisingly quick!

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The Fabric: This geometric print was bought locally at The Common Thread about two years ago. I originally intended to make a strapless Vogue cocktail dress with it but let’s face it – if I haven’t made it in two years it ain’t ever gonna get made. Might as well use the fabric for something useful.

I don’t remember exactly how much fabric I had bought but it wasn’t enough to make the long sleeve version but I managed to get the shorter sleeves out of this fabric.

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The fabric is quite stiff. The pattern calls for almost upholstery weight fabric to get that crisp look from the skirt pleats and I think this fabric holds its shape well.

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The black is some cotton sateen leftover from former projects which I used for the sides of the bodice ’cause I couldn’t squeeze out any more space from the geometric print. I think it’s a happy accident!

The Changes: Because of my fabric limits I had to cut the skirt shorter (by about 7″). The original length is quite long but the pattern allows you to make any size hem you want so it’s nice to have the pieces longer just in case.

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I also made a neckline facing rather than lining the bodice. The only lining fabric I had was a poly which gets hot, yuck, so I made a facing by tracing the neckline pieces. I managed to piece together the facing out of scraps, interfaced it, stitched it on and understitched to keep it from rolling out.

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I used an invisible zip because I couldn’t find a long enough zipper locally for that cool exposed zipper look. If you’re in the US and take the time to plan, unlike me, you can order super long metal zippers from WAWAK (the #5’s for jackets are probably your best best, they come in several colors, thanks Susan!)

One thing that helped though – making a muslin. The bodice is very fitted (they even tell you that on the envelope!) and while it fit great on my b-cup frame, ladies with more generous busts might need adjustment (but princess seams are pretty easy to alter, the pattern even suggests sewing smaller seam allowances at the bust apex area for more room for the girls, great idea!).

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I made a partial muslin first and discovered that the size 6US was too tight so for my real version I made a size 8US and the fit in the bust and waist is perfect. I’m 5’6″ and the waistline hits right at my natural waist.

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I had some issues with the sleeve cap, though, like the cap part itself was too wide for my arm. I shaved off a little on the back side but I think I need to do more. The fabric keeps wanting to fold in on itself around the armhole. I think with this busy print it’s not that noticable, though, so I won’t bother with it.

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The only other thing I might change next time is adjusting the shoulder angle, my outer shoulders are pretty square.

The Results: This design is super cute and very “me”. Elisalex and I must be kindred style spirits because this dress has lots of features I like in a dress – a cinched in natural waist, wide scoop neck, a skirt that’s flared at the hips, and sleeves! They should have called it the Dixielex dress (btw, yay for girls with X’s in their names, it is the most badass letter of our alphabet afterall…)

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