the Anna dress

What is there to say about the Anna dress that hasn’t already been said at this point? I am about six years late to this particular pattern party – but it’s clear why it’s so beloved.

This dress has been on my sewing radar for a couple of years now (it’s so beautiful and so flattering on so many people) – and when one of my best friends set her wedding date for this April I knew it was the perfect occasion to finally make it!

Did I mention it was a beautiful coastal wedding? My handsome date (with a very cute photobomb from Jenny the Bernie).

I went a bit off script with the fabric choice. My favorite versions of this dress all seemed to be made out of crepe – so I knew I wanted something with a nice drape and a little more weight than a rayon, but having never sewed with crepe I was a bit weary of that particular fabric. I couldn’t find anybody else who’d made this pattern with a tencel twill, but after creeping on Instagram for other makes with that fabric – I decided to go for it.

I’m still super happy with my choice! The fabric sewed as easily as a cotton or a linen, but the finished garment had a luxe feel and a nice matte texture (several people asked me if the fabric was suede). My only quibble is that it was not the easiest to press. I could go to a level two on my iron with a press cloth (and really, I’m too lazy for that) – so it was the lowest heat setting only for this baby.

My attempt at the classic Anna pose?

The fitting was much less difficult than I’ve encountered with some other patterns. I think this is partly because I selected the size from the waist and hip measurements rather than the bust – so the small bust adjustment was the only major change I had to make to the bodice. I’ve finally accepted that I do in fact need an SBA with most garments I make, and it seems like selecting my size from the waist rather than the bust helps me avoid issues with the shoulders or the armscyes being outrageously small.

I’m still very glad I made a muslin though – because my first attempt at the SBA was done incorrectly, and I needed to take in the top part of center back 5/8″ to correct gaping at the back of my neck. I hemmed and hawwed over the correct way to do this without distorting the grainline – and ultimately opted to keep the grainline as is but staystick the tapered seam line. Of course I later discovered that the answer to this and how to correctly do the SBA were posted on the By Hand London blog all along . . . do your research people!

I still don’t know if this technically correct – but I ended up leaving the grainline as is. My other choice was darts but I didn’t want extra seam lines.

Anywho! I also mixed up the various skirt panels when I put together the muslin – so none of my seamlines lined up where they were supposed to from the bodice to the skirt. Not a big deal for fitting, but when I constructed the actual dress I was VERY careful about labeling which pattern pieces were what (and I still managed to mix two of them up – but luckily I caught the mistake in time to correct it).

Each piece carefully labelled and sorted before actual construction.

In terms of the construction – it was all very straightforward, except I did find the instructions somewhat sparse. I opted to interface the area where I applied the zipper, and I underlined the neckline facing to help keep it folded under. I’m feeling really grateful to be at a point in my sewing practice where I can identify the need for these techniques without explicit instructions.

The only photo I got of the back of the dress – oops! You get the idea.

Because I was feeling fancy! I also opted to use french seams for the skirt panel (my first!) and a blind hand stitch for the sleeves, skirt slit and hem (also firsts!). It felt like miles and miles of hand stitching – but I actually really enjoyed it (perhaps because I’m already so fond of embroidering).

Cheesing with a fellow bridesmaid (and one of my best friends).

Trying to hem the skirt myself was a bit of an adventure. I wanted to make sure the bottom of the dress would just skim the ground in the shoes I was planning on wearing (4″ platform heels) – so this involved my husband placing the first set of pins for me, taking the dress on and off and repinning as needed until I was finally happy with it.

Ultimately, I was super happy with how this project turned out – there is nothing like a really beautiful dress that fits you correctly to make you feel good. It’s also the first time I’ve worn a maxi dress that wasn’t too short, and/or worn a dress with a thigh slit that wasn’t too high (no Britney moments here!). I will admit to getting a little carried away pretending to be Angelina Jolie all day. Oh well! It was really a wonderful and fun day.

Soooo extra.

The Details:

  • Fabric: Navy Tencel Twill from Blackbird Fabrics (I bought 4.5 meters but only needed 2.5 – oops!)
  • Pattern: Anna Dress by By Hand London
  • Size: 6
  • Adjustments:
    • Small Bust Adjustment: 2″ (1″ each side)
    • 5/8″ taken in at upper center back
    • Swayback: 5/8″ in the bodice, 3/4″ in the skirt panels
  • Total Cost: ~ $70
    • $13 for the pattern
    • $45 for the fabric (not including the extra yardage I didn’t actually need)
    • $10 for notions and shipping

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