Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Miss Elisalex Finds Something Blue


Hello, my darling dears! I am late to a party, but that's fashionable, non? The party in question is not, it should be said, a rollicking Wednesday night wayzgoose, but rather a year-long internet fĂȘte for By Hand London's Elisalex dress. People love this dress.

People, it turns out, have excellent taste. The Elisalex is a flirty little frock, with her extravagant skirt lines and perfect princess-seamed bodice. She's just the pattern to reach for, if you need a fancy date night dress to knock his/her socks off.


As for me, the Elisalex was just the thing for my date with destiny. 

Destiny and loads of presents are the same thing right? I made my second Elisalex (the first a wearable muslin of sorts, to be blogged shortly) in Italian cotton brocade, for my bridal shower this past weekend. Thrown by my two best friends, maid and matron of honor, I was given specific instructions to do nothing but show up to the shower "in something fabulous." A brocade Elisalex, paired with my new blue Seychelles heels, fit the bill nicely. 


This blue-and-white cotton brocade has been in my fancy fabrics box for about a year, after I impulsively bought it from Fabric Mart. It was $24/yard on sale and, with a buttery soft feel and surprisingly soft drape, was worth every penny. They had a least a dozen colorways of these brocades, but this blue set my heart fluttering. I had to have it, despite not knowing what the heck I'd do with it. It was an auspiciously good buy, because this fabric screams fancy bride at her fancy bridal shower. 

It also, of course, frays like the very devil and doesn't hold stitches terribly well. Why must the beautiful things always be evil? Just once, I'd like a party fabric that's easy to sew up or a purple tree frog that doesn't secrete toxin. 


To be fair, I wasn't exactly easy on this fabric. Despite doing not one, but two, Elisalex muslins before starting this project, I still took a few fit adjustments mid-construction. There were princess seams to tame (after a six inch FBA, which we'll get to in a second) and whimsical skirt proportions to nip the whimsy out of. The seam ripper got quite a lot of usage during this project. 

When muslining the Elisalex, I knew the skirt was going to be problem. It's all very well and good for wee tiny sylphs to wear Marie Antoinette proportioned tulip skirts, but I was skeptical about how one would translate onto my viking warrior princess build. The skepticism was well placed. My hips would have looked right at home participating in the Albuquerque Balloon Festival. So, for this version, I took four inches out of the length and used a size 10 skirt, instead of the size 14. 

It was still too wide. Thanks to the body of the brocade, those hip curves went out for days. I took an additional four inches out of the side seam curve apexes, after sewing it all up. The result is still a pegged tulip skirt, but one of more modest proportions. I dig it. 

Thanks to all the taming I did on the side seams, I also made the executive decision to do tuck pleats at the waistline, instead of the box pleats prescribed by the pattern. They just fit the new silhouette more. Woohoo for massive structural changes, while working with delicate fabric! 


The other major pattern adjustment was the aforementioned full bust adjustment. There is a reason I don't often work with princess seams, y'all. Namely: the six inch discrepancy between my bust and high bust measurements. An FBA for princess seams is already finicky, but adding three inches to a curved pattern piece turns a pleasant, challenging fix into a Herculean labor. My resultant pattern pieces only resemble their foremothers, in that they are on pattern paper and say "Elisalex" on them. 

My center front (charmingly spelled "centre front" on the pattern) still needs a bit of tweaking, but I was too impatient to sew this up last week. It's just a bit too wide at my underbust, which causes a crease, after hours of wear. One more muslin, it is!

If you have a large bust and are looking to do an FBA on a princess-seamed pattern, By Hand London's own tutorial is a great resource. The only caveat is that it will be more complicated for you. There are extra bubbles to deal with and more lines to true up. By the end, you'll have two pieces that you truly doubt the usefulness of. How can a center front piece need six extra length inches? It will work. You just need to have faith...and perhaps a glass of bracing champagne. 

Or, if that fails, tune back here next week. I'm planning a step-by-step princess seam FBA tutorial for large busts. The whole time I was doing mine, I was wishing someone else had told me what to expect. We'll make sure you're not as surprised! 

Original pieces on the left, my darling monsters on the right.



Once again, I'm not super impressed with By Hand London's directions. They definitely assume that the reader has dressmaking experience. For the box pleat, the instructions literally read: "Form the box pleat now." Which is great and all, unless you're a novice who hasn't formed a box pleat before! If you haven't, a quick Google should sort you out. 

As for the pattern itself, it was a breeze to sew up. It's not something I'd recommend to a beginner, thanks to the princess seams and instructional vagueness, but it's a fun little dress pattern. Elisalex is a very chic, modern design, which is what I'm coming to expect from BHL patterns. They definitely have a bead on what young sewists want to wear! 




The Details...

Things I Loved:
  • The fabric! Italian designer brocade. Just the words make me feel a swoon coming on!
  • The bodice! Once you fit them correctly, princess seams are so fun to sew up and so lovely on the body. 

Things I Changed:
  • Cut a smaller skirt, took in the side seams an additional four inches each. 
  • FBA to add six inches at the bust
  • Did a hand-picked metal zipper at the back. 

Things I Would Change, If I Made It Again:
  • Not much! Now that the fit is down and I've tamed the skirt panels, this is a fabulous pattern.

Notions & Fabric:
  • 18 inch metal zipper
  • Two yards of brocade - $48
  • One yard of white cotton shirting for the bodice lining - $6
  • Cut a US size 14 bodice, with an FBA, and a US size 10 skirt. 

Construction Time:
  • Including muslins, eight hours. 








Note: I've switched commenting formats from the clunky Blogger system, to the new and improved Disqus. Woohoo! It should be easy to navigate and loads of other great bloggers have already implemented it, but if you have any issues below, shoot me an email and let me know. 

25 comments:

  1. I'm so with you on the mid-construction design decisions. This is such a great dress for your awesome occasion! The 8 hours payed off big time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! Also, I'm so glad someone else throws out directions, while sewing. If something isn't going to work, I'm all for changing it as I go.

      Delete
  2. you look amazing in this dress. it's a shame it was such an ordeal to fit, but i think you nailed it in the end! and the shape of the skirt is just right. hope the party was just as great as the dress!
    on another note, i followed the discussion on your previous post, but not being a plus size lady i didn't feel i could really add something to the discussion (i'm far from skinny, but i fit in the middle sizes of all pattern company i've tried). i wanted to say that it's great that you voice the issues you have, and that you are not scared to say that women who fit in a size 20 are just as beautiful. you certainly are a stunning example of that :) it was a great discussion with lots of great thoughts (and also on body image, and self confidence) and i can only hope that indie designers soon stop just dismissing the market that you represent.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Joelle! I'm so glad you think the fit worked out well. Even posting this blog, I was sitting there thinking "That line beneath the bust is annoying. Why didn't I fiddle with it more?" This was one of those projects where the perfectionist in me wanted eight more muslins.

      Also, I'm so happy that you followed the discussion! The more I examine both fashion and sewing, the more I think every woman is going to have a very emotional relationship with her wardrobe, no matter her size. The way the fashion industry works, no one's body is ever viewed as perfect - there is always some "problem area" to fix. I really believe that sewing is the way to cut ties with such thinking, but those issues still rise to the forefront all too easily. Body positivity is such a great goal to have, as a community, that I do hope indie designers wake up on sizing soon. What's the point of empowering women to retake their own wardrobes, and ergo their own images, if we're not doing it for all women? And...I'm rambling again. Suffice it to say: thank you for your wonderful thoughts!

      Delete
  3. What a wonderful dress! Can't wait for your FBA tutorial, although I suspect I need more width on the center front and less on the side pannel. We'll see, Elisalex is on my to do list for December.
    That blue is such a beautiful color on you, and Italian designer brocade is just perfect for a bridal shower!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Marianne! Isn't that fabric amazing? I'm so glad the right special occasion came along to finally use it. I can't wait to see your take on the Elisalex. Hopefully my tutorial will be helpful!

      Delete
  4. This is just lovely, as always, Mary! Well done on powering through the fit issues, it certainly looks like it was worth it and now you'll have a lovely princess seamed bodice that will go with a variety of skirts. At least, that's been my relationship with the Elisalex bodice - I'm in the middle of sewing yet another one just now! I had to do a fairly substantial FBA on the bodice as well as I have a large bust on an otherwise small frame. I had that same thing where I kept scratching my head all 'buh? wha? how?' but it did work in the end!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Roisin! I am already thinking of the other lovely skirts that would pair well with this bodice. Once it's fitted, it really is a gorgeous shape! I've loved each of your Elisalex iterations - you have such an eye for prints. Also, I'm so relieved not to be the only one perplexed by the FBA for this bodice. It really doesn't seem correct, as the adjustments are made!

      Delete
  5. Okay, I'm in love with your Elisalex! Between the brocade and your modified skirt, it's the perfect thing for a chic, fancy bridal party! I'm looking forward to the princess seam adjustment how-to ... I love princess seams, but haven't had much luck personally in getting them to fit. (I have about a 5 inch difference, and bodice pieces start to look wrong very quickly to me of little faith.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Map! I'm so stoked that you like it! Not going to lie, I felt just the same about princess seams. Most of my earlier attempts chucked out the FBA altogether and just relied on grading from one size to another, with not quite the same results. I am seriously shocked that there's not already a traditional FBA tutorial for princess seams & large busts out there. It's just such an odd process that seeing someone else go through it would be crazy helpful.

      Delete
    2. Do you know this tutorial? http://stitchesandseams.blogspot.nl/2001/03/alterations-full-bust-alteration-for.html
      Just not sure how much you can add before serious distortion makes a complete mess of the pattern?

      Delete
    3. I hadn't seen that tutorial, but the process is very similar to the one used by By Hand London. You've hit on the problem, precisely, though. The bigger the adjustment, the more chance for the pattern to become seriously messed up. I found that adding a few extra steps in, can really save the whole project.

      Delete
  6. Such a beautiful dress - the blue & white pattern is so lovely. Looks stunning on you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so very much! I'm absolutely in love with this fabric. Now, what to do with the remaining two yards I have...

      Delete
  7. What a gorgeous make! I have bought the Elisalex pattern but been on the fence on whether it would suit my curves and whether it would be worth my time grading up the pattern. Now that you've taken out the guesswork and are going to post a tutorial for grading the pricess seams, I am definitely going to give it a try:-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! No lie, it took making the Anna a couple of times for me to actually buy the Elisalex. That skirt, combined with princess seams, just seamed a daunting combination. With a bit of taming though, it's a super flattering dress. I think you'll love it! Hopefully, my tutorial will help the construction a bit.

      Delete
  8. A stunning bride-to-be for sure! You look divine.
    I can't wait for your FBA tutorial! I look at ones and they talk about "1 inch difference" and after I laugh myself sick, I cry. Your tutorial is sure to dry those tears.
    PS - love your blog!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Cathi! I'm thrilled that you like both the blog and the dress. Hooray!

      Also, that is exactly the feeling I have about other FBA tutorials! They're all well and good for people who just need a tiny adjustment, but making a curve bigger by three inches using a process meant for one inch just doesn't work.

      Delete
  9. Gorgeous! I'm stunned by your taste and talent.
    I have some pink tweedy cotton/linen lined up for an Elisalex, yet again you are inspiring me to get a move on with the cape of doom...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so, so much! I'm blushing!

      Also, I can't wait to see your Elisalex *and* the cape of doom. Both are sure to be smashing!

      Delete
  10. You look absolutely lovely! And I wanted to thank you for your excellent blogpost earlier this week.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Naomi! I'm so glad that the post resonated with people. If we can just get a conversation going about such issues, perhaps the sewing world won't fall into the same traps as mainstream fashion.

      Delete
  11. Gorgeous dress and you look fabulous in it!! Looking forward to your tutorial...I had to do a 5" FBA for side darts on a knit shirt....glad I was taking a class and had the teacher's help... I also giggle when I see a post talking about a 1" FBA...I wish!!!

    ReplyDelete