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 fête 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!
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.
- 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.