I have been lusting after an Anna Maxi for at least a year – it was all the rage when I first discovered the sewing blogasphere and I wanted one dearly. Unfortunately it got delayed by winter sewing and then the wedding dress. However in the meantime I found this beautiful teal cotton Broderie Anglaise on ridiculous sale! (still available at the time of writing). This is a beautiful fabric, but the holes do raise issues of modesty, therefore I wanted to line it with a cotton. When it comes to linings I am not a fan of the cheap polyester ones – I would much rather use a natural fabric, like a lightweight cotton. I spent a number of months looking for something appropriate – most of the cottons available were either too true blue or green – I was worried they would change the overall colour tone of the dress. However, eventually I found a light teal muslin lurking at the back of my local fabric shop.
To begin with I had to make some pattern alterations. Like many before me, I knew that the BHL instructions on an FBA would not be adequate for the 5cm (2 inches) I needed to add to each side. Therefore, I followed the instructions by Alison they are long, but they are good – the result fit perfectly first time. My only comment is that, as with many FBA adjustments using this method, this adds an equal amount of fabric at the waist as with the bust. In my case I certainly didn’t need an additional 10cm at the waist. Therefore, as a final stage to the FBA I removed a chunk going from the underarm curve down to 5cm in from the side seam at the waist, and this meant the waist fitted well. Alison does say “If your waist is too big, you could easily extend the pleats to nip in the waist some more.”, but my pleats were already pretty big, so I think removing the excess fabric was a good solution.
There were a few other fit issues to deal with. My standard front thrust shoulder and bodice lengthening is not worth writing in detail about. With these done I made a muslin and looked at the fit. There were some unexpected issues, the most obvious one being that the the neckline was riding up and hitting my neck, giving me the sensation of being strangled. The first bit of help with this came courtesy of Neeno’s fitting odyssey. She had to move some of the fabric from the front to the back of the bodice on the side seam to make the seam go vertical, rather than pulling forward. I would have never thought of this, but when I looked I clearly had this issue too. I have never noticed this before, but I will keep an eye on future projects to see if it is a reoccurring issue. Adjusting the side seam released the neck somewhat, but didn’t solve the problem. I tried adjusting the shoulder seams (Neeno also needed to move the shoulder seams) but this didn’t help – the shoulder seams were sitting in the right place on my shoulder after my standard adjustments. Therefore, the only available conclusion was that I had too much fabric between my bust and shoulder at the front (the back fitted fine). Taking out 2cm in a straight line across the bodice between the neckline and bust solved this. This also isn’t a problem I have had with other patterns.
This fitted the front of my bodice muslin fine, but there were a couple of other small simple adjustments to make to the back. Firstly the top of the centre back was gaping. This was easy to solve – I took a 2cm wedge out of the centre back seam taping to nothing 10cm down. There was also a little poofiness in the lower back, this was solved by reshaping the back dart so they curve out more in the middle (convex?), but finish at the same height.
Finally I was ready to cut and sew. As expected this was not complicated – with the fit issues dealt with sewing this dress is simple. The only way I changed the construction was not using the facings as I was doing a lining. I didn’t make my lining as long as the maxi – I finished it mid thigh, just below the top of the slit. I considered finishing the lining just above the bust, but when I considered then needing to finish the neckline and armholes with facings too, I decided lining the whole bodice would be easier. I also added pockets. My love of pockets has been previously referenced, and every dress I make must have them.
A couple of alignment issues from my adjustments came up when I was sewing – I had not adjusted the skirt side seams and front seams to match the adjustments I made to the pleats and bodice side seams. This didn’t look too bad, but I would want to fix it before making the dress again. The other issue that came up was skirt length. Being relatively tall, but no amazon, I assume skirt lengths will fit me first time, and in almost every case I am correct. however, this skirt was 30cm(!!!!!!!!!!!!) too long. This was a disappointing waste of fabric – I could have saved at least half a metre of fabric if I had checked the finished length before cutting.
That being said I love this dress – the colour, the fit, the shape – it is all beautiful and flattering and totally worth the fit adjustments. I got lots of compliments (and one white van wolf-whistle), which is always a good sign. I will definitely make more Anna’s and I know now that the fit is resolved they will be quick.
Fitting postscript: After wearing this dress for a while there are two more fit issues I need to work out before making it again. The first is that the front neckline is slightly too wide – only fractionally – I think my muslin was stiff enough I didn’t notice, but in my light cotton it sometimes folds slightly – as you can see in the photo on the right. Fixing this should be pretty easy – I just need to take a small wedge out of the top centre front. Since I need to take some fabric out of both centre back and front, does that mean I should have used a smaller size? I will ponder on this.
The second issue should be even easier to fix – the under bodice pleats finish slightly up my bust – with a bit of careful unpicking I should be able to fix this on my existing dress, and I will just need to amend the length of the pleats on the bodice.