This Elisalex Dress from By Hand London patterns is one of my most favorite things I have ever made. It wasn't love at first sight, though, but a gradual affection that grew while I was stitching. For starters, I've never worn a tulip skirt in my life. I tend to gravitate towards the extremes in silhouettes, very full or very fitted, and a tulip skirt stands somewhere in the middle. I was determined to try something new, though, so I forged on.
I've also never sewn a garment with upholstery fabric before, but it was on the recommended list for this pattern to support the structure of the skirt. I worried over the thickness of the fabric, at first adding in way too much ease thinking I would need it with all its heft. I also thought I'd be sweltering in the summer heat. Not so on either count. This fabric is 87% cotton and 13% rayon and it breathes surprisingly well. It's just what these pleats needed, and it ironed beautifully.
I used my sloper to fit the bodice, and something quite odd happened that has never happened to me before. I ended up being a UK 14 in the front, and US 14 in the back! Apparently my front half is British. I guess the By Hand London ladies have very small backs. Just to keep things balanced, I tapered the skirt in the back to a UK 14 (a US 10) after the waist.
Like most others have noted, I also took a considerable amount of length off the skirt, just shy of 7". I debated for quite some time if I wanted to slash it in the middle and adjust the length from there, or take it off from the bottom. I went with the latter because I didn't want an abrupt shift in the volume. I thought it would be more flattering to see it gently tapering down, with a slightly less snug fit at my knees, then go from full volume to full pencil. It worked marvelously.
Also, a note on those boxed pleats... I had the darndest time getting them to stay closed at the top, which I believe is the aim. That way when they line up with the princess seam and it looks like a continuous line that eventually breaks into a pleat past the waistline. I had basted each pleat as the instructions suggest, and then I added a basted zig zag stitch to close them at the top. That did the trick.
The bodice is lined with a lightweight khaki cotton, and I used a hand fell stitch to attach is to the fashion fabric. I stitched a bit too close to that invisible zipper, though, so I ended up having to go back and adjust it after I took these photos. It was catching when I zipped it up and you can see wee bit of puckering at the top from the teeth trying to take the lining with it.
All in all, this was my kind of surprise. My Elisalex dress hasn't stayed on that dressform for long. I'm packing it up now for what promises to be a most agreeable trip. I'm headed to Arizona for a bit of work, followed by a weekend celebrating the upcoming nuptials of one of my dearest and oldest friends. The Elisalex will be perfect for a night on the town!