don’t be so dramatic


anna_dress_sewstylist.pic12That was something my mom used to say when I was just a wee SewStylist. And while I took much of her wisdom and advice to heart, on the subject of clothes I did then and always will have a mind of my own. Which is to say: This dress, it certainly is dramatic.

By Hand London Anna dress @
There are so many gorgeous BHL Anna creations swirling around the online sewing universe, it’s hard to remember when my scale tipped from “Wow, that’s really cute…” to “Oh my gosh! I have to have that dress!” Amy’s perfectly fitted vintage floral Anna certainly made me swoon.  As did SallieOh’s gorgeously hand dyed Anna. But really, it was probably one of Rosin’s lovely creations that ultimately pushed me over the edge. Ms. Dolly Clackett must have turned out no less than a dozen incredible versions—like this one, or this one, and THIS ONE—demonstrating not only her awesome creativity, but also the flexibility of this pattern.

By Hand London Anna dress @ Sewstylist.wordpress.comWith visions of many Dolly-esq dresses dancing in my head, I decided to focus on getting the fit of the bodice as close to perfect as possible. And I think (with the helpful hands of my trusty housemate!) I did pretty good. (Uhm, full disclosure, I may not be wearing a bra in these pics, which may have effected the fit at the bust. So, there’s that.)

For my muslin, I used a process very similar to the one Susan Khalje explains in her Craftsy class, The Couture Dress. (I’m full of asides today, so here’s another. That Craftsy class is the greatest. Honestly, sometimes I just watch it for the nerd out pleasure of it. And for the calming effect of Susan’s lovely voice. Nope, not kidding.) Anyway, about the muslin. Basically, you trace your pattern seamlines (not cutting lines) onto muslin, then cut out your pieces with nice big seam allowances so you can make any necessary adjustments. Then, and this is really the part I love, you just use that perfectly fitted muslin as your pattern. People have warned me off this technique, saying you have to worry about the muslin stretching out of shape, etc., etc. But if it’s good enough for Susan Khalje, you know it’s good enough for me.

By Hand London Anna dress @

I had previously made a very messed up version of this dress, from which I learned what fabric not to use (some mystery synthetic) and that I’d need to apply The Ginger technique for removing back of neckline gaping. That adjustment worked like a charm, and I’m pretty happy with the sway back adjustments I made too! There’s still a little extra fabric back there, but it gets taken up when I sit down. All the seams and darts on this dress make it really accessible, as far as fitting goes. I especially liked that the bodice and skirt were separate, making it really easy to get a good fit at both waist and hips.

By Hand London Ann dress @ SewStylist.wordpress.comI call this the suffering-for-my-art look because I was out on the sidewalk at something like 5:30am taking pictures of myself in an evening dress. And there were dudes, and they were drunk, and they maybe had one full set of teeth between the two of them. And that right there is the problem I have with this dress. Not that it attracts the drunken attention of early morning/late night wanderers per se, but that it really does demand attention. Heather has written about all the wear her Anna’s get all summer long, but try as I might, this is just not the sort of dress I’m comfortable slipping into just any old time for a cruise about town. Why is that? Something about the lovely, yet revealing, nature of the rayon twill I made it up in.  And that slit. And the length. I mean, of course I love this dress. It’s swooshy and lovely and so fun to get all dressed up in, even if I have nowhere to go. It takes me back to a time when I used to dance in the living room to Belinda Carlisle, wearing a towel on my head to simulate the long hair I didn’t have. It was all very dramatic.


My First Mabel

Recently, I’ve found myself thinking about how much sewing has changed my attitude toward clothes and what I feel good wearing. The most obvious difference has been a major shift in my preference for fewer, higher quality clothes in my closet. Gone are the days when I would wander absently into H & M and want to buy all the things. Now, between the poor fit and flimsy fabrics, most of those things look unwearable.

Equally, it makes a lot less sense to settle for something that’s kind of what you want, when you know you have the skills to make exactly what you want. I credit this sewing perk for my expanding interest in skirts and dresses. When shopping ready to wear I typically find them cut too short for my tastes, or that there’s too many details, weird fabric, not enough pockets, etc. etc. etc. With fewer variables to contend with, I just found jeans easier. But (sewing discovery!) skirts and dresses can be waaay more comfortable than jeans when they’ve been made to order for and my me!

colette-mabel-sewstylist-pic1.jpgWord on the street is Colette’s Mabel skirt  is just as comfortable as pjs, yet it looks a whole lot better walking down the street. (Well, maybe not better looking than these.) The rumors are true. This skirt is super comfy, cozy, and easy to wear.


I started with the pencil skirt version, then added about four more inches to the length so the skirt could be a bit high-waisted and still hit below my knees. Some might find this length a little dowdy, but it’s what’s most comfortable for me. I like the long line it makes.

I’ve wanted to try this pattern since it came out, and when I was able to get it 20% off (applying the awesome discount I get after my Bay Area Sewists Meetup) I jumped at the chance to give it a go. True, it is a pretty simple pattern, but the time I got to spend sewing instead of drafting was worth it. The fit is good and there’s some thoughtful details. I would not have approached the waistband the same way, and the proportions of the center placket on the pencil skirt are so, so flattering.


The fabric I used is a great mid-weight ponte with a sort of space dyed finish to it. Very cool to look at, but also very difficult to photograph! Nevertheless, it was kind of the perfect fabric for this project. It’s sturdy enough that I don’t have to worry about panty lines, but still stretchy enough that this skirt is a breeze to wear and walk in.

You can almost see in the pics above that I played with the direction of the fabric. The lines go up and down on the front side panels and the two back pieces, but I placed them horizontally across the center placket. This creates nice visual interest and is slimming, not that slimming is my first concern but , hey, can’t hurt!


I cut a straight medium, even though the numbers said I was a small at the waist. As a result, in addition to lengthening the skirt I took about four inches off the waistband, and about a three inch wedge out of center back. The wedge helps accommodate my sway back, and I think I needed more off the waistband because I wanted it to ride a little high. These adjustments were easy to make on the fly, and the whole project was quick and fun to put together.

This skirt is such a basic, wearable shape, and the pattern has tons of possibilities. I definitely plan to return to it. Here’s a few images I pinned to inspire my next Mabel.


One. Two. Three. Four. Five.

I love the idea of taking the #invisiblepajamas aspect of this skirt one step further by making it up in fleece. Also, what if you left off the back vent in favor of a slit up the front? Adding a peplum to this skirt would be super easy and create a totally different look. I definitely plan to make a little black Mabel. And what about that contrasting fabric? Nice, right? If you’d have told me in the years before I started sewing that I’d want an entire wardrobe of jersey skirts I probably would have laughed accommodatingly while secretly thinking you were nuts. But look at me now!

So, I’m curious, are there any types of garments that you’re more likely to wear if you’ve sewn them yourself? What makes your me made version better than the RTW offerings?