By Hand London Alix

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By Hand London ‘Alix’ is a dress pattern in three length variations to be released shortly.  I made the pattern-test version which is going to be amended once all the testers report their findings.

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The dress was originally conceived as a maxi and according to its designer, Elisalex, it was inspired by the David Hockney painting “Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy” (1971).  The woman in the painting was and still is a designer, the celebrated Celia Birtwell (somewhere in my stash is a rather rare fabric of hers I bought many years ago).  The design attempts to capture an early seventies vibe.  1-tech-drawing

The blurb reads: Inspired by the dreamy glamour of the 70s, Alix will take you effortlessly from a hazy summer festival to an elegant soiree in town.  A high-waisted prairie dress with a V-neck yoke, inset waistband, tie back belt and a full skirt, pleated at centre front and back.  And best of all, no zipper.  With long, billowing raglan sleeves secured at the wrist with a delicate elasticated cuff and three skirt length option (& everything in between!) Alix can be just as at home worn with a pair of beat up old jeans as she is swooshing down the red carpet…!

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1-muslinUsing some old bedlinen I first made a muslin to familiarize with the instructions (there are usually a few mistakes at the pattern-testing stage which is one of the main reasons why some pattern companies ask for testers; and why it’s helpful for the testers themselves to have experience of using commercial patterns). I also wanted to check how plunging that V-neckline is.  I think the depth is pretty good but after exposing myself liberally all summer, I wanted a warmer garment so in the grey version the front yoke is 3cm higher.

Adjusted pattern piece

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Raising centre front by 3cm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1-side-alixI’ve made four other changes.  I lengthened the hem by 16cm (as with the raising of the décolletage, I am fully committed to a process of nunnification of this dress).  I have added piping to the waist ties, waistband and the yoke/neck – in fact I made over 6 metres of piping which gave me a lot of satisfaction as I was able to use up one of a hundred pieces of black fabric remnants lying about that I am unable to throw away out of deep loyalty to the two tribes to which I belong: Goth and ‘Green’.  I have lined/underlined the back and skirt (only the front bodice and the sleeves are not lined).  Finally, I thought ‘the delicate elasticated sleeve’ wasn’t ambitious enough and so trimmed the last 3cm off the length then gathered the sleeves into cuffs, which are also piped.  The finished cuff is 3cm tall and 24cm wide all around which is quite a lot more than my wrist measurement but just enough for me to be able to put my hand through without feeling like an escapologist!  Oh, and I interfaced the yoke, back of neck and waistband.

Inside front

Inside front, showing skirt lining.

 

Inside back, showing underlining

Inside back, showing underlining

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1-frontWhat I like about this pattern is that it’s nicely constructed (pretty on the inside) and it gives scope to being creative. At first I imagined a mostly black, slinky maxi in viscose, preferably printed with cats or something eccentric and a turquoise waistband, ties, neckline for creating contrast and drama.  But you go to the shops and vision is compromised by the fabrics available. This fabric may appear grey and possibly drab, but I promise that if you 1-fabriclook closely it has sparkle, a sprinkle of a silver metallic. It has a feel of both viscose and wool and was a bargain from Simply Fabrics (which really impressed me with their range this time).  It was the end of a roll so I am going to think very carefully how I will use up the last 0.75 metre I have left.

Family critics like the dress but commented on the unusual appearance of the bust, which is shaped by a small inverted pleat.  It will be difficult to adjust this by changing the pleats to gathers at this stage: those particular pattern pieces are sandwiched between the inner and outer waistband (and indeed, the piping) but it’s worth bearing in mind if you intend to make it yourself.  (*Nipple tweak update: see last photo)1-alix-bhlI hope everything else, like the lovely yoke, will detract, though I may just fix.

Many thanks to the frightening woodland creature who took my pics!

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NIPPLE TWEAK UPDATE: I’ve replaced the pleats with darts, sewing them without unpicking the waistband pieces.  The dart points are machine stitched and from about half way the wider ends are ladder-stitched.  It’s not an ideal way of sewing the dart but I think it’s enough for the unknowing eye to be detracted by all the other detail…  Better?1-nipple-tweak-update

23 thoughts on “By Hand London Alix

  1. Ossie Clark was an absolute genius fashion designer, a master at his craft, and Celia an incredible textile designer. Big boots to fill for BHL. I like what you’ve done with it but do agree those bust pleats can’t be unseen.

    • Thanks Hari for the fab comment 🙂

      Which made me realise I know absolutely nothing about Ossie Clark. I will do some research!

  2. Well, on the upside I think this dress reflects the mood of the Hockney painting perfectly Marijana! I usually like BHL for their youthful exuberance but this pattern won’t tempt me – phew, money saver!

  3. I’m with everybody else I’m afraid. The fact that your breasts are encircled by the yoke feature is further ‘enhanced’ by the fact of those pleats. ‘Hello Boys!’ comes to mind. I know you love Colette’s Dahlia dress which has pleating underneath the bust but I think the pleat here is much less subtle. Other than that, I do like the side view and it sounds like you dedicated yourself to the pattern testing with all your extra touches – I wouldn’t like elasticated cuffs much either. No zip though – that’s a bonus;)
    I don’t remember the 70s being a time of ‘dreamy glamour’ – maybe I moved in the wrong circles, although I did have a Saturday job in the Kings Road.

    • Thanks Lynn. I thought the pleats on Anna were a raging success but here’s it’s just kind of rude looking. I have updated the post with a new photo of what they look like now.

      I think if I had zoomed out of my mirror photo, you would have noticed my sewing space looks more 70’s squat than dreamy glamour. I’d love to hear tales of your Saturday job in Kings Road!

  4. Oh dear – I so want to like this, but the bust is just too in my face with the encirclement, enhanced by pleats. I do like 1970s empire line type dresses, and you have a nice fit over the diaphragm. But not this one. Sorry.

  5. This brings back memories of the sort of dresses made by Biba. I actually really like it on you. With your petite frame, you can wear a style like this. The white muslin version would make a nice summer dress as well.

  6. The bust looks much better in the last photo will your adjustment but I don’t think this is one of BHL’s better patterns. I’m not very sure about the details in the bodice at all.

  7. The dress looks much neater with darts. And i loved it the white muslin version(maybe because of the cheerful sleeves).. . I think i might try it in a light fabric and without sleeves as a summer dress..

  8. Thanks for sharing M! I am too a big fan of Anna and however I want ti like this dress, I can’t see myself making one. I think your modifications are very clever and are definitely useful for anyone wantung to make the dress. I wonder if as a sunmer dress, without sleeve and with a really busy print in a floaty fabric can be more something I would consider. Uhm…

    • Ha I’d forgotten about Maud! Thanks for the reminder. I think I need a rewatch of the Big L! ( BTW The Dude has appeared on this blog before, I’ll have you know.)

  9. Seconding the Biba shout out. I am afraid that the inverted nipple shot, once seen, cannot be unseen. For all others who will be seeing this dress afresh, that’s a good save on your part, and a very lovely dress. Because Biba are/is all things lovely.
    (sentimental sigh! A style of dressing that I hope will come back….)

    • The Collette ‘Rue’ dress has an unfortunate bust seaming issue as well, and they addressed it with an alternate bodice set after the initial release hubbub. Perhaps….

    • I’ve seen the new version of the dress (to be released tomorrow) and the “inverted nipple” is no more! And someone at work (whom I don’t know) said they liked my dress today!

  10. It seems to me that a lot of the more obvious flaws in drafting and construction process should have been spotted even before it got to the pattern testing stage. This does not give me much confidence in the abilities of the BHL team. I own the Anna pattern but have been reluctant to sew it up because of the fit across the bust.
    However I have to say that you made an amazing job in turning it into a really lovely dress with the addition of the piping , cuffs, interfacing. It looks lovely on you.

    • Fair point Janice, though in their defence I’d say that I didn’t notice anything amiss when I made the muslin in a very firm cotton. The trouble came later with the soft fabric.

      Anna is a much more flattering pattern though there my main issue was too much excess at the back. I appreciate your comment: I did wonder why I signed up for pattern-testing. It’s a costly business, not so much in terms of money but time.

      • ….. yes – time can be very costly ! I think I will avoid this pattern but I will certainly give the Anna a try ( with a slightly gathered skirt I think )

  11. I like it with the darts in the bust. But I did like your mock up version. The pleats in the bust didn’t look so um, evident. Maybe it’s the fabric? But I agree with another that there is a lot going on there, with the yolk and such.

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