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.
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.
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…!
Using 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.
I’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.
What 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 look 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)I 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!
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?