Anne Boleyn

“Do you need help getting into that dress?” was the first comment on my new Simplicity 2305.  I was struggling to get my head and arms through at the time.  

It got worse.    

Because it was cold, I’d put the dress on over a long-sleeved base layer in the same colour (black) and the combined effect of the two garments was a certain “Leg of Mutton” appearance in the sleeves.  Now, I have nothing against Leg of Mutton sleeves.  They can have a wonderful dramatic effect, as in this picture, and if I were  very, very evil, I’d have sleeves like this all the time.  But they make this dress look like period costume.

“It’s a bit…. Henry VIII,” continued the familial commentary.

“A jester! You look like a jester.”

“Too grim for a jester.”

“Anne Boleyn,” said my daughter finally.  “You look like Anne Boleyn.”

So there you have it: my new Anne Boleyn dress.  See the pale strip of neck between the dark hair and fabric.  How helpful for the executioner to have a marker on which to land his axe so cleanly… 

So why do I look happy wearing it?  Two reasons.  Firsly, the relief at finishing a project that had me making so many mistakes I feared I was going to blunt my entire collection of seam rippers in the process! Sometimes it’s not good to rebel against pattern instructions.  For example, there’s a reason why a neck band strip is cut on the bias: so that it lies flat.  But no, I thought I’d be cleverer (ha!) and go against the grain, thereby matching the waist band and cuffs.  The result was a wrinkled neck band which refused to lie flat and no amount of hot pressing was going to persuade it otherwise.  Luckily, the mistake was fixable.  Other aspects of the design were new to me and I didn’t find the instructions as plain as I’d have liked them (I wouldn’t recommend this pattern to a beginner).  I usually struggle with zip insertion and here for the first time I was in a situation where the top of the zip opening was stitched closed (the sleeve seam).  The instructions on attaching the waistbands were clear if you know what you’re doing, but I got mixed up between the symbols for the facing and interfacing so some serious unpicking took place at this stage as well.

I’ve been desperate to make this dress since first spotting the pattern in the Stash of the Slapdash Sewist and I was lucky to find for it the finest needlecord (21 wale).  It came from the Cloth House, No. 47 and wasn’t cheap.  So after stumbling in the making of it and then having to get used to its strange silhouette, I am delighted to find that it’s very flattering.  It must be the large sleeves which make the waist appear smaller in contrast.  I can tell that I’ll got lots of mileage out of it so whilst it’s not a perfect dress (see below), the Anne Boleyn is a good wardrobe staple.

Recommended modifications

Are you’re thinking of making Simplicity 2305?  If I were to make it again, I’d ring some changes: 

  • Making the neck wider.  Not plunging as in View B, but just so there’s less material and more collar bone on show.  It might even work in an off-the shoulder design.  
  • I’d extend the sleeves to a 3/4 length, with the cuffs tapering to the shape of the forearm.
  • Although I’ve added lining to the skirt, it stops 1cm above the optional slit on the right hand side.  This still leaves rather a lot of material gripping the knees so I think losing the slit and extending the lining would work better on heavier fabrics, especially if you intend to stride about in it. 
  • Last but by no means the least: I’d fit a longer zip.  Although I’d used a zip longer than the recommended 12″, the dress isn’t easy to get into and the UK size 10 with a size 12 skirt can’t go over the fuller bosom of my dummy (she’s 92cm/36″).  But if the headless thing won’t wear it, I certainly will, and lots.