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.  

Make a Cinch Belt

This wide belt is a goth remake of the one I wore with my school uniform.  It was made up of a “nurse buckle” and a petersham ribbon.  The ribbon had a section that was stitched on three sides to make a coin pocket next to the buckle – for the lunch money. 

This is an easy project  so long as you’ve got the necessary bits.  The belt can be adjusted to fit over a dress or a coat.  I made it to go with the Simplicity 2305 dress.

 

You will need:

  • a clasp fastener such as a nurse buckle.  The traditional ones with three circles and holes are ok; vintage nurse buckles from Ebay are beautiful if you’re feeling extravagant, or try Macculloch and Wallis.  Mine is a leftover from an old Mango coat and is for a 5cm belt   
  • a slider in the same size (if you want the belt to be adjustable)
  • grosgrain or petersham ribbon the same width as the clasp and slider  For a small to medium sized belt, you’ll need 1 metre
  • the same length of velvet ribbon (if required) 
  • if the grosgrain would benefit from stiffening, back it up with the a length of fabric (see Step 2 below).  I used needlecord from which I made the dress and turned it so it was against the grain (so the ribbing goes left to right).  My strip was 1m by 8cm: 5cm desired width, plus 2 x 1.5cm seam allowances.

Making up

1 Baste velvet ribbon to the centre of the grosgrain.  Stitch the long sides of the velvet ribbon onto the grosgrain and remove the basting.

 

 

2 If you’re using a backing strip, press under 1.5 cm on both long sides of the fabric.  Check that the backing strip is the same width as the ribbon side then pin together.   Stitch both long edges, keeping as close to the edges as possible.  Press, first testing a small area of belt to check for heat tolerance.

    

3 Baste the short ends of the belt.  Insert belt into the left side clasp/buckle, fold edge under 1.5 cm and press.  Stitch.  On the other side, insert belt into the slider (down then up so that the centre bar doesn’t show on the right side of belt).  Insert the belt into the right side buckle.  Press 1.5cm under the free

end of the belt.

4 Insert the pressed edge back under the slider and towards right side clasp. It’s a tight squeeze but you can stick a pin into the fabric edge and push it under centre bar of the slider till it makes it through the other side, then pull along.

 


5 Pin the pressed edge onto the backing of the belt and stitch down.  If you find this last step as confusing as I did, get a bra (yes, a bra!) with adjustable bra straps and follow the path of the strap in and around the slider.  It’s exactly the same.

And it’s a cinch!