Hazel Little Black Dress

Okay, so it’s here. It exists. It’s a dress I’ll undoubtedly wear a lot. Did I enjoy making it? NO, I DID NOT!!!

Frigging hell. One lobster dress, two toiles, lots of reader advice… Did that FBA make an iota of difference? No, it did not.

How so, Karen? I’m going to be really honest, readers. Two important points.

  • You can tweak an FBA until you’re ready to dig your own grave, but when bodice fitting relies on the minute adjustments of how a shoulder strap works with your body, all that careful tweaking can go out of the window. Yeah, the bodice fitted. No, the shoulder straps would not stay in place. So hoiked up they were.

Which brings me to my next point…

  • After careful adjustment and re-adustment of an inch-deep front bodice dart, all that work went out of the window when I had to tweak my shoulder straps. I stared and I stared at my apex. (Lucky me.) I stared some more. Then the Goddess of Sewing sent a thunderbolt straight into my cranium. Why are those tiny darts even there? Why isn’t this a princess seam?

So I unpicked my seams. Unpicked the overlocked seam finishes. Pulled apart the darts and eased them out. Β My dress now includes Travesty Princess Seams. I’m quite certain the seam lines don’t lie where they’re meant to, but they’re still a helluva lot better than the pointy triangles that had been previously mocking my chest.

My second Hazel dress still looks slightly stretched across my chest. How do I feel at the end of this journey?

The tragedy is that I have three striped fabrics that would look awesome with the bias side bodice pieces of the Hazel dress. Do I have either energy or inclination? Absolutely no! I learnt a lot from my FBA experience, and don’t feel scared of this adjustment any more. But an FBA on the Hazel dress? Not for me again…

What think you, readers?

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51 Responses to Hazel Little Black Dress

  1. ooobop! says:

    Well, I’m inclined, if not a little bit scared, to say it was worth every minute spent. The fit is impeccable and you look very beautiful in it. (not innit!) x

  2. LLADYBIRD says:

    Well, *I* think it looks great! I urge you not to give up on the FBA just yet, though… it really is a handy pattern adjustment, and it will work wonders for your dresses that aren’t strappy. Honestly, I don’t even bother with a FBA on those sorts of dresses – since the only part of the dress that covers your shoulders/neckline is a strap, those are super super easy to adjust. In that case, I grade my pattern based on whatever finished size fits my bust/waist, and then I shorten the straps accordingly. I have never had a problem with fitting this way, although I’m sure there are fitting purists out there who are clutching their pearls as they read this comment. Ha!

  3. K-Line says:

    So sorry you had a frustrating experience. Can’t say I am entirely unfamiliar with this scenario. πŸ™‚

  4. Sam says:

    I’m sorry to hear making this was such an unpleasant experience for you. I hope that won’t stop you wearing it, because it looks fabulous on you.

    I love the necklace and yellow shoes as well.

  5. Jacqueline says:

    It looks great on you, and fits really well.

  6. nothy lane says:

    First, the dress looks fabulous on you! So I hope that makes all your work worth it!!! I hate doing FBAs – but like everything else in sewing, it gets easier with experience…

  7. Your little face, Karen! I can see the gritted teeth, but the dress really and truly does look fabulous on you x

  8. The dress looks really lovely. The styling is so pretty as well!

    Fwiw I’m very wary of patterns for wovens with bust darts these days; I think princess seams work so much better for those of us who need an FBA.

  9. Marie says:

    Having never done an FBA I can’t really comment on that front, but what I do know is that this dress looks quite stunning on you my dear! I hope you wear it loads as it’s absolutely perfect on yo…but then again, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with the lobster version to be honest!

  10. Jen (NY) says:

    Sorry to hear about your frustrating experience. I suspect the issue, in part, may be that the Hazel dress uses “dior” darts, which do not function the same way as ordinary side darts. Also, it does not have true (curved at the bust point) princess seams. The methods for doing an FBA on a princess seam are a bit different, and it changes the shape of the bust curve seam. (For Hazel, the princess seam adjustment would tend to change the shape of triangular center piece, which may ruin that nice design line).

    But, don’t give up on FBAs! I would like to suggest that you try it again using a more standard bodice (side darts or waist darts). That would tend to be a straight forward adjustment. Also, I think it is better to fit an FBA on your actual body (or body double) rather than rely on measurements. I start with a tissue fitting, sometimes more than one, when I’m using a new pattern.

    From my own experience, there is a learning curve with FBAs. Some hits, some misses. I made one of those “custom” duct-tape dress forms and that has helped me work out some of the issues, though I still tend to overcompensate a bit. Anyway, the black Hazel looks nice and wearable, which is much much better than my first attempted FBA!


  11. Burke says:

    Well, I considered doing an FBA but a straight 14 fit so well with a 1″ seam allowance on the bodice that I decided against it. The fit isn’t perfect but sometimes it’s just exhausting adjusting, toiling, etc. that you just want to finish a garment. I’m pleased with all three of mine sans FBA and even made a strapless version which removed the hassle of the strap placement.

  12. LinB says:

    I hope you get lots of wear out of this darling dress, and that the pain of birthing it will fade in time. As to making it again, remember that you do not have to do everything, just because you can. Also, you need to choose which hills you are willing to die on, in any battle.

  13. Lynne says:

    I too think it looks great! And, oh boy, “You can tweak an FBA until you’re ready to dig your own grave”, never a truer word was spoken! This is exactly what I’ve been doing today!!

  14. symondezyn says:

    I think your finished Hazel LBD looks FABULOUS! I’m so impressed with the lengths you went to attempt the FBA, and if in the end you still had to do some tweaking, at least it’s done and you’re a better woman for it! I promise you – an FBA on a regular bodice is not nearly so painful, and now that you’ve jumped in the deep end, you’ll fly through a regular one like a breeze ^__^ Kudos to you for seeing it through, and I love the final result! πŸ™‚

    • Yes, in fact, this hasn’t put me off FBAs. I am really glad to feel much less intimidated by that adjustment. Just FBAs on this particular dress!

      • symondezyn says:

        If it helps at all… as much as I think the FBA helped me for this dress, my stupid straps STILL won’t stay up… I was considering redoing them to criss cross in the back, but eh, who has the time? LOL ^__^

  15. Carolyn says:

    I think you look great in the dress and that you learned a new technique and some more about sewing and isn’t that the important thing?! It’s another sewing experience that you will use in the making of a future garment so wear you’re new dress with pride!

  16. Rowena says:

    Just another voice of support saying that it looks great! Also – your previous post inspired me to learn how to do it myself. I went from a B-cup to a D in the past month (just gave birth and am nursing!) and expect to be there for the next year, so I spent a couple evening reading up and making a toile of a sheath I’ve been dying to make out of some purple silk tweed I’ve been saving. You inspired me! I went from being resigned to wear boring, shapeless knits all year while I sadly eyed the good stuff in my stash, to being excited about potentially making something fitted this year. So….thanks!

  17. Roobeedoo says:

    Oh good lord – you look stunning! I cannot see the darts or seams at all in that black fabric, so I can’t bring myself to cast nasturtiums at your construction method or fit – from where I am sitting it just looks like an amazing dress! Dior darts eh? Who knew?!

  18. Janice says:

    I think it looks awesome! If the shoulder straps still aren’t staying up (too large?), then maybe unpick the facing and then reattach them?

  19. Portia says:

    Some projects are just like that aren’t they? On the upside, it’s a friggin’ fantastic fit on you and is going to be a really versatile addition to your wardrobe. (But I totally getcha on that “glad it’s over” feeling!)

  20. liza jane says:

    Well, it looks great! I especially like it with your yellow shoes.

  21. prttynpnk says:

    Well, it is a great dress on you, princessy of FBA’d…you look great!

  22. Amanda says:

    Let’s start with how fantastic this frock looks- love it dressed up with the yellow shoes of wonder. My attempt at Hazel had the same problems but the idea of a FBA was terrifying me. You are a brave (and dedicated) lady and I might have a bash at it again with princess seams…

  23. poppykettle says:

    I love the honesty here. You’ve totally made my day! Sometimes, a certain pattern just isn’t meant to be… not without a truck load of effort, anyway!!

  24. stgilbert says:

    Ooh, that dress is gorgeous! I love your daisy accents and pretty yellow shoes πŸ™‚ I agree that princess seams would look better with Hazel.

  25. Belle says:

    I think it looks great! you’ve done a good job. I’m trying to attempt an FBA on this dress at the moment, and I’ve been struggling a lot too. Glad it’s not just me!

    P.S. I just got an email saying my copy of your book has come in! I’m off to pick it up now. Whee!

  26. Leah says:

    The Hazel pattern is just a doozie to try a FBA on, I think – if you do your next FBA on a more conventional pattern I bet it will be a lot more straightforward and you’ll be happier with the results (although your finished dress looks just fine).

  27. Jacq C says:

    Your dress looks amazing & is styled beautifully, I love those shoes. I’ve been struggling to get my head round the FBA & I think your experience, and the comments, have convinced me not to try it with this pattern! ‘Dior darts’? So much to learn … πŸ™‚

  28. Frog says:

    Looks lovely, so all that hard work paid off.

  29. another one who thinks it looks great! love the yellow shoes! i hope you have more luck with other patterns. now my hazel has one strap that doesn’t stay up. i thought it was a just a bit too long, but maybe i need i one sided bust adjustment?

  30. ahem, I think you LBD looks great (also the way you’ve styled it with those eye-catching accessories) but I feel your pain. All that work and still not precisely what you thought you were getting! Tarnation. But as you say, you’ll wear it a lot; and as we’re all saying, it will always look fabulous.

    Sew Little Time’s comment with regard to one-sided bust adjustments rang a bell with me because yes, that’s something I think more of us probably need. (Do we adjust for our smaller or larger side?) And most of us have one shoulder higher than the other. Each of is unique and isn’t it great?

  31. Colleen says:

    I love the Hazel dress — and I like the idea of a LBD Hazel. Yours looks fine and I’m about to speak only for myself: I look like the dumpiest, most matronly, blobbiest person in the world in my Hazel It makes me really sad. I have big boobs. The Hazel makes them look like giant mounds of mashed potatoes.

  32. Louisa says:

    Well, all your hard work was definitely worth it! The dress looks great. I too prefer princess seams above darts. So much easier to make smoothly. And I always have to move straps in toward my neck. Apparently I have no true shoulders. Even more interestingly, the strap that falls down the most is the one on my higher shoulder! Go figure.

    Ooh. Such awesome yellow shoes…

  33. Helen Made says:

    Karen, this dress looks great, even if you’re glad it’s over! It was definitely worth it.

  34. gingermakes says:

    Gosh, this looks great! I never would have thought to make a black version, but this looks stellar! Great job, dood! I never would’ve guessed that you struggled with the bodice. Those little darts are a total pain in the @ss…

  35. velosewer says:

    Your hazel looks great on you. However, give yourself a break and try a few other things before contemplating this dress again.
    I’m so used to my adjustments now. Making the Sewaholic Minoru jacket with a sewalong earlier this year was really painful for a full two months but now I’m think I’ll make another one. How sick is that? Raglan sleeves and a tonne of topstitching and I still want to make another Minoru.
    That’s what I mean about giving yourself a break.

  36. I think it’s super flattering on you Karen, from the neckline ( squares don’t do it for me) to the shaping and fit. You’ve really got it. The black, simple and classy, like all lbds should be. Did I see this still in bits at the weekend? Was this a bank holiday finish? πŸ˜‰

  37. redsilvia says:

    The dress looks nice on you so that’s a win in my book.

    I made this one too (and wore it when you were in SF) and haven’t worn it since since it’s now a bit big and the straps fall down. That’s probably my fault (that plus a bit more running) but the dart is weird, even on my B cup so don’t think it’s you. It’s just a weird dart shape. Move on to a new challenge. Those last few Burda mags had some nice things…

  38. Karen it looks so so so good, it is flattering. You’re made of tougher stuff than me. I looked at those triangles and thought ‘too hard’.

  39. Emma says:

    Oh my giddy aunt. Despite the mountains climbed it’s truly STUNNING Karen.

  40. 2barbara says:

    since you’ve decided that the princess lines work better for you and you already have wonderful striped fabric waiting in the wings, why not swivel the vertical seams of the princess lines to form a ‘v’ in the center front of the bodice? that will allow you to show off the great fabric with a great fitted dress. for the straps, you *need* to have someone to pin them in place for you the first time around, unless you plan to wear a strapless bra, in which case cut your losses and go with spaghetti straps.

  41. Rebecca Silva says:

    Just put it all behind you and look forward to good times in a LBD that looks great on you!!

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  43. Erika says:

    Ouch, sorry to hear it caused so many problems! I’m happy to hear you’ve not given up on the FBAs though, for I do think this dress fits a bit better over the bust than the previous one… And as has been said, this was a really tricky pattern to do a FBA on! I had a really hard time my first try and it took quite a while, but in the end it was so worth it.

    You look wonderful in this dress, and I love how you’ve styled it!

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