The Anna Dress Construction Details

Thank you all so much for your kind comments on my Anna Dress. I’ve already bought fabric for a second version. But what did I use in the first version? An, um, something. No idea what. It’s red with white polka dots, barely creases, has a lovely drape. I squeezed this dress out of three metres bought from Classic Textiles at Goldhawk Road. I returned to this shop very recently and they still stock the same fabric. It’s not expensive.

Goldhawk Road

What other fabrics would I recommend for The Anna Dress? For my version, the drape was a significant factor in its success. You’ll want something opaque enough to retain your modesty in the full glare of sunshine. This dress wouldn’t really stand lining. For my next version, I’ve bought a thick cotton and Sew Busy Lizzy has made an outstanding version in a rayon/linen mix. (Actually, she’s made three versions!)

So, squeezing a maxi dress out of three metres of fabric. How? You won’t want a directional print. You’ll need fabric that is 60 inches wide. And you’ll need a little helper…

Little Helper

Yes, for the first time in years I laid fabric out on my living room floor. The pieces for the maxi version were so large and I really didn’t want to start cutting out before I knew that I could get everything I needed out of the fabric. Once I felt confident, I cut the fabric into sections which I then took to my table top cutting board to set to with a rotary cutter. Because cutting out drapey fabric with shears on the floor did not lend itself to accuracy!

If you’re short-ish like me (5 foot 5) and you intend to use a narrow hem on the skirt (which I would recommend) I can tell you immediately that you can slice a full 9 inches off the bottom of the maxi skirt pieces. Yes, this dress is drafted for a 6 foot 4 Amazonian! Go on, save yourself some fabric right there.

Other key construction advice: I took 1.5 inches out of the top of the back bodice pieces and I know that Sew Busy Lizzy darted the top of her back bodice pieces. Shriek if you like, but I just graded these 1.5 inches out at the top of the zip placement.

I do think this dress works best with an invisible zipper. Here are my thoughts on working with an invisible zip:

  • If your budget can take the strain, invest in an invisible zipper foot.
  • Don’t assume you shall successfully insert an invisible zip on the first attempt. You shan’t. Or if you do, I hate you.
  • Machine baste your invisible zip in first. Better than that, hand baste the zip in, then machine baste, then when you’re happy that the waist seams are lining up, properly sew the zip in. Below, you can see where I hand basted my zip in first using silk thread.

Hand Baste Zip

Why bother with the hand basting step? I find that zips travel during insertion on the machine, which makes a nonsense of any accurate placement. Hand basting prevents this travel.

If you’re making the version with a thigh split, I strongly recommend taking the time to hand stitch the split. It makes the world of difference. Remember, every time you sit down, you’re going to be gazing at that split. (And so will the rest of your immediate company – ooh, la, la!) You don’t want to wince, thinking, Hot diggity, I wish I’d hand sewn that split.

Oh, and if you’re worried that the thigh split makes sitting down a scandalous proposition – it doesn’t. There’s more than enough volume in that skirt to retain your modesty. Unless you don’t want to retain your modesty. Which is totally your call and a way of making new friends!

Finally, The Anna Dress is a nice opportunity to indulge in a concealed hook and eye. I’ve promised tutorials on this before, and never delivered. Mainly, because this is a really intricate step that I find difficult to interrupt for the taking of photos. Not this time!

But there are quite enough words on a page for now. I’ll cover that in another blog post.

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36 Responses to The Anna Dress Construction Details

  1. sewbusylizzy says:

    I chopped my maxi off 13 inches below the midi line – I agree the dress is perfect for Elle McPhearson – unfortunately the only thing I have in common with Elle is my nationality!

  2. JacqC says:

    Karen at 5’5″ you are tall, my ambition as a teenager was to be 5’7″ – not a hope! You look fab in your Anna dress 🙂

  3. Alice says:

    It’s interesting to hear that others have removed some width from the upper back, too. I made an Anna, but forgot to mention when blogging that I had to put darts in the back neckline. I think I’ll go and change that. Nothing beats the huge amount of fabric I had to take out of my Laurel dresses, though!

    I’m 5ft 2 and I always take about a foot off By Hand dresses.

    Invisible zips…I just hold the zip edge where I need it to be (not the teeth edge), having previously measured, and then machine baste the zip in (however, I have paid for this laziness sometimes in the form of starting again). But with standard zips I do the whole pinning and hand basting thing. But, gosh, you are so right when you mention zips travelling! With invisible zips I find it’s more likely. For that reason it’s important to hold the zip and the fabric at the same tension whilst sewing. If my waist seams don’t match, I can’t go on until they do!

    I find it interesting when others post about construction details. Very useful…thanks!

  4. Adrienne says:

    It’s always such a pleasure to read you, you’re so articulate! I swear, if my English has improved at all these past years, it’s because I’ve been reading Did you make that? religiously!

  5. Sam says:

    Oh, it’s great to hear that shorties can get the maxi version of this out of 3 metres. After seeing yours the other day I immediately ordered the pattern and bought 3 metres of a vibrantly printed viscose from ebay, hoping I’d have enough. I’m only 5’3″ so it sounds like I’ll be OK!

  6. Fiona says:

    Really great tips Karen. I’ve found the top back of mine to be a little roomy too so I think I’ll add in some darts around the neckline like Lizzy did on this one but might grade it out at the centre back like you have before cutting my next version…

  7. sylkotwist says:

    I used this fabric for my Miz Mozelle and the drape is lovely, just to warn you though, it is a bit clingy and if your not careful you can see your knickers through it!! I love your writing, don’t doubt how clear you make instructions Karen!

  8. Bec Stitches says:

    Great comments, can’t wait for the hook and eye tute..I’m terrible at it:)

  9. This seems to be becoming the dress of Summer ’13 – and with justification. Your dress is lovely, and it is useful to know that it only takes 3m for the maxi (and I am 5’4 so I will be OK).
    I love your assistant – but not having fingers and thumbs makes cutting a bit difficult 🙂

  10. Lynne Watson says:

    I want to make an Anna maxi dress to wear to a ball later this year so would like to make it in a dressy black fabric. Do you think crepe de chine would work ok, or have any other suggestions as to what I should look for? (I am still a beginner so apologies that this is a very basic question!)

    • As long as your chosen crepe was dense enough to protect your modesty (ie no show through). However, crepe de chine will be challenging to cut out as slippery as anything and you’d probably need to cut out between layers of paper. Watch out for an upcoming blog post on working with satin!

      • Lynne Watson says:

        Oh my that doesn’t sound like a beginner’s project then! So would you just go for cotton, or cotton/linen blend? I do want it to look quite dressy though…. Thanks!

  11. Sewingjen says:

    Haven’t tried the dress yet but have some tips re I visible zip insertion! I dont use the invisible zip foot, which after purchase decided I could do better without it. Firstly I machine baste one side of the zip, then close the zip. If you are trying to match a waist seam or horizontal seam – mark where the seam is on the stitched zip ( using tailors chalk) then match this mark on the other side of the unstitched zip. Before you baste the unstitched zipper tape stitch it to the seam through the mark which you have made. This should allow you to “hold” the seam at the same point on the zip whilst basting and stitching.
    Hope this helps!

  12. I’ve made a toile for a different maxi dress and chopped a hugs 12 inches off the bottom so I’ll be checking every long pattern from now on. That’s a lot of fashion fabric saved!
    I’ve got both an invisible zip foot and an adjustable invisible zip foot – I prefer the latter.

  13. Stephanie says:

    That’s great information for construction (love the fabric-saving tip! (I’m only 5’7″)). I always hand baste my invisible zips – I thought I was just hopeless at inserting them with my machine. Thanks for making me look like a pro! 🙂 (I could definitely use the help on the hook and eye though.

  14. Sabs says:

    I love the way you say you’re only 5’5″ and Stephanie above 5’7″ – you’re both GIANTS in my eyes – I’m 5’1″! So if I hadn’t put a self-ban on any new patterns or fabric, I reckon I’d have to take, what, a full metre off the end of the Anna?!

    ps my invisible zip foot was the best accessory I ever spent money on – it’s genius.

  15. Debbie Cook says:

    Your dress looks fab! Oo la la!

    I’m a lazy zipper inserter, though. I use Wonder Tape (double-sided washable sticky tape) and then nothing moves. 🙂

  16. Sheena says:

    I’m with Sabs – you’re all giants – I’m 5’0″. Not sure about the maxi (I wore them to college first time round 🙁 ) but the short version looks good

  17. Graca says:

    Your maxi dress is stunning, I’m surprised it only took 3 metres of fabric. I’m with Debbie on the invisible zipper and using Wonder Tape. I could never go back to basting, I’ve had such results with basting tape and it is so easy especially when working with slippery type fabrics.

  18. Susan says:

    That’s lovely! You’ve certainly been busy. I’m just wondering, though, when you’re going to let us know what you thought of the V&A’s Bowie exhibition – you mentioned you had tickets for late July, right? Having been so bowled over by it myself, I’m curious about your visit!

  19. booketta says:

    5’5″ short!! No way! I’m considered tall at somewhere around 5’5 – 5’6.

  20. Becky says:

    Love the dress, but the assistant is too cute for words! I will have to invest in an invisible zip foot. I am looking forward to the hook/eye tutorial. I, too, love wonder tape.

  21. Sheree says:

    I always use invisible zips and agree that they need to be basted first. I bought a batch recently from a shop ( unbranded -40cms) that cost £2.75 each and since have seen them on-line for under £1. Does anyone know why such a price difference.

  22. ellecsews says:

    I love the photo of Ella helping you. In our house that is referred to as a full splat, and half splat is when only one leg is stretched straight out behind them, and a frog splat is when the back legs are tucked under. I knew that you needed to know this. 😎

  23. gingermakes says:

    Oooh, it’s so very good to know that you squeezed this out of 3 metres– I’m going to attempt to wizard my way through the maxi with only 3 yards! Eek!

  24. MarrieB says:

    Looking forward to the info on the concealed hook and eye! And love that pic of your assistant, so so cute!

  25. Sandesh says:

    Your Anna dress is lovely and I think I am going to dive in and give this pattern a go soon. Also thank you for the link to sew busy lizzie, I loved her versions too and through her blog I found lots more sewing blogs and more inspiration. I had a rare (perfect) day of sewing today but it can be a lonely pastime so reading your blog and then lizzie’s just reminded me that there is a great big fab sewing world out there to be part of!!

  26. Thank you so much for this. I’m getting ready to start mine after giving in and ordering the pattern when I saw yours and Lizzy’s. I am using fabric I had been saving for something special so any tips on how not to completely cock it up are really appreciated.

  27. Spent this evening practicing invisible zipping technique…and after much toing, froing and ripping I finally got it to my liking….a lot learned today. Love your blog, this is my first time of commenting……keep inspiring us all.

  28. Julie says:

    Thanks for the tip on hand basting the zip in. Will be doing this in the future, and it will save Jarvis’s little ears from hearing me swear when the zip moves while machine sewing it in.

  29. maddie says:

    thanks for the construction tips. This is on my to-do list and because I’m as tall as you, I’ll remember to shorten that pattern!

  30. Gaynor says:

    “Don’t assume you shall successfully insert an invisible zip on the first attempt. You shan’t. Or if you do, I hate you.”

    Ha ha ha! I hate my invisible foot, I would rather go through the pain of inserting it by hand.

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