Monday, 19 June 2017

Named Anneli dress, or Flasher's Delight

SO. This post has had its fair share of rewrites over the last couple of weeks, because this dress and I have been on what I can only describe as a journey together. My initial thoughts were fairly scathing, but now I've reached a point of "yes, this dress is nice IF", or alternatively, "if you want to make this dress, do, BUT". Now I'm going to attempt to guide you through my various mistakes and problems so you don't have to go through the nonsense I went through.

Let's start at the end. Here's the dress:

Nice, right? It's light and comfortable, it drapes beautifully, it's an interesting and different style I haven't seen before. I like this. HOWEVER, this is actually my second version, made from some super-cheap fabric of suspect quality that I bought a while ago as toile fabric. I did this because my first version was SO bad that I needed to make it again to find out whose fault it was. My first version was made out of grey jersey (my second attempt at a grey jersey maxi dress and my second failure. I've decided it's just not meant to be and I'm going to go back to bright colours for my summer dresses), and it seemed like a very simple make from a pattern company I trusted. What could go wrong?

What could go wrong, it turned out, was that I could make myself look like that scene in The Little Mermaid where Ariel comes out of the water naked and the seagull wraps her in a sail and ties it with rope. 


Point number one: because this dress is so simple it lives and dies by the fabric choice. My grey jersey was fairly lightweight, but not lightweight enough, so when cinched in with a belt it looks super bulky and weird. The second one is made of a slinky jersey so lightweight it's semi-transparent, and it drapes and cinches in nicely with no extra bulk. And also was an utter pain to sew, but let's not dwell on that.

This is how it looks unbelted. Were I to wear it like this, I'd probably fold the belt back and tie it behind me, because there's a lot of fabric back there and I don't have the body type to wander around in some kind of fabric tunnel like an Olson twin or some shit. There are reasons not to wear it unbelted, and we will get to that in a bit.

Point number two: don't do what I did the first time and try putting long ties in at the side seams. You probably wouldn't do that anyway, because you're not as stupid as me, but just in case: it's a bad idea. It's too much bulk. Do the belt loops and make a belt out of the self fabric if you don't want to wear a piece of cord as a belt (I do not want to wear a piece of cord as a belt).

Point number three: check the length. I had to add about three inches to the hem, which is not normally something I have to do. I couldn't hem my ugly-ass sail dress because that would have brought it to a very strange not-quite-mid-calf length that I do not recommend. Worth noting if you're a bit taller.

To my mind, this dress has one major pro and one major con. The pro is that it moves beautifully. It wafts and flows gently around your ankles as you walk, in a way that's both very subtle but very noticeable to the person wearing it. I still haven't stopped noticing it. It's fabulous.

The con, and it is a MAJOR con, is that the two front pieces aren't connected anywhere below the neck. The dress is held closed with the belt at the waist, and for the smaller-busted that might be enough. For me and my ilk, not so much. I found that both the front pieces shifted towards the centre of my chest because of physics, by which point you haven't so much got a wrap skirt as you have a pair of easily-disturbed curtains. If you don't have that issue then it's probably not quite so bad, though it still might be worth bearing in mind that I went for a very short walk to the supermarket and back in this dress and all of the following caused me to have a wardrobe malfunction:

1) A light breeze
2) Climbing stairs without due care and attention
3) Walking slightly too forcefully in the presence of air conditioning
4) Attempting to squeeze past people on a crowded pavement
5) Static
6) Mild surprise
7) Standing in the vicinity of a closing door (house, car or otherwise)
8) Apparently walking past people in general, because the gods think it's funny to embarrass me

On the plus side, this will teach you how to effectively hide your whole face behind quite short hair.

On my ugly-ass sail dress, I attempted to sew the front pieces together along the edge, but that doesn't really work because while it keeps the top layer in place it does nothing to secure the bottom layer. So either you sew down the bodice and it doesn't make much of a difference, or you sew all the way down to mid-thigh or so and end up taking away a lot of the movement and ease of the dress (for my money, its best feature). What I ended up doing was hand-sewing anchor points on both edges at the bust, waist, and hip, which seems to be enough to keep the dress closed without losing any of the movement in the skirt. It does mean that I have a couple of visible stitches on the left side securing the inner layer, since the fabric is so thin it's more or less impossible to do totally invisible stitching, but the dress is black so eh. 

Point number four (the most crucial point): if you want to make this dress, do, BUT it might to decide to become a cape instead. I imagine this is one of those things that's different for different body types, but there is potential, especially if you're large-busted, for the dress to be quite indecent in the wrong conditions. You can certainly work around it, so it's just a case of body type, priorities, and inclination. But it annoyed me.

I don't have much to say about the construction; the dress is just two fronts, a back, and bands for the neck and armholes, so it makes up very easily and within a couple of hours. Named's drafting is on point as usual, everything matches up and all the notches are in useful places. Had the design not been so... unusual, shall we say, this would have been a very short blog post. 

In conclusion, I totally get what this dress is going for. It's simple and interesting with beautiful movement, and I will absolutely wear it all summer, even if I'm just wafting about the house feeling the skirt swish around my ankles. There are just some practicality issues that I hadn't anticipated and I would have preferred some kind of inbuilt solution (I know the Named designers are both tiny so it's quite probable that it just didn't occur to them). You might fall on the "will happily make a couple of modifications for a dress with fabulous movement" side or you might fall on the "what the hell kind of dress doesn't even CLOSE this is high-order bollocks" side, and whichever it is, I'm there with you. Having both feelings at once. And being annoyed about that, too.

This is what we call "conflicted while posing". 


  1. It may be "super-cheap suspect quality," but that print is giving that dress life. Especially after seeing the mermaid sail. I so do love your wit, even if I was getting more of a Grecian goddess vibe than Ariel. Jokes aside, the end result looks gorgeous. Seriously beautiful. So glad you decided to not let the Fugly win. But I do understand the conflicting feelings about the pattern because I'm pretty sure I fall on the "what the hell kind of dress doesn't even CLOSE this is high-order bollocks" side of things. I admire your adventurous sewing spirit. I need some of that. (But hey, at least I finally cut out something this weekend and may even be a little excited to sew it. My sewjo has been gone for so long I was starting to wonder if I was a former sewist.)

    1. Thank you! I'm glad I got a version of the dress that's wearable and pretty (and that this fabric found the right pattern) but I think it's highly unlikely I'll ever make another unless I can work out a more elegant solution to keeping the stupid thing closed. Some people are so stylish they have evolved beyond the need for practicality; I am not one of them. I'm glad that you're sewing again, your voice has been much missed!

    2. Is there any way to add an interior tie? Like some bathrobes (dressing gowns in Brit speak?) have, inserted into the inside side seam and the inward edge of the underlap? And then a snap (popper) that the waist sash covers? I guess my sewjo really is back since I'm trying to Inspector Gadget you to death on this. :-)

    3. Ooh, that's a thought. I'll look into it and report back!

  2. I did wonder about the lack of closure when I saw the pattern although it looked good on their model. Well done on making it work. This post was so entertaining too, and I'm sure it will be useful for people thinking about making this dress.

    1. Thank you! I'm hoping it will help someone out - this would have been a much less painful experience for me if I'd known these things...

  3. Well the second version is gorgeous. But I'm with you in the lack of closures...I think I'd have added poppers at the waist. Surprised about the length too as Named normally design for super tall. Thanks for the review!

    1. Thank you! I thought about poppers, but I wasn't sure how to use them to secure the inner layer without having a load of visible stitching on the outside of the dress. Named patterns usually come up the right length on me, give or take a couple of centimetres, so I was very surprised too.

  4. Ohh gosh. I laughed out loud at this post. Now I need to read more. I’m wondering if the top version of this may be a breastfeeding Mums dream or breastfeeding tots dream. Such easy boob access.