a tale of two bodices – Ditching & Rethinking the plan for my Anna Maxi Dress from By Hand London
Rethinking the dress
I realized a couple weeks ago (while I was asking and answering “why am I sick of all my clothing?”) that I really didn’t want to make an Anna Maxi Dress from By Hand London.
I mean I did/do. And at the same time, I really don’t.
It is true that I want to make a couple maxi dresses as part of my summer wardrobe infusion.
And it is also true that I don’t really/often “do dresses.”
I was initially attracted to the Anna Maxi Dress because there aren’t a whole lot of independent maxi dress patterns, and also it seems to look good on everyone who’s made it.
But I kind of overlooked the fact that I highly doubt I’d enjoy wearing the top half of that dress.
On me – I don’t like dresses hitting at my natural waist, or high necklines.
Luckily I figured this out before I cut the bodice.
But since I figured out that I want to ditch the bodice – I’ve been mulling over what to replace it with, and haven’t quite managed to settle on something.
The Bodice – what do i think I want?
After mulling it over in my head for a couple weeks, and not settling on something, I turned to the magical visual search engine that is pinterest, and tried to come up with some criteria for what I wanted the new bodice to be. I pulled my inspiration together in a “Style | figuring out what dresses I’d actually wear” board.
And based on what I’m taking away from that board, my criteria are turning out to be…
: V neck or lower scoop neck
: flared skirt (check!)
: raise or lower the waist (aka doesn’t sit on my natural waist)
: thin spaghetti straps or wide-verging on kimono sleeves
And here, I think, is my dilemma.
I can envision this dress with two, quite different, bodices.
The Two Bodices
I can see this dress with a dropped waist, a V neck, and kimono sleeves – built super simply with 4 rectangles (two for the front, two for the back), a center front seam, a center back seam, and two side seams.
I can see this dress with an empire waist, a scoop neck, and spaghetti straps – based on a super simple camisole.
So the question becomes, which direction do I want to go in?
I cut the skirt based on the Anna Dress pattern, and sewed it together with 1/2 an inch seam allowance (rather than the 5/8th seam allowance called for in the pattern – which gave me a little more skirt to play around with).
So I know I have enough length and width in the skirt to raise the waistline.
I also know that I don’t have a whole lot of fabric left over to build the bodice out of.
The pattern for the Anna Dress calls for 3.8 yards (3.5 meters) of 60″ wide fabric, and I have 3 yards – so the original pattern would have been a pretty tight squeeze (which I knew going in).
On top of that, I added length to the skirt (just in case I wanted to raise the waistline), and so I’m left with even less fabric for the bodice than I would have had if I had actually cut the skirt as written in the pattern.
Back to the contemplating bodice
So I have two directions I could go in for the bodice.
I think I’d like (and wear) either direction.
I have limited quantities of this fabric to work with. And I definitely don’t want to use a different fabric for the bodice.
If fabric weren’t an issue…
If fabric weren’t an issue I think I’d go with the dropped waist, V neck, kimono sleeve version of this dress. Because I think it would add a nice bit of variety to my wardrobe – and I think this print is subdued enough that the maxi skirt plus full bodice wouldn’t be overwhelming.
Since fabric is an issue, and I do have another bodice option that I like, that I will go with my second bodice option – the empire waist, scoop neck & spaghetti straps.
At least that’s what I’m currently thinking.
And of course the lining…
In addition to mulling over the bodice, I’ve also been mulling over what I want to do for the lining.
I’m leaning towards a lighter blue cotton (definitely not a white), but haven’t run into the perfect thing – so I think it’s time to go hunting for it.
Now that I know what I want to do for the bodice. And I also know that I need to go hunting for the lining, I can keep trundling forward with this project. (And also with my whole summer wardrobe infusion plan).
Finished Project: SFO-PDX-NYC Travel Sweater
Just a heads up before we begin – I’ve broken this sweater’s story into two posts. This is the “proper finished object post” with all the technical bits & pieces (material, needles, pattern, intended alterations, etc.) And I’ll post the travel story portion in a day or two. Because trying to combine the two stories was giving me a headache and also an incredibly long read.
It’s been quite awhile since I’ve had a finished object to write about. It seems that the last piece I wrote about was my Second Archer Button Up Shirt.
Though the last thing I actually finished was my black and white crochet cardigan – that got swept up in a packing frenzy the moment I finished the seaming – so unfortunately no photos & no post until I get a chance to unpack it from my storage unit.
Now that I’m thinking about it, I guess I have finished a tank top, plus a million and a half swatches – both of which my brain seems to dismiss as not “real” finished objects – though they clearly are…
But the point being – I finished my well-traveled sweater!!!
This is the sweater I started knitting in San Francisco, and knit throughout the rest of my time on the west coast. I ended up finishing the body of the sweater a couple days after I landed back in NYC, and finished adding extra length to the body the other day.
Yarn: 2 cones of Ito’s Shio, a 100% wool laceweight yarn, in colorway Navy.
This yarn is absolutely lovely, it’s got an amazing drape and a wonderful structure – the yarn is actually two thinner strands run alongside each other with the vaguest suggestion of a twist added.
Each cone comes with about 525 yards. So with only 1,050 yards total, I knew there was a possibility I’d need a third cone. But Imagiknit only had two cones in stock, so I got them and figured I’d deal with the impending game of yarn chicken later.
Which turned out to be alright, because I only needed the original two cones. I needed every last yard on those cones – but I only needed two.
Needles: US 4 (3.5mm) Addi 40″ circulars
I didn’t take any needles with me when I flew west – since I didn’t know exactly what knitting project I would be starting.
If I had been at home, I probably would have knit this sweater on US 5 (3.75mm) needles (because of the whole potentially not having enough yarn thing), but I ended up using US 4s (3.5mm) partly because they would help fill out my set of Addie fixed circular needles when I got back home.
And they ended up being perfect for this project – I think the US 5s would have ended up being a touch big.
Final Gauge: 8 stitches/inch; 10 rows/inch
Pattern & Planned Alterations
I used my go to top down raglan sweater recipe, with a bit of short row shaping at the back of the neck.
Though I miscalculated the original cast on number (sad panda), made a neckline that was far too wide, and had to go back to fix it.
I seem to have a tendency of knitting sweaters out of quantities of yarn that might not quite actually be sweater quantities of yarn – which leads to a fair number of instances where I “knit far enough on one body part, then change to another body part, and then go back to finish the first.”
There were a handful of those instances with this sweater. First I knit the body, then I started one sleeve, and went back to the yoke. Then I finished the first sleeve, and finished the second sleeve, before undoing the bind off on the body, and added a couple inches of length to it.
And next (because I still have a smidge of yarn left) I want to undo the current decrease bind off at the neckline, and replace it with an I-cord bind off.
What Went Well
The fabric – I absolutely love sweater fabric that is created with lace weight yarn and a slightly larger than traditional needle. Usually for this sort of lace weight yarn I would have used a US 1 (2.5 mm) or US 2 (2.75 mm) needle, which would have also created an amazing fabric. But I would have definitely needed a third (and maybe fourth) cone of yarn. It’s the structure of this yarn – that two stranded very loose ply – that works so hard to create the drape.
What I’d Do Differently
First. I think if I were to re-knit this sweater, I would have distributed my sleeve decreases, and hip increases farther apart. As the sweater currently stands the sleeves are a little formfitting, and the hips flair out just a bit more than I usually like. I don’t think they’re worth going back and re-knitting, just minor annoyances.
Second. This isn’t really something I’d do differently, but it is information I want to tuck away for my next sweater project. I think I vastly prefer the fit of yoked sweaters to raglan sweaters. I think I just prefer the way they fit my frame.
Again, certainly not worth re-knitting for but definitely something to tuck away in the back of my mind (mostly so that the next time I plan a raglan sweater – someone can point me back to this post…)
Remember – the travel story is still to come.
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Why am I sick of all the clothing in my wardrobe?!
I’m currently dressing out of a suitcase I packed in the middle of December – with the vague idea (but no desire to closely examine the thought) that I’d be living out of it for longer than my originally projected 10 weeks.
I ended up with 20 pieces in my suitcase dictated capsule wardrobe. Which is about 10 pieces under the number of clothes I had at the end of my year long, handmade wardrobe challenge.
So the question I keep coming back to as I plan my summery wardrobe infusion is: why am I sick of all the clothes in my wardrobe?!
Is it the clothes themselves?
I ended up with approximately a 50/50 handmade/store bought clothing split in my carry-on suitcase sized capsule wardrobe.
So about 50 percent of the clothes in this current wardrobe were made by me, for me, as part of the self-made wardrobe project. And the other 50 percent were either from before my year of self-made wardrobe-ing or passed along from friends since the end of that year.
Which means, there’s nothing in this wardrobe I hate or dislike or that makes me feel uncomfortable or anything like that.
In fact – I adore all these clothes. And lets be honest, if I didn’t love them, they probably wouldn’t be with me.
Is it a lack of possible combinations of clothing?
One of the most important components of any capsule wardrobe is versatility of each piece within the capsule wardrobe itself.
Meaning, how many pieces of clothing does a single garment “go with?” Not “in theory” – the land of “yea, sure, I’d totally wear this top with all those skirts” – but in reality – the land of “yea, sure, I could wear this top with that skirt and this other skirt, but I’m sure as hell not going to.”
Paring anything with just about anything else is theoretically possible – but that doesn’t mean we’d all wear it.
So with a capsule wardrobe, because you have a limited number of pieces, you want to maximize the versatility of each piece & compatibility of pieces with many other pieces. The more garments one pieces is compatible with, the more looks you can put together.
Therefore it’s quite possible to have a wardrobe where you love all the pieces individually, and still have “nothing to wear.”
There might be some of this going on – but I don’t think we can attribute all of my wardrobe sickness to this. I have a pretty standard uniform. Black tank top. Skirt or Jeans. Over-shirt, sweater or sweatshirt.
This uniform has been thoroughly documented, and I have (more or less) accepted it.
Am I getting garment fatigue?
Even when I have a teeny tiny wardrobe, I still find myself going through “clothing phases.” I’ll fall in love with a particular skirt, or over-shirt, and wear it every other day for awhile. Then I’ll turn my attention on to a different piece. And so the cycle continues.
There probably some of this going on. I’m finding myself reaching for the same maxi dress, and the same shirt over and over again. (And also wishing I had a second one of each.) This whole only having one of a certain type of garment is kind of screwing me over wardrobe-wise.
I packed the dress thinking I’d pull it out once or twice – and would definitely want it during the summer in NYC – but I never thought it would become my go to.
And the shirt – I totally tossed into my suitcase because it was at the bottom of a draw, and I had already sealed the wardrobe box I was packing up.
So a significant part of my wardrobe infusion is aimed at taking some of the focus off of these two particular pieces.
Is there anything I haven’t worn?
And do I actually have a 20 piece wardrobe?
If I made any mistakes packing my carry-on suitcase sized capsule wardrobe it was packing too many dresses.
I packed 3.
And contrary to what I just answered to the above question – I don’t really wear dresses.
Out of the dresses I packed, I’ve regularly worn 1 out of 3.
I figured out quite early on in the self-made wardrobe project that dresses were not really my thing. But I packed them anyway because dresses often feel more versatile (dress them up, down, sideways) than a skirt + top.
I know I can dress a skirt + top up, down or sideways.
And yet, I still felt the need to pack a dress (and then another) “just in case.”
So while I have with me 20 pieces of clothing – 2 of those pieces are dresses that I don’t regularly wear, 2 of those pieces are are coats, and 2 of those pieces are what I’m currently reaching for every other day.
This leaves a rotation of 14 pieces – 2 of which are sweaters that are a little too warm for this weather.
So really, once you take away the coats, the written off dresses, the it’s-too-warm-for sweaters, and add back in the 2 pieces of clothing I’m reaching for every other day – I actually have a 14 piece wardrobe.
Which is far smaller than a 20 piece one.
I think it comes down to a lack of new clothing.
The last pieces I introduced into my wardrobe were a couple pairs of new jeans – which were replacing a couple pairs of worn out & done in jeans. So they didn’t really add to my wardrobe, they more maintained.
The last pieces I introduced into my wardrobe before those jeans were, a navy sweatshirt (that I have with me), and a black over-shirt (the one I keep reaching for). And if I’m remembering correctly, I introduced those back in the fall, around October or November – we’re now a third of the way through May…
So I think a large part of my wardrobe “over-it-ness” comes down to a lack of new.
With the year-long self-made wardrobe project, I may have ended up with only about 10 more pieces of clothing than I currently have – but I was continually introducing pieces into my wardrobe throughout the year.
And as I truly discovered during that project – one single piece of well chosen clothing can make you see your entire wardrobe in a new light.
When a new piece of clothing is well chosen and slots seamlessly into your existing wardrobe – it can open up possibilities that you couldn’t have envisioned when you bought (or made) the piece. It can open up possibilities that have nothing to do with the new piece of clothing itself.
It’s as if the sparkly newness rubs off on all your other clothing and re-makes them all fresh & shiny.
I want new shiny clothing!
And this desire is, I think, the driving impetus behind my summer wardrobe infusion.
I want to see all my beloved clothing through that shiny & new wardrobe filter.
So now, If you’ll pardon me, I’m going to go make some new clothes.