Birdy dress – Anna with gathered skirt

A summer dress to present to you all.


The bodice is made from By Hand London’s Anna and the skirt is a plain gathered “dirndl” style skirt (just two rectangles gathered and attached to the bodice).


I’m interested in the feelings I have about this dress. I think a lot of us who sew are a lot more judgemental about our own items, as compared to the RTW (ready to wear) clothes that we buy – it seems that I have always been rather accepting of all the fitting issues of RTW, so long as it mainly fits (perhaps that’s largely due to the fact that I’ve always been overweight, so clothing fitting/zipping up has always been a bonus. With my own clothes, however, I get caught up on quite minor issues that no one would ever notice.
I think it’s helpful to reflect on this in order to be happier with our craft. I don’t really go clothes shopping any more (RTW-free for 8 months so far) but I have gone into a couple of shops and tried things on and.. well, let’s just say it gives you a good perspective! The fabrics are not very nice, and the fit tends to be terrible.
Take this dress, that I bought from MAC several years ago to wear to Mr. Guy’s brothers wedding:
ImageIf you excuse the fact that I was a bit heavier, and the photo is blurry… this dress fits me terribly! Too short, too low, the waist is crazy high (it’s a gathered skirt on an empire line dress for goodness sake), it’s 100% polyester, and the pattern placement on the bodice leaves something to be desired. And yet, I loved this dress, put it on lay by and paid it off over several weeks. I think I only wore it that once.
In terms of my bird dress today, I feel like the waist is too high (by ~1″ rather than 3″ on the RTW version), the darts are definitely in the wrong place (as with all FOUR of my Anna dresses!) the shoulders sit a bit far back/the whole dress wants to slide back a bit (balance is off), and it’s perhaps a touch too long. The bias binding neckline didn’t work so well (I’ve decided I dislike these even more than facings, which I thought I disliked the most). That’s it, but I’m still so critical of it.

ImageIt can be so off-putting sewing something up only to be unhappy with the result, that I would encourage you (especially beginners), to not be so hard on yourselves! This dress cost me very little for the fabric quality, fits me well, is going to be really comfortable when Wellington decided to be summery (although I’m a bit worried about the skirt in this wind!)

ImageI constantly have to remind myself that whatever fitting issues I have, my clothes are still better than RTW. There may be construction issues, yet – but that’s okay, I’m still learning and my main problem is actually impatience.

ImageAnyway, I guess I should say a bit more about the dress itself. This is a simple dress made from a birdy rayon from Arthur Toye. The bodice is made from By Hand London’s Anna and the skirt is a plain gathered “dirndl” style skirt (just two rectangles gathered and attached to the bodice).

The dress is sewn in the flat and all seams finished with the overlocker. I hemmed it using the narrow hem feature on my overlocker (I LOVE this). In making the skirt, I just made it as long as I could and forgot to leave some fabric to make a facing from. I decided to do a bias binding neckline, which ended up looking like crap so the dress hung in my wardrobe for a month or so before I unpicked it and did it again – instead of sewing all the way around, I’ve just tacked it down at about 6 different spots. Seems to have worked alright, and saved me a lot of hand sewing.

ImageThis dress is going to be especially good for Camp A Low Hum, the best music festival in the world, that we’re going to in early February. Hopefully it’s super sunny like the last time I went (3 years ago) and this super-light weight rayon will be a life-saver. I also have another rayon that’s waiting to be made up into a ground-length Anna (hopefully after I’ve sorted out the bust pleats) for the same festival.


Let me cuddle you!


Pattern: By Hand London’s Anna bodice with a gathered skirt

Fabric: 100% rayon from Arthur Toye sale, originally $25/m, 2m = $25

Notions: cream zip, stash (for some reason) and thread, stash.

Total: $25

ImageI don’t know what I’m doing here but I look pretty fab.


23 thoughts on “Birdy dress – Anna with gathered skirt

  1. I was thinking that too about the print – I can’t really tell where any darts/seams etc are so you can definitely get away with the minor fitting problems. It’s definitely easy to be critical of our own work, sometimes I feel like ‘ughh.. I’m writing another blog post that says my garment is not as cool as I’d imagined it was going to be’. But really I am always proud my garments if I know I put effort into them. Fun that you’re going to Camp A Low Hum!!

    • Yeah I never know if it sounds like complaining; but actually I like hearing about problems other sewers have, because it makes them more human, and me more normal for making mistakes!

  2. First off, I think this dress is completely fantastic, Soph! The print is adorable and I’m with the other commentors – any fit issues are unnoticeable to me. I love that length of skirt on you! There’s no way I could pull off that length and I’m so envious of how awesome it looks on you. Love it all.

    All that being said, I totally know where you’re coming from re: RTW vs the Anna dress. When I made my four Annas, I loved them all, but now the bust darts are really bothering me. They fit way better than most RTW things I own, but they’re still a bit big in the waist and a bit small in the bust. Lowering the darts and taking in the waist would make a huge difference in the pattern, but I just wish I’d decided that earlier! My polka dot one, especially, drives me crazy. And yet…if I found that dress in a store, I’d buy it immediately, citing how great it looks. The perfectionism that goes along with sewing is illogical sometimes.

    Also, that festival looks like a blast! This is the perfect dress for it. It’s also making me wish the Austin City Limits Festival wasn’t forever away. *twiddles thumbs until October*

    • It is awesome! Organised by a dude whose been in the touring business here for a while, has been to LOTS of festivals, and basically throws this huge party that’s organised extremely well (enough toilets, secluded band venues, come and go as you please with BYO alcohol etc).

      The Anna is a testament to my reluctance to make a muslin. I hate them and usually don’t make them, but sometimes I really really should make one, then the fitting issues are done and dusted!

  3. Woohoo, billowy skirt in action!! Lovely dress, looks terrific on you. And, adorable kitty in the first photo. I love a very light rayon / viscose, I find it drapes and ‘flutters’ so nicely!

    And, I hear ya sister on fitting issues. I’m still at the place where I can’t even finish an item if I can’t get it to fit just so, (hence some trousers and my belladone, still WIPs) but, you are right, I have some RTW clothes that I wear and they don’t fit either. Although I am really critical about the sewing and finishing on RTW. It sucks on many of my garments, so at least that part I can do better with my own sewing. But, fitting/tailoring is such a huge issue. I think once people sew more, they will have a bodice, skirt, trousers, dress that they can get to fit really well and then use those as a basis for other garments. I don’t have that yet, and am going to be making a custom fitted bodice soon.

    Have fun at the festival, your dress will be perfect for dancing around in.

    • Yeah for a while where, because of my inpatience, my technical skills weren’t even up to par and I had to ask myself, “why bother if it’s worse than RTW”? So I’ve come to the point where I’m only buying good quality fabric and notions, and trying to take the time on professional techniques.

      I do have a bodice with sleeves, and two skirts patterns that I know fit me properly and I just need to take the fabric (drape and stretch) into account when making garments, along with the techniques. It’s a huge relief and makes the whole process so much nicer

  4. I really like this dress, the print and the pattern are just fab! And I don’t see anything wrong with the darts. I have the same feeling when I’m wearing my Anna, the dart/bust looks weird looking down but in the mirror it looks just fine. I would, however, if I were you, shorten the skirt a bit. Other than that I would twirl and bounce around in it with pride, because, honestly, how many people can say they made what they are wearing with their own two hands, and that they did a better job than the high-street companies… Enjoy the festival, reading over their site, it sounds like a really cool place to hang out!

  5. Well said! I also tend to be really critical on what I make while the things I make myself usually have a much better fit than RTW so what you wrote sounds very familiar.

  6. You crack me up and I still have a major girl crush on you! Love your thoughts on the imperfections- I’m so forgiving of rtw but ruthless when it comes to my stuff! Yours looks amazing. Wear with pride 🙂

    • I was talking to Mrs C the other day, wearing a RTW top that I like – and she mentioned that if I had made it I probably would have been talking about all the things I didn’t like about it, when currently I hardly notice them!

  7. Whilst I totally agree with all the commentors and love the dress, I would add that most people, especially non-sewers are more critical of home sewn garments (cos they should be better than the expert, employed in the industry’s garment – right?!?)

    If you really love this pattern which it sound like you do then I would make a toile (some say muslin) and let the Reader Digest Complete Guide to Sewing (best book ever) help you to create the perfect fit and you’ll have it forever! Also there is a great Craftsy Class on fit – once you know how and you feel the difference between the basic pattern and the adjusted to your body pattern you’ll never not make a toile again!

    • I actually have that book! Well, sort of – my mother has it, and she has been offering it to me since I was about 15 and I always turned it down, probably thinking it wasn’t fancy-looking enough. But I’m finally getting hold of it next weekend.

      I should definitely have made a toile/muslin, but most of the time I just wing it and go without. I probably get away with it 50% of the time. If it’s something I’ll only make once I’m more happy to go without, but for something I want to make over and over it’s way better to get the fitting standardised. However, in saying that, I really really should make more muslins for ALL garments, I’m just too lazy D:

  8. Sophie this dress looks great on you – a print is always forgiving on hiding from general public the things we think stands out like a sore thumb. I’ve learn to become more patient with the sewing process over time, I got my fabric and immediately wanted to wear but in the middle I had to make and then got frustrated on how it didn’t fit that well. I’m become super obsessed with fit and technique and now the fact that I get something to wear at the end is a bonus. Sewing is awesome!

    • Sewing is incredibly awesome – sometimes I just dance around my house because I’m so proud I made something I can wear.

      I have developed a lot of new skills/habits last year, hopefully this year I can encourage myself to have more patience and enjoy the little things more (like fitting) – that way it’s even better when it’s wearable at the end

  9. Hehe, the windy skirt photo is hilarious, how very Wellington!

    Umm, I love this dress on you even if you don’t love it 100% but I love how you can be honest but not too hard on yourself – you know don’t love it 100%, and you can see why, but you know it is still 1000% better than RTW and you can see when you still might be able to wear it, that’s awesome! Nothing is a waste, personally I find even complete fails teach me something.

  10. Its good to know that even more experienced sewers than me can have problems being critical with there own work. I was beginning to think it was only me! And I completely know what you mean about pattern placement/matching on RTW I’m beginning to be less happy with my RTW clothes and want more me mades.

    • You’ll give me the blushes, calling me experienced! Although actually, I find I’m much more critical now than when I started sewing – back then something wearable was a huge success. Now – I actually dislike a lot of what I’ve been making recently and need to take stock of what the hang I’m doing! Especially as my whole goal is to make things BETTER than RTW.

  11. Interesting observations on the difference between rtw and handmade. I think, as others do, that it’s not that noticeable in this print.

    I think the reasons why we’re being harder on our stuff relate to a dissonance between mind and reality. When we try on rtw we’re able to assess the fit and style and if we don’t like it, we don’t buy it. But with handmade we assess the fit and style in our minds and then make it, and if it’s not the same in reality we’re disappointed. Like when you buy something online and it turns up and it’s just not right. But you can’t send handmade back.

    And to add insult to injury, the reason reality doesn’t match our plans, is because we did something wrong! (Wrong fabric, wrong pattern, wrong size, didn’t get fit right, etc). So we get to feel bad about being the cause of our dissonance. It’s a double dose of ways to be frustrated!

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