Self Assembly Required

DIY dressmaking + crafts with Emily

By Hand London’s Flora turned maxi dress!

This is the first By Hand London pattern I’ve tried and I didn’t even make the whole dress! (I’m rubbish I know! Already hacking away without even trying it out to start off with…)


There was a reason for this though as when I bought the pattern it was with this hack in mind and I knew I was unlikely to use the full circle skirt pattern that is part of the dress. It’s a bit too 50s for me though I do love the shape of it. I’ll probably try it one day if I find the right fabric for it.

So the plan was to use the wrap bodice top – which I loved the style and fit of in the example photos – and hack a different skirt on. I had a beautiful bright tropical printed fabric that I had in mind for a lovely maxi dress with a very fitted bodice and flowy skirt and I figured this’ll be the perfect opportunity to use it!

The bodice went together pretty well. I pretty much followed the pattern and instructions to the letter except where I opted to understitch the neckline lining before stitching the armholes together and pulling it through to make sure that I had a really crisp finish there.

For the skirt hack, I basically just made use of the rest of the fabric I had left which was not a much as I remembered (totally thought I’d bought 3 metres but in fact was 2.5 – that’s a big difference in the world of home sewing!). Shape-wise, it’s like a rectangle with slight shaping towards the waist. I used as much width as possible as I wanted to add some tucks into it. I ended up with 2 large pleats in the back and 4 smaller ones in the front of the skirt. I tried to match them up to the bodice darts as much as possible.

As part of the hack I also added in some in seam pockets! The pocket pattern came from the Peony dress from Colette. I could probably have just made it up but since I had it to hand I figured why not! As usual I put them in about an inch too low! I’ve really done that way too many times to count! 🙁

The dress is finished with a simple invisible zip in the back and hemmed.  

I wish I’d done a muslin beforehand because I would probably have taken out some of the length in the bodice. I do find that’s a general problem with patterns and the fact I’m only 5’2! I like to try patterns without any adjustments to it the first time round to see what the fit is like but this is starting to be a trend! My own fault really for not doing muslins – I should try to get in the habit but I always feel like I’m wasting time and fabric…

The dress is perhaps a little too formal for casual summer wear and a little too short for full on eveningwear… Dilemmas. 

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  1. Don’t make a muslin. I never do unless I am making something really complicated or using expensive fabric. I cut huge seam allowances, mark the sewing lines onto the fabric in various ways, baste (by machine or by hand depending on the sensitivity of the fabric) and the try on and fit as I go. Has always worked for me for nearly 40 years and I can’t remember the last I could not get something to fit that way. Personally, I find muslins a waste of time and a waste of good fabric and I hate patterns with ⅝” seam allowance as it is not enough to fit properly. I always cut them off and then use the edge of pattern (which is now the sewing line) to mark the sewing line on to the fabric and cut at least 1″ seam allowance all round. That way you have the essential information marked directly on to the fabric and plenty of sea allowance to play with.

    1. Thanks for that. It’s good to see other people have the same aversion to muslins as I do! That’s a great tip about changing the seam allowances as well. Definitely something to try next time!

  2. I love the wrap front. I think it makes it very feminine. The floral print fabric helps too! Love the length too! I’m a sucker for a maxi dress.

      1. Wear them shopping, wear it anywhere. There is no rule to say you can’t look put together for daily wear. You put a lot of effort and time and love into it, now just love wearing it just because you can.
        It’s a fabulous dress
        At your height, you will need to petite adjust all your patterns

  3. The fabric is so nice. Surprisingly not too busy for a maxi dress! What a fabulous dress and you are THE hacking queen haha! So talented!

  4. This dress is beautiful! I love the Flora wrap front version, but that fabric takes it to the next level! I usually make a muslin out of a fabric that I would wear, but nothing too fancy. Then I just have more and more clothes to put in my closet!

  5. This looks fab! BHL patterns are the closest to my body shape so really like them. Flora is one of my absolute favourite patterns but never tried the faux wrap bodice mainly because I couldnt be bothered to deal with any gaping. Whether I make a muslin depends on the price or availability of the fashion fabric I’m using e.g. fabric from Hawaii which I definitely can’t go and get more of! But it does always feel like a waste of time. I often try to measure the patterns in various places and/or pin then onto my dummy.

  6. Stunning dress, it’s just gorgeous!! The fit of the bodice looks great, I attempted a bodice muslin using an old duvet but the fit seemed very off, maybe it was the very thin fabric, I will try it again.

  7. The dress looks fab, Emily! That fabric is to die for.

    I know what you mean with muslins. It depends on the style of what I’m making really, but often with dresses I do make a partial muslin out of cheap polyester fabrics so that I can sort out any potential issues with fit and familiarise myself with the pattern before tackling it in a more precious fabric.

    Bodices are always my issue and often I can’tbe bothered to do a muslin, but the times that I don’t I’m guaranteed to mess up the fabric by sewing incorrectly or finding that I needed to go up a size (I’m ALWAYS between sizes!)

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