This dress began with a conversation in the kitchen at work over a cup of peppermint tea. My colleague was having a clear out and had rediscovered a suitcase of fabric from Egypt, Pakistan, and Africa that she had bought a number of years before but life had got in the way of her plans. She asked if I wanted the fabric on the condition that I gave away anything I didn't want. Great deal, right? A lot of fabric entered my house and I kept a few items - some Egyptian cotton and a few metres of black Africa cotton.
While ironing the African cotton after washing, I started to get excited and I knew what this piece was destined to become - the Anza dress by Itch to Stitch. I had been looking for an excuse to purchase this pattern and one had conveniently fallen into my lap. It's a lovely moment when a pattern and fabric find each other with ease.
For those unfamiliar with Anza, it is a relaxed, unlined jumpsuit or dress with a cinched waistline featuring both elastic and a drawstring. It has a front buttoned V-neck bodice with pleated breast pockets with buttoned flaps and fairly deep side pockets. It comes in a wide range of sizes including cup sizes. Depending on your fabric choice, it could be made for numerous occasions.
The cotton is a rather wonderful. It has a subtle diamond pattern woven throughout which you don't notice until you're up close. It was easy to work with making stitching the dress a mostly smooth experience. It does have a down side though - it attracts everything! Pet hair, threads, general dust etc that I can look completely dishevelled by the end of the day! I chose to underline it with a plain black cotton because it felt a little too transparent. The pattern doesn't call for this and it has made the dress crisper and a little warmer than I had intended. The bodice is finished with plain black buttons which aren't my first choice but they were all I could find in Oxford that were big enough. This pattern does require you to pay more attention than usual to the size of the buttons due to the front facing being topstitched into place giving the illusion of a wide placket. The buttons need to be able to stand up to that and anything smaller than the suggested size might look odd.
Based on the finished measurements, and a quick paper fitting, I cut a size 8 at the bust grading to a 10 at the waist and hips. I made no other changes although with hindsight I should have lowered the waistline by a centimetre to achieve a more comfortable fit. The other change I would make is taking up the hem a little - it falls just below my knee which isn't my thing but I can definitely live with it in this version. This was my first time using a pattern that offered cup sizes and I liked that I wouldn't have to think about an FBA. Given the relaxed feel for the dress, the sizing seems to be about right.
While there are many steps to complete this dress, it is a straightforward make. I did find some areas tricky but this down to my fabric choice and just not really paying attention! The breast pockets took way longer than they should have but I was determined to get them as close to perfect as I could and spent longer pressing these than any other part of the dress. The waistband caused the most frustration though and this is purely down to the thickness of the cotton and its fraying superpower. This part is cleverly designed as the band allows both the elastic and the draw string to be added in the same area with (what should be) minimal fuss. The elastic is added before you fully close up the band and the drawstring is added through two small button holes in the same band. A quick note on hemming - the pattern asks you to hem the skirt pieces separately before you stitch the side seams and I would recommend this. I skipped it and found it difficult to get a smooth neat curve with the fabric bulk and therefore my topstitching is off at either side - not that you can notice in black!
There's a lot to like about this pattern. I'm rather fond of it's casual feel, the clean lines on the bodice and the comfort of cinched waistline. Perhaps the best part is the side pockets. They are deep enough to be actually useful. I judge a pocket on whether it can fit my whole hand with my phone. I still have room to spare in these! As ever, I have thoughts of more versions in some brighter colours but as these would be more lightweight versions they may have to wait until next Spring...