By Hand London Flora: pattern hacking and making a dress to last!

I’ve made a few By Hand London Flora dresses; the pattern is a few years old but the square neckline is bang on trend, and there’s so much scope for pattern hacking to make the design your own. From denim to red gingham to a mixed-scale dotty version, my Flora dresses have been worn so many times.

Sadly, the black and white one hasn’t fared too well*. The straps are fraying where I trimmed the seam allowance too close, and the shape seems to have sagged a bit where the weight of the skirt has pulled the bodice. I still wear the dress frequently, in fact, I’m wearing it right now! However, I felt that a new improved version was on the cards. I made some tweaks to the design, and added some extra steps for durability, so read on for the details…

Pattern hacks

I was hugely inspired by Sister Jane and Dora Larsen for the adjustments I made to this Flora dress. I love the ruffles and tie straps of these dresses, so I added them to create a semi-statement yet very wearable garment. I definitely wanted something I can wear comfortably as an everyday dress, rather than make something ‘just for best’. 

For the straps, I wanted to tie them at the back, rather than on top of the shoulder which seems to be the go-to for tie straps. To get them even, this meant making one (the one that goes over the shoulder) slightly longer than the other. My straps are around 76cm long, and they create a nice bit of drama without being over the top. The Flora Dress has quite a high back so I also chopped 5cm off the top so the tie straps would properly sit at the back rather than so near to the top of my shoulders. In hindsight, I probably could’ve gone a bit lower, so if you’re going to give this a go, 8 or 9cm should be the sweet spot.

As for the ruffle on the skirt (which I gathered instead of using the pleated skirt in the pattern), I used a cotton bed sheet and cut a long strip almost double the circumference of the skirt hem. I hemmed it with a small double turn, then set to gathering. The Flora Dress fastens with an invisible zip at the back, so this needed to be inserted and the whole skirt assembled before starting on the ruffle. Once the ruffle was basted in place, I added a wide band to fit onto the lower skirt piece. I didn’t want to overdo the ruffles and tiers, so I cut this band to fit exactly, rather than gathering it to fit. However, a gathered band would also look great, and take away the need for such accurate measuring to get it to fit!

The final hack was to add in some in-seam pockets. I wasn’t sure if this might pull down the bodice but thankfully it seems to have worked. To make the pockets I followed the same steps for drafting and inserting a pocket in my flat front skirt tutorial.


And onto making this a dress to last… 

To avoid the seams fraying so quickly (and by quickly I mean a year or so, but I want my clothes to last!), I stitched the bodice with a shorter stitch length and avoided trimming down the seam allowances. The fabric is lightweight enough that it hasn’t added bulk, and hopefully this will avoid any of them popping like with my previous version. Look at those sad straps:

I also edge stitched the straps to add an extra element of sturdiness, and edge stitched all the way around the top of the bodice. The bodice is fully lined, and for the skirt I used French seams which I hope will make this a dress to be worn and loved for years to come.

One last step I’ve taken to give this dress more lasting power is to hang it across two coat hangers. The weight of the skirt means the bodice can be pulled when the dress is hanging in my wardrobe, so I loop the skirt part through a second hanger to ease that pull. Time will tell, but hopefully these few steps will avoid the mistakes of my previous version.

I’ve already worn this to a family celebration and to my sister’s 40th birthday party, and it felt fantastic! Comfortable, a bit quirky, dressy yet totally wearable, the By Hand London Flora Dress is a corker. 

*It’s worth noting that the one that frayed is the only one I’d previously made in viscose, the others are cotton.

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