Pattern Test: By Hand London Orsola Dress

Note: I received a copy of this pattern in exchange for my honest feedback before release (not a public review). All opinions are my own. Also, this post was originally written in June 2017 for the release, buuuut Blogger ate it. What'ya gonna do.

If you've followed By Hand London for a while, you may remember a poll they took a little over two three years ago, asking which of three possible patterns we wanted released first.  Without hesitation, I voted for Orsola, a chic, but not stuffy, wrap-back dress.  It was a close call and, by now, the other two (Sophia and Alix) have been released.  But, Orsola's day is finally here and I could not be more excited!  She is everything I hoped she'd be!

For my initial test, I used variation 2, a dress with a straight front hem.  I used muslin for my initial fitting, which was helpful for making changes, but know that this design is best served using fabrics with a softer, drapier hand.  Enter my go-to "wearable muslin" fabric, black modal twill from Jo-Ann. The twill has the perfect drape, but also enough weight and opacity to feel luxurious and modest enough without a lining. Okay, granted it does wrinkle quite a bit, but I rather like that. It takes down what could be a rather "dressy" dress by today's standards to something completely wearable for day-to-day with only a change of accessories. (These photos were taken after 14 hours or so of wear on an exceptionally hot errand day, so it definitely could have been worse.) But this being my what? fourth garment from this fabric, I think I've said enough about it. How about the pattern? ;)

To start, I love it. This is definitely my favorite By Hand London pattern so far and one of my favorite dress patterns. There's no denying I love the simple, classic style of it and I get complimented every time I wear it! That's not all that common for me so all credit goes to the design. I love how easy it is to wear too and how it works on all weight days. Okay, so I particularly love how it can still make me feel polished on a more, um, swollen day. But, that's the beauty of wrap dresses, right? But, unlike traditional wrap dresses, there's no worry about the appropriate level of decolletage, which I think brings this one up a notch.

It came together well and fairly quickly. I did switch out the bodice lining for bias binding, which may have sped things up. Though, I actually find bias binding sort of fiddly, so I probably slowed myself down haha. But, I made this in May and summer was already well on it's way, so lining a black dress bodice didn't seem like the way to go.

Now, having said I love it, there are still a few issues with it. To start, I'm not entirely happy with is the opening for the tie. It's not that it's a bad design, but I got nervous and didn't trim my seam allowances well enough and I could have done better with my hand finishing. But, it's covered by the tie when it's worn and it's not noticeable otherwise. And, to be honest, I've since seen RTW dresses that don't look much better. I also need to continue working on the bodice fit. Since I made my muslin in, well, muslin, I knew the fit would be a bit different in the final fabric, so I tried to remove some of the droopiness, without overfitting it. But, I underestimated how much to remove here and there.

For this first version, I
  • cut a size 8, blended to a 10/14, based on the size chart
  • shortened the bodice by 3/4", but I think I would have been happier with 1/2"
  • lengthened the back darts by 2"
  • added 1/4" ease to skirt front under the darts, added 1/2" ease to skirt back under darts, then straightened the side seams, removing ~1" from the side seams. (I carry my weight on my backside, not my hips, so I moved the ease where I need it.)
  • lowered the bust point by 5/8"
  • removed ~5/8" from back waist seam
  • removed 1" from back bodice at shoulder
I feel like that sounds like a lot of changes, but I think a lot of it depends on what fit you want from the back bodice wrap and what fabric you plan to use. Obviously, a bit of that was trying to compensate for the modal. The rest was a matter of redistributing because of how I carry my weight and the fact that I'm long everywhere save for between my ribs and hips. Isn't it so interesting the things you learn about your body when you sew?

I think I need one in navy next, my other favorite neutral. And I'll make a few more tweaks to the bodice. But, I have a pink skirt version planned first. A wrap skirt sound perfect for pairing with breezy tees during the summer, doesn't it?

Dress: Pattern: Orsola c/o By Hand London Fabric: Modal Twill  //  Shoes: Hush Puppies  //  Bracelet: Alex and Ani
The most awkward pose ever, yes, but we were trying to show the wrap haha

Is this not just the cutest little photobomber!? This pup was curious about us and of course, I had to say hello! Then, she decided we were instantly best friends and insisted I throw her frisbee until her mom was ready to leave. Who am I to say no to a sweet pup? 

Happy sewing! x


  1. Very elegant! I was between this and the Kielo for some wedding guest dressing I need to do this summer, but the back wrap frightened me off the Orsala (I worried about it draping instead of sitting flush). Yours lies beautifully though!

    1. Aww thanks! I haven’t made the Kielo yet, but I can see how you’d be torn! I would definitely recommend making a muslin of the bodice if you want to be sure it will lay flat, but it’s worth the effort :)

  2. This is lovely on you, it's definitely been on my to do list for awhile. Could you please tell me how you lower the bust point on this pattern?
    Thank you!

    1. Thank you!! I can't find the pattern at the moment, but as the change was less than an inch, if I recall, I simply marked the dart point 5/8" lower and redrew the dart legs to match, keeping the legs where they are on the side seam. If the bust point is much too high, you can actually cut the dart out of the pattern and lower the entire section by an equal amount and then blend/true the side seam. Hopefully that makes sense! Sorry for the delayed reply!


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