Sophia Dress pattern // By Hand London // Closet Case Files
Sewing Projects


Do you ever stumble on fabric that feels like it’s yours even before you get to the checkout? Like you would maybe snarl at someone who even looked at the bolt while you were hugging it desperately to your chest, a half-mad and possessive gleam in your eye? I spotted her in Mood last year; I was almost out the door when she waved a little abstract geometric arm at me. If fabric had eyelashes, hers would have been batting. A lovely textured cotton with a deconstructed modernist tree print, she was in my arms within seconds.

Like so many of my emotional fabric purchases, I didn’t have a plan. I just knew she needed to come home with me and be mine forever. It wasn’t until BHL released the Sophia Dress that I realized it was indeed kismet/beshart/fate. The sharp, modern, angular lines of Sophia were a perfect foil for the sharp, modern, angular lines of this fabric.

Obviously a dress like this needs an occasion. One of my closest friends had a gorgeous farm wedding this summer, and the combo of Sophia + fabric seemed like the right blend of fancy and casual. Of course there is no rest for the sewing blogger’s boyfriend; I dragged Guillaume outside in between courses so we could snap these shots before the sun went down. Unsung hero, he.

Sophia Dress pattern // By Hand London // Closet Case FilesBy Hand London Sophia Dress pattern-3Sophia Dress pattern // By Hand London // Closet Case FilesSophia Dress pattern // By Hand London // Closet Case FilesSophia Dress pattern // By Hand London // Closet Case Files

I really, really love the design lines of the second variation of this dress pattern. The silhouette is a classic sheath but the angled straps, diagonal darts and centre slit feel cool and modern. The bust darts create a pointy, space age shape that felt really fresh. I skipped a muslin since BHL has always fit me quite well out of the box, but I probably could have used one this time around. I’ve put on about 10 pounds since my last BHL make (I *may* have been carbo loading after quitting smoking/vaping this spring) and have gone up a size in the hips (never, ever in the boobs, which would really make a me a lot less cranky about the fact that most of my clothes are too tight these days), so instead of making a standard 10US like I normally do, I graded to the 12US at the hip. However, there was still very little ease, as I discovered to my discernation during the wedding. After the ceremony my stomach really started hurting and I realized it was because the waist of the dress was essentially cutting off communication between my upper and lower body. I could only sit down and eat dinner at the same time if my dress was COMPLETELY unzipped. The only thing worse than taking off your heels in lieu of flip flops on a wedding dance floor is being the weirdo who walks around with your dress completely undone all night. I was that weirdo. Thank god for jean jackets.

Sophia Dress pattern // By Hand London // Closet Case FilesSophia Dress pattern // By Hand London // Closet Case Files

While I was (over) fitting the dress, I noticed major swayback after I installed the zipper – I could pinch out more than an inch at the small of my back. I’ve never had to make a swayback adjustment before and I had to rip out the zipper two times before I managed to get it laying somewhat flat. I ended up taking out at least an inch at center back, grading to nothing at the side seams. I think part of the perceived swayback was a result of the dress being too tight to begin with. I think if I had had a little more ease at the waist it would have been less of an issue. I’m still not really sure why I didn’t realize how tight it was when I was making it; I must have been bloated at the wedding. Champagne, happy tears, humidity and way too much food will do that to ya. It’s a good reminder to actually bend over and move around while you’re fitting to make sure it’s comfortable when you’re doing more than standing up straight.

Since the construction of this dress was relatively simple, I decided to go full hog on the guts. I always get all longy eyed and watery mouthed when I see the innards of an Oona or Leisa make. Taking that kind of care with something only you see is like sewing a love letter to yourself. My love letter started, “Dear Heather, you deserve some silk”. Miracle of miracles, I still had a scant yard of the washed silk I had used for my Carolyn pajama samples in almost the exact shade of kelly green. I lined the bodice with it, with just enough left over to squeak out about 6 yards of double fold bias tape for the skirt seams, made using my Clover 1/2″ bias tape maker. Rather than just sandwich the exposed seams in the folded tape, I actually sewed each seam twice; once from the wrong side to catch the raw edge of the tape, and then from the right side of the seam to close it all up. It might have been overkill but it was a good excuse to practice my sewing precision.

Sophia Dress pattern // Seam finishes and construction // Closet Case Files By Hand London Sophia Dress pattern-21 Sophia Dress pattern // Seam finishes and construction // Closet Case Files

The pattern instructions don’t call for any under-stitching but I did what I could to prevent the lining from peaking up at the V and under the arms. I also somehow had the perfect match of seam tape in my stash, so I used that to finish the hem, catch stitching it into place. I also tacked the center slit seams into place with a slip stitch rather than topstitching them down. Finally, I sewed a tiny bar tack at the top of the slit to strengthen the seam at the point of stress. As for the print, I didn’t bother with print matching. I didn’t have that much fabric to work with, and I quite liked how the seam lines broke up and highlighted the angular abstract print even more.

Extreme issues of dress tightness aside (which I’m hoping will be made moot by my new M-W-F morning swim routine), I really do love this dress. I haven’t had that many excuses lately to go all out on a party dress and it felt good to make something frivolous and beautiful, with laboured over insides that said “you’re worth it, baby”.

Have you sewed a love letter to yourself lately? Did that love letter fit better than this one?

Sophia Dress pattern // By Hand London // Closet Case Files

ps. The ladies at BHL told me Sophia hasn’t been formatted for PDF yet, but they should be adding a sign up sheet to the product listing if you’d like to be informed when they do.

pps. BHL gave me this pattern back when it was released. All opinions are my own.

Outfit deets: Sophia dress, Mood fabric , Mac Russian Red lipstick, Gold Hasbeens, mirrored sunglasses (similar here

  • Lauren

    Very beautiful dress! And congrats on quitting smoking. Good for you!

  • missceliespants

    You are so va va voom I can’t even. You look fabulous despite the unzipping to zip. Think of it like this, Marilyn Monroe was sewn into dresses to show off her best assets. You’re in good company.

  • SBCC Patterns

    I think Kelly green is definitely your color!

  • Amy

    Gosh that is a gorgeous print and those insides are something else! And I totally did this same thing at a party! (Unzipped the dress and threw on a sweater.) I think it’s really hard to predict how something will fit sitting down and I need to try ‘fitting while sitting’ more often. Something that’s already tight in the waist just gets tighter when you sit because we, um, spread!

  • Naomi

    Love this! It looks great from the outside and in, and you look fantastic wearing it. It’s so frustrating when things you love don’t quite fit – grrr

  • Carly

    I love your dress! that print and color combo is just perfection. I did a toile for this variation too, but it needs some adjustments and with the angular darts, I really don’t know from where to start. It’s a pity cause I really like the lines of this dress!

  • Hélène

    Breath-taking dress!

  • Katherine

    This dress is gorgeous!!!! I have done over fitting as well and don’t realize it until I am out eating, or trying to eat…. This would be a perfect cocktail dress ! That fabric is amazing.

  • Gorgeous! Love the green. I’m absolutely terrible at writing love letters to myself but it’s something I’m trying to work on – I even french seamed my last Carolyn Pajamas whoop whoop! I admire perfectionists but I’m not one myself.

  • Sophie

    Those are some mighty purty insides my dear! Had to LOL at the ‘being the weirdo with the dress undone’. Love it all, an absolutely glorious, super svelt make and that fabric, WHOA, the sewing god’s were smiling down on you that day.

  • winnies

    What an awesome dress! So it’s a bit tight, personally I think that makes it look a little rock n’ roll sexy. Practicalities, smacticalities…just don’t sit down or eat. Ever.

  • Hottttttt! Those awesome green, geometric fern-like fronds will just make it easier to hide out in a jungle when you need to chill out sexy lady! Love it 🙂

  • Great fabric, and it’s a lovely dress despite needing to be completely unzipped at weddings! lol. Thanks very much for the shout out for #UnsungSewingBlogHeros 🙂

  • Connie

    At least you put those 10 lb in the right places, I think you look great and I love the dress, the insides are perfect too.

  • What a stunner of an outfit! That fabric is indeed perfect for this pattern…I’ve still got it waiting for the perfect bolt to scream at me!

  • Luh-uuuv this dress! That fabric is fan-freaking-tastic. It looks amazing on you. My recent love letter dress to myself has issues too, apparently it thinks my girls and my upper back are larger than they are, which is quite unfair, but I love it anyway and hopefully we can work out our ways next round. 😉

  • Wayland 12

    Fantastic dress! Quitting smoking is no small feat, so congrats for that too!


    That fabric is, indeed, fabulous! And, good for you! Good for taking the extra effort to make the inside gorgeous. Good for quitting smoking! I totally had oral fixation issues when I quit year back, which I fed with food. It balances out eventually!

  • You had me at the fabric! You’re right about the pattern and print complementing each other – turned out gorgeous. Such a pity that it’s too tight!

  • Looks sensational! And I so agree with your comment about that vibe a certain piece of cloth gives. I spotted a piece in Portugal that made my skin tingle! It’s on its way home with me. Along with another 4 kilo of cloth.

  • Gorgeous! That fabric is sensational and really goes with the style of dress. I have a wedding this weekend I was hoping to sew something for. Unfortunately I have left it too late and with uni and the kids it won’t be getting done. Time to hit the shops!

  • This dress is beautiful, such a shame that it’s a bit too tight. I hate when that happens! I love that you took the time to add all those little touches to the inside too. Amazing! Congrats on quitting smoking/vaping – that’s a really tough thing to do.

  • Kristin

    Beautiful fabric. Gorgeous shoes. Bravo Guillame for all the photos.

  • Ha! I’ve been that person too; sewing items which are too tight and then having to hide an undone zipper under a jacket or cardigan. This is a really lovely dress! And the fabric is great. I was sad to miss out of the printed Sophia so will be looking our for the PDF signup sheet, thanks!

  • This is gorgeous! The pattern and fabric are a match made in heaven! Love love love that print! I’ve had a fake swayback situation before from overfitting a dress– the dress was riding up because I didn’t have enough ease in the hips, ugh! Now I totally swing the opposite direction and everything tends to be a bit too loose, oops!