I didn't expect my post about By Hand London's Flora dress to create the reaction it did. I want to start by thanking those who commented for sharing your opinions. I do want to note, that since the publication of my original post, BHL has posted and responded to the comment I left on their Flora bodice post. Their representatives have also responded to several of your comments directly in the comment section of my first Flora post. I think it was really wonderful to start a dialogue regarding pattern companies, testers and expectations. I'm going to wrap up everything I have to say about my experience with BHL and the Flora dress in this post. And, then I'm moving on from this particular pattern.
In the comments, several people mentioned thoughts on pattern testing. I want to say that I did not, and have not ever claimed that pattern testers are paid for their endorsements. With that established, I do agree that there is an incredibly biased portrayal of patterns tested for indie sewing companies. A negative review of an indie pattern is essentially non-existent. Even if that is a conscious effort by the bloggers posting reviews to only share good experiences and stay positive, I think there should be room for sharing negative experiences and critical reviews of those same patterns. If only one side of pattern testing is revealed there is an incredibly skewed portrayal of the products being put out, and it is misleading to persons who pay and support those companies successes monetarily. When every review I read says that a pattern is wonderful, that it fits gorgeously, and that it's dreamy to sew, I buy that pattern expecting a similar experience.
If every person who has bad experiences with projects chooses to put those to the side and not talk about them, it would be a disservice to the community of sewers who look to those reviews as a basis for deciding whether or not to purchase a pattern. And, I mean that to apply to both indie and big four pattern companies.
Commenters suggested more transparency by pattern companies who recruit testers for their products. I think that's a great idea: How are testers selected? Does your company accept open submissions or do you cherry pick the bloggers you want to sew your garments? What criteria do you use to choose? Does your test pool represent the entire range of sizes you offer and a wide variety of body types? Do your testers have varying skill levels? What types of questions and feedback to you ask of your testers? Also, do you make changes from the test version and final pattern print? If so, are the testers sewing both versions to assure any kinks have been worked out? Etc...
I think most of us expect that we will have to make some modifications to a pattern in order to achieve a good fit for our bodies. I don't think anyone expects that a pattern will fit everybody. However, a pattern ought to be designed to fit somebody directly out of the envelop. Who is that girl? Do you find someone with those proportions to test the pattern? Also, when you ask people to 'test' a pattern do you ask them to sew it straight out of the envelop to show the results of your product and design on different types of bodies exactly as it is being sold? Where is the line between testing a pattern and custom sewing a garment from a pattern? If you allow modifications during the testing phase, is it actually a test of the pattern or a demonstration of an individual's ability to modify that pattern to produce a good garment?
Lots of questions. And, I'm sure others can think of more.
Now, back to where this all started. My initial gripes have to do with the excess ease built into the pattern and the underarm creasing in the bodice that I tried hopelessly to eliminate.
Elisalex, a representative of BHL pattern company responded to my complaint, indicating:
"The Flora wrap bodice is designed to have a more casual fit and more ease than the more fitted tank bodice variation. The gentle creasing under the bust as the top wraps is normal, and very pretty in our opinion, made all the prettier when used with a fabric with a bit of drape and body. "
Here is the link to the Flora product page where the company shows two separate modeled versions of the wrap bodice dress. You can decide for yourself whether the dresses shown fit that description and explanation for the fit issues I struggled with.
Suffice to say, I did have several communications with Elisalex, a member of the BHL team, all of which were courteous and promptly responded to. However, we fail to see eye to eye regarding the representation of this pattern shown on their site vs. the above stated intended fit of this garment and the resulting garment produced from the pattern.
Ultimately, BHL maintains that they do not see issues with any of the above complaints.
I give a lot of credit to anyone willing to pursue an independent business venture. It is certainly not an easy path to forge and it requires a lot of back breaking work. But, an independent pattern company is still a commercial entity, just like any other commercial pattern company. And, as I stated previously, as a consumer, I actually expect more from your company and product if you're a small business than if you're a mass distributor.
If I was writing a negative review of a Vogue or a Simplicity pattern, most people probably wouldn't bat an eyelash. They most definitely wouldn't comment and expect me to contact Vogue or Simplicity directly before writing my criticism on my blog. It's a double standard.
As I said. These are my final thoughts on this pattern and experience. It's not my aim to deter any person from exploring By Hand London's range of patterns- I haven't tried them. I do caution, however, anyone interested in the Flora pattern to know that you are not buying a well fitted faux wrap bodice dress. If that is what you're seeking, I suggest you look elsewhere.
Also, keep talking. What you have to say is important.