Monday, 9 January 2017

A Way to Go With the Colette Wren Dress

Hello all!

Here's my first selfish make of 2017! It's the Colette Wren dress, which I mocked up sometime last winter – it might even go back as far as late 2015 – but when it wasn't going well I decided to shelve it (same for the Dahlia dress which I bought at the same time in a bundle, which is still just one horrendous bodice muslin along).

My issue with the initial muslin was that it emphasised the bust way too much (see terrible mirror selfie below) and also that it was too short in front. A lot of people seem to mention this issue in their reviews – some ascribe it to being intentionally empire waisted in the design, but this seems odd as the back seems to sit at the natural waist. Sometimes I wish patterns would come included with a figure indicating where the style lines should hit you so can adjust more accurately for you – it can be hard to judge just from the model in the photos.

The muslin was made in leftovers from my 80s Lounge Cat dress and is a ponte with a bit of body to it. This version is made up in some much thinner jersey with a decent elastane content that I picked up in the remnants bin at Simply Fabrics for either £1 or £3. Not much anyway! Both versions as you'll notice are rather short. For the mock-up this was due to it being made from leftovers and that was all I could manage. For this version (which is really supposed to be a wearable muslin with the intention of eventually cutting into some lovely merino jersey I've intended for this pattern) this is a deliberate style choice to loose 5” in length to make it seem a bit more fun and flirty, as I feel this dress could otherwise veer towards matronly on me.

Unfortunately, even with adding 2” length to the front bodice (graded to original length at the side seams to match the back bodice) this is still on the verge of being too revealing – and I really don't want to wear a camisole! Once I'd made up the bodice I tried it on and decided to overlap the wrap more at the front for more secure coverage (rather than matching the notches at the waistline, which my first muslin did). Obviously this meant I lost an inch or so at the waist but in a fabric this stretchy I thought it'd be OK – it does look a bit tight across the back in these pictures though! 

Even with all this the cross over still wants to slide to quite a deep V, so I think an FBA will be required after all. I think I may have stretched out the front edges a little here too – these are much more stable in my first mock-up in the thicker fabric so I'll have to bear this in mind for future versions – one blogger whose review I read mentioned doubling up that section instead of just hemming the edge, which would provide stability as well as making a cleaner finish at the shoulder join (which is another part of the dress that I'm not sure is sitting right on me. Is it meant to be slightly forward? It sits on the collar bone for me).

Another issue I had with both versions is gathering the skirt using clear elastic. I found this really tough, as you have to pin the elastic to distribute it easily, but as soon as you put tension on it to stretch to meet the skirt edge the elastic tears through. Intensely frustrating, and even though I managed it (with a fair bit of swearing and a couple of on-the-fly repairs) I have ended up with a weird ripple at centre front. I think this is where the tension of the crossover is fighting with the elastic, but it's not sitting nicely and I'm not sure how to make it do so. Hopefully an FBA will help on the tension front. Next time I may also narrow the skirt pieces a little (as I plan to keep it short) so there isn't quite so much to gather.

Here are my sleeves by the way. I'm not sure if they're meant to be slightly batwing, but I'm going to embrace it. I do actually quite like it, and for this non-FBA version it's actually given my bust a bit more room. I'll have to assess if I need quite so much fabric at upper arm once I've made that adjustment in my next version.

So, a way to go to make this worthy of cutting into my merino jersey for, and if anyone can suggest an alternative to dreaded clear elastic for a stretchy gathered waist I will be most grateful. What do you think, should I give it another shot?

NorseOtter x


  1. It's not too bad...but I would keep the merino for something else. You definitely need an FBA though, no skipping! Onward and upward. If it's any consolation, although I love several Colette designs, they never really work on me. Some designers just don't suit some people...not to worry, plenty out there!

    1. I know, I'm a terrible cheat! I thought it might not be necessary in jersey, but I was kidding myself. I'm beginning to feel that might be the case that Colette patterns don't suit my shape, it's a shame as I have a few that I love the style of and was quite tempted by Seamwork. But as you say, plenty more out there, and plenty other lovely patterns lying unattempted in my stash too!

    2. Really interesting review, and very helpful as I have some lovely silk jersey I was planning to make into a Wren but will 100% be muslin-ing after reading this! So thank you!