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Well I’m back. A month of travel with a flight every 2.5 days is awful. Makes you hate planes like nothing else. However, there was a bit of this …

himalayas small

…and a bit of that …

rhino small

…so I suppose there were compensations!

On returning I wanted to make something quick, so it had to be a sewing project. I tried out Colette Pattern’s newest, Dahlia. I used an old fabric from my stash as a wearable muslin, but unfortunately the permanent crinkles in the fabric make the whole thing look rather un-ironed. Anyway, this is experimentation. I’ll try to be brief and organised in the rest of the post.

dress small 2

Pattern Analysis: The Colette pattern aesthetic – vintage, feminine – is one I’m ambivalent about. Most ‘vintage’ inspiration in sewing patterns nowadays (not only Colette) seems to come from the 50s and early 60s, decades whose fashions I find irritatingly cloying. The ultra-saccharine feminine stereotyping of that period just sets my teeth on edge. If I wished to sew vintage fashion, I would seek inspiration from the 30s, when women were expected to be dashing and spirited, and fashions reflected those attitudes. I see the change in attitude over and over again in movies (Indian and western), books and clothes; the fire and spunk of female characters in the 30’s is slowly drowned in syrupy, fluttery femininity by the 50’s . Even poor Nancy Drew did not escape (pdf link) – her spirited, back-chatting character was turned dependent and fearful as the decades went by.

It seems inconceivable to me that modern sewers would choose nipped in waists, gathered skirts, high necks and twee little peter-pan collars over long, lean, elegant lines. But apparently they do, and mine is a lone rant.

And so, when I saw the Dahlia pattern, I wanted it. The high-ish waist and the long vertical panels (in v.2) had potential for grown-up elegance as opposed to prissy femininity.

Looking at the photos, I thought I spotted a scoop neck – yay! Which brings me to a minor gripe I have with most Colette patterns – if they obligingly draft for larger cup sizes, why are most of their necklines high and wide? Why not deep and narrow, or scooped, which are the most flattering necklines for larger busts? Probably because they draw inspiration from those cursed decades, that’s why. And finally, a size zip – double yay!! Centre back zips require way more practice of the Head of a Cow than I’m prepared to do. I always move CB zips to the side anyway, so thank you, Colette, for doing it for me.

Fabrics: I used an embossed self pattern with crinkles, which make the fabric as a whole slightly stretchy. Anyone have any idea what this type of fabric is called? Upon sewing the edges frayed very quickly, so I had to do a sort of reverse flat-fell seam, tucking and folding from the inside. Very tedious! I originally thought the embossed pattern was butterflies, but they turned out to be bows!

fabric small

I made bias tape out of a small paisley print.

binding small

Size: I laboriously measured the pattern pieces to calculate what the garment dimensions would be at several key points. Size 0 at the bust gave me about an ¾” ease so I went with that since the fabric was stretchy. But I graded the waist of the bodice to size 2, and continued with size 2 for the waistband and skirt. The sleeves remained 0, to go with the chest measurement.

Why did I not go straight for size 2? I’ve learnt from my knitting that the key to a well-fitting garment is to get the shoulders correct. Everything below can be increased or decreased, but the shoulders and upper chest are critical, because that is your basic skeletal frame. If I’d gone by my actual bust measurement guidelines I would have made size 4 And everything would be gigantic.

Pattern Changes: I used skirt of v2 with bodice top of v1.

Sewing: I followed most instructions as given, except I inserted a lapped zip, not an invisible one. Narrowed sleeve cuffs and added shoulder darts because cuffs and neckline were really wide. Gathered front more than instructed, to about 4 inches.

Final Analysis: After all the changes I made, I actually quite like the dress. I think this would be great on busty shapes (by busty I mean larger cup size, not just band size) because the gathering allows for an adjustable fit and the waistband highlights the narrowest part of the torso beautifully.

However, there are some things I would definitely change:

a) Narrow the really wide sleeves. Since I didn’t want to mess with the underarm area (which actually fits well) I reduced about 2 ½” at the cuffs (tapering to nothing at the underarm) and added a shoulder dart about 3” wide and 3 ½” long.

b) Look at that neck – I started out thinking it was scooped, but it’s a scoopy, wide V, drat it! The sleeve dart did reduce a lot of excess width, but I still had to gather the front to 4” (as opposed to the 6” recommended in the pattern). And the back neck still gapes a tiny bit. So I would gather the back neck too. And perhaps change the front shape into an actual scoop, not a scoopy V.

c) I will definitely add a lining, if only to avoid attaching zips to several layers of cloth where the outer and inner waistbands, their seam allowances, and the bodice or skirt meet.

d) Reduce the flare of the skirt, to promote the whole long-and-lean aesthetic. Perhaps make it fall straight down from the hip.

PS: on reviewing my post, I’m a bit startled by how vehement I sound in the first few paragraphs. For that I squarely blame vintage inspired patterns with peter-pan collars. The sight of adult women in peter pan collars has deranged me!

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