Over the past few years as I have done more and more sewing I formulated a loose theory that there are many styles of clothing that I avoid like the plague in RTW clothing, because they just wont fit, such as empire line or fitted dresses, but will look great when fitted correctly. At my most optimistic I have mentally postulated that any clothing styles would look fine on me, as long as they are fitted right. Realistically I know this isn’t really true – I avoid boxy loose fitting styles like the plague because of this. This dress is another bit of proof of this: I can’t describe it as a wadder, but it isn’t my favourite item ever made.
The pattern in question is the Collette Myrtle – a sleeveless knit dress with a cowl neck. It has been on my make list for a little while. I decided to make it using the navy wool knit which I also used for my Kristen kimono top and Bronte t-shirt, as the drape of this fabric is ideal for this cowl neck style, and I hope the light wool will make it a good transitional piece for spring and autumn. I know black is a uniform colour for many people, but it just makes me look ill and ghostly due to the particularly pale colour of my complexion, so navy is as close as I get. The idea was that this would be a good basic work dress – something close to an LBD (LND?). also, this dress comes with pockets, and you know I can’t resist a good pocket.
Before construction I made my usual pattern adjustments. I couldn’t work out how to do a forward thrust shoulder adjustment, so I left it for this pattern. I cut a size L graded to XL at the waist. Due to the extra fabric involved in a cowl neck I decided I might not need my usual FBA, so I measured the finished garment and decided that based on this I could get away with just grading to XL at the bust for width – if you look at the photos of the model on the collette website you can see she is busty, and this works fine. Infact, several reviewers have commented that the Myrtle cowl neck is too loose when they bend forward, but having a large bust and not FBA’ing will probably solve this issue.I also added an extra 5cm length to the front bodice.
This dress seems to run quite short to me – I am 5.6, so pretty average height, I had to add a lot of length to the bodice, and a cut the skirt longer than drafted. I cut the skirt at the 3XL length, although only L width, which adds a couple of inches at the side seams. For the bodice, after measuring, I added 5cm length to the front and back, and the extra 5cm (for 10cm total) to the front for FBA length. Unfortunately, only after cutting out the fabric I realised that the front and back length of my bodices was different due to added FBA length – to fix this I rounded off the waist line so the side length of the bodice matched the back, but maintained the length across most of the front bodice.
Quick hint for anyone altering this pattern: When adjusting the front bodice I just altered one side then folded the pattern piece in half and cut the other side out identically – it saved time on doing the same alterations twice.
The other alteration I planned before sewing was adding sleeves, as I am not a big fan of sleeveless clothes on me. I used the short sleeve pattern piece from the Sewaholic Renfrew top. This was pretty easy – a quick measure showed this should fit the armhole. I just had to remember not to sew the front bodice arm hole closed, or hem the back bodice armhole while following the instructions, and then sewed in the sleeve as usual. As I remembered the Renfrew sleeve was quite loose I was hoping for a loose effect to match the blousniess of the dress. Unfortunately I forgot the Renfrew sleeve was loose lower down my arm, the short sleeve is quite close fitting – at least it gives me a sleeve for the dress.
With alterations made, I proceeded with cutting and sewing. The fabric yardages suggest that this dress needs about 2.7m (in the XL). Even with the extra length I added I only used about 2m (I say about as it is part of a longer length) so this is pretty economical fabric wise if cut carefully. Having learnt my lesson about this fabric with the Kirsten Kimono top I went back into super stabalisation mode (ala Bronte top). Therefore, immediately upon unpinning I fused strips of stretch tricot interfacing to the back neckline, and the arm and bottom hems. And I mean immediately – the unpinning was done on my ironing board with precut interfacing and a hot iron ready – from pins to fused in 30 seconds.
The instructions for this dress are good (as I would expect given what I have heard about Collette patterns). The method of sewing the bodice together is clever leaving no exposed seams although it does make fitting adjustments while sewing trickier. When I checked the fit of the bodice, I found it was a bit baggy for me at the waist, so I took a centimetre off each side, so the tapering to an XL at the waist I did was probably not needed. Other reviewers have commented that they don’t like the method used to encase the waistband elastic. I’m not a fan of feeding elastic through a slot, so I didn’t mind the method used. On the first attempt I managed to sew the fold of fabric for the elastic to the wrong bit, but I am pretty sure that was my own fault. Worth a quick sanity check with this pinned before sewing. Other than that small hiccup, there is nothing to write home about re. construction.
I liked the look of this dress on the envelope and model, but with it sewed it up I don’t think it looks amazing on me. I think it is a combination of the blousiness, and the skirt – it seems to be an awkward shape between an a-line and fuller skirt. I think it might suit me better if the skirt was either closer fitting, or fuller. Due to the gathering at the waist and blousiness my instinct suggests the fuller skirt would work better. I don’t have any plans to sew this again immediately – I just dont’t feel as fabulous as I do in other clothes I make. I will get some wear out of it as a basic work dress. Should I decide to make this pattern again (probably unlikely) I think I would try adding a fuller skirt to see if that makes the shape work better for me.