The Rue dress is the most recent release from Colette Patterns. They billed it “a return to vintage” after a long string of bland, ostensibly more “modern” patterns. It comes with two skirt options: an unadorned straight skirt, & a multi-paneled full pleated skirt. It has two sleeve options: a cap sleeve & a three-quarter sleeve. The neckline is scooped both front & back, & the most compelling detail is in the front bodice panels, which curve across the bust & meet in a V at the center waist. Where the panels meet the upper bodice, there are tucks over the bust.
This pattern could have been a smash. Long-time Colette fans have been missing the vintage design elements that had been so prevalent in early releases after slogging through lumpy pencil skirt after shapeless pinafore after after basic knit tube skirt. (Seriously, the Mabel? If you’ve been sewing consistently for more than, let’s say, two years, & you need an $18 pattern to make that skirt, you have bigger problems that we can address here.) To say nothing of the “Seamwork” offerings. The big selling point with “Seamwork” patterns is that they can be whipped up in three hours or less: sew your own throwaway fast fashion. Be your own sweatshop. They look like they were each drafted in three minutes or less. Lots of shapeless rectangles.
What is this even? It’s kind of like a weird hat for your boobs. I don’t think the hem band for this official sample garment is even finished.
Lest you read these opening paragraphs & conclude that I am nothing more than a Colette hater, let the record show that I own the Colette book & have sewn from it. The Crepe dress was one of the first dresses I ever sewed for myself. & yes, I own the Rue pattern. I paid for it with my own money. The Colette aesthetic is overall a bit more sticky-sweet & pastel than I prefer, but if you can get past the bland color palette, often unfortunate fabric choices, & twee styling decisions, there are sometimes appealing elements there. I pictured the Rue in a casual, hard-wearing textile that would result in a comfortable, practical transitional weather dress with interesting style lines. Something I could wear to volunteer at my daughter’s preschool, with all the paint, playground time, messy eaters, & baby goats that entails (really, the kids are sometimes visited by an adorable baby goat named Tango!), something that is just as comfortable as jeans & a tee, but is a little more elevated style-wise.
Tango, posing with one of Ramona’s teachers.
This vision was predicated on my hope that a pattern company as successful as Colette would actually know the first thing about drafting patterns. Alas. The Rue pattern is a complete mess.
Like I said, I’ve sewn two Colette patterns in the past. Both were sewn when I was pretty new to garment sewing & didn’t really know much about either how garments were supposed to fit, nor how to change garments to fit properly. Neither dress is really worn anymore. I am fairly close to the Colette block. I’m short-waisted, flat-butted, & large-busted (a D; Colette drafts for a C). My body shape is an apple-ish hourglass. My measurements put me in the upper end of Colette’s original unexpanded size range.
The Crepe dress I sewed was irritatingly short-waisted. The waist seam rode above my natural waist & was exposed when it was supposed to be covered by the waist tie. No amount of futzing with the ties, making the wrap tighter or looser, solved the issue. I probably should have done a bit of an FBA on the pattern, but I didn’t realize that at the time, & for all their talk about offering “patterns that teach,” they still confoundingly fail to include high bust measurements in their size charts. You can extrapolate if you know what “drafts for a C-cup means,” & if you know that they draft for a C-cup, & if you know you will achieve best results on most dress/shirt patterns by choosing a size corresponding to the high bust & altering from there as needed, but the pattern didn’t include any of that information, hence leaving me, as a fairly inexperienced new sewer, with an ill-fitting dress that didn’t get nearly as much wear as it should have. The cut on sleeves also fit oddly under the arms (a bit high & tight) & the crossover wrap in the back was too low for my personal preferences.
The other Colette pattern I made was a modified version of the Licorice from the Colette Sewing Handbook. I did my best to overlook the atrocious fit of the blue dress on the model, & I abandoned the futzy collar & shortened those awful leg of mutton-inspired sleeves into a short puff sleeve. The result was essentially a shapeless sack with a constrictive armscye & ludicrously wide neckline. It languishes in my closet.
I just don’t understand how that blue thing is an official sample photo.
Obviously, it’s the rare pattern that fits straight out of the envelope. & I am well-aware that I have a figure that consistently presents a few fit challenges. My high bust & waist measurements always put me in radically different sizes. I have a pretty pronounced swayback. I don’t mind making fit adjustments. I don’t love making muslins, but I’ll do it for sure. I even enjoy making style changes, rotating darts, all that good stuff. I love a sewing challenge, I love learning new things.
The Rue dress is not a sewing challenge. It’s just a disaster. Colette has said that the curved panels on the front bodice are just “style lines,” & the tucks at the bust are “decorative”. There are no other darts or anything else to provide shaping to the front bodice, & the basic physics of how fabric is manipulated would indicate that the tucks exist for shaping. They’re the equivalent of darts. But Colette is doubling down on their insistence that the curved “style line” should fall 1″ below the bust apex on the larger sizes (like mine). That means the tucks radiate upward beyond the apex & release their fullness over the sternum, smashing down the bust & creating baffling & unflattering lumps across the upper bodice. This is a look that would work great for a woman with boobs on her clavicles, but for the rest of us, it’s a mess. It would work much better to place the curved seam below the bust, with the tucks releasing their fullness just below the apex. (Not over it! When questioned about this on the Colette blog, Colette HQ keeps saying that the tucks release “over” the apex, which is a really great way to get a lumpy bust fit & a gaping neckline. Does anyone over there actually know how to sew?) For reference, there’s a 3.5″ difference between my bust apex & the wire line of my bra. This will differ according to bust size & tissue distribution (some woman are fuller at the top or the bottom of the bust, which is why two women who wear the same bra size might not have the same bust point if they were to draft themselves bodice slopers).
& then there’s the armscye/sleeve issues. This is already a long post, so I’m going to have to turn this into a series. I just can’t fit everything I have to say into one post. I’m thinking about all this because I am determined to put the work in & see a) if I can make the Rue work, & b) what exactly is involved in making the Rue work. I am only one muslin in so far, but I have already lengthened both the upper & lower front bodices to drop that style line & get the bodice down to my (unusually high!) natural waist, changed the placement of the tucks (& converted them to gathers), redrawn both the front & back neckline, widened the shoulders to actually cover my bra straps, straightened out the back center seam (it was weirdly curved & caused a hot mess of bubbling across the upper back), completely redrawn the armscye to make it fit a human arm & drafted a fresh sleeve from scratch, shortened the skirt 3.5″, & swapped out the side seam pockets for curved side-front pockets. I’ve been keeping an eye on the official sewalong, which is telling people to choose a size based on the WAIST measurement, which is just straight up gobbledygook.
Stay tuned for more excoriating commentary, coming soon…