We need to talk about the Rue dress.

Part one.

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.

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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.

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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

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.

licorice-collage

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…

 

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30 Comments Add yours

  1. Naomi says:

    I love how honest you are about this stuff. Very refreshing. I look forward to seeing if you get it made up after all this.

    1. Ciara says:

      I mean, truthfully, the jury is still out as to whether I will get anything. If I can’t conjure a passable muslin, I’m not going to waste good fabric just to make a point. Like I said, I am only one muslin in, BUT. Had I followed the sewalong suggestions to cut a size based on my waist measurement, I would have cut a size 18 throughout. Instead, I cut a size 12, which corresponds to my high bust measurement. I was SWIMMING in that thing. & yet the armscye was halfway up my armpit in the front, gaping in the back, & the waist seam was 2″ above my waist…& this AFTER lengthening the bodice 4″ for my short-waisted figure!

      We’ll see what I can manage.

    2. Ciara says:

      Thanks. I have put the Rue on the back burner for now. Apparently they are doing a redraft & I should be getting the new pattern pieces in November. I might carry on with my own alterations before then, but for now, the whole pattern is in a time-out while I work on something more pleasant (another shirtdress!).

  2. Baa says:

    I agree with you! I make my clothing because I want to look & feel wonderful stylish & fantastic. I don’t want to buy a pattern & have to redesign & redraft the entire thing it’s annoying, trust & a pain in the behind.vi don’t understand how some pattern designers think the stuff they put out is so great when it clearly doesn’t fit a real woman without some major modifications. Don’t get me started on the current offerings of the potato sack style dress that is so prevalent lately. I have curves, I am a real woman proud of her body not a starving stick figure. I want fit and flair something that skims over my curves not a sack that covers me up or smooches down my boobs ,strangles my arms & is more a bother than going to the mall & picking off the rack something everyone else has.

    1. Ciara says:

      I don’t think the sack style works well for my body type either, but if other people like it, more power to them, I guess? It’s just sad that people would pay money for a pattern that is essentially two rectangles sewn together, with holes for your arms & head. Maybe you get a couple of darts if you’re feeling up for a challenge.

      The Rue dress clearly has some design to it, but not in a way that recognizes human anatomy or the physics of fabric manipulation.

  3. Debbie Cook says:

    Yes!! So glad to see the Emperor’s New clothes being revealed around the blogosphere for what it is – a marketing machine not a skilled pattern company. We’ve had too much Colette/Seamwork false praise and peer pressure for far too long. I too often wonder if any of their staff knows how to sew well. Beginners teaching beginners is a recipe for mediocre.

    Thank you for the honesty and deserved critcism. Looking forward to Part 2.

    1. Ciara says:

      Thank you, Debbie! Fitting is tricky. I can understand why so many people get a mediocre result (the Colette dresses I made were perfectly wearable; they just weren’t pleasant to wear because I was always fussing & pulling on them because they lacked a good fit) & blame themselves. But this thing is egregious. The armscye is essentially square, & so shallow that a person would barely be able to move in it. Note that the model is wearing a cardigan, covering the sleeves & shoulders, in half the photos used in the official release post. What did they not want us to see?

      & I noticed, scrolling through their pattern offerings to choose examples for this post, their samples are even more poorly-sewn than I realized. Take a good hard look at the hemband on the little shrug from “Seamwork”. In their recent blog partnership with Cotton + Steel, they posted photos of garments that were not only poorly fitted, but not even finished! You can see an unsewn hem flopping down in some of the photos, but Colette was quick to delete any comments that mentioned it.

      1. Debbie Cook says:

        Oh, I’ve definitely noticed their poorly sewn samples for a long time. It’s a major part of my WTF with them. I understand their styles may not be my aesthetic, but that has nothing to do with sewing well. Hire a professional if needed. They seem to be throwing money/salaries around left and right. It’s not been a one-woman show for a very long time (if ever, really). As for that little shrug thing, yep, not really finished. I don’t consider tacking on a bias strip to be a finished hem.

        1. Ciara says:

          There have been other Colette patterns that caught my eye as line drawings, but the samples shown on the models were so sloppy, ill-fitting, &/or poorly-sewn that I could never bring myself to make the purchase. The Hawthorne is a good example. Colette was maybe the first indie I found when I started sewing, & I really wanted to make a shirtdress. I liked the concept of the Hawthorne, but the sample on the model looked awful. It seemed to be pulling & puffing up in all the wrong spots. I carry my excess weight in the belly, right where the pleats that looked so terrible on this much slimmer model were. The sample gave me zero confidence that I would be able to produce a garment using that pattern that flattered me in any way. I’m really glad I never bought the pattern, because it wasn’t really my ideal shirtdress anyway, & now I am having my love affair with M6696.

          Kudos to Colette for branching out from the average tiny fit model for their photography, but if they are going to do that, they can’t assume it’s going to work to stuff their models into sample sizes!

  4. Please tell me you’re watching the reviews roll in on Pattern Review??

    Some of the garments are really awesome and fantastic. But people have made 4,5,6–7(!!!) muslins to get something that works. Some, they don’t work.

    It is frustrating to see them double down on things instead of owning up.

    It is more frustrating that THAT pattern was released to the public. But it seems as if it’s actually par for the course for Colette but people are no longer on the fan girl train.

    1. Ciara says:

      I am! People are really busting their asses to make silk purses out of this sow’s ear of a pattern. That sheer overlay is really beautiful. I’m really not sure what Colette was hoping to get out of this partnership…A whole mess of positive reviews & lovely dresses they could show off on Instagram, maybe? It’s backfiring on them spectacularly. I would love to be a fly on the wall at Colette HQ right now. I’ve been reading about all this behind-the-scenes sturm und drang concerning indie pattern companies attempting to silence dissent & criticism, & I always thought it was a little over-dramatic until Colette started deleting my questions & comments about pattern fit & execution. I’m their CUSTOMER! I am willing to pay money for a unique, well-drafted pattern! They’re not doing themselves any favors, just ignoring people like me & hoping that they can continue to grow their customer base from people who are still too inexperienced to recognize bad drafting!

      1. SewCraftyChemist says:

        Deleting comments?! Woah!

        So glad I didn’t hop on the Indie is everything train when I started!!!

        1. Ciara says:

          Yup. I asked a few questions about how that Crepe dress came to be featured on the blog when it wasn’t actually finished, & I also asked about the dodgy fit. My comments were deleted. On the Rue sewalong, I asked some questions about the wide neckline & constrictive armscye. My comments were never approved. If you read through the comments carefully, you will find several people asking about draglines & gaping at the armscye/sleeve. Instead of offering solutions, Katie just asks them to email her privately. Very weird.

          I like to sew a mix of indie & Big 4–just whatever catches my eye. I’ve also gotten more into drafting my own patterns lately too. I feel like I’ve been posting more indie patterns recently, but that’s just because the only place in my town to get Big 4 patterns went out of business a few months ago. Apparently a Joann’s is opening in that storefront & I’ll be able to get back to buying cheap Big 4 patterns whenever I like, but for now.

    2. Siobhan S says:

      Ohhh I feel so bad for those poor souls caught in the pattern review contest who are forced to make a Rue. I bet Colette is regretting (rueing? heehee) the day they made that marketing deal – all they are getting are horrific reviews from people who would usually blow smoke up their ass. I have to say I have the utmost admiration for those who’ve made it work…that sheer version is divine.

      1. Ciara says:

        Yeah, I feel bad for them too. It wouldn’t be a difficult pattern if it was well-drafted, but it requires so many tweaks & alterations to get to anything passable, & those poor ladies only had a week to do it!

  5. Siobhan S says:

    “We need to talk about the Rue dress.” Yes. Yes we do. Just….everything about this dress shits me. The seam line that bisects your boobs. The useless tucks which give you that highly-desired fullness every woman wants in her collarbone area. The armhole that isn’t drafted for humans. The fact that it costs $18USD (or $24AUD – adding insult to injury). Go home, Colette. You’re drunk.

    1. Ciara says:

      I truly don’t know what they were thinking.

  6. Stitch Wench says:

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for pulling the curtain back on the Rue. I’ve had nothing but terrible experiences with Colette Patterns, to the point where I threw one in the fireplace (the Negroni) and torched it. And when I made a comment about how deficient I thought their drafting was, I was told that I should support them because they are a women’s business. WTF? I don’t support businesses because of their chromosomal makeup. I support them because I like their products or services. Don’t go telling me I need to support a business because it is owned by a woman. If the products are crap, and the comments pointing said crap out are deleted or never see the light of day, then the company doesn’t deserve my money. Showing us mean-girl-style pictures of how cool they all are in yoga poses, birthday celebrations and river tubing excursions just shows that Colette’s priorities are screwed up. This is to Colette: instead of spending 20 minutes a week in yoga, spend that same time learning how to draft patterns that don’t need 7 muslins to fix the mistakes in your patterns. If you can’t be bothered with the basics, then you deserve to fail.

    Clearly Colette makes me ragey. Thanks for letting me rant.

    1. Ciara says:

      Sorry it took me a few days to reply to your comment! This post got a lot more attention than I expected. It was a little overwhelming!

      I will pretty much always support a woman or a woman-owned business over a man or a male-owned business, all other things being equal. But it’s ridiculous to say I should purchase a sub-standard product because a woman created it! Especially in the sewing world, which is almost exclusively comprised of women. There are so many other talented women to support with my pattern-buying dollars, ones that actually respect their customers, use feedback to improve their products, & don’t try to pervert the language of feminism to manipulate people.

      It’s probably kind of fun to work at Colette. It’s probably fun to get a weekly yoga break, & to go on company retreats to pretty rivers. But their job, first & foremost, is to develop patterns that enable a reasonably competent sewer to produce a wearable garment without having to make SEVEN muslins first! If they don’t have anyone with the company that can successfully draft a pattern, they either need to hire someone else or send their drafter(s) off for better training. Ditto with the sample photos they show on their blog & include with their pattern releases. Mistakes are human, but when you are trying to entice people into buying your product, your #1 goal should be to make that product look as impeccable as possible. That means it should fit the model, it should be pressed, the fabric choice should be thoughtful, potential buyers should be able to actually see the entire garment (ie, no cardigans covering potentially problematic shoulders/sleeves/backs)…It’s a lot to keep track of, but this is their JOB. Do it right or don’t do it at all!

  7. hoperoth says:

    Thank you sooooooo much for this. I saw this one come out, thought it was very much my style, and was seriously considering sewing it. I have such little time for sewing, if I’d put that precious time into this one, I would have cried hot, angry tears of frustration.

    1. Ciara says:

      Apparently they are coming out with a redraft next month? But given that everyone at the company signed off on this mess in the first place, I’d maybe keep looking for something similar for a more reliable pattern company. I’ve heard there’s a Burda with similar style lines.

  8. Dawn says:

    HAhahahahahahaha, you just made me day! As someone who just “got” to sew this dress, YES, to all of the above!

    1. Ciara says:

      Glad you liked it! Sorry you had to sew this.

  9. Meigan says:

    Amen Sister! I made a Rue dress for the PR contest. I did not look at their instructions, nor at their sew-a-long. I admit to trying out the Colette bandwagon several years ago. My Hawthorn was a complete mess and at the time I didn’t know what to do to fix it. Now I do…Don’t buy Colette patterns. Just so they know…I made sure my IG posts had snarky hashtags along with #coletterue. Thanks for your honest opinion, I feel like the storm is building up!

    1. Ciara says:

      Yes, I saw your blog post about it! You did a remarkably admirable job with a real dumpster fire of a pattern. Swapping out the neckline for a sweetheart shape was an excellent call.

      I don’t think it’s a crime to have been seduced by Colette, in the past or even with the Rue. Obviously this pattern was a huge mistake, & striking the partnership with Pattern Review for the Sewing Bee was an even bigger mistake. But it’s hard to find a sewing blogger who hasn’t sewn a Colette pattern at some point, even if it was just the Sorbetto. The Big 4 continue to be (unfairly, in my opinion) maligned, so people look for alternatives, & Colette has a lot of appeal, especially for a relatively new garment sewer who is still in “pretty dresses” mode.

      I’m curious to see how or if they bounce back from this.

  10. I have been following the Colette Rue with great interest and I am completely bewildered by it. I wonder what the staff at Colette are thinking by deleting comments and refusing to address the elephant in the room. Do they genuinely feel all these experienced and capable women are just trolling them/wrong/complaining for no good reason? It’s a bad mistake to make. Looking forward to part 2 of this very interesting and refreshing discussion. And also your finished Rue, if it gets that far.

    1. Ciara says:

      Well, after I wrote this post, they announced that they were coming out with “corrections” for the bust style line & the armscye/sleeves. I am like 98% sure that this never would have happened if they hadn’t partnered with Pattern Review for the Sewing Bee contest. They could probably continue to ignore mouthy bloggers like me & delete our comments, but when they give the pattern gratis to 27 garment sewers who have a proven track record of skill & an enormous platform, & almost to a person, they concur that the pattern fucking sucks, Colette can’t ignore that.

      I just can’t fathom how the pattern made it out of the workroom as-is. I feel like I can forgive myself for buying it, because I made the choice based on a false premise. I liked the line drawings, I liked the sample on the pattern envelope (where the bust seamline is more underneath the bust), & I was intrigued by the sample photos, though the busy print on one dress completely obscured the style lines, the styling with the cardigans gave me pause, & the fact that the model used has a much-smaller bust than me made me wonder how exactly that style line would look on me. But ostensibly the folks at Colette had ample opportunity to make samples before the pattern went into production, & they sent it off that way anyway. All you have to do is look at the actual pattern pieces to recognize that there is a problem. It speaks to company-wise negligence or incompetence that this happened. I really can’t tell which.

  11. Suzanne says:

    Love this honest review. Thanks.

    1. Ciara says:

      Thank you for the comment!

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