A Date-Night Wren Dress

When the Wren dress was launched by Colette Patterns a couple of months ago – I couldn’t help myself and bought the paper pattern immediately.

Wren Dress

I love the shoulder gathers and the faux-wrap effect so much so, that I started in on it as soon as it arrived.  But I already knew from seeing a couple of other versions made up that I didn’t like the way the sleeves were hanging/fitting nor did I like the skirt.

Now I’m not going to sugar-coat anything – no ablogagizing here either today – just me telling my honest opinions.  Okay let’s do this thing!  :D

I’ve since learned that when I purchase a Colette pattern, they do need a lot of bodice modifications for them to fit me correctly.  I always have to raise the armscye and sometimes the bust area is off.  I already know this before I purchase any one of their patterns; that it will need some fitting & muslins to work.  I don’t think this is an issue, they’re just draft for a different body than mine – but everything I’ll state goes beyond this.

Wren Dress

Ugh- my photographer (and I) did not see that my bunny belt isn’t fully clasped.  :(

I’ve sewn enough patterns by now to know if its *me* or if it’s *the pattern*.

I’m generally happy to make modifications for design changes – like using a slim skirt from a different pattern instead of a full skirt as given.  But I dislike doing is using a different pattern’s sleeves because the original ones don’t hang/fit nicely.

Wren Dress

From the get go – I decided to ignore the Wren sleeve use a sleeve that works on me – Sewaholic’s Renfrew sleeve.  It’s a basic knit sleeve that just works on all of my knit bodices.

Wren Sleeve below in white, Renfrew Sleeve on top:

Wren vs. Renfrew Sleeve

I cut the size 8 Renfrew sleeve btw.  You can see how much narrower & fitted my Renfew sleeve is compared to the xs size of the wren.

I decided to use a different pattern’s sleeve for two reasons 1.) I didn’t want to bother fitting a different knit sleeve and 2.) The Wren sleeve has excess fabric at the armpit.  When I was first seeing this dress made, the sleeve just looked off.  There seemed to be a bit of fabric pooling near the underarm area – one of my pet peeves – and I just decided to use what already works for me.  I could have re-fit the Wren sleeve, but why waste my time?!

On to the bodice…

I made up my muslin in some light-weight rayon knit that I had laying around and you guys – it was bad!  So bad….

I quickly realized that the fit of the dress fully depends on the negative ease in the knit fabric – the bodice gets it shaping from the the stretch in the fabric.

The wrap of the bodice is where the majority of the ‘fit’ comes from – not really the side seams or darts (no darts in a knit generally).  On a knit dress – this may seem fine but you guys it wasn’t.  If you pull the bodice fronts (that cross over section) too tight the whole front of the bodice lifts up to your boobs – if you leave the bodice fronts too loose and you have a gaping mess.

On lots of the dresses I’ve seen, people are either sitting down or are wearing belts to hide the fact that the bodice is pulling up the waistline, the center part of the skirt.  All of this is due to the bodice fit.

Wren Dress

You can see my front waistline is slightly higher than the back.

This doesn’t seem as much of an issue on the fitted skirt version as it is on the gathered skirt version.  You see the tightness of the skirt (the negative ease) is what they’re using to get a good fit and when the skirt is also tight everything seems to balance out with the bodice.  Not so much for the gathered or full skirt.

I get that this is all a bit sticky – if you’re using a knit fabric, you sure can! use the stretchy nature of it to your advantage to create a nice fitted silhouette!  I love having negative ease in my own knitted jumpers.  But Wren…. the negative ease with that cross front on the bodice causes issues in the fit.

On top of all of this – did you notice that barely anyone’s dress ends at their true waist??  The bodice looks like a long empire or high waisted dress.  Perhaps this is design decision, but I like my dresses’ waistline to land on my actual waist.

The Pattern Pieces:

These are my bodice front pattern pieces.  The pink lines is what I used for my first muslin.

The pink lines/modifications should have worked, as I picked the size on the envelope that fits with my measurements.  Sizes which I’ve used in the past that work for me & their patterns.

The outside lines is the second alteration – what I had to do to get it to fit AFTER the horrible first muslin.

Wren Pattern Front

I always know that I have to raise the armscye on my bodices so that’s not a biggie.  And I frequently grade from one size to the other from waist to bust.  But look how much more I had to raise the armscye and shoulder!

This is what helped get the bodice longer but you see I added about 1/2″ to the bottom bodice in the front too.  And the neckline piece (piece on the right), I had to cut between the Large and XL size on the length and width.

The size Large corresponds to a 40-42″ bust.  LOL  In NO WAY do I have that large of a bust, I have more of a 35″ bust and 32″ under-bust measurement.

And do I even need to remind anyone that I’m short-waisted??  Mega-petite coming up on 4’11” in height.

What you all might be thinking – ‘Well, Liz if your fabric isn’t stretchy, of course you’d need to cut a larger size.”  My fabric was as stretchy and wonderful as could be.  If anything I had more stretch than need in the pattern, so that can’t be it.

Here is the back bodice piece:

Wren Bodice Back

Again the pink is the first cutting line that should have worked via my measurements & the pattern measurements on the envelope.

To be fair – I did raise the back neckline for my own personal preference.  But I had to add so much length to this back piece – less than the front.  But if you recall – my front bodice was still a bit short in comparison to the front of the bodice.

All of this is just-plain-off.


Overall, construction on my dress was a breeze.  My skirt went in without a hitch – even though I used a skirt from a different pattern.  I sew in my knit skirts using a zig-zag stitch.  Since I had a full skirt, I applied some clear elastic to the seam allowance to keep it taught, but stretchy.  Then I serged it, catching the edge of the waist’s seam allowance together with the elastic.  (Sorry I forgot to add in that photo.)

For all of the hems, the instructions state to turn & press the seam allowance, then stitch it down – including the neckline.  Since I didn’t feel like fussing with drafting even more on this dress, I just followed the instructions.  And I regret it.

Knit necklines, I’ve found, almost NEED a separate neck band.  It helps keep everything in shape and for a wrap dress, it would help keep the neckline from gaping.

My knit fabric is lovely – one of my purchases I made in Paris last September.  It has great recovery and feels so soft to the touch.  So the fact that my neckline has gaped with wear – only highlights the fact that this needs a separate neck band.

Wren Dress

Again, I know it’s not my fabric since no other area has had an issue with gaping or stretching out without being able to recover.   I now have to pin my neckline closed so it doesn’t gape.

Wren Dress


I’m disappointed by this pattern.  Even knowing I would have to make modifications for fit – I modified way too much on the Wren knit dress than on any other knit tees or dresses I’ve made in the past.  The sleeve has too much upper arm ease, the waistline is too high, the cross-fronts on the bodice raises the waistline higher, and there is no neckline band included in this pattern – causing me to draft my own for any future makes.

All that being said – I do love my Wren.  But it’s not a result of the pattern, but of my own modifications I’ve had to do on it.  I feel like I could have modified one of my own wrap dresses that I’ve made to include neckline gathers, which is the only design feature that I love about the Wren dress.

Wren Dress

It’s with very mixed feelings that I’ve even written up this blog post.  Colette patterns are the reason why I started sewing in the first place.  I wanted to make their dresses so I learned how to sew, just so I could make a Macaron.  But now… not so much.

It’s fine if you don’t agree with me.  I just couldn’t, in all honesty, post up this dress without stating my hardships with it.

In: Sewing

Blogger for 6 years and counting, I am a passionate creator who loves to tinker.

Comments (66)

  1. Llynnda March 8, 2016 — 10:33 AM

    I love the look of youyneck line and I too would have added to the back neck edge. I know I would not have just turned under the edge and sewn, as unless it is a heavy double knit [which would not have worked in this dress anyway] there is seldom enough stability to do that. I am wondering if the waist to shoulder length I s a styling measurement. I have a winter coat that feels like the waistline comes just under my arm pits. At first I thought it was the “little” bit of weight I had put on . But it isn’t, it is the fashion line. All in all I love the look on you and enjoy you blogging.


    1. Liz March 8, 2016 — 11:17 AM

      I’m not sure Llynnda – Perhaps it is a design decision…

      I went back to the website and was looking to see if it stated a ‘high waist’ or a ‘true waist’ and it never said. The model image, it does appear to be a slightly higher waist, but not abnormally high. But even so, given my short measurements I would have expected my muslin to hit at a similar height on me (if not longer than the model), instead it was very very high, almost 2-3″ below my bust – high.

  2. I completely understand where you’re coming from. I think we all expect to have to make some minor changes and/or to grade between sizes to fit our own bodies, but sometimes the pattern is just…. wrong. It’s very disappointing to be excited about a pattern only to find that the time and resources you’ve invested into it don’t provide the outcome you were expecting.

  3. Phoebe March 8, 2016 — 11:35 AM

    I really appreciate the honest review, I’ve had issues with the fit of Colette patterns as well and sometimes I feel like people gloss over these in reviews, which is not helpful. Your dress in the end is very nice though!

    1. Liz March 8, 2016 — 11:59 AM

      Thanks so much Phoebe. :D

  4. It is always nice when people leave fully truthful reviews, I understand why people don’t like giving bad reviews but trying something and not liking it then not mentioning it only leads everyone to think everything is wonderful…

    It is always good to know what people have had to do to make a pattern work for them as an idea of what you would have to do with the same pattern. I have been looking at a wrap dress recently and have been umming and ahhing between the wren and cashmerette appleton, I am partly swayed to the Appleton just because it is drafted for a larger figure and I feel that is something that should be supported even if that is not quite my body shape.

    I need to look for someone with honest reviews of the two of them I think now :)

    PS the dress looks lovely on you

    1. Liz March 8, 2016 — 12:29 PM

      Thanks so much Pippa. I know it shouldn’t be hard to write a negative opinion, but for me it is. I need to re-learn that honest doesn’t mean it’s negative, per say.

      By all means, support the indies. But I really like Vogue 8784 wrap dress. I’ll be posting it up later this week – I made mine in a sweater knit fabric and it’s wonderful. :D

      1. Sue March 9, 2016 — 8:33 AM

        Thanks for the honest review, Liz. I’ve been toying with the idea of making a wrap dress, so I’m glad you’ve touched on the Wren and I’m excited to see your Vogue 8784 — I noticed that one lists both wovens and knits as fabric options. That seemed odd to me, but I’m looking forward to seeing yours and reading what you think about it!

        1. Liz March 9, 2016 — 9:21 AM

          Yes! I just actually made up my woven version using the same exact sizing as the knit version I made. So far its not too bad… I have some small mods to do but it should work pretty well I think. Put it this way – its working far better than I expected a woven to be after making the same size for the knit version. (I need like 3/4″ of more waist ease and some extra boob room but otherwise its great).

  5. Nicole March 8, 2016 — 1:05 PM

    I’ve been unimpressed with Colette patterns as of the last couple of years. I think as with many a quality brand they expanded too fast, causing the quality of the product to drop. I had a similar experience with the Dahlia pattern. Anyway, you did an amazing job on making a great dress. It looks super comfy.

  6. Bonnie March 8, 2016 — 1:40 PM

    Go Liz!
    It is a matter of integrity. Sometimes it’s Hard to do the Right thing.
    Congratulations on having the courage to do so and thereby helping others to avoid the challenges with which you struggled. I, for one, would have tossed the project five seconds after completing the rayon muslin :)

  7. Abbey March 8, 2016 — 2:34 PM

    Liz, thank you for your honest review. It’s so important to acknowledge that sometimes IT IS THE PATTERN. For what it’s worth, you did a great job salvaging this project and persevering! (And your bunny belt is absolutely awesome!)

    I bought Wren right away and was excited about it…until I started seeing “in the wild” versions and looked closer at the samples. I knew going in that my body type and their base draft are opposites (long waist, flat chest here!) but so many of the issues I saw weren’t down to fitting, they were down to the quality (or lack thereof) of the draft.

    I was never very “into” Colette but have a few of their patterns (Hawthorn was my first-ever garment), and their recent efforts make me realize that I just need to stay away. You’re exactly right that base drafts cannot and will not suit every single customer’s body without mods, but when it goes beyond that and into the realm of bad drafting and design, it’s a bigger issue. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  8. Sonja March 8, 2016 — 2:59 PM

    Well, that sounds like a frustrating experience! But I’m glad you have a wearable (and gorgeous) dress at the end of the day! This style really suits you. I don’t use Colette patterns as they’re too different from my shape and I can never get the fit right, which is too bad, but I’m too lazy to do very much fitting work!

  9. MarrieB March 8, 2016 — 3:03 PM

    My experience with Colette is very similar to yours, I really liked them when I started sewing, but now they are disappointing. I think it’s good to be honest. Your dress did turn out cute though, so at least there’s that!

  10. Katie Z March 8, 2016 — 3:12 PM

    I found myself nodding along with your review. When I made my wren, I used my own knit sleeve and skirt pattern instead of the ones included. I also included added a neck band after being shocked by the instructions saying to just turn the end over and zigzag. I ended up very much liking the result and plan to use the bodice pattern again, but the pattern was definitely worth the amount of money spent.

    I really appreciate your honest review! There ought to be more. I generally love indie patterns, but they still need some accountability.

    1. Liz March 8, 2016 — 3:47 PM

      Yes – I was shocked too about the neckline instructions. I also didn’t like the fact that you are nearly gathering to the edge of the front neckband and then are magically supposed to just *turn under* that seam allowance and stitch it down.

      With some modern knitting patterns, I love when there are new techniques taught in the instructions themselves, instead of going down to the lowest common denominator. Wish sewing patterns were the same way…

  11. Bespokeability March 8, 2016 — 3:21 PM

    How refreshing to read an honest (but not at all mean-spirited) pattern review!

  12. Tasha March 8, 2016 — 3:25 PM

    How frustrating! I love your dress in the end, and a LBD in a knit sounds like a great idea (spoken as someone who still doesn’t have one in any kind of fabric, hah). My experience with a wrap/surplice front like that was that no band was fine, *however* on the pattern I used it went much further to the side, which I think makes it all more taut and keeps everything in place a lot better. I just looked at the main Wren photos and can see how gaposis would be a real issue. In any event, I feel your knit sleeve pain, boy do I feel your knit sleeve pain. I’ve sewn very few Colette patterns. I loved the torso and skirt of Moneta, but the sleeves were likewise way too wide and all wrong for me (I think a similarly low/wide sleeve cap and upper arm). Knowing what I do now, I could go back and just swap the armscye and sleeve for one that works on me. You put so much effort into this dress, more power to you for not tossing it all in the corner!

    I was going to suggest the Muse Patterns Gillian wrap dress to you since I think you might like the shoulder detail (and the front has a band), but sounds like you got a wrap dress pattern you like better sorted! :)

    1. Liz March 8, 2016 — 3:42 PM

      Thanks Tasha. Somehow I forgot about that Muse dress pattern – I love it! Should have just bought this one instead – great shoulder detail, front bands, and secondary blouse = win! :D I would have only had to change the skirt piece instead of all I did on the Wren. Ugh. Ahh well, damage was done.

      I think this may actually be my first LBD too. Not sure how I’ve gone without one for so long.

  13. Kathy March 8, 2016 — 3:44 PM

    Thank you, thank you for your review. I am not as skilled as you are, so if I got into this it would end up being tossed in the garbage. I would rather spend my time and money on a pattern that sewists I admire have had great success with.

  14. Onkuri March 8, 2016 — 6:21 PM

    Thank you so much for this honest review! I just finished a Wren dress myself and am going to post as soon as I get some pictures; and I agree with everything you said. The main problems with this pattern are:
    1. Too much reliance on negative ease for fit throughout the body. I know a little bit of negative ease in knits is flattering, but severe negative ease (especially in the hip area) leads to bum cupping and just seems like lazy or inexperienced pattern drafting to me. I compared the ease with my Muse Natalie pattern (which was perfect – mildly negative in the bust, mildly positive in the waist and hips) and graded Wren from XS in the bust to S at the waist to M at the hips. This makes me sound like a bottom-heavy person, but I’m just the opposite.

    2. Poor bust shaping – again, I had to do an FBA otherwise I would have popped out of the garment. It’s still not quite right — even though I fall exactly in XS according to their size chart.

    3. Lack of neckline binding – shudder!

    4. Wonky waist – This is the worst pattern drafting fault. I made the panel skirt version, and the front waistline (which is very prominent) is horribly wonky from the neckbands pulling it up. This really should have been fixed before releasing the pattern.

    I had to make some other minor adjustments for fit, which I’m fine with. I don’t expect every pattern to fit me perfectly. But I too am getting to the stage where I can tell whether it’s me or the pattern, and many problems with my Wren were the pattern.

    1. Liz March 9, 2016 — 9:32 AM

      Thanks so much for this comment Onkuri. I’m so happy to hear that its not just me and that you had similar issues with it.

      Okay – that sweater pile on your blog is ahhhmazing! :D

      1. Onkuri April 3, 2016 — 7:40 PM

        Thank you Liz, that sweater pile has been culled significantly now :)

        My post on the Wren is (finally!!) up. Much the same issues as you noted. After all my mods, I do actually like the pattern and am thinking of making another version!

  15. Yikes! I too used to sew with Colette when it first came out, but their body type is just so different than mine I eventually gave up. Sorry to hear it confirmed that there are a number of fitting issues too. On your modifications, did you draft on the sewaholic armscye as well as the sleeve? That might help when switching out sleeves. Impressed you were able to save this and make such a great dress despite it all!

    1. Liz March 9, 2016 — 9:10 AM

      Hey Meg. I actually didn’t copy the sewaholic Renfrew sleeve onto my Wren dress. It sounds silly but I’ve (mostly) figured out my armscye so that I know how to alter the bodices to fit ME. And since the Renfrew sleeve already perfectly fits ME too – they just magically match up.

      I’ve done this for quite a few projects now – I have a favorite knit sleeve & a favorite woven garment sleeve. I frequently use those two drafts over and over again with all sorts of bodices.

      1. Oh how nice! Yes when you know what fits it makes things so much easier!

  16. Really appreciate an honest review.i have found issues with recent colette patterns (although like you i loved them when i first started sewing). I feel like more effort is going into all of their other things (like seam work and the podcasts) and the gorgeous patterns with vintage styling that i loved in the first place have all but disappeared in favour of quick and easy basics.

    1. Oh, I agree! Seamwork is a lovely read and I enjoy it each month but it does seem to be a higher priority. I’ve steered clear of their patterns for the last few years though as they’ve gone in a direction that wasn’t me and unfortunately with Wren all the issues people have had hasn’t inspired confidence. I loved Colette patterns when I first started too and like others, they were the patterns I wanted to wear and sew and directed so much of my first sewing adventures!
      Maybe its a blip, maybe its just a change of direction that isn’t my style, maybe they have grown a little too fast and some of the attention to detail has been lost. I don’t know; but (and this is only my opinion) no pattern should need this much work to make it wearable when someone as knowledgeable as you Liz knows a company’s block and what needs doing to make it fit. I have to join those who would have tossed it in a corner in a fit of frustration and then gone on to doubt my ability and sanity, lol!

      1. Liz March 9, 2016 — 9:29 AM

        Thanks Vicki Kate. Somewhere deep down I felt like I knew better to even buy this pattern… but here we are. :D I haven’t really gotten on the Seamwork train. Its a great idea, but for me I’d rather spend a week+ to make a great garment than a couple of hours on a so-so one. I’m just not their audience on that front.
        I have liked some of the seamwork stuff, but when I see their wonky hems or unpressed seams, its really a turn off for me.

  17. Jolien March 9, 2016 — 3:49 AM

    Thank you for your honesty! Only this week I read another blog post of how the blogosphere is full with “reviews” which focus too much on feelings and whatnot (usually positive and not very informative) and how there’s not enough critique. Facts, statements, proof. I think you did a great review/critique. :) This stuff is helpful!

    Since the whole knit-section is new for Colette, it is likely that they still struggle a bit with it… Maybe their earlier patterns are simply better? Or just less fitted. Or you became too good. ;) Which is likely too. I love your final result though! :)

    1. Liz March 9, 2016 — 9:26 AM

      Oh how interesting Jolien (about the other blog post you read recently)!

      I dunno… I get that their knit section is “new” but its been over a year or two since they launched their first knit pattern – plenty of time to get it right IMO and they’re a pattern drafting company; its what they DO. If its not perfect, they shouldn’t have launched the pattern. I guess I just expect more from a company who has been in business for over what 6 years?! Sorry… I’m very passionate on this. lol

      Thanks so much for the compliment Jolien, I really do appreciate it. :D

      1. Jolien March 10, 2016 — 2:55 AM

        Actually, this is the one I referred to: http://7pinedesign.com/pattern-reviews-whats-missing/

        Found her through a pattern review group on FB and since she helps many people with pattern “fixing”, many asked her to start a blog.

        Just a few blog posts, but already some knowledge to be found.

        And yeah, I did read too on the Colette blog that there were experts who helped them with designing the knit line of garments… No idea where this went wrong though. Maybe the selecting of pattern testers isn’t strict enough anymore? Like, after a few patterns, most designers have their fix clique of testers and fans, maybe they’re just not honest enough anymore? Or not experienced enough?

  18. What an interesting post, Liz. I enjoyed how thoroughly you went through all the aspects and gave a really great explanation of how you found it. I’m another who used to love Colette and gave up because their block is too far from my own shape and it’s too much hassle to do all the changes. I also don’t find their current offerings very interesting either. This wrap dress should have been a lovely classic item but it certainly sounds a bit off.

  19. Gail March 9, 2016 — 5:51 AM

    Agree, and I appreciate your willingness to give an honest review of your experience. I’m glad that at least you did end up with a dress that looks fantastic on you, even though you had to do all the work yourself.

  20. Stevie March 9, 2016 — 5:57 AM

    I am with you on Colette fit! I had quite a few Wadders including Zinnia and Oslo. They need a lot of adjustment for me too but I just can’t quit them! I just do my regular adjustments and hope for the best.
    The sleeve is the same for me I grade the shoulder and top sleeve down an inch or so each and measure in for my waist. My Mesa dress wasn’t too bad.
    I’ve been getting on much better with Grainline recently!

    1. Liz March 9, 2016 — 9:22 AM

      I have/love the Archer, I just haven’t made it up yet. I just really need to commit to a button down blouse one of these weekends… :D

  21. Thank you for the honest review. It is much appreciated. The Wren is actually one of the few Colette styles I like, but I didn’t/won’t buy for all the reasons you covered. I’ve been sewing long enough now to just know better.

    Please don’t feel bad for actually reviewing, instead of fluffingly complimenting, a product you purchased. Pattern sellers aren’t supposed to be our best friends. They are businesses hoping to receive our money, and they should be able to withstand fair criticism where it’s warranted.

    Your final dress does look lovely. I’m glad you were able to persevere. That is a skill not everyone has.

    1. Liz March 9, 2016 — 9:18 AM

      I know I shouldn’t feel bad for giving my honest review. I found it tricky to write my negative experiences only instead of my “feelings” with the pattern; feelings so often get mixed up in the garment making process that it’s hard to remain objective – but I tried my best.

      This review was 2 weeks in the making – as I kept editing the post to be more objective. Having this time & distance from this dress & the pattern draft definitely helped with that.

  22. Lee March 9, 2016 — 9:35 AM

    Really appreciate your honesty and the all the details you share here. Like you, I loved Colette patterns when I first started sewing. Over the years– with too many attempts!– I’ve learned to admire the designs but not even think about making them for myself. They just don’t work for my body. I think their brand is really strong and Seamwork is exciting. Totally rooting for them. But yeah, some of the details (or omission of certain details) of the recent patterns turn me off. At this point in my sewing I don’t want quick and dirty; I want beautiful, thoughtful construction.

    You made a great dress anyways!

  23. Robin March 9, 2016 — 10:21 AM

    Your dress looks amazing – couldn’t be prettier or more flattering.
    And I loved your review with all the helpful insights. Everything is spelled out in a way that is helpful to readers and those of us who are always learning more about how patterns are put together and how to get great results.

    I have gotten fairly obsessed with pattern drafting myself, and I immediately saw things about these sleeves and why they do or don’t work – it was too much information to squeeze into a comment, so I wrote up a blog post on my own blog. I hope you don’t mind!

    And I love love love your glasses!

    1. Liz March 9, 2016 — 10:37 AM

      No problem Robin! Thanks so much for your comments. I’m due for new glasses, but its hard, I love these pink ones still so much. :D

  24. Brenna March 9, 2016 — 11:12 AM

    I struggled with this pattern too, even though I wanted to love it so much! I didn’t like the hemmed edge on the front of the cross-over so I cut the bands on a fold which of course messed with the negative ease. I also ended up having to lengthen the bodice three inches to get it to hit where I wanted it to which is where I thought it was SUPPOSED to hit from glancing at other finished versions and the pattern illustrations. I still don’t like the back neckline even though I added in some clear elastic for stability. I also tried to use clear elastic to apply the skirt but there was so much skirt I had to pleat and then gather it all to get it to fit! Just… so many alterations…

  25. MayravB March 9, 2016 — 11:38 AM

    I really appreciate your honesty (I’m a lurker here, which always feels awkward for commenting but BTW hello, I love your blog). It’s discouraging as a beginner to read rave review after rave review for a pattern and then try it and be frustrated because something is just. not. working. and I can’t tell what, because no one online wanted to “be negative” and talk about drafting issues in the pattern.

    No pattern is written to fit every body, and when people of all body types talk frankly about a pattern it helps me understand what will or won’t work on me, or what changes I might need to make. Why shouldn’t you criticize a product that you paid for? Just because an indie pattern has more of a name and a face than a Big 4 pattern? It’s still a business. As long as you’re not being snarky and cruel (which you were not), there’s no reason not to give an honest, negative review.

  26. Angela March 9, 2016 — 11:57 AM

    LOVED this review! So thorough, you explained everything very clearly, thank you for the time you put into writing all of this out and the pictures to show it – you know, a picture is worth a thousand words. :)

    I thought my problems with Colette patterns were just because of my long-waisted body – I have had a horrid time with fitting, more so than other pattern companies, to the point that just yesterday put my Colette patterns in the “get rid of” pile as I am decluttering my sewing room and only keeping what I really and truly like. Anyhow, I didn’t buy the Wren because of my past experiences with fitting Colette patterns and after reading your post and all the comments I am SO glad I didn’t hit the buy button!

  27. Christina March 9, 2016 — 12:44 PM

    Liz, I appreciate this review a lot. I have had a lot of trouble with Colette patterns and fitting. I’ve often found that they’re just not well drafted. They work for some people, but really haven’t worked for me. It’s refreshing to see honesty, and I feel you were honest without being mean spirited, which is ok.

  28. Amanda March 9, 2016 — 2:21 PM

    I too loved Colette when I first started sewing and was always super excited about each new pattern release, even if I didn’t buy them all. I still remember the old website photos of Sarai posing in the woods with her Beignet skirt and me thinking, “Wow, you can make a skirt like that?!” Thought it was the coolest thing ever. Things have changed in recent years and I can’t remember the last pattern I bought. People at sewing meet-ups were much more honest about their sewing experiences than on blogs, and I started hearing a lot of complaints about Colette. I love the look of Wren, but realized that I could make something similar with patterns I already have. Go you for saving this dress!! I’m pretty sure I would’ve given up. Side note: I almost considered bringing a bunch of my Colette patterns to a swap last week, which I could never imagine me doing years ago. Kind of sad.

  29. katie March 9, 2016 — 2:29 PM

    I completely agree this pattern has issues beyond simple preference or common fit alterations. I bought it for my sister who’s quite a newb sewist, and was really disappointed that the neckline is just turned and hemmed – I wound up drafting new pieces (and writing new instructions!) for her so it ends with a band as personally I think it should. The waistline is certainly also higher than natural waist on her (she’s petite too), which isn’t the impression you get from the line drawing and samples. Anyway, I think from all the comments here you can see you’re not alone and it’s good to give honest reviews when a pattern doesn’t work as expected!

  30. Jane March 9, 2016 — 3:05 PM

    Very refreshing to see a fully honest review on a Colette pattern.
    I, too, have found that many of their patterns have fit issues. Lately, I have found their patterns to be lackluster at best but mostly they’ve been boring and even a tad bit frumpy. Wren was one I had considered a possibility but hadn’t purchased because of my concerns on fit and also feeling that one of the big pattern companies probably has a similar style dress pattern.
    Ignoring the neckline issue, your dress came out quite lovely. I feel that may be more a compliment and statement on your ability to fit, alter and redraft.

  31. knitbunnie March 9, 2016 — 3:44 PM

    The only time I ever tried a Colette pattern, two of us decided to sew it together. We both wound up with wadders.

    Your neckline- is there any way you can pick out the top-stitching, slip some clear elastic into the fold, and topstitch? It’s such a really nice, dress and you’ve worked so hard on it. It would be a real shame to have it wind up in the back of your closet, especially given that it’s fabric from Paris – so darned special.

    1. Liz March 9, 2016 — 4:15 PM

      Oh never fear – I do wear this often. I actually pin the bottom layer to my bra so there’s no gaping. It’s a pain on a me-made but its the only way its wearable. Honestly, I could put in some clear elastic, but I don’t want to spend any more time on this dress than I have already. I just deal with it instead.

  32. Great review! I was recently thinking of buying this pattern, but wanted to read more reviews of it first. Glad you did yours because I’m going to stay clear! The last Colette pattern I bought was the Moneta. Once I got the excess fabric issue at the side boob/armhole area I actually liked the pattern. But I read some reviews of the next few patterns and didn’t bother buying them. I definitely appreciate the honest reviews.

  33. Becky March 14, 2016 — 10:43 AM

    You were very kind in your criticism, and it’s better to be honest and save other sewists the trouble, or help the pattern drafters to improve the pattern! That being said, the finished dress looks nice.

  34. I’m sorry that this dress took up so much of your time. I have issues with Colette bodices so, even if I like a design, I rarely end up sewing it. I loved the Wren dress when it came out, but I couldn’t gather the strength to make it yet. I find your remarks very useful.

  35. Heather March 17, 2016 — 4:25 PM

    Such a bummer! I’m glad you were able to get things worked out so that this dress is wearable. It does look really lovely.

    I really appreciate your honesty and your thoughtful criticism. I think it’s important that sewists, and bloggers give feedback so that pattern designers can make changes if need be. If no one says anything, then how do they know? Also it made me feel tons better, because I always need to make pretty major adjustments to Colette patterns to get them to fit properly, and I sometimes wondered if it was just me. Obviously though, based on all the comments, we are not alone.

  36. Hanna March 20, 2016 — 7:29 AM

    I also loved Colette at first when I began sewing again after a long break. I hadn’t done anything according to patterns in a while, so I just couldn’t tell what could be considered as “normal” amount of pattern adjustment, and what would mean that the pattern a) doesn’t fit my body type at all, or b) was drafted weird. After seven trials with Clover (ending up with pants I couldn’t sit in) I began to think there was something going on and after removing 25 cm of ease from Laurel to make it look like the pattern photos I just gave up.

    I think the main problem back then might have been that they drafted for a too-specific bodytype: C-cup with wide hips but no butt with short waist and narrow shoulders or something like that. (I’m saying this as a short person who only adjusts for shortness when using RDC or Named patters.) nowadays it looks like Colette is just doing sloppy drafting over all. Wren was actually the first pattern in years that even looked interesting to me, but nah, I’m not that much into ten muslins in stretchy fabric.

  37. I also bought the Wren bease I loved the look, but haven’t touched it because I knew how much work it would be. You look so great in it, it makes me want to bust it out and try it. Beautiful!

  38. […] shoulders and underarm, graded to S at waist. So many reviewers complained that the armscyes were too loose that I simply drew in a smaller one from my Muse Natalie […]

  39. Ana April 2, 2016 — 12:39 PM

    I wish I’d seen this review before I bought Wren. I made three muslins and I’ve given up on is pattern. I found many of the same issues, my measurements are almost exactly size S, and my first muslin was laughable.. the ‘waistline’ sat an inch higher than the bottom of my bust. I emailed and they told me to do an FBA, in spite of my bust being the specified measurement for the size. Tried this and added 3″ to length and lengthened the neckband by 2″… Anyway, it’s in the trash is the moral of the story. I’m never buying a Colette pattern again.. Every single one has required extensive fit changes and is so not worth the effort when I’m paying a premium for an indie pattern.

    1. Liz April 5, 2016 — 2:56 PM

      I’m so sorry Ana. It’s tough when a pattern is against us from the very beginning. I had a similar experience with the Crepe dress – there was no helping that one for me.

      If it helps you’re not alone; a lot of folks have chimed in about how difficult it is getting Colette patterns to fit for their bodies.

      I think an FBA on a knit wrap dress is kinda crazy… They supposedly draft for a C cup (which I currently am) yet even for me the wrap section was all wrong. Hope you have more luck on your next sewing project.

  40. Gmy July 23, 2016 — 8:53 AM

    Thanks for your honest review. Unfortunately, I bought this one when it first came out (in spite of already having learned my lesson on that with Dahlia), and I ended up with a horrible wadder. I had exactly the problems you noted with the bust–it was laughably wide (like, boobs completely uncovered) when I lined up notches, and when I crossed it over far enough to keep everything covered up, it pulled the front soooo much higher and barely ended under my bust. I didn’t even get to the point of caring about the arms since the whole POINT of this dress was to have a nice front without the spillout boobage that happens with a surplice front,

    My body is pretty close to the Colette block, so I don’t have to do much to their older offerings to get a passable garment, but the last few I’ve bought have just been terrible. I should have realized what the blogosphere silence meant after Wren came out…

  41. Louisa March 13, 2017 — 12:02 AM

    Thank you for taking the time to write such a thorough review of the Wren dress. I’ve already purchased the pattern and plan on making it up for my teenage granddaughter. I’ve already decided to do a stretch mesh lining which will address the narrow turn under issue on the bodice. I’ve widened the front band 3/4″ x 2 sides in an attempt to raise the neckline. She sizes out at an XS but is only an A cup–also short waisted at 14.25″. Based on your experience, as above, would you suggest taking some of the fullness out of the front and back bodice pieces? I could easily make vertical adjustments in both. I’m also thinking of adding 1/2-3/4″ to the length of the bodices and band to ensure a true waist fit. Thank you, in advance, for any suggestions you may have.

    1. Liz March 13, 2017 — 10:25 AM

      Hi Louisa. I actually don’t know what my vertical back seam measures as – but I can tell you I am also short-waisted.

      Honestly – the way I fit a garment is to make a test garment. It’s not exactly fun, but it’s the way I can figure out my own fit issues before I cut into my nice fabric. Do you have any scrap knit fabric you could use to whip up a test version for your granddaughter?

      I haven’t yet learned the skill of tissue fitting, but that is how my mother would always test patterns out on me before she went to make anything.

      I’m sorry I can’t give you an exact answer. But I will say you can always remove fabric from the length of a bodice – but you can never add fabric after the fact. So if you have a hunch you need to add some length, I’d do that on a test garment and see how it works.

      1. Louisa March 13, 2017 — 4:37 PM

        Thanks once again for your help with this. I’ll check out my orphan fabric stash to see if I can find some similar weight Lycra. Kindest regards!

  42. Maggie March 27, 2018 — 12:42 PM

    Thank you for sharing your observations and updates to the pattern! I’d made one version of the Wren and had a LOT of notes for my second version. The idea of mashing the neckline with a knit shirt that is better drafted is exactly what I needed to tackle it again.

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