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.

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