Colette Laurel: The Dresses

Shift dresses are not my friends. Every shift dress that I have ever tried on in a store has looked and felt like a large sack swallowed me whole. "Swimming in it", as my mother would say. That's why I have always been wary of the Laurel pattern by Colette, despite seeing so many lovely versions pop up online over the years. Good for them, I thought, but there's no way that's going to look good on me.

Flash to four years later. It's the middle of winter and I'm craving something new and cute that will be both comfortable and warm -- a dress with a looser fit, with sleeves, and that can be worn with leggings. The Laurel immediately came to mind. After a few years of practice, it seemed I finally had the confidence to tackle this pattern and the adjustments I would need to make it work for me.

I'm so happy to say that with some patience, and several yards of tracing paper, I ended up with a dress I absolutely love. In fact, I loved it so much I immediately sewed another dress and two tops. Four garments is definitely worth the effort.

I don't know if you can technically even call this a Laurel or even a shift dress anymore, I made so many adjustments. Regardless, I still find it easier to make half-a-dozen tweaks to a pattern than start from scratch. 

My bust and hip measurements both fell at a size 2, and figuring the waist didn't matter too much for a shift dress, I went ahead and cut all my pieces at size 2, with the following modifications:
  • Lowered armhole by 1/2"
  • Took in waist by 3/4"
  • Back darts: lowered apex by 1", lowered bottom point by 1-3/4", and extended width by 1/4" (it should be noted that I have a pretty deep lower-back arch)
  • Left out the zipper and cut the back piece on the fold (removed 3/4" from center back -- 5/8" seam allowance plus an extra 1/8")
  • Shortened by 4" (I wanted a mini for winter, knowing I would always wear it with tights. My second dress is intended for spring/summer and at least 2 inches longer.)
  • Handstitched the bias binding and hems

Here you can see how I cut the armholes (remember, I was cutting a size 2). 

Here you can see how I took in the waistline.

Here you can see my adjustments to the back darts. The inner black line is the original. The outermost red is what I ended up with. Clearly there were a few attempts before I got it right. Haha!

It should also be noted that I took my time to match up the plaid here too, adjusting my patterns to be able to cut in a single layer. There are tutorials from both Colette and Grainline on how to do this. Side note: did anyone see The Great British Sewing Bee season 4 premiere on Monday? I wanted to help them with their stripe matching so badly!

Finally, here is a closeup of the super cool quilted plaid that I used. See how the back is a loose weave? It's constructed like double gauze, but thicker. I have no idea what it's called and would love your input if you have any thoughts. 

Anyway, moving on.

With a muslin and a "good copy" under my belt, it was time to break out the big guns, a.k.a. my precioussss, a.k.a. Nani Iro double gauze.

The only things I did differently from the green plaid were a shorter sleeve, a longer hemline, and French seams. 

The main challenge with this print was lining up all those stripes. In a word, impossible. Unless you have yards and yards of this, in which case you either own a fabric store or are extremely wealthy, (both of which make you very lucky), you have to do your best to match some of the stripes. I chose to match the biggest, boldest ones as best I could, figuring those would be the most obvious. So the sleeves and the bottom set of dark grey. I think it was a good choice.

I left out the zip again, but kind of regret that decision. It fits over my head, sure, but it usually requires a couple strong tugs and I cringe every time. A zipper would be a hell of a lot easier, and gentler, to remove. Imagine those seams ripped open one day? My heart!

The stripes got a little mangled in the back darts too, but that doesn't bother me too much. It's always wrinkled back there anyway. Ha!

Next week... the tops!

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