Rita's Peony Dress February 13, 2015


I had been making Colette's Peony dress (in my head) for months prior to even choosing my fabric, attracted to it's clean silhouette, fitted bodice and sleeves and the oh-so-perfect boatneck neckline. It was no surprise to anyone around me that I also chose a boldly-patterned ankara wax-print cotton, as I'm obsessed with African textiles and adornment. I've always been drawn to statement pieces of clothing and accessories - I tried subtle once but it didn't take.

Cutting Out & Adjustments

As this was my first full, fitted garment I traced the pattern pieces onto tissue paper in the sizes closest to mine. For my shape that meant my bodice pieces were nearly two full sizes smaller than the skirt. What I hadn't predicted was that I would also need to make an SBA, or Small Bust Adjustment. Every pattern company uses a different proportioned model as their standard, and there's no way to make ALL the shape variations possible on a single pattern. It was admittedly frustrating at first, however, two paper patterns and three test voiles later I now have a bodice pattern custom-cut to my measurements and ready to be used again in the future.

Making a test version (muslin or voile) from inexpensive fabric (like old sheeting) is truly indispensible, especially when it's the first time you're tackling a pattern. It takes much of the pressure off of making mistakes (which always happens) and fear of wasting more expensive fabric.

Pattern Matching

Another "challenge" I made for myself involved pattern-matching. The swallow motif is all moving in one direction, and the print shows as strong on the backside of the fabric as it does on the front. I had to be very careful laying out my pattern pieces, ensuring that they were all arranged in such a way that the print would run the same way all around. There was only one slip-up with this just before sewing the zipper in where I realized the birds on the back of the skirt were flying in the opposite direction of all the rest. It was fixable, but was also admittedly a "just walk away" moment when I needed to put the dress down so I could return to it with a clearer head. :)



The Peony dress is so popular due to the simplicity of the pattern pieces and the absolute clarity of the instructions provided in the Colette booklet. The sleeves fit in without fuss, the facing on the neckline lays nicely, and what is a daydress without pockets?!? Love the size of these pockets and I got them to align perfectly. The pattern also includes a wide belt which I didn't make make for this version but will do on the next one.

Now that I've gone through all the work to customize the pattern and understand the assembly I'm feeling really motivated to make another one. Getting to practise darts was a great benefit to me and a technique that I'll be continuing to refine on future pieces. We just got in some of the newest collection from Cotton+Steel in the shop so this will give me just the "excuse" I need to buy more fabric. The Peony dress pattern is also availble now in both our online and Lincoln St. shops - come in for yours and we'll plan our dresses together!