Completed: Dahlia Dress

When I saw Colette Pattern’s latest release – Dahlia – I liked it immediately, so when the pattern arrived I set aside my other projects to sew it up.  It turned out that Dahlia almost got the best of me, and this dress almost didn’t happen.  As you probably notice, my finished dress ended up a bit different from the pattern.


One of the things I like about Dahlia is the inset waist.  (Before the pattern came out, I had been thinking of doing an Emery hack to get a look close to this.)  I also really like the princess seamed skirt. I decided to sew the bodice from view A with the skirt from view B.


I started out by making a muslin.  It seemed to fit reasonably well, except the armhole was too tight and was cutting into my underarm.  The neck also gaped a bit, which is something that I think is a common issue with this pattern.


To address the issues, I let out the front arm seam, and also took it in a pinch at the neck. It felt better.  But this is where I made my biggest mistake.  I put the muslin on and just stood in front of the mirror.  However, I didn’t really move around and check the range of motion.  Normally, I try to wear my muslins around for a bit, to really test them.  I was feeling impatient and wanted to get to the good fabric, so I skipped this step.


The fashion fabric I chose is a tiny black and grey houndstooth.  I got the fabric at the Michael Levine Loft, so I’m not exactly sure what fiber content it is.  It pressed and sewed really well though, which makes me think it’s a wool blend.

When the dress was almost done, I tried it on,  and ugg . . . I couldn’t raise my arms.  😦


This was my maximum range of motion.

It looks like there is plenty of room when my arms are down:


But as soon as I raise them, the fabric pulled extremely tight across my shoulder blades and the top of my arms:


Since I actually need to be able to move around in my clothes, the dress was unwearable. I was feeling pretty sad to just toss it because I had taken the time to line it and everything.


Since I had a little bit of fabric left over, I decided to try re-doing the bodice.  One without raglan sleeves.  I suppose I could have tried the view B bodice, but I personally don’t like those little bias tape straps.

Instead, I pulled out my trusty Emery bodice and hacked away.  The problem was I did this late at night when I was tired, and I made some mistakes.  I forgot to add the seam allowance to the neckline.  I also forgot to remove the seam allowance from the center back.


Once I had the new pieces cut, I unpicked the dress.


Then sewed and attached the new bodice.  It took me 6 tries to get the zipper back in. And the little mistakes I made when drafting crept up and made sewing the new bodice really frustrating.  I almost tossed the dress again.

Dahlia Details

I didn’t give up though, because I had invested so much time in this dress.  It made me too mad to just throw it away.  I don’t know if it’s more frustrating to have to spend hours and hours to make an indie pattern work that you paid a premium for, or to invest a lot of time on a $1 special Big Four pattern.  I guess both are frustrating.  But for me when I’ve only spent $1, I think I have lower expectations, and it doesn’t seem as bad.  So I’m kind of turned off Colette at the moment.  Maybe that’s not fair, because I know I caused a lot of my own problems, but that’s just my honest feeling right now.




Some flat shots:

Dahlia Details

On the lining, I turned the under bust gathers into two small pleats to reduce bulk.

Dahlia Details

Dahlia Details

I tried something new for the hem.  I used Hug Snug rayon seam binding as hem tape, and I love it!

Dahlia Details

It’s too bad the raglan sleeves didn’t work out, because I was looking forward to having a dress I could wear without needing a topper.  Oh well, I’ll just go with a cardigan and call it a day.  This dress isn’t perfect and it was a literal and figurative pain to sew – when I was making the muslin, I sewed through the tip of my finger!  (that hurts like hell, btw.)  But it’s done, and wearable, and that’s good enough for me.



47 thoughts on “Completed: Dahlia Dress

  1. That’s quite some story and I do admire you for rescuing this dress! I also ordered the Dahlia immediately but got stuck when the muslin looked so….off! A horribly gaping neckline and armholes that are too low. I put it aside to do some more research since my fabric is too beautiful to take a gamble. Thanks for your honest review, although it did not raise my hope for finding an easy fix…..

  2. I think there is a problem with the raglan sleeves on the Dahlia. There should be a dart from the neckline to the top of the shoulder. Similar to this: Photo Lots of other people have found the same gape-y neckline.

    I think it is far more frustrating to pay $$ for a pattern only to have it be poorly drafted. Your final dress came out very nicely, pains and all. 🙂

    • Thanks. I agree, I think the there is a drafting issue with the sleeve. Having a shoulder dart makes sense. I wonder if that would have fixed my unable-to-raise-arms problem. . .

  3. There are patterns from the big four that will be similar and cost you 99 cents on a good day. The good thing is once you learn how to adjust them for your body, you just do the same adjustments to all of the big four. Why remake the wheel with every Indy pattern and designer that comes down the track? And after a while you really can do your personal adjustments without even thinking to all of the Big Four. I’ve done it many many times. I don’t have time to remake the wheel on a simple pattern that I can get from the big four and fix without even thinking. Just my two cents and I am so sorry for your frustrations.

    • Easy and predictable pattern alterations are my preference as well, so I understand your thoughts. 🙂 And I’ve definitely had success with the Big Four in that regard. That being said, I do like indie patterns and have been a fan of Colette. (At one point, I had my standard Colette alterations pretty much figured out.) So I think both have their merits.

  4. Glad you persevered because the dress is quite nice. Also maybe you could wear a sleek turtleneck or tee under it so you won’t have to cover up your hard work.

  5. Sorry to hear you had issues! I know what you mean about being turned off by a pattern company. I’ve experienced similar frustrations with some of them and am then hesitant to buy another pattern. I have been moving more and more to the Big 4 lately… At least you were able to save this one. Good for you for persevering – it looks pretty despite the struggles!

    • Thank you, I’m pretty stubborn so I wanted to make this work. I just wish I had spent more time actually wearing my muslin, I would have saved myself a lot of trouble if I’d noticed my arm problem earlier, and carefully redrafted the bodice from the beginning.

  6. Colette patterns were m very first introduction to sewing, and I loved them! But at some point I realised “Hey, maybe it isn’t normal to have to take out 5″ from the back neckline!” and to be honest, I’ve never really gone back! I did sew a couple Myrtles this summer, but even that was a nightmare to fit. I’m sad, because Colette was such an early leader in Indie patterns. I’m glad you made the dress work though! Did you have similar issues when you made other Colette patterns?

    • When I started sewing, I used a lot of Colette too. 🙂 They have great instructions, especially for beginners. I’ve always had to make adjustments, but no, I haven’t had issues like this before. I typically needed a SBA and to lower the bust darts – nothing that was a deal-breaker. So this experience was a disappointment.

    • I have had a very similar experience with Colette Patterns. Absolutely loved them when I just started sewing, but got turned off more and more by their patterns. The fit is always SO far off on me.
      I find myself going back to Big 4 patterns now, and I love the variety, price and even the instructions. Less hand holding, more creative thinking.

      But Marrie, you ended up with a lovely dress that fits beautifully so well done!

  7. I followed your trials with Dahlia on Instagram and you did well to persevere — your dress looks lovely. I echo the suggestion above about maybe wearing a fitted tee underneath?

    Colette’s offerings are indeed very pretty and include sweet detailing (Dahlia particularly!), but they draft for a bigger cup size than I am, and while I love supporting the indie pattern companies, I know Colette’s patterns won’t fit me without some serious flat pattern alterations. On the plus side, Sewaholic’s (pear-shape) draft is perfect for my body type, and I usually don’t have issues with the B-cup bodice of the Big 4.

    • Sewaholic work well for me too! Big Four is funny, sometimes the bust is right for me and sometimes I need a FBA. I really like the ones that come with different cup sizes.

  8. Your version turned out great, and congratulations for sticking with it. You are a better woman than I am. I trashed the Lady Gray early for so many fit problems. I wish people would take the blinders off with Colette. She has nice ideas, but the fit, ugh.

  9. Oh how frustrating! Your save looks great though and good for you for not giving up…I probably would have. I love your fabric choice and your insides always look sublime!

  10. I bought the pattern the day it came out and have been a big Colette fan for years, but my Dahlia is currently unfinished in a pile in my sewing room. Love the bottom and the yoke, but the bodice is a hot mess. I was wondering whether it would be too low when I saw the pictures, but thought I could worry about that later. However, the sleeves and neckline are ridiculous ad there is way to much ease. Such a sham, but I am too annoyed to even try and fit it at the moment. I had no problems with Peony, and Peony and Hawthorn are two of my favourite and best fitting patterns, but Dahlia…
    Well done for persevering! I hope you get some wear out of it.

      • I agree. I’m using a lovely border print and the skirt when beautifully but the neckline and underarms are just crazy! I plan to wear for a family get together next weekend so I have stepped away for a few days but I hope to persevere like you did and ultimately come up with a wonderful make like yours!

  11. Love the final result. Your dress turned out wonderful. Thanks for detailing your construction problems with Dahlia. I’m about to start my muslin and I’ll put extra care on the basic stage!

  12. I was tempted to buy this pattern, but decided to wait along with the Myrtle. Glad I did because I’ve read several reviews with fitting issues that I’m sure I would also have. I followed along with the sewalong just to see what adjustments Devon suggested to make, but I’m still concerned it would be too frustrating to fit correctly. Glad to see you were able to salvage it because the dress turned out great. I really like that fabric!

    For me, I get more upset spending lots of time fitting an indy pattern than with a $1 pattern. Lately I’ve been sewing more with the Big 4 and am finally at the point where I usually know what adjustments to make or at least check. I’m also a fan of the bust point and waistline being clearly marked on the Big 4 patterns, which I wish the indy patterns would include.

  13. Oh man, I hateeeeee when I put so much work into fitting something and it doesn’t work out as planned. I totally admire your work and the fact that you ended up with something wearable. I’m not as patient as you, the neighbors would probably hear me screaming if I was in your shoes haha 🙂

  14. I love how yours turned out! I think it actually looks sharper than the envelope versions, which I wasn’t as in love with. I’m glad you got something wearable for all that work!

  15. I loved how this turned out. I love your version even though you had a lot of frustrations. I was super excited when they announced that they were going back to their roots, but I was underwhelmed when I saw this. I did like the green version though. I like Colette because that’s how I learned to sew, but I too started to buy more big 4 patterns.

  16. It sucks, really, really sucks, when a pattern isn’t properly drafted and tested before it reaches the market. I think the biggest issue with a lot of independent companies is that they are learning as they go. Unfortunately, that makes us all guinea pigs.

  17. You ended up with a great dress!

    I must have been one of the first makers of this pattern after it was released (only found one blog post up at the time) and like you, decided to make the V2 skirt with V1 bodice. Like you, I was astounded at the amount of ease in the neckline and bodice — the fit was awful. I added a shoulder dart and also narrowed the sleeve cuffs, which made the dress quite wearable. When I posted about my dress on my blog, other makers wrote in to say they had had exactly the same problems.

    Since then, there have been so many other posts and all of them have the exact same complaints about the poorly drafted neckline. It really does seem the pattern was not tested properly.

  18. Pingback: Completed: Another . . . Emery | Purls and Pleats

  19. You did a great save on this one. I too had a problem with the Dahlia and the back neckline, which resulted in me not wanting to finish it. After some coaxing, I added darts to the back of the neck. This is the first Colette pattern that has needed such drastic alterations, and in my case it could have been that the fabric was too ‘droopy’. If you wanted to, you could read about my dramas here:

  20. Wow what an effort! I am not a big fan of Colette patterns. I think they are more for full bust, hour glass body shape (lucky) figures. I too often have a few garments finished 80% then realise they do not fit, but I never bother to unpick or save them. I understand your frustration.

  21. I made two of their dresses and always made at least 3 muslins for the bodice. I really liked Dalhia but have so many patterns already that I decided to skip it. By looking at your pictures I am wondering if you have forward shoulder and prominent shoulder blades. I have these two and this caused me issues with fitting Colette Patterns. With Big4 (I tried Vogue and Simplicity) I just went 2 sizes down and they fit perfectly. I really like the dress with the cardi!

    • I think you are right, I was watching a craftsy course on fitting over the weekend that talked about forward shoulders, and I realized that’s one of my issues. I will have to do some research into adjustments for the shoulder blades. I’ve also had good luck with the big 4, but yes definitely have to downsize.

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