I had no immediate urge to sew the Phoebe dress when it was released by Colette Patterns. I liked the look of it, & thought the styling was cute, but I did not fall over myself to acquire it & make it. It was not one of those love at first sight patterns, I’ll admit. But there is something about sewing a Colette pattern that still feels like a total treat – the spa experience of sewing. Relax, sink into new depths of peace whilst you focus on the detail as guided in the signature little instruction booklet. You know you are sewing something stylish. You know it will be a quality garment. You don’t have to print out reams of A4 sheets depleting your ink & then tape together on the rug in front of the TV. You pop the envelope, reach inside for the crisp tissue paper folded as it will never ever be again & unwrap your next sewing adventure. There is something very experiential. It’s worth taking your time over.
Phoebe dress is described by Colette Patterns as
A modern A line sheath dress with a customizable style. The lined bodice shaped with princess seams makes Phoebe incredibly easy to fit. Angled waist darts create a flattering shape that is echoed by the lightly flared skirt.
There are two versions – a straight plain fronted dress & a double breasted dress with buttons. I chose the latter as why not get some button interest going?!Phoebe is a modern A-line sheath dress with a customizable style. The lined bodice shaped by princess seams makes Phoebe incredibly easy to fit. Angled waist darts create a flattering shape that is echoed by the lightly flared skirt. Phoebe is a modern A-line sheath dress with a customizable style. The lined bodice shaped by princess seams makes Phoebe incredibly easy to fit. Angled waist darts create a flattering shape that is echoed by the lightly flared skirt. Phoebe is a modern A-line sheath dress with a customizable style. The lined bodice shaped by princess seams makes Phoebe incredibly easy to fit. Angled waist darts create a flattering shape that is echoed by the lightly flared skirt.
Sew Essential provided me with the Phoebe sewing pattern (they stock so many of the Independent pattern companies’ sewing patterns now along with all of the bigger brands) and some fabric to make it up in. I was taken by the crepe dress making fabric, & figured a royal blue Phoebe would be super playfully chic if I made it as a pinafore. Yes, I can wear pinafores, it doesn’t have to be something for the youngsters. I felt could make it work.
I am not the standard Colette Patterns bodice shape so I had to make a toile, then another, then another. I think back on that afternoon & remember I was watching episode after episode of the Great Interior Design Challenge on iPlayer through this experience. Do you remember things like that? What you were listening to/ watching when you sew something? For my Joan dress, for example it was the new series of the X Files…..the Rhys Darby episode particularly sticks in my mind.
So the bodice took some work to get it to fit my (clearly odd ) non standard shape. It was an effort, as always, because the area that was so wrong for me was behind me. I pinched out the excess as best as I could & then kept making new versions up with each set of adjustments until I came as close as I was prepared to. Comparing the original piece with the ‘badger body’ back bodice I was surprised to see that it was in the upper shoulder area – my adjustments to the Laurel dress have a much smaller adjustment taken off at the back shoulder, but the rest of the dress fitted much more easily. Just interesting. And I felt I was toiling like a pro when I was transferring the adjustments to the pattern pieces & then remembering to make compensatory adjustments to the armsyce. Gosh I have learnt so much from the online sewing community.
During the evolution of the toile I was able to see where the bodice waist seam was going to fall – it is higher than my natural waist. I had the opportunity to lower the waist if I wanted, but as you can see, I was happy with the higher waist (good camouflage for those bloaty days) but could squeeze a sway back adjustment into the final version.
I was confident that I could make adjustments to the skirt in progress & not toile it. It seems fitting that the bulk of the content in this write up is devoted to the bodice as that is where it felt that all the time went! Once I had got to my final bodice I could not wait to get sewing. It is a lined bodice, but I also lined the skirt as well. The instructions of course are clear & carefully take you through the sewing process, including the bodice lining. I opted to sew my skirt lining into waist seam & hand sew the bodice at the waist over the top. I wanted the weight of the skirt to pull the bodice ever so slightly as it fitted better like that!
The Phoebe dress doesn’t have to have a centre back invisible zip but that’s what I chose. If there is a faux double breasted front, let’s hide the real opening I thought. (The instructions suggest using a regular zip). Onto that double breasting. Yes it is faux in that it doesn’t function as a way in/ out of the dress. But it is made up of two separate overlapping lined bodice fronts so if you played with the skirt, you could make this into a suit dress hack with buttons going all the way down the skirt front too. Hmm. That could look pretty cool – pinstripe maybe over a plain white shirt?
Back to this version though. Call me lazy (but not too loud!) but I was not going to sew buttonholes just for the sake of it. There are 10 buttons after all & with buttonholes, mo matter how careful you are, there are always stray tufts sticking out. You could of course go full on & sew bound buttonholes making this rather a showcase of skill. But not me, not this time. I sewed the buttons onto the markings through all bodice layers. This keeps the bodice where it needs to be & with the bonus of buttons. I like royal blue & black so hunted out a couple of options. Here are the two choices I gave myself – both plastic- flowers & faceted jet-like buttons. I had the fortune of a second opinion via my sewing guru (my Mum) & we concurred – flowers were more fun.
Here it is in action, photos courtesy of my very own David Bailey father. I took Phoebe with me on my last visit, handsewing still to be completed, but knowing that my family photographer loves to be called on for a photoshoot with a willing idiot….
One thing I will say. The fit feels good, the bodice has less ease due to it being kind of tailored. The front is easy to fit with princess seams, but the back is where my problems were…never easy when you sew solo.
If I was to wear this without a top underneath my bra straps show. That could be down to my armsyce adjustments (pride comes before a fall afterall) or maybe they are more scooped. Anyone else made Phoebe who can comment?
Anyway, the gorgeous crepe dressmaking fabric that I used is available from Sew Essential – lots of colours available & this is an Orla top, made from the cream crepe, isn’t it fine? You can get the Phoebe dress sewing pattern at Sew Essential too …and until the 29th March 2016 there is a 10% discount if you use the code BADGER10! Tempted?