When Colette released their Penny shirt dress pattern, I knew right away I was going to make it. Penny is a modern, classic shirt dress that fills a big void in my closet. From past experience with Colette’s patterns, I knew the dress would fit beautifully and sew easily. Over Labor Day weekend, I sewed this dress late into the night because I couldn’t wait to wear the finished garment.
I had the perfect fabrics – a thrifted, striped bed sheet and a white, button-down shirt for the cuffs and collar. My intent was to make the dress look like it was made of men’s shirting fabric.
As I was putting the dress together, I got this weird sense of deja vu. I’ve seen this dress before, but not in a good way. Then I remembered my sister’s first job as a waitress in high school at a 50’s themed diner. She used to wear a uniform just like my dress. To my horror, I realized that my attempt at a timeless shirt dress devolved into a waitress costume.
I was so disgusted with my shirt dress I almost threw it away. It was heartbreaking because I put so much work into it. My stupid dress looked nothing like the beautiful samples on Colette’s website. My unfortunate choice of fabrics made the dress look cheesy.
Despite the disappointment, the project turned out to be a good learning experience. This is the first time I sewed a shirt yoke, and I didn’t mess it up! Sewing a yoke is like magic – you roll the back and front bodice pieces into the yoke, sew the seams, turn everything inside out and all pieces are beautifully attached. The pattern calls for interfacing on one side of the yoke, but I think it’s overkill. Maybe it makes sense for thinner fabrics, but I’ve cut up my fair share of button down shirts in my refashions and never saw an interfaced yoke.
I did mess up the collar (tried 2 times to get it right) but managed to salvage it even though it looks nothing like the original pattern. For some odd reason, the collar came out longer than the neck opening, so I had to chop off the collar button and button hole. Since this dress is now just a costume, I’m not fretting over it anymore.
I’m loving the fit of this dress. The waist on most patterns falls lower on my petite frame, but this waist is right on target. The bodice is nicely fitted with just the right amount of ease.
In my youth, I used to wear vintage inspired clothes just like this and would have worn this to swing dances. Ah, the good old days . . .
This is one of those “make lemonade out of lemons” kind of projects. Once I reframed this dress as a waitress costume, I made a little apron to complete the look. I’m not giving up on this pattern. Someday soon, I’ll give this dress another try with drastically different fabric, like a rayon floral or a simple solid. I’m determined to get this right.
I have lots of sewing fails I don’t bother posting because they are embarrassing hot messes, but this one has a happy ending. This project reminds me of Tim Gunn’s famous quote “make it work.” Looks like I’ll be trick-or-treating with the kid as a waitress.
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