Sewing Bee Rue Dress

The third round of the PR Sewing Bee was to sew a dress using the Colette Rue pattern.  I love the idea of everybody using the same pattern and interpreting it differently, but I must confess that my heart sank when I heard that it was a Colette pattern.  I am hardly the target body shape for their patterns and I don't wear the vintage vibe that they are going for.

After some thought, I realised that the dress was essentially a sheath dress with interesting seaming on the bodice.  I racked my brain for sheath dress inspiration.  What came to mind was the green and white dress that was worn by Alicia Vikander in the movie "The Man from U.N.C.L.E" (costume designer Joanna Johnston). Her dress was actually a 60's shift, not a sheath dress, but it was the back cut-outs that I loved most of all and used for inspiration.

I am so far off the Colette body shape that I decided to transfer the design lines to my sloper rather than wrestle with the multiple muslins required to get her pattern to fit me.

Here is my bodice, with the Rue design lines.

The back view of my competed dress.

The hem band was a last minute addition.  I was having lots of trouble with the zip, and was getting bothered by the excess length of the skirt as I kept trying it on to sort out the zip.  So I decided to cut the excess off, ready for hemming later.  Only I cut too much off.  The dress was too short.  It was the sort of too short when you see somebody wear a dress from the back of their wardrobe.  You know, it was the perfect length 15 years ago, but the dress has to hang past a leeetle bit more girth now, and is the sort of too short that leads to inadvertent flashing of knickers on the dance floor.  Not a good look.  At this stage in the construction, I went to bed disgusted.  Overnight, I had the news flash to add on a hem band.

I didn't have the perfect button for the back of the dress, so I layered two buttons.  This is a bit bulky though, so I will keep an eye out for a green button in the right size.  You can see my bra band peeking through.  All of my bras have 2 hook closures.  I think if I get a bra with a 1 hook closure, it will sit perfectly hidden.

I have never hand-picked a zipper.  Never wanted to.  Wondered why anybody would when they could machine sew in a zipper in just a few minutes.  Well, I tell you, I could have handpicked a zipper for each of the Jolie-Pitt children in the time it took me to put in this zipper.  I started it about 3 pm and finished up somewhere after midnight.

Originally, I was going to have a short zip in the side bodice and another in the CB skirt, so that I would not have to zip through the cut-outs or the bulky bits in the side seam.
It took me about 2 hours to work out that my bodice side seams weren't the same length, and that was why my zipper wasn't working.  I had made some last minute changes to the waist cutout after my muslin the night before, and did not true the side seams after.  Once I fudged my way through that I found that I could not get the dress on.  The side zip was fine in my muslin, but the firm bodice fabric and lining had much less give than my muslin. Major rework to put a single zip in the side.  I hadn't drafted the pattern with that in mind, so it took quite a bit of in and out and fiddling with lining seam allowances so that the zip would not show through the cut-out.  This could easily have been accommodated at the drafting stage.  In the end, I cut through the zipper tape at the bodice skirt junction so that the zipper is almost in two parts. This allowed me to keep everything tidy and also prevent the zipper tape from showing through the cut-out. It looks tenuous, but it appears to be holding up pretty well through all my putting on and taking off of the dress already.

My process for sewing the cut-outs was as follows.

- mark circles on wrong side of bodice fabric, with iron away marker
- baste organdy to bodice fabric, right sides together. Baste in a large square around the circles. This helps the organdy stay in position as the fabric is pulled in a circular motion when the circles are stitched.

- stitch circles, using a reduced stitch length of 1.5
- cut out circles, leaving a 6 mm seam allowance. Clip seam allowance all the way around the circle
- remove basting stitches
- cut organdy between each of the circles, to cut it into 4 pieces
- pull organdy through to wrong side and press.

Continue making the back bodice and attach the back lining at the hem.

- Mark through the bodice circles to mark circles on the lining.
- Make the circles in a similar fashion to the bodice, only stitch the circles larger than the marked circles. The rayon lining is not as stable as the interfaced bodice, so making the lining circles larger than the bodice circles will prevent any peek through.

Finish construction of the dress.

- hand stitch the lining cut-outs to the bodice cut-outs.  You can also see that I have catch-stitched the belt in position.

I was in Brisbane for the first 5 days of the competition, which gave me very little time to sew the dress, but it did give the chance to get to the Fabric Store and buy the fabrics I needed.

- bodice - textured cotton. This was not quite as heavy as I would have liked, so I interfaced it fully. The resulting bodice has very little give, so it is not very forgiving fit-wise.
- bodice lining - rayon woven, which feels lovely to wear.
- skirt - rayon polyester crepe. I would have loved to have this fabric for both the bodice and the skirt, but could not find it in the colour I wanted.
- skirt lining - woven silk
- cut-out support - cotton organdy

The skirt lining was the most expensive part of the dress, but it does a great job of stopping the crepe from sticking to me. The crepe seems to have a lot of static.

It was stressful sewing to the deadline.  I would have preferred a shift to a sheath dress for this design, but if it were not for the competition, I may never have made it at all.  I am thinking of making a shift version in a different fabric for summer, now that I have worked out how to make the back.  Only I still need to undertake my craftsy class on drafting a shift from my sloper.  


  1. This was far and away my favourite of all the entries in Round 3. Completely fabulous and a well deserved win!

  2. Wow, you really knocked it out of the ball park with this one! Those design lines are just where they should be and the overall look is so unique and well-executed. Just fantastic.

  3. This is incredible, Katherine! It looks beautifully drafted and constructed - well sewn!

  4. This is all sorts of Wow! I really like the hem band... it ties everything together nicely. Those cut outs... 😍

  5. What an amazing dress - you did such a great job on the construction and it really suits you. I think your achievement is remarkable given that you get past the hurdles of the Rue pattern

  6. Congratulations on making it to the final! This dress is amazing - really creative design and shows off lots of skill (and patience!).

  7. This is a great dress. I love the cut outs and the low exposed back that is bra friendly. Makes for interest with comfort! I realise I have never seen that movie as I didn't know that dress, but what a great iteration. I am impressed that you could do this in such a short time. Colette patterns also are not the aesthetic for me.

  8. Oh my goodness, what a delectable, covetable dress! It reminds me of something I might lust after from the pages of Vogue magazine - I love the colour combination, the dress shape, the cut outs, the back waist, well everything!! It's just gorgeous - you are skilful!

    1. Sorry, that was meant to say SOOO skilful (of course you are skilful!!)

  9. I was just wondering how you constructed the back full of cut-out circles when voila! you described the process perfectly. I shall bookmark this for future use.

  10. Totally stunning work - the design and workmanship are winners in my eye.