Good afternoon, lovelies! Today, I’m going to review one of my newest tried-and-true patterns, the Colette Myrtle dress. This dress has been everywhere in the sewing world, since its release last year, even in our own monthly Flickr parades. However, I was shocked to find we hadn’t officially reviewed it yet. Considering how many versions I’ve whipped up in the past few months, it’s certainly a pattern worth talking about.
The Myrtle comes from Colette’s collaboration with Alyson Clair, a knitwear designer based in Portland, as part of their initial foray into stretch fabric patterns. Truly a multi-occasion design, the Myrtle is a sleeveless knit dress with two hem lengths, an elasticized waist, flared skirt, and dramatic cowl neckline. Now, that last part is a bit terrifying. Cowl necks are notoriously hard to wear, if you have a large bust. My own adventures in ready-to-wear cowls were exercises in futility–no matter how big the garment’s cut, they dragged across my bosom. Instead of dramatic, cascading fabric, I ended up with droopy, ill-fitting bodices.
When the Myrtle debuted, I shrugged it off as a pretty pattern that didn’t suit my body type, like many of Colette’s offerings. Cut to a year later and the lovely Lilli, of Frocks & Frou Frou. Lilli’s latest version of the Myrtle, a gorgeous nebula-print dress, convinced me this pattern could work on curves. Hell, it could look downright fabulous on curves! Each of Lilli’s Myrtles was exactly the elegant, easy-to-wear type of dress I love. Moreover, it fit into my new lifestyle really well. Since becoming a full-time writer, this spring, I’ve longed for more knit garments. You know, those pieces that feel like loungewear, but don’t make the UPS driver question your life choices.
Like most knit patterns, the Myrtle is a cinch to construct. With a lined front bodice and elastic waist casing, it’s a bit more ambitious than Colette’s other knit dress, the Moneta, but still very beginner friendly. If you’ve sewn with knits before, there will be no surprises here. The cowl is cleverly created, by cutting the bodice and bodice lining as one piece, which prevents any flipping out of the drape. Then, the bodice is finished with the burrito method of construction, hiding the seams with that front lining piece, and securing the shoulders with clear elastic. It would be simple enough to add a full lining, by cutting another back bodice piece, but I haven’t felt the need. With a bit of stabilizing tape, the turn-and-stitch finish on the back bodice holds up well, as drafted. For all four of my Myrtles, I’ve constructed them using a combination of serger and sewing machine, giving me both a polished finish and better control of details.
Sizing is where the Myrtle truly shines, however. This pattern was one of the first to debut Colette’s extended size range, going up to a size 3XL. This translates to a bust size of 54 inches (137cm) and hip size of 56 inches (142cm), which is gloriously expansive, compared with other knit dress offerings on the market. For my measurements of 46-36-48, I initially cut a straight size XL, which you can examine for fit in my solid black version below. Thanks to my 36E bust size, there was still some pulling with this size, but it was a great fit elsewhere. After a moderate FBA, everything draped beautifully. No sad, saggy bodice here!
One my favorite aspects of the Myrtle is how well it translates to different fabrics. I’ve now made it in everything from a non-stretch cotton lawn (not pictured) to a slinky four-way stretch rayon jersey. While I prefer the comfort of a knit, it works beautifully in any fabric with a bit of drape. The more fluid your fabric, the more dramatic the cowl. Definitely make a muslin of any woven version first, to work out fit peculiarities that come with switching fabric types, though!
Like all Colette patterns, the Myrtle directions veer toward hand-holding and there’s even a fabulous sew-along, hosted by Devon of Miss Make. If you’re new to sewing knits, this would be an ideal pattern begin with. For my own purposes, I did change things up a little bit. Instead of stretching the elastic and sewing the casing in one fell swoop, as instructed, I deconstructed that process. My waist is substantially smaller than my hips, which means my elastic was on the small side for my casing. So, I sewed the casing in place and left a two-inch opening at one side. Then, I put a safety pin around one elastic end, threaded it through the casing, gathering the waist as I went, then sewed the elastic ends together, once I’d finished. Top-stitch that opening down, then voila! An alternate (and more traditional) casing method.
Pattern Rating (1-5):
- Size range: 5 – Colette’s new size range is wonderfully inclusive.
- Instructions: 5 – This is one of the things Colette always does well. They won’t leave you wondering about the next step, if you need a bit of extra direction.
- Construction process: 4 – I do think the elastic casing method is unnecessarily complex. Stretching wide elastic while also trying to sew a straight seam and also trying not to catch said elastic asks a lot of a person, especially when there is a classic, easier approach.
- Final fit: 4 – I needed an FBA, as would most women with a large bust. Even if you don’t normally take one with Colette patterns, it might be a good idea, to help that cowl drape naturally.
- Overall rating: 4.5 – There is a reason this dress is my new tried-and-true knit pattern. It’s comfortable, chic enough for dressing up, and a painless sewing project.