Colette Negroni – Big body, slim cut

Months ago – at the beginning of February – I embarked on the Colette Negroni as part of the inimitable Peter of Male Pattern Boldness’ sewalong. When Negroni was first released, I was definitely pretty stoked about it, but I was unsure. Can a ‘slim-cut’ shirt – and on Colette’s website we see it modeled by a guy with a rather reed-like figure (see esp pics where he’s next to the bicycle for scale) – simply be graded up for those men whose bodies were designed to pull ploughs, whose physiques are more bear-like in proportion? (men who dwarf the fixie bicycle Colette shows for scale?)

I was wary, having remembered conversation with my dear friend Bonnie, a scholar/model who has done modeling and other work for several local designers who make clothes for the full range of sizes (2-24). From what she’s learned from them, it’s not the case that you can just grade up patterns from a size 8 for sizes 14, 16 and up … and that’s the reason so much RTW plus sized clothing is such crap. A size 18 body is simply differently proportioned than a size 8. Patterns need to be based on different slopers.

I didn’t know at first how this was going to play out with a man’s shirt. The sewalong was really quite heavily directed towards fit (as I guess most sewalongs are), and as I learned, a *lot* of fitting was required. Ultimately, I learned that at least with the pattern, sizing is determined through chest and waist measurements (neck less so here since the camp collar is worn nearly always as an open collar shirt). And yet, according to David Page Coffin’s essential text shirtmaking, the shoulder/yoke is what is really fundamental to a man’s shirt fit.

I made some fitting changes to the pattern straight out of the envelope; I had to do what I affectionately term an FBA (here, full belly adjustment) to get enough ease through the waist. But as you can see on my first muslin (below), the XXL with the FBA, while fitting nicely in the chest/waist, was far too big in the shoulders.


















The back view shows a need for a sloped shoulder adjustment as well.

In hindsight, I might have gone back and done a smaller size, with more adjustment through the body. I began the fitting process by raising the shoulders by 3/4″. This changed the front, back and yoke pieces. It also required changes to the sleeve, since the armhole had changed size and shape. Once I worked out – on a muslinette (a non-full size muslin that stops at the chest) where the shoulder hits, I took on the sloped shoulder adjustment, which involves curving the top of the back piece to get rid of those diagonal folds of fabric around the shoulder. Which changes the armscye, which changes the sleeve cap again. Then the sleeve was too tight, and so I had to play around with the sleeve cap shape to add some extra space. And after changing up the shoulders/yoke, the body fit a bit differently. So I kept playing with the FBA (which my Vogue 1976 sewing book so endearingly calls a “bay window” adjustment… because apparently the strain caused by buttons trying to close over a tummy looks like a bay window), and added “bulging hips” adjustments to the front and back for the ‘excess flesh on top of the hips’. which changed the hemline.

The result… and the changes are, I know, subtle from the Muslin.

On the front, the shoulder seam hits higher, and there is no longer excess pooling of fabric around the shoulder. I also repositioned the buttons – as per Coffin’s suggestion – and waited until the shirt was complete to add the pockets, so that the placement is in the most flattering place for his body. And here’s the back view:

In sum, from the initial pattern I changed…

  • front piece (shoulders, armscye, two body adjustments – FBA and hips)
  • back piece (shoulders, armscye, sloped shoulder, hips)
  • yoke (shoulders)
  • sleeve (just completely re-drew it, and took out length)
  • cuffs
  • and to make a version with a collar stand (not shown), I drew a collar, collar stand, button placket and front facing

In terms of the directions, I switched up the order a little bit – holding off on the pockets until I was certain of their best placement, and did the cuffs differently; I found the results from the Colette method a little messy, while David Page Coffin’s method ensures a clean result every time.

But I think it’s a pretty good pattern, overall. You can really tell that Sarai, the designer, has a background in user experience because the booklet the pattern comes in is so nice, and thoughtfully laid out. The directions and diagrams are clear as a bell. It’s a true pleasure to work with, and I’m looking forward to diving into the Macaron.


3 thoughts on “Colette Negroni – Big body, slim cut

  1. Well done! I haven’t been brave enough to attempt a shirt like this before.

    I’m jazzed to hear you’re doing the Macaron next… that’s my favourite Colette dress. I’d like to make one this year as well. (Although I hear Sarai/Colette is going to be hosting a Rooibos Sew-Along… I do love me a Sew-Along! I like the versions of Rooibos I’ve seen with different necklines. Hmm…)

    1. i really like the rooibos too! a number of her styles are a little too vintage-ey for me (ceylon) but i’ve seen some awesome macaron plus rooibos. I have a black/white plaid with a black/white floral for the macaron (inspired by a similar dress I saw in vogue)

      1. I’m on the same page as you re: Ceylon. And Oolong isn’t my thing either. Lady Grey I want to love, but something about the way the lapels fall really bothers me (it’s the way the break between the two lapels sits all the way up on top of the shoulders.) But I’m obsessed with Macaron and Beignet, and Rooibos has definitely grown on me!

        Do you mean you’re going to mix the plaid and the floral? If so, I’m dying to see that! Were you ever a Project Runway fan? I’m instantly reminded of the season with Uli, who was always mixing stripes and florals in really beautiful ways.

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