what is this shift?

(unpopular opinion alert…)

With Lilly Pulitzer’s recent passing, and all of the hubbub around the release of Colette’s Laurel pattern, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about shifts.

I’ll admit I was a bit consternated when Laurel, a shift dress, was released. Colette built up so much anticipation in the days prior to the release, and it turned out to be the simplest design imaginable. A step up from a sloper. I thought to myself, uh, not buying it for $18 and moved along.

Someone else (on pattern review) said it looks like a night shirt.
Someone else (on pattern review) said it looks like a night shirt.

The comments both on Colette’s site, and around the blogosphere brought me back in. I read a lot of them as enthusiastic to the point of hyperbole. How many times did I read ‘this is the pattern I’ve been waiting for?’ (I’m not keen to negatively draw attention to anyone’s particular comment… read the comments on Colette’s blog posts on Laurel to see what I mean).

I wish I could say I was introspective a la Carrie Bradshaw (what a now fabulously old reference…), and not help but wonder, how come I just don’t see it? But no, I indignantly thought, what do you mean, the pattern you’ve been waiting for? Have you not seen New Look’s entire catalogue!?

Let’s get to the nitty gritty – by which I mean the line drawings. Here’s Colette’s:

I do really appreciate that they use line drawings as the cover image.

Here’s a small selection from New Look. I don’t recall much enthusiasm around these releases – though it would seem shifts sell for them, given that they release so many!


Compare View A with Laurel body; View B's sleeves look pretty identical - it has more shaping through the front, though
Compare View A with Laurel body; View B’s sleeves look pretty identical – however, it has more shaping through the front.
New Look 6095. And surprisingly similar to the last one!
New Look 6095. And surprisingly similar to 6049!


This one has front pockets like Laurel does - but its darts are longer and come up from the side waist. More intake = more shaping.
This one has front pockets like Laurel does – but its darts are longer and come up from the side waist. More intake = more shaping.


So the silhouette is changing a little - this one and the next are considerably wider through the hips to the hem
So the silhouette is changing a little – this one and the next are considerably wider through the hips to the hem
A neckline variation
A neckline variation

Simplicity’s also releasing shifts – though not as many as NL.

S 1726 - Amazingly close to Laurel.
S 1726 – Amazingly close to Laurel.

Simplicity 1609 is a retro re-issue of a 1960s Jiffy pattern. Note the darts – there is ample intake for shaping.


1609 - a re-release from a 1960s "Jiffy" pattern. I've seen a bit more excitement around this pattern due to it's being a retro re-issue.

Simplicity 1665
I expect that much of 1665’s shaping comes from the yoke piece.

Burda (patterns – not magazine) also has a few similar patterns…

B 2943 - Veering further away from Laurel's silhouette, but still a very simple shift.
B 2943 – Veering further away from Laurel’s silhouette, but still a very simple shift.
Screen shot 2013-04-14 at 10.21.21 PM
I like the welt pockets on this one
Screen shot 2013-04-14 at 10.23.08 PM
Burda 7154 – another shift, but with the darts coming up from the waist.

Of course, much of the reason for the overwhelming excitement around Colette is that it’s Colette. Newbies find her patterns exceptionally easy to follow; yes, the technical writing is as awesome as Big4’s is terrible.

That I totally get. If a beginner wanted to make a shift dress, and asked me for advice, I’d probably steer them to Laurel (and, if i’m being honest, advise them to throw a belt on it).

From looking at the pattern reviews of Colette patterns, it seems that total beginners make up a huge part of her core audience. Her last two releases – Juniper and Anise, both more difficult patterns – haven’t been reviewed nearly as many times as her “beginner” releases (peony, hazel).  That I get too.

But the “omg this pattern is amazeballs” stuff? That, I feel, is uncritical indielove – in this case, love of a particular indie brand – and I find it as irksome as I find any brandlove.


A word on my hiatus…

I’ve been away for several months, and haven’t intended to be away for any. I’m thinking hard about what’s preventing me from blogging my progress and finished objects…

1) My camera’s crappy (and lost…) and I have sporadic access to my boyfriend’s.

2) My apartment’s usually too messy for decent looking pics. Plus, my sewing table is beige. It’s arborite, which I love, and my late grandma’s, which I also love, but it’s not a photogenic backdrop for works in progress.

3) I don’t like my blog theme. I’m learning to code so that i can design/create my own theme, and hopefully my design will be up and running sooner than later. It’s not fun to write content for a site you don’t like the look of. (I’m not super keen on other WP (free) themes either. And I’m so not paying for a theme when I’m so close to coding my own).

I’m looking towards resolving these things, because I do like sharing my work with others and contributing to the global dialogue. Plus, I gain so much from others’ blogs, and it’s nice to pay it forward.


16 thoughts on “what is this shift?

  1. I’m with you! It’s a nice shift dress pattern, but I already have loads of nice shift dress patterns in my drawers from the likes of New Look et al – and loads of vintage ones too. And none of them look all that good on my body shape as compared to many alternative patterns that are out there – especially some of Colette’s other offerings! However, like you I’d steer a newbie towards this pattern too.

    1. Thanks for your comment 🙂 I’m also not confident I can work a shift. I *might* try the Simplicity jiffy re-issue b/c it has the two sets of darts in front. I also have a squillion other projects that I’m more excited about though…

  2. Great post, I always think I should like Colette patterns more than I do. I think it is because I like the website and the tutes and I do like the Sorbetto. I admit I wondered why the Laurel was so loved, but I didn’t spend any time dissecting it like you did. Glad to have you back, I was wondering where you had wandered off to.

    1. I always think I should like Colette patterns more than I do.
      – Me too!! I do really like the Anise jacket, and have a review to write of it (and a Peony dress) soon…

  3. Funny you should write this, because just tonight I cut out a muslin for New Look 6176, a shift dress like those you list in your post. I felt guilty because I bought it instead of the Laurel, and if I’m going to buy a shift pattern, shouldn’t I go indie? Ah well, I’m nervous about fitting a shift dress to my pear shape so I wanted to practice on something that was $2.99 and not $18 + shipping. Anyway, people love sewalongs and contests, and blogger hype is contagious, so I’m not surprised people are snatching up this pattern even if they own something similar if not identical.

    1. thanks for your comment 🙂 I don’t think you should feel guilty at all! My frame is broad, and I’m not confident that a shift would look like any more than a big rectangle of fabric on me. I notice that your NL pattern has darts that are angled up to the bust, rather than CP’s which are straight across. I’m curious as to how that affect overall fit and shaping (it seems to me that it would helpfully shape the shift from the underbust to the waist).

      I’m also not surprised that people are snapping up this pattern, and more power to women making something they feel happy, comfortable and confident in. It’s just when I hear the online chatter that the indie pattern is inherently better than non-indie that I get a little annoyed (I’m certain that non-indie companies have tons of incredibly talented designers and patternmakers, who are totally unsung). I get that it’s more about values than about the actual product.

      I’m now curious to try a shift out – but maybe with something cheap.

  4. I just got New Look 6095 and it will be the second thing I’ve ever made! I like shifts a lot and have a bigger frame. A belt gives nice definition but even without, I still like them! Maybe try one on in a store before making one?

    1. Oh, also, I am totally new to all this, but I looked at the Colette site while I was waiting for my sewing machine to get here. The Hawthorn dress was actually what made me finally take the leap and get my own sewing machine. I don’t think I will be able to make it for a long time (considering I can’t even cut straight lines) but I want that dress so bad! Colette’s styling is awesome, especially compared to the patterns you find at Jo-Annes.

      An experienced sewer (or someone more imaginative than I) would focus on the shape alone and the line drawing on the back of pattern. I’m sure there are patterns from the other companies that look like Hawthorn. But as a total newbie, it’s much easier to imagine myself wearing the Colette dresses than ones from the big brands. The styling on the big brands seem to be much more dowdy and even the “trendier” looks are early 2000s at best. And trust me, I looked through all the books in the pattern section at Jo-Anne’s. While there were a lot of outfits I would have worn as an eighth-grader back in 2000, it was a lot harder to use my imagination and picture myself wearing them now. Even most of the ‘project runway’ branded patterns in the book were ugly and looked cheap.

      All I know is ready-to-wear clothes. What you see is what you get. So although you could take any pattern and make it ugly or pretty depending on the fabric & styling, it really helps to see the end product pictured in a way that I would want to wear it. Just for confirmation that it’s worth my time and I could probably end up liking it.

      (That’s actually how I found your site — Googling the NL 6095 pattern for examples of other people who’ve made it. 🙂 )

      1. Thanks for your comments! And congrats on your new sewing machine purchase! That’s awesome!! And I think it’s wonderful to have a pattern in mind that you want to work up to making – that’s what I did when I first started. I ordered Vogue 1174, and built up my skills specifically so I could make that dress 🙂

        ITA on the major pattern companies’ styling – it’s consistently awful. I enjoy the pattern and notions message board on PatternReview.com – people have some pretty hilarious things to say about some of the styling and photo shoots.

        I find design (matching the right fabric with the right pattern) to be really hard. I think that Colette’s stuff looks consistently good because she uses high end fabrics. I’ve taken influence from that, and as a result, am much much happier with my end results. Even when the end result doesn’t quite pan out, at least I enjoy the process of working with a beautiful fabric! I generally really like Burda’s styling (magazine and envelope patterns), and they also use pretty high end fabrics.

        It isn’t always easy to figure out how to translate a pattern into a good looking garment, or what pattern to use to reproduce a garment style that you might like. I find Erica Bunker’s blog (www.ericabunker.com) really inspiring – she’s so good at making “Big 4” patterns – and oftentimes fabrics from hancock’s – look totally amazing. I don’t remember if it was her blog or the Selfish Seamstress’s that taught me to look first and foremost at line drawings. The “Make that look” feature on the Sew Weekly blog is also awesome because it finds line drawing equivalents, mainly from big 4 patterns, for ready to wear garments. Sometimes when I’m out and about and see a garment I like, I try to imagine what the fabric would look like on the bolt. That’s the hardest thing for me – seeing a print on a bolt and imagining what it would like look like all sewn up.

  5. I’m so glad I read this blog article. I’m so frustrated and I cannot stand the brandlove going on around Colette. I did buy Laurel but it’s because I wanted to participate in the contest. I agree Laurel is a very simple pattern and didn’t really deserve the hype at all – it seemed like very clever marketing to me. It really is just a shift dress with very little styling at all.

    I’ve had issues with my Hawthorn pattern – there are mistakes on the tissue pattern and unclear collar instructions in the book that numerous people have pointed out, but Colette hasn’t said a single thing apart from ‘we’ll look into it’ and then posted about how much work and testing goes into their patterns in an unrelated blog post. I don’t think that’s good enough. It’s a shame because I actually really love the Hawthorn, but the culture surrounding Colette is driving me nuts. I feel like I can’t say a bad word about them!

    Colette brought me back to sewing but i’m just a little disturbed by the culture. I think I will go back to big 4 patterns and some other indie designers – I just can’t support a pattern company that doesn’t respond to criticism. It just screams ‘well everyone else likes it, what’s wrong with you?’.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Tiff! I also feel as though one can’t say a bad word about Colette – I was a bit nervous putting up this post. I also feel that one isn’t supposed to say a good word about the Big 4 either, but some of their patterns are fantastic.
      It’s too bad that they haven’t responded to criticism – and that there were such glaring mistakes on the Hawthorn.

  6. I think newer sewers might not be able to see past the styling on non-Indie patterns. I did the same thing when I got back into knitting. I used to look at the superficial stuff – the styling, the colour, how it looked on the model – rather than the bones of the pattern and how it was constructed. I guess a hangover from shopping for clothes as opposed to thinking about how the design can work for you. These days in sewing patterns I look for darts, pockets, lining, fastenings, recommended fabrics, number of pattern pieces, and whether the design will flatter my larger bust. Of course, patterns can be altered but it’s good to choose a suitable foundation.

    Thanks for the shift dress round-up!

  7. I just purchased the New Look 6095 PDF downloadable pattern. I have to say that as far as downloadable patterns go, I had a much better experience with the Sew DIY downloadable patterns. The instructions are far better done and the PDF file is so much easier to work with. Sure it was more pricey at $12 compared to $5 for New Look. But the hassle with printing New Look and the horrible PDF experience kind of makes the higher price tag worth it.

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