Sewing the Pastille Dress muslin

Published Categorized as Make, Style
The Pastille Dress

Okay, so I still haven’t actually done the proper version of my Meringue Skirt yet, but I’m trying to keep up with this Colette Sewing Handbook sew-along which is now up to the next project: the Pastille Dress! I’ll have to come back to the skirt when I get a chance to get some appropriate fabric.

In the meantime, I’ve been working on my Pastille dress muslin. This one requires some serious tailoring (which is why it’s in the chapter about alterations and fitting techniques), so I didn’t bother trying to make the muslin wearable and just used some cheap calico I had left over from another project. It’s nice to be able to just write, draw and hack up a muslin as necessary.

I put the whole thing together first to get a general idea of what needed to be done fitting-wise (next time I won’t bother attaching the bodice to the skirt until the end, as I had to rip them apart for alterations anyway). I managed to choose the right size this time, going with a size 8 to fit my waist and planning to reduce bust and hips as necessary. I’m a shorty so had to make a skirt length adjustment straight away; I also decided to work with the length the skirt will be with the completed pleats in the final version. So far, so good!

Here’s the adjustments I’ve determined I need:

  • skirt length adjustment (shortened 6cm)
  • reduce bust
  • reduce hips and taper skirt more towards the bottom
  • sway back adjustments

I decided to start with the hardest one: the sway back adjustment (this is necessary for those with extra curved backs, which results in excess fabric bunching up in the lower back area). I’ve always had a sway back, but the bodice ended up with so much bagginess that I had to take a huge chunk out. The book’s instructions on how to alter for a sway back are not extremely detailed, so I’m a bit at loss at how to redraw the bottom darts or the sides of the back pattern piece. I’m on my third bodice muslin and still not completely happy that I’ve solved this!

After a little research I’ve found that other people have had the same issue with this pattern, even people who don’t usually have a sway back. I also found some great instructions for sway back adjustments with handy diagram on The Cute Octopus, which I think I’ll try out for my fourth attempt. I think it’s likely I’ll need to make the same adjustment (to a smaller degree) to the skirt piece too. Argh!

After giving up on the bodice for a little while, I reduced the hips on the skirt piece which now fits much more nicely (but somehow manages to make my waist look bigger =/ ). Everything else I’m going to have to tackle next weekend.

Helpful hint: if you don’t have anyone handy to pin the back pieces together for you for fitting, sew up the back and leave a gap in the side seam instead. Much easier to pin yourself in on the side than the back (unless you are some sort of contortionist).

Anyone else have sway back fitting issues? I’m excited to have a tailored dress which accounts for my sway back, but getting there is such a pain! I’d also very much welcome any fitting tips or resources you might have.


  1. Hi – I’m trying to figure out that back length thing myself! But as for the pattern “fixing” after you make the sway back adjustment, she sort of mentions on pg 78 how to redo the darts – you keep the end points and tip in the original locations and draw new straight lines to connect them. And you want the inner (zipper) edge to be straight, so just draw a line continuing from the upper/unaltered part of the back bodice straight down.

    On mine, I think I just need to take out length all the way across – maybe you need to do a combination of that AND a sway back adjustment? Basically you’d take out length across the whole back, but take out more near the center and less at the sides.

    Also, the scallops on your Meringue skirt look so nice! I’ve seen several versions where they’re kind of wonky, but yours are so nice and smooth – good job!

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