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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Lin

I accidentally made a Halloween waitress costume

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

Colette Penny Shirt Dress Pattern Review

When Colette released their Penny shirt dress pattern, I knew at first glance I was going to make it. Penny is a modern, classic shirt dress that fills a big void in my closet. From past projects with Colette’s patterns, I knew the dress would fit beautifully and sew easily. Over Labor Day weekend, I sewed this dress late into the night.

In this blunt, brutally honest sewing pattern review, I'll go over the good, the bad, and the ugly of Colette's Penny dress pattern.


Fantastic fit, but the collar stand was messed up - the pattern piece didn't match the neck hole. The fabric print you select will make or break this dress. The striped print I picked made my dress look like a waitress's uniform. There are 16 pattern pieces in this dress, so I recommend Penny for intermediate sewers. Give yourself the weekend to make this dress.

The pattern

Colette Penny Shirt Dress Pattern Review

The Penny dress features a classic design with special details. This shirtdress has a fitted bodice with traditional shirt details like a collar stand, button placket, and shoulder yoke. I picked version 1 with set-in sleeves and a gathered skirt.

The fabric

I thrifted a Pottery Barn sheet with stripes reminiscent of a man's tailored shirt. I think I paid no more than $5 for the 100% cotton sheet.

The good

Colette Penny Shirt Dress Pattern Review

As expected, the fit is perfect, and the dress, for the most part, looked exactly like the product photos. I cut out size 2 for the bust and graded it to size 4 for the waist. Instructions were easy to follow, but give yourself plenty of time to sew this dress. There are 16 pattern pieces (!), and I spent one sewing session devoted to cutting out the paper pattern and fabric.

The bad

Colette Penny Shirt Dress Pattern Review

I'm very good at following directions, but I couldn't for the life of me get the collar right. For some odd reason, the collar stand came out longer than the neck opening. I thought I made a mistake with my cutting the first time, so I made it again, double-confirming that I had the right pattern piece. And still, the piece was too long. I was so annoyed with it that I chopped off the ends of the collar stand to make it fit and didn't bother with the button and buttonhole.

The pattern called for interfacing on one side of the yoke, which I think is overkill. I've cut up my fair share of button-down shirts in my upcycling projects, and I've never seen an interfaced yoke. Maybe it makes sense for thinner fabrics, but I skipped it for this dress.

The ugly

I thought I had the perfect fabrics – a thrifted, striped bed sheet and a white button-down shirt for the cuffs and collar. As I was putting the dress together, I got this weird sense of deja vu. I’ve seen this dress before, but not in a good way. Then I remembered my sister’s first job as a waitress at a ’50s-themed diner. She used to wear a uniform just like my dress. To my horror, I realized my attempt at a timeless shirt dress devolved into a waitress costume. I was so disgusted with my shirt dress I almost threw it away. My stupid dress looked nothing like the beautiful samples on Colette’s website. My unfortunate choice of fabrics made the dress look cheesy. I didn't bother with the patch pockets or adding buttons to the sleeve cuffs. What's the point of adding all the details to a dress I knew I was never going to wear?

In conclusion

Colette Penny Shirt Dress Pattern Review

Despite the disappointment, the project turned out to be a good learning experience. This was my first shot at sewing a shirt yoke, and I didn’t mess it up! Sewing a yoke is like magic – you roll the back and front bodice into the yoke, sew the seams, turn it inside out, and all the pieces are beautifully attached.

This shirt dress one of those “make lemonade out of lemons” kinds of projects. Once I reframed this dress as a waitress costume, I made a little apron to complete the look. I’m not giving up on this pattern. Someday soon, I’ll give this dress another try with drastically different fabric, like a rayon floral or a plain solid. I’m determined to get this right.

I have lots of sewing fails I don’t bother posting because they are embarrassing hot messes, but this one has a happy ending. It looks like I’ll be trick-or-treating with the kid as a waitress.

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