Presto, Change-o, Peony!

The Colette Peony is a great basic dress, but I think it’s far better with a few easy mods! I thought it might be helpful for other sewists to review some of the most common changes that I’ve noticed people making to the pattern.

1. The Neckline. 

Folks, the boat neck is HIGH! And so wide that bra straps are doomed to show. On my first version, pictured above, I brought in the width about 2cm, and cut the neckline 15cm lower… and you’d never know it, would you? My straps still show, and it’s still pretty high! I can’t imagine making it according to the original specifications! For my other versions, I brought the neckline even further in on the sides, and it’s much more comfortable to wear. 

2. The Facings.

Facings are so annoying to wear! Every time I put on my first Peony (the silvery blue dress), the facings flips out.. and they tend to make the wide neckline buckle and puff up when I, you know, move! On the black floral version I used black piping at the neck instead, and on the floral one above I used a simple narrow bias binding. 

3. The Skirt Gathers. 

The Peony calls for a little section of gathering at the top of the skirt, just underneath each bust dart on the bodice. (Can you see the gathering in the picture above, just under the belt?)  I found the gathering was a cute detail in some fabric, but rather pregnifying in heavier cottons. I prefer to do a dart instead. Faster, less fussy to sew, and puts less focus on my gut! 😛

4. Lining. 

If you want to wear your Peony in winter, you definitely want to add a skirt lining so that you can wear it with tights or leggings. I just cut the regular skirt pattern out of lining material, and attach both the outer skirt and inner lining to the bodice at the same time. 

5. No Zipper. 

This one really depends on your body type… but I like to skip the zip whenever I can! Instead I wear a belt, like the me-made elastic one above, to cinch in the waist a bit. I did put a zipper in my third version, and I admit the fit is much better… but then i spend my day wondering if I’ll split the zip if I dance too hard with my grade 1’s! (Seriously, there is an amazing amount of jumping, twisting, and bending that comes with teaching little kids, even outside of gym class!) Making the dress loose enough to pull on without a zipper leaves more room for movement during the day.

6. Bubble Back. 

With all these Peonies, would you believe this is the closest thing I have to a picture of the back? By some fluke of drafting or design, a lot of people seem to find that the upper back bodice of the Peony is cartoonishly large. I had to taper more than 10cm off EACH SIDE of the upper back bodice seam to narrow it down! 

There we have it! The most common Peony adaptations that I’ve noticed among bloggers of all shapes and sizes: neckline, facings, skirt gathers, lining, zipper, and bubble-back! For myself, I also shorten the waist and lower the bust darts. Looking at these pictures, I’m realizing that the pattern must also be quite short – it’s above the knee on me, and I’m only 5’2” (164cm). Anyone taller than lil’ old me might want to lengthen it! 

I’m looking forward to seeing what changes people end up making to their Peonies in the Sew-Along! Can you think of any common changes that I missed? It’s a neat chance to see how one pattern can be adapted to so many figures and tastes. 

Happy sewing!

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