Vintage inspired tea dress? Yes please! I don’t know why it took me so long to get round to sewing the Kew Dress by Nina Lee. I’ve had it on my ‘to sew’ list for so long now that the pattern has become somewhat immortalised. Maybe the buttonholes seemed like a mean feat having never sewn them before – I subsequently found out that my old Singer wasn’t too fond – but I’m SO glad that I gave it a whirl.
The Kew Dress is a paradigm of dreamy vintage style, peppered with contemporary details. I knew I would go for the classic tea dress version from the off (who can resist those gathered sleeves?) I loved the shaped, the high-low hem that dips at the back and could envision me swanning around in this dress on a balmy summer’s day.
The instructions were easy to follow, not as detailed as what you’d find on a Tilly pattern but suitable for a confident beginner who’s familiar with common techniques.
Before I cut into my fabric I thought it would be sensible to make a toile as my body measurements sat between three sizes. I cut a size 8 for the bodice which I then graded to a size 10 at the waist and added a little extra to the hips which were teetering on a size 12.
Once I’d had a practice run with the toile (in this case, an old bed sheet) I was ready to cut my fabric. I used a beautiful viscose from Fabricate, this fabric had made a few appearances on my Instagram feed and I can see why. It has a silky drape and the floral motifs are bold and perfect for a summery dress.
When it came to assembling the dress itself I felt a little smug at how quickly it came together (I’m fully on board with the notion of ‘slow sewing’) that is, until I reached the buttonholes. I read a really helpful tutorial by Sew Over It and felt quite excited that my machine would sew these beautifully neat fastenings after I’d set everything up. After three successful buttonholes I moved to the bodice section of the dress and suddenly the fabric stopped feeding through. I’m not sure what happened but my machine kept stalling and I was left with dense knobs of thread (not fun). After hours of troubleshooting and one major rip later, I decided it would be best to do the remaining buttonholes by hand. I’m not sure if it was the slipperiness of the fabric or something I’d done but if you’ve ever had this problem and have found a solution I’d be very grateful for any advice!
My favourite part of the pattern assembly was the gathers. Ruching the sleeves felt quite familiar as I’d had a bit of a practice run with the Tilly and the Buttons Indigo dress. The ruched sleeves create such a lovely effect, I’m tempted to hack the dress into a top just so I can have more options for sporting these sleeves!
One thing I seem to struggle with quite a bit is hemming. I seem to end up with clumps of fabric that don’t sit smoothly despite me feeling like I’ve meticulously followed the instructions. One thing that has made it easier is stitching a line around the hem to mark where I should fold the fabric to, the problem for me seems to arise when I have to fold the fabric up twice, it’s always so fiddly!
All in all, I am so happy with the dress, it was a great skill-building project and I just love its versatile style. I’m sure once I’m more confident with stitching buttonholes I’ll be whipping up many versions of this pattern!
Thanks for reading!