Summer Tea Dress
Posted on Tuesday the 16th July 2019 by Pretty Handsome Everyday
The Kew Dress from Nina Lee gained massive popularity last year with what seemed like every other sewist creating their own beautiful version. It’s not difficult to see why it’s been on so many people’s ‘to sew’ list, with its simple but beautiful button-up front, v-neck and either short gathered sleeves or a ‘cold shoulder’ strap and sleeve frill. There are two variations in the envelope plus a separate set of instructions for just creating the skirt without the dress bodice. I used variation 1, which has the short sleeve with gathering detail, v-neck, and gathering detail on the collarbone area. I really wanted to make this dress as I’ve been looking for more casual vintage styles recently and this design felt like a sweet 1940s tea dress – feminine and classic but understated too.
To echo my choice of dress style I found a Cotton Lawn Fabric with a colourful ditsy floral print. It’s made up of the prettiest pastel blues, pinks, yellows and lilacs. The colours are very soft and my pale blue buttons blend in perfectly. The fabric is every bit as soft and light as you would expect from a lawn and was a pleasure to sew with. There are also so many different summery colours in the print that it’s going to be so easy to match a cardy and shoes with!
I really enjoyed sewing this dress because it was a fairly simple sew, and it needed minimal alterations so I was able to move from step to step without too much stopping and fitting. Although the instructions provide the straightforward steps, I think beginners might struggle slightly as there isn’t a lot of detail, and the illustrations are quite basic too. Having said that, there are so many tutorials online that I’m sure you would be able to find a sew-along if you have your heart set on this dress but aren’t very experienced!
I made a couple of additions to the dress, the first being…pockets! As we know, no handmade garment is complete without pockets, so I added a pair at hip height into the side seams of the skirt using the same fabric.
The second addition I made was to sew in a waist stay. I was slightly worried that with the fabric being so light it might get pulled at the waist. Every dress has to be suitable for eating a big lunch in doesn’t it?! For this I just used a length of double folded white bias binding and attached it over the waist seam. In addition to being more secure, the waist now looks very neat inside.
An alteration I would make on a future version would be to make more of the gathers over the collarbone. They are so sweet and fit so perfectly with the tea dress style but on my version they get slightly lost, so I would cut this area of the pattern wider and then gather it more to fit the same space and without altering the size of the bodice.
I do love hand sewing and quite look forward to all the finishing touches at the end of making a garment, so I settled down to sew on the buttons after doing the buttonholes on my machine, but 15 buttons later I think I’ve had my fill for a while and will get back to my machine! I love the look of the line of buttons – they’re slightly pearly and are shank buttons so stand out a little when all done up. The size and amount I used took me right to the bottom of the hem of the dress. You could stop earlier but I liked that it was buttoned together to below the knee, which is where I’m used to wearing dresses and skirts so felt comfortable for me.
I wasn’t sure I would be very keen on the high/low hem of the dress but I’m also not one to dismiss a trend before I’ve tried it, so I cut the skirt lengths as per the pattern and went with the flow! I’m glad I did because the length difference is not as exaggerated as on the envelope illustration and it actually turned out to be a subtle 2inch (approx) difference between the front and back, which adds a sense of floaty movement, which suits the dress so well.