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Monday, 16 May 2016

1940s Tea Dress


I fell for this spotted green beetle chiffon print the moment I saw it. I'd been having a casual browse on DragonFly Fabrics, and, in the way impulse fabric buys sometimes happen when I should probably be hoovering, I promptly bought a couple of metres. 

It didn't take me long to decide to use it to make a Sew Over It 1940s Tea Dress. I bought this pattern a year ago, and had yet to find some suitable drapey fabric that made me feel inspired to try making it. 

A repeating pattern in chiffon and a dress with a hell of a lot of panels? Why not. I can do that, thought my hoovering avoiding self, without really thinking through all the work that would be involved.


I opted to back the chiffon with some ivory coloured crepe de chine. I made the method up as I went along. I toyed with working the bodice as a single layer of fabric, and the skirt as two separate layers. In the end, I treated the skirt as one layer as well - mainly because I thought the chiffon would be too delicate (and messy) to risk all those seams for the skirt panels. I thought about using French seams for the chiffon, if sewing the layers separately, and then decided that might stop the dress flowing nicely. In the end, I sewed the layers together, and finished the seams on the over locker. 


The almost finished dress hung on my dressmaker's dummy for a few weeks, as I procrastinated over the hem. I was so pleased with how the make had gone to that point, that I was avoiding the next step for fear of mucking it up at the last hurdle, and spoiling the overall finish with a dodgy hem. Eventually, with a deadline looming of an occasion I wanted to wear the dress for, I set about tackling it.


I used a long straight stitch to machine baste the layers, about 1 cm from the raw edges. My plan was to hand sew a rolled hem, but, after trying this out, it ended up too bulky and ruining the swoosh of the finished dress. Instead, I over locked the raw edges, steamed the hem up, and then slip stitched the hem in place, as shown in the picture above.

An invaluable tool during this, and the rest of the pressing involved in the dress, was a pressing cloth/mesh type thing my friend Charlotte gave me. It enabled me to use plenty of steam without damaging the delicate fabrics. This was most definitely one of those projects that was transformed by a good press.


The combination of pattern and delicate fabric made this dress a challenge for my sewing skills. I feel quite proud of myself for mustering up enough patience to stick with it through matching the panels so those bugs and chevrons lined up nicely.


The combination of crepe de chine and chiffon has given the dress a great sense of luxury - it hangs beautifully and has a great swoosh. My verdict on the double layer sewing is that I think I am pleased with the result after all the effort put in, but won't be rushing to do more makes like this, purely because of the hours and hours spent cutting out. I like the 1940s Tea Dress pattern, and can certainly imagine more of them in my future. I have no idea what the next version I make will look like - I'll know it when I see it (the fabric, that is).

In the meantime, here's a final close up of the fabric that inspired me to make my first 1940s Tea Dress - hope you don't mind creepy crawlies!







9 comments:

  1. So beautiful Janet. I can see why you fell hard for this fabric, it is so lovely. You need a quick little project now after all that hard work pattern matching etc. It looks super glamorous.... now for somewhere to where it?...... a fancy trip to London to see the Missoni exhibition at the FTM?

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    1. Thanks, matey. Have just been checking out the exhibition details online - looks good! Have you been yet, or would you be up for a meet up to see it? Coming to Goldhawk Road on 2nd July if you're about, Caroline... X

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  2. I blooming love this! You're so clever!! The fabric really reminds me of Timorous Beasties. Love!! Thanks for having me tonight too, was great to watch sewing bee in such good company! X

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    1. Thanks, matey. You're so welcome. Was lovely to have such nice company to watch the first episode of the Bee... Xx

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  3. As glorious as it promised to be! It looks so good on. Yay for an insect dress!

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    1. Thanks! Those bugs are making me smile when I put the dress on.

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  4. Beautiful, worth all your patience & hard work

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