March 13, 2021

Bright Colors, Big Florals: This May We're Sewing Tea Dresses

Can you feel it? If March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb, we're definitely getting to the gentler side of things. The weather is warming every day, and things are starting to bloom (as my allergies can attest). After a long winter, and a long last 365 days in general, there's a sense of renewal and optimism that we haven't seen in quite a while. 

And while we're seeing the bright side of things, it only makes sense to sew the bright side as well! Most of my life, I associate springtime with Easter dresses - and Easter bonnets when I was a kid - and there's something rather hopeful about emerging from the cold of winter dressed to the nines in your best outfit. That's why, this May, I've decided to feature Tea Dresses.

If you've never heard this term, it's a largely British one to describe a fit and flare dress made of colorful and often floral fabric. Maybe you call it a garden party dress, or a church dress. Or maybe simply a sundress. Whatever phrase you use, the actual dress is always cheery, bright, and perfect for Spring.

Working with a color palette of vibrant pinks, deep golds, and sky blues, I've put together four dress boxes that I think will helps us greet the new season in style. I hope you agree!

Sew Fearless Box: Marguerite Dress from Sew Over It

I haven't used Sew Over It patterns in quite a while, but when it comes to dresses, they can't be beat. Their vintage inspired patterns are simple yet elegant, and it was actually quite hard just picking one for this month. But the Marguerite Dress won overall because of its clever simplicity and overall versatility. This is a dress that can be made over and over again in different fabrics for different occasions. In a dressy rayon or silk, you have an amazing cocktail dress. In a simple lawn or linen, an ideal weekend dress. It's the sort of dress you want to live in all summer long!

The pattern itself is very much in keeping with Sew Over It's tradition of updating vintage styles for the modern era. Here, they've taken a simple blouson style dress, with a semi-fitted top and gathered skirt, and added bust darts for shaping, in seam pockets for functionality, and tapering cuffs for flattering cap sleeve look. It all adds up to a gorgeous dress that you'll want to make again and again.

Because there aren't many seams to sew, the fabric really make an impact on the overall look of the dress. Tea dresses are all about color and pattern, so I decided to go bold and bright. So let's dig in!

  • Blue and Orange Ditsy Floral Rayon Poplin - The combination of white and blue in this floral reminds me of French country wallpaper, a little 18th century calico cloth. But the pop of orange at the center of the white daisies brings it back to the present, and the silky soft rayon is utterly modern. The thin fabric will work well with the gathers at the waist on this pattern, and the soft drape will drape beautifully on the bodice and feel floaty and light through the skirt. This is a dress made for twirling!
  • Deep Rose Double Gauze - The shape of this dress is perfect for double gauze, which is best used for loose fitting dresses with few style lines. The gauze will practically float through the bodice of the dress, falling gently through the sleeves, and the skirt will be soft and lush. A true "secret pajamas" outfit. Plus, the color is rich and cheery, a rose pink that will brighten up your whole Spring wardrobe. Seriously, you'll want to wear this dress all the time!
  • Sorbet Dot Border Print Crepe - If you really want to add an unexpected element to your dress, a border print is the way to go. Adding a border to the hem of the skirt or the waistline of the dress is a surefire way to take your handmade garment to the next level. And this border print is a good'un. A silky crepe with a semi-fluid drape, this fabric is dotted with colorful dots on a white background, then white dots on a navy background at the border. A fun and unusual print that will become and truly unique dress! (Plus, don't worry, we're giving you extra fabric for pattern placement)

Sew Confident Box: Réglisse Dress from Deer & Doe Patterns

If Sew Over It is my first thought for dresses, Deer & Doe is definitely the second. They have so many lovely frocks in their catalogue! From ball gown like maxis to knit skaters, they are a treasure trove of pretty dress patterns. And they especially focus on fit and flare dresses, just you want for this month's theme.

The Réglisse Dress has everything you want in a tea dress. The skirt is full and flowing, the waist is cinched, but with elastic for comfort, and you can sew either a faux button front or a neck-bow to suit your style. The bias cut bodice and the tiny cap sleeves add fun detail.

What really stood out to me, among the the other dresses in the Deer & Doe catalogue, though, was the way the transitions from dressy cocktail dress to casual day dress simply through a change in fabric. Simple broadcloths turn this dress into an everyday piece while slinkier, more luxe fabrics make it into a perfect going-out piece. And with the fabric offerings, I wanted to cover that spectrum so you can make a dress that fits your exact style. So here they are!

  • Saffron Dalmatian Dot Printed Tencel - With its silky sheen and velvety hand, tencel is such a lovely fabric to wear. The soft drape complements the shape of this dress beautifully and will gather in soft folds at the waist while still maintaining some body at the shoulders and skirt. And the pattern of this fabric just brings joy! The deep gold saffron color is bright and cheery, and the spacing on the dots create a more modern look. A simply gorgeous fabric!
  • Sky Blue Viscose Linen Slub - In the Northeast, the first sight of a robin means Spring is truly on its way. So it only makes sense to hint at robin's egg blue in our boxes. And this blue is so serene and soft, I can't get enough of it. The fabric itself is similar to the viscose linen noil that we've in other boxes, but with a longer thread length, smoother face, and tighter weave. Those changes mean a little more body and a slightly crisper drape, all the better to show off the fit and flare shape of this dress and add a little flounce to your outfit. If you're looking for Spring pastels, you really can't go wrong with this option!
  • Mauve Abstract Floral Rayon Lawn - There's a lovely prairie feel to this rayon lawn, one of my favorite substrates. The directional print features white, blue, orange, and pink flowers alongside foliage and hashmarks for a print that is all together unique and unexpected. The deep mauve background ties the whole thing together and gives the fabric a Spring feel, like wisteria or lilac blooming after the weather turns warm. The fabric itself has a smooth, tightly woven hand and soft drape that will match this pattern perfectly for a dress that will become a much loved addition to your warm weather wardrobe!

Sew Curvy Box: Emery Dress from Christine Haynes

Back when Needle Sharp started in 2017, Christine Haynes was always on the list of pattern designers I wanted to use. However, shortly thereafter, the shop stopped selling patterns as the designer herself took a step back to pursue other things. However, at the beginning of last year, Christine and her fabulous patterns made a triumphant return, and I have been waiting for the perfect time to use one of her gorgeous designs in our boxes.

As part of the relaunch, the company redesigned all the pattern to include 0-30 sizing – a welcome change that other companies have been slowly adopting as well – and that made the Emery Dress no brainer for this month's theme.

The Emery Dress is a classic fit and flare with a fitted bodice and gathered skirt, but sweet details, like an optional waist bow and two sleeve options, elevate it above the ordinary. The style nods to vintage, 50s dresses, but with an utterly modern feel. 

This dress is a little more structured than the first two options, so I decided to go with fabrics that have more body and medium drape. That means lawns, linens, and cottons, all of which will be ideal for Spring and Summer. So, let's take a look!  

  • Periwinkle Wildwood Floral Cotton Lawn - Cotton lawn was always my first option for this dress. The lightly crisp drape shows off the flare of the skirt and close fit of the bodice, while the thinness of the fabric reduces any bulk at the seams, especially the gathered waist. Plus, lawns often have wonderful floral prints, like this wildwood floral. Doesn't the print make you feel like you're walking through a meadow on a clear skied day? Eternal springtime in a fabric, and perfect fabric for this dress!
  • Watermelon Pink Eyelet Double Gauze - I didn't think my love of double gauze could get any deeper until I discovered this eyelet version. Combining two of my favorite things - secret pajamas fabric and delicate embroidery - this fabric was love at first sight. The drape of the double gauze will be just right for this dress and the eyelets will add texture and detail. And that color! A bright watermelon pink will cheer up any day!
  • Butterscotch Floral Ecovero Linen* - This fabric combines the drape and silky hand of ecovero with the structure and durability of linen and cotton to create an ideal dress fabric. But it's really all about the print. The butterscotch color is sunshine itself and the large scale, line drawn floral is subtle yet impactful, just what you want in a tea dress. Paired with a jean jacket, this dress is perfect for brunch; on it's own, it's an amazing cocktail dress to take you all through summer. An amazing fabric that will become a one of a kind dress!

Sew Indulgent Box: Tea Dress from Sew House Seven

I often find, with ready to wear tea dresses, that they fall into two categories: youthful dresses made for teens and twenty-somethings and matronly dresses that would look really amazing on Queen Elizabeth II. And while I don't really subscribe to dressing by age, I often feel like fashion ignores the large swath of women in between. Luckily, as makers, we get to by-step fast fashion and make our own clothes, and designers like Sew House Seven really make it so much easier. 

Their dress has everything I'm looking for: contemporary yet classic, youthful but not childish, sophisticated yet fresh. Like our other boxes, this dress has a fit and flare shape, which a semi-fitted bodice and dolman sleeves. It distinguishes itself, however, with a front and back yoke instead of darts, a tie rather than gathered waist, and an a-line skirt with angled pockets. It's a modern take on the classic dress, and I absolutely love it!

This dress is one you can wear practically everywhere and with everything, a dress that you'll want to make in every color and fabric. That made it all more difficult to narrow down fabric choices. But, in the end, I realized that any fabric I chose would be a good one for this fabulous pattern, so here are the one's I liked best!

  • Pink Toucan Silk Cotton Voile - Silk isn't the first fabric you may think of for this dress, but while researching for this box, I saw a chiffon version of this dress and I couldn't get it out of my mind. Because this dress is the kind to simply pull over your head, it is a really good pattern for a floaty, lightweight overlay with a nude slip. I wasn't about to torture you with a hard to sew chiffon, however, so I was thrilled to find this silk cotton voile. This silk is not nearly as transparent or temperamental as chiffon - the cotton gives it a bit more body and a bit more opacity - but it has the same airy quality that I loved. And the print is absolutely gorgeous! The bright pink and orange colors combine with ferns and even a toucan for a print that immediately transports me to somewhere warm and tropical, exactly what we need after a long winter. A stunning choice!
  • Nile Blue Yarn Dye Washed Linen - I'm pretty sure most Sew House Seven patterns are designed with linen in mind, and, honestly, I'm not complaining. This pattern is no exception, and I couldn't miss and opportunity to use this yarn dyed washed linen to let the style lines of the dress really shine. A slight striation in the fabric means you can play with directionality on the yoke and pockets, and the light weight of the fabric means you'll stay cool all Summer long in this dress. Plus the light, slightly turquoise blue is the perfect color for Spring!
  • Navy Chrysanthemum Print Ecovero Twill* - I love a large scale floral for a dress, and I'm completely enamored with this chrysanthemum print. Like the rayon poplin in our Sew Fearless Box, this print combines blue, white, and orange for a combination that has me swooning. The deep navy contrasts really nicely with the white lines and orange centers, and it is reminiscent of art deco floral prints. The ecovero keeps the fabric modern, with its semi-fluid drape, medium body and silky hand. This fabric will be a joy to sew for a dress that is a joy to wear! 

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This month's boxes have been so much fun to create and I hope you find them as cheery and fun as I do. It's not so far in the future that we'll be able to show off our handmade outfits again – who knows what even May will hold – and I really feel that these dresses will be an amazing addition to your Spring and Summer wardrobe. 

If, however, dresses aren't your thing, I'm bringing back last year's T-shirt Boxes, including the tote bags, so you can make a casual outfit that fits your lifestyle. 

*Before I go, I do have a note about two of the fabrics on offer this month. We are getting brand new, never been released prints from one our suppliers but they don't arrive in the US until after our May 3 shipping date. These prints - the navy chrysanthemum ecovero and butterscotch floral ecovero linen - were too good not to use, but be aware that they will ship a little bit later than usual. When I know an exact date, I will let subscribers know.

Until next time. . . 

Happy sewing!

-Mary

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