The Kew Dress: 3 Ways

Back in May, I wrote a blog post about having another go at a capsule wardrobe that detailed my plans for summer sewing. I was rearing to go and had already cut out my first garment, a Nina Lee Kew Dress. Then, I blinked and all of a sudden it was August! I actually completed the Kew Dress several months back, but it’s taken me this long to put a blog post together, partly because I wanted to put thought into how I was going to write it and mostly because I’m a massive procrastinator. I’ll definitely admit now that the chances of getting my capsule wardrobe completed before the end of summer is slim, however I’m determined to complete them eventually and with that, here is my review of the Kew Dress.

I think I would happily say to anyone who would listen that you would have to pry the Kew Dress out of my cold, dead hands. There are no two ways about it; Nina Lee is a genius and this dress makes me feel like I’m a princess at a tea party. I love the vintage inspired style, but I also love that I can wear it without feeling like I’m wearing something “vintage”. The style is so versatile that I would be happy to wear it almost anywhere and I’m looking forward to experimenting with the pattern a bit more to see what I can create using different fibres and maybe a few hacks too!

So far, I’ve made three of these dresses, the latest being the one for my capsule wardrobe and I have been very pleased with the result each time. The pattern goes together beautifully and the instructions are clear and easy to follow with helpful diagrams. The fit is also fantastic; I made the size 10 and didn’t need to adjust it all, which I was very pleased with as I often make things only to find out they are too big in the waist or over the hips. I’ve also now made both versions of this pattern, so I’ll show you each one below:

I made my first Kew Dress last summer and instantly fell in love. I used one of our Dashwood rayons and made version 2 which has straps and cold-shoulder sleeves. Making this dress at first was definitely an experiment for me. It is what I suppose you would call midi-length, finishing around mid-calf which compared to the rest of my wardrobe seemed the equivalent of trailing on the floor. I was not convinced that I would like it, but I felt really inspired by the bodice and told myself that I could always chop the length to above the knee if I thought it looked frumpy when finished. I was very pleased with the result! Even with the extra length, the dress felt light and floaty and I also used some rhinestone flower buttons from the store which added a really nice touch. I’ve worn it a few times, including to go out with my friends and it was very comfortable and felt super classy.

Then, in April this year I finally got around to making another. This time I chose a cotton, using our Myriel print, and I tried out version 1. Previously, I had been even more nervous of this version than the other one. I love vintage-inspired style, but I’m always a little worried that I’ll look like I’m dressed in a costume. However, I think the contemporary twist to the Kew Dress lets you have your cake and eat it too! And, having tried both styles of dress, I think that the sleeved version is actually my favourite. I really love the little puff sleeve and using a stiffer fabric like cotton really accentuates this feature. I also added a little contrast using the off-white Atelier Brunette buttons to finish it off.

That brings us to the final version, the one that I made recently for my capsule wardrobe collection. I made this one in our Rebekah Linen using the periwinkle colourway and I think this is definitely the best of both worlds, softer than the cotton but offering much more structure than a rayon or viscose. I’m a recent convert to linen. I used to absolutely despise it and my catchphrase in the office was always “surely we don’t need more linen!”, but I have to say – and this is something most kids would rarely admit – my mother was absolutely right. We do need more linen. Since making this dress, I can’t get enough of linen and most of my sewing plans centre around it. It’s such a wonderful versatile fabric and I’m looking forward to expanding our colour ranges next year!

I’m not sure I could say which of the three is my favourite, but I would probably say one of the Version 1s. However, my final words would definitely be to recommend this pattern entirely! Nina Lee is one of the best independent pattern companies I have come across and I’m never disappointed with the quality or style of her patterns. I’m looking forward to seeing what she produces in the future and I’m hoping to make a pair of Piccadilly Pyjamas soon!

As for my next sewing project, I’ve already started a pair of Burnside bibs (which was the second thing on my capsule collection plan), but I have to admit that I’ve also got very distracted over the past couple of month so I’ve also got a host of other half-started projects on the go! I’ve told myself that I’m not starting anything new until I’ve finished what I’ve started, but we all know that’s a lie! But, I’ll be back on the blog soon to update you on my sewing adventures!

The Capsule Wardrobe: Take 2

Last August I was fed up of not achieving anything with my sewing and I decided to take part in Seamwork’s ‘Design Your Wardrobe’ program. The result was six planned outfits and an experience that was enormously freeing. I felt like I was ready to take over the world with my collection of interchangeable separates and yet, when I stumbled across the folder again this week, I realised that after more than half a year I had only completed three garments out of the ten that I had planned.

Whatever the matter was, I had quickly fallen back into my old trap. I would fill my head with plenty of bright ideas, but never get around to the ones that excited me most. In fact, I rarely complete a garment at all. Usually, I complete the majority of the construction and then abandon it when I reach a difficult step, or spend so much of my time scrolling on instagram that I don’t actually get a chance to sew.

So, when this quarantine began, I told myself that I was not going to spend it sat on social media, or in front of the TV. I wanted to feel as though I had at least made something of the time inside and I set my heart on another capsule collection. I decided to use Seamwork’s program and all of their worksheets again as even though I had failed to produce the garments I said I would last time around, I really enjoyed the designing process and the way the program gets you to think about why you want to create a collection before throwing you into making a moodboard.

One of the things the program gets you to do is give your collection a name and I called mine ‘Romantic Glamour’. I wanted to create a collection that was elegant and filled with feminine details, largely inspired by my visit to the Dior exhibit at the V&A last year, but naturally translated into an everyday context. Last year, my first attempt at a capsule collection was centred around a ‘work-wear’ wardrobe for school and this I think is maybe where I fell short. This time I’ve chosen to design for a more casual context, with the hope that it will keep me motivated to make clothes that I want to wear, without being restricted by a dress code. Here’s some examples of the outfits I was inspired by and used as part of my moodboard below:

I ended up with 6 outfits, composed of 10 different garments. I wanted to mostly focus on separates, so that I could mix and match, but the first project I chose (which I’ve already cut out) is a Nina Lee Kew dress. I’ve made this dress twice before, having only just finished a version in our Myriel print, but it is perhaps my favourite pattern ever and definitely the epitome of what I am aiming for with this collection. I already knew that I wanted to make it out of our Rebekah Linen and chose the Periwinkle colourway, which I used for the basis of the collection’s colour palette.

The Nina Lee Kew Dress (version 2)
Our Rebekah Linen in Periwinkle

I also chose Sew House Seven’s Burnside Bibs having seen a version made up on Instagram. I loved the workwear vibe of this pattern, although it probably fits the least with my general mood for the collection so I think I’m going to make them in a tencel twill to give them a nice drape.

The Burnside Bibs
Our Chambray Stripe Tencel Twill in Indigo

This is the Tencel that I think I will use. It has a lovely weight and the subtle stripe makes for a really understated look. I’m also going to use French Navy’s free t-shirt pattern to make an ivory t-shirt to go underneath.

I also took inspiration from this year’s Sewing Bee. In the first week, Liz made a fantastic 90s inspired full-length dress for the final challenge and I knew that I had to make one similar as soon as I saw it. I’m going to be using the True Bias Shelby pattern (I think this is the one she used), but I am still slightly undecided on what fabrics to use.

The Shelby Dress from True Bias
I love the back tie feature!

I’m also going to make a few self-drafted tops and I’ve ordered a skirt and a paperbag trousers pattern from Apolline Patterns which I’m very excited about! It’s a French pattern company based in Paris and they make the most gorgeous designs. I believe the instructions in her latest collection have been translated into English, but the ones that I’ve ordered only come in French. However, as I speak Spanish I’m hoping that combining that with diagrams and my limited secondary school French will be good enough. I’ll just have to see how that goes!

The Lou Skirt by Apolline Patterns
The Gabin Paper Bag Trousers

I’m excited to get started on this new project and I’m absolutely determined to finish all ten garments. I’m hoping to detail each one on the blog as I go as I think that will help me stay on track and hold myself accountable to completing them. I think what I have learned so far from my first failed attempt is that simply designing the collection isn’t going to make the clothes magically appear in my hands. I do actually have to make them!