Tea at Two Dress Pattern Details

Flashback Summer: Tea at Two Wearing History Dress Pattern Details - sewing 1930s

Oh, this dress.  It's my first 1930s garment and my first Wearing History pattern, so I've got lots of learning and details to share with you!  (There's a short summary at the bottom if you'd like to skip ahead.)

For more photos of the garment, you can go to this post.

I also want to make this a more thorough post than normal because I searched for reviews of this pattern before I bought it and only stumbled on a couple by the same person (here and here), so I know there's a need for info on it!  Not to mention, this isn't a vintage pattern, it's a new vintage pattern, so I know you guys can actually go buy it and sew it up if you wanted to right now!  Therefore, I'll try to make the info helpful in deciding if the pattern is for you or not.  (If you would like to see more photos of the outfit, I have more here.)

First off, let me say that I think this is a great intro to 1930s sewing.  It has techniques I had never done before, but I felt there was enough explanation to do them properly.  (I didn't even have to look anything up!)  That being said, there are some tricky parts.  Here are my thoughts on the project:

Skills You Need to Know Before You Start
  • Bound buttonholes - There are six of these on this dress, so get familiar with them! (There's a great tutorial at Wearing History.)
  • Darts - There is a sleeve dart done in an interesting way on the cuffs
  • Bias binding - Know how to make bias binding if you want it to match your garment and how to attach bias binding, including mitering corners
  • Link Buttons - It calls for three pairs of link buttons; I have a quick solution on these for you below in the "Things I Added" section!

Fit and Ease of the Pattern
The fit on this pattern is strange.  I sized down on the top (using a 30 bust pattern piece even though I'm 32"), and as you can see, I still have plenty of room.  It's meant to be bloused, but I would still recommend sizing down.  I imagine the top in my size would have been far too baggy, and I'm not sure if this is just the pattern or a normal 30s fit style.
The bottom, however, was more narrow.  I chose a 35" hip size pattern pieces (the middle of size pack A) due to how my muslin sewed up, but I think I could size down as well for a more snug fit.  The fabric is not cut on the bias, so the skirt goes more or less straight down from the hips.  If your fabric doesn't have any stretch though, like a cotton, I'd stay true to your hip measurement.

Things I Changed
  • Sleeve length - I shortened the sleeves to 26.25" from the top of the pattern piece to the bottom.  I could probably take off another inch or two next time.  My arms are " from shoulder to wrist.
  • Skirt length - It was just too long!  I shortened it to " this time, but I think I'd make the hem longer for a more 30s length next time.
  • Waist - With the larger hip size pattern, I brought in the waist about 1.5", and it's perfect.  I have a 24" waist.
  • Peplum - I cut out the pieces, and it was a bit too long for my height and wide for the newly decreased waist, so I added a 1" hem on all sides, instead of the more narrow one called for.  I eased it in on the waist.
  • Hip apex - I'm short, and the hip apex on the skirt was about 2" too low for me, so I raised it, and the skirt piece fit perfectly after that!

Unclear Things/Things I Added
Maybe this stuff is assumed in the pattern, or maybe I did it a janky way, I don't know.  Either way, you are now privy to it!

  • The dress opens via hidden closures in the center, not at the side or back.  I didn't realize that when I bought the pattern.
  • I added snaps at the top and bottom of the vestee corners on the side the dress opens on.  I figured it would be better to over-snap the closures than under-snap!
  • I attempted to link the buttons on the bodice using thread and a blanket stitch as old methods would instruct, but it would have taken FAR too long and had too large a margin of error for me to continue on all the buttons.  Instead, I inserted a jump ring through each button and connected the pairs with plain black necklace chain.  The top pair is slightly closer together than the other two pairs to make it look right.  It works just as well as the thread version, in my opinion!
  • I also interfaced the top layer of the collar with thin interfacing to help it stay crisp.

Moments of Pride in This Project
I'm very proud of the belt.  While the belt buckle is not quite wide enough for the belting I used, it works fairly well.  It's a vintage buckle, and I really had to make do with it.  Is anyone else frustrated at the lack of belt notions available these days?!  I sure am!
I also put holes in this one, unlike the other belt I've made before, which just slipped through.  I ended up using a scrapbooking grommet setter to poke holes in the fabric and belting, then I finished the holes with a hand-done blanket stitch.  I've seen this on vintage belts, so I decided to try it out!  It works out well, although a little labor intensive!

Flashback Summer: Tea at Two Wearing History Dress Pattern Details - sewing 1930s

Moments of... Eh, I'll Do Better Next Time...
  • I didn't adjust the waist size for the skirt when I cut it out, and I just brought it in at the sewing stage.  I didn't bring it in the same way on the peplum, so it doesn't lay perfectly flat.  In the future I'll adjust all bottom pieces to be smaller in the waist before cutting them out.
  • I initially had the hem longer and shortened it to where it is now.  However, looking at it in the pictures, I think I will want it about 2" longer on the next round for a really good 1930s length, like my other 30s dress has.  That length does a better job of elongating.
  • My bound buttonholes need some help.  'Nuff said.  I have the general idea right, but I found a Wearing History tutorial that will help me make them look more polished next time.  Live and learn!

Pattern Conclusions
This. Is. A. Fantastic. Pattern.
The pieces fit together perfectly, and the instructions are thorough enough to understand (for an experienced sewer).  The pattern comes in a large resealable bag to keep the pieces in, and it is printed on a heavy, durable paper that can easily be altered for fit while lasting for years to come.  I also like the long and short sleeve options, and I'll be trying the short sleeve one come warmer weather!
I've been pondering getting a few of the other Wearing History patterns, but many still have a lack of reviews and finished photos, so I was a bit nervous about it.  However, this pattern came together so nicely I'm confident the others will be good quality, too!

Here is a summary of the pattern details and things I changed:
Pattern: Wearing History "Tea at Two Dress"
Year: mid-1930s
Notions: lots of snaps, buttons, necklace chain, interfacing
How historically accurate is it? Extremely!  New-vintage pattern and fabric, vintage notions. Everything except the buttons, which are new.
Any tricky parts to the pattern?  I talk about this more above, but the 30s-style construction techniques and closures are just different than the other decades I've sewn.
Did you change anything?  Yep, sleeve length, hip apex, skirt length, waist size
Time to complete: a week solid.  Lots of little details to work on!
First worn: 10 December 2014
Total cost: Fabric was free to review, buckle $1, belting $2, buttons $2, necklace chain $2, pattern $30.60 with shipping, so about $38 total.
Notes: I've gone into great detail above!  This is a fantastic pattern!

Have any of you tried out this pattern or know someone who has?  Please add the link and lets help future sewers have a database of good info and pictures of this pattern!


  1. Love it! My version is done except for the belt because I haven't found a buckle I like yet. I also found the top to be a bit blousey so I'll probably be adjusting that on my next version as well. I've sewn up a lot of Wearing History patterns so let me know if there's one you're interested in, I may just have sewn it up already! I've only ever done paper patterns from her so none of my reviews are up because she only has the e-patterns for sale right now.

    1. Thanks a bunch! I'll probably be doing that. I saw the overalls you did, and they were great! I'll check with you on a couple other ones when she gets them up!

    2. Also, I found the top SUPER blousey! I sized down, and I think it's just right for the kind of fabric I used and the long sleeve version. I think I'll do a muslin of the short sleeve version first, just to check the fit there when I get around to it.

  2. Great job! Making clothes that fit properly is not easy. Having a good pattern to work from makes a big difference.

  3. You've done a wonderful job and I think picked the perfect fabric for this project.

  4. Oh this is having me super excited to print out, work on, and review the Sports Togs!!

    Your review for this pattern was very well written, so thank you for that! I think I want the Tea for Two pattern sometime down the line, it's so cute!

  5. Really enjoyable post, dear Emileigh. Not being a sewer myself, I kind of feel like I get to experience the process vicariously through detailed, informative posts such as these (which is really special). You did a stellar job on this 30s two-piece dress and look so wonderfully lovely in it!

    ♥ Jessica

  6. This dress looks great on you and I enjoyed reading all about how you made it. I can sew a little and really want to learn more and make some of my own clothes next year. What do you recommend starting off with?

    1. I would definitely suggest starting with a skirt. I'm guessing you want to start sewing more to make vintage-y clothes, so I would try making a dirndl skirt. It's a big rectangle, waistband, and zipper or buttons, and that's it! Stephanie has a sew along for a kind of dirndl skirt here: http://star-spangledheart.blogspot.com/2014/06/announcing-dirndl-skirt-sew-along.html

      If you feel like that's a bit tricky, just email me. I'd be glad to write a little tutorial for you!

    2. Thank you. I forgot to say that it is making vintage-y clothes that I am interested in so you are completely right. I knit myself vintage cardigans and I need things to go with them. A skirt sounds a very good idea. I will look at Stephanie's dirndl. If you ever write a tutorial I would definitely read it.

  7. I wrote this long comment and lost everything:P I wanted to say that I'm really glad that you posted the details about the construction and your adjustments. I also love the dart effect on your dress and the color blocking. Just lovely! I've used a bound button hole tool from Dritz and it sets in perfectly spaced center fabric but I've also seen a great tutorial from Gertie too. I spent some time trying to learn how to do them but I'm sure I'll have to take out the instructions again when I have to do them. I've also bought the vintage buckle kits from ebay but the problem with the packaged ones is that sometimes the belt has been folded so long in the package that it has some weakness areas but there are also vintage belting kits without the buckle that you can buy just the belt portion and these are really nice!

    1. Hmmmm, that's good to know! I figured out I can manage making the belt portion with fabric and belting, I just have trouble finding good buckles. I should be checking the inter webs more often for them though, definitely!