It’s been a while since I’ve posted on my blog, but for once I’ve actually been sewing in the background! I recently got to go to Cologne to teach a sewing workshop (whoop!) for the Prym Happiness event. It coincided with what was then one of the hottest weekends of the year, so I wanted to make sure I had the right clothes so I wouldn’t boil. Full coverage summer-wear has been my nemesis. I always end up uncomfortable- either layering up or panic buying from the shops and ending up with rubbish fitting clothes- making me feel even more miserable. But I instantly wanted to sew up the Tara Tea Dress from Simply Sewing the second I saw it: long sleeve- check, higher neckline- check, maxi length- check. A full-coverage dream! I wish I could say I felt the same way while I was sewing it though. Let’s just say, it was a journey!

Read on for my sewing pattern review of the Tara Tea Dress and why I already have two of the dress in my wardrobe and more to come…

Tara Tea Dress

With Issue 93 of Simply Sewing Magazine, by Sew Girl. A curved empire line tea dress with a trendy frill hem tier and gathered sleeves.

Difficulty: I would say this is an advanced beginner pattern due to the invisible zip

Sizes: UK 6-22 (Eur 34-52; US 4-2) so not size inclusive

Type: Printed pattern

Price: With magazine (can still be bought for £9.99, also includes The Paper Theory Miller Trousers-printed and another paper pattern.)


Another fabric that has been sitting in my stash for a long time. A polka dot, crinkle viscose from Rainbow Fabrics. I originally had 3m of this fabric but made R a little dress last year so had maybe just under 2.5m leftover. They recommend 2.5m (150cm wide) for a non-directional print but I really struggled to fit the whole pattern in. In the end I had to piece together the bottom ruffle (there’s 3 seams there- but you can’t tell because of the crinkle fabric). I had the same issue with my 2nd version (photos to come) and pieced the ruffle hem for that one too. But truth be told, I haven’t used the cutting layout! But I think it’s probably a tight fit fabric wise (not a bad thing as I hate waste/leftover!).

Sizing and fit

I originally cut a size 12 for the top and graded to a size 14 on the hips. I shortened the bodice before cutting out (I’m 5ft 2″) and sewed it up. I cannot tell you how disheartened I was when I tried it on. I balled it up and chucked it to the side. It was that bad.

Instead of the curved empire line sitting under my bust, it sat at my waist, which looked awful. Plus this meant that it was super tight across my hips. It was still way too long in the bodice length. Not such a hard fix but it meant I had to unpick the entire zip, detach the skirt from the bodice and start again. The zip was also pulling on the back where there was a lot of excess fabric. The idea of this just made me want to give up. But I picked it up the next day and decided to fix it. I don’t know what possessed me to do it but I did and boy am I so happy I did.

I took off a total of 2 inches from the bodice length and ended up removing the zip completely, plus took off another 2cm from the centre back. It looked SO much better and I instantly fell in love. I then washed it again before wearing to get the ‘crinkle’ back into the fabric which made it ‘shrink’ a bit and fit so much nicer. The problem with the crinkle is that it gives me a false sense of fit because it kind of acts like a stretch fabric with a bit of give.

From my second version (a more standard woven viscose) I think I can downsize overall for the bodice. It’s still a bit on the bigger side and I added some waist ties to give it a bit more shape. So I don’t think I’ve 100% nailed the fit but I find it so comfortable. I usually struggle around the fit of shoulders/upper chest but this has no issues. Plus I quite like that it’s a bit looser.

Construction and Instructions

Nothing really to add to the construction. Instructions are photo based. As the construction is pretty basic/simple I didn’t really need to pay much attention to the actual instructions. Take care with the curved waistline- that’s probably the trickiest bit.


As above, removed the zip. Added a in seam pocket and waist ties to my 2nd version.


I really do love this pattern. Despite the initial fit issues, it’s become a firm favourite. The overall style really reminds me of the Vampire’s Wife or Nobody’s Child style dresses.

From afar it looks like a standard ruffled tiered maxi/midi dress but I love the little details that give it that little extra oomph. Firstly, it’s a closer fit around the waist/torso compared to most of the tiered dress patterns out there because the top part of the skirt is a more A-line style. The closer fit just makes it feel more polished than a gathered waist. My favourite part is actually the curved empire line- the bust shaping comes from some simple gathers (very forgiving for fit)- I get complimented on this every time I wear it.

I love how easy this is to wear and how I can dress it up or down depending on where I’m going. It is well worth getting the fit just right by doing a toile. Do as I say, not as I do! I think I might go back and do this so I can see what the fit is like with the zip in just so I have both options.

But for now, I’ve got two more in the pipeline which will be hacks of the pattern and I can’t wait. For the first time in years, I think I’ve finally nailed my summer wardrobe.

What do you think? Do you prefer it dressed up or down?


8 replies on “Sewing Pattern Review: Tara Tea Dress

  1. you did so well with those bodice adjustments. The fit is really good.
    I love the more shaped A line top too which makes it easy to dressup.
    things i throw across the room rarely make it, so great sticking with it!

    1. Very unusual for me to finish it! I think this one is more forgiving with fit because of the the crinkle fabric

  2. Being about the same size/height as you, I can relate to your short-torso adaptation frustrations. The shaping on this is especially flattering. Thanks for sharing your review and lovely make.

    1. Thank you! I don’t know about you but I always underestimate how much I need to shorten the bodice by!

  3. Hi I’m new to your blog and crafting blogs in general, but I’ave really enjoyed looking through your posts!

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