Sewing a Vintage Dress for High Tea at The Raffles Hotel Singapore

A lady’s High Tea is a wonderful occasion to get all dressed up and spend time with friends whilst sipping tea, chatting and enjoying deliciously delicate treats. On a recent girls trip to Singapore, I wanted to treat my friend and I to the ultimate High Tea experience at the Raffles Hotel, one of the most iconic hotels in the world and of course that meant making a dress for the occasion. I’ve never made myself a High Tea dress so I really wanted to make something that was pretty and feminine that won’t have me die of heat stroke out in the Singaporean sun. Of course, I could only shop my stash for fabric (pretty easy to do after a recent haul) and of course, I left everything till the last minute.

Deciding on a pattern was the hardest part of this project as I wanted something that was a little bit different to what I’ve sewn before, something with a new challenge and a pattern that was hopefully true vintage. After browsing my pattern stash, I eventually (and after much deliberation) decided on Simplicity 2109 from 1957. This pattern won the vote for many reasons; it was sleeveless and although I normally love sleeves, in the Singapore heat I didn’t want anything that could make me feel overly restricted and I have a fear of showing my ridiculous sweat patches. Secondly, the pattern has a gorgeous scalloped edge all around the front and back neckline which is a skill I’ve never attempted before and the bodice calls for decorative ribbon which is something I’ve been wanted to learn how to do for a while. I’ve had this pattern in my stash for a while and I think that a High Tea dress would be perfect however, due to a recent illness (this years flu is an absolute doozy), I was pressed for time so I appreciated the simple construction the pattern called for. My vintage pattern was a size 12 which gives a 32-inch bust. This is just mildly too small for me as I normally have a 38-inch bust and although patterns don’t seem to have the most accurate sizing, I will be adding some width to the side seams for a better fit.

As I’m trying to mainly shop my fabric stash, I looked into a recent pile of fabric I purchased from a KL trip I did back in November and found some gorgeous light blue cotton, adorned with darker blue roses. I had about 4 meters of it and for memory, it cost only about 8 RM per meter (about $2.70 AUS). The fabric was bright, bold, soft in texture but most of all, I knew a cotton was a good choice as it breathes well, is comfortable in the heat and is quite easy to sew with. The pattern uses a neckline facing without a full lining so I don’t have to worry about the dress being too thick in the Singapore heat. With the multiple blue tones within the pattern of the fabric, this meant that when it came time to deciding on a decorative ribbon trim, I had multiple options which is always a plus.

Miss MonMon sews a dress for High Tea at the Raffles Hotel using vintage Simplicity 2109

Sew, let’s get started. I started this project by cutting everything out and really being slow and meticulous with all the scalloped edges as I wanted everything to line up. The bodice was started by adding under-bust gathers, attaching that to the midriff section and then attaching the facing (which I added some light interfacing to). I was a little confused by this bodice construction; the facing was instructed to be attached before joining the front and back pieces together. This means that when I went to attach the front and back, that I couldn’t hide the seams on the shoulders. If I were sewing this pattern again, I would sew the front and back bodice pieces together at the shoulder, do the same with the facing and then attach the facing to the main bodice. By doing this, I would hide the seams; the pattern did say to sew the shoulder seams so they are hidden but this isn’t a skill I really know well so I was a little disappointed in myself (to be fair, I had a raging fever and was very sick when sewing so my poor brain just couldn’t figure it out).

As the pattern was sleeveless, I didn’t have to worry about that and I could focus on the ribbon trim. I decided to use velvet ribbons as they are a little bit more forgiving that nylon or shiny ribbons, plus they gave me the look I was hoping for. Luckily before I was struck with fever, I went to Homecraft Textiles as they have an amazing range of velvet ribbons (Spotlight only had one blue shade and it was a very thick ribbon). After finding all the tones that would work with my dress, I decided on a nice mid-tone as it would blend in and not be overly garish (hopefully). I purchased a few meters as I wanted four panels and the possibility of little bows at the back. Once home, I had every intention of sewing the velvet ribbon down but honestly, the fever was really knocking me around, I felt absolutely awful so I cheated and used my new fabric glue from this haul to attach the ribbons. I did really want to sew the ribbons down but the glue worked just fine and I was able to easily and quickly attach them before heading back to bed for several hours.

With the bodice complete, it was time to move on to the skirt. I cut out some 27-inch panels which were the length of the fabric. I did think about using the patterns skirt pieces but my fabric wasn’t wide enough which seems to be a very common problem in my sewing adventures. Despite this, find that by cutting out three panels, my skirt has a good amount of fullness. I used to sew four panels together but recently have found, especially for travel, my making a three-panel skirt, I get good fullness and a slightly lighter dress which is a plus when you plan on shopping. The downside of a three-paneled skirt is you run the risk of an awkward seam placement which was the case in this project. I used the dental floss gathering method which is my go to and it came together really quick. Attaching the skirt to the bodice went fine however, I goofed it when I decided to overlock the inside seam. I overlocked a little too close to the original seam which meant I put stitches into the velvet ribbon. I unpicked the seams as best I could but it was still really noticeable and it resulted in the skirt having an awkward lift on some sides. I’ve learnt my lesson for next time. I did think about unpicking it all but as I said, I wasn’t feeling well and just wanted to go back to bed.

The last things I needed to do on this dress was the hem the skirt with a simple rolled hem and an overlock before sewing in the side zip. Some parts of the zip were a bit wonky as I didn’t know how to sew smoothly around folded over velvet ribbon but it turned out fine for a first attempt. With the dress basically complete, I gave her a good press, steam and she was packed and ready to head to Singapore. I will note that no, I didn’t travel whilst sick, my fever was gone and although I was really tired from being ill, my doctor gave me the all clear to travel and I flew with a face mask as courtesy to other passengers.

When it was finally our day for High Tea at the Raffles Singapore, my dress was a dream to wear. It was a little snug so I wished I had added another extra inch to the sides (I may have gotten my calculations wrong when I first adjusted my pattern). I also felt that I needed much more room in the bust as the bosoms were feeling a bit pancaked and squished. As I’ve never attempted to resize a pattern before, I think I have plenty of room to learn for next time. I’m glad this pattern wasn’t any smaller as I wouldn’t have been able to get it to fit. Learning how to adjust patterns to fit better is something I do want to start learning so having this as my first attempt, I feel more confident for future projects.

Miss MonMon sews a dress for High Tea at the Raffles Hotel using vintage Simplicity 2109
Miss MonMon sews a dress for High Tea at the Raffles Hotel using vintage Simplicity 2109

One issue I did have with my completed garment was that my scallops got a bit droopy and would fold down when worn. As I only had a very soft interfacing, I think had I added a stiffer one, the scallops would have sat up better. This is just something to note the next time I attempt a scalloped edge.

Overall, I think this dress came out fine. I love the pattern and the fabric chosen. It wasn’t overly dramatic or fancy which was kind of what I was hoping for. I think this pattern would have looked beautiful in a tulle or chiffon fabric which is something to note if you plan on sewing it up yourself. The artwork on the patterns envelope makes me think that this dress could be made into a prom style or a stunning cocktail dress but it clearly works for a more casual cotton dress too. On my next attempt with this pattern I want to add more seam allowance to make it slightly larger, I want to be more careful with my overlocker and not hit my ribbon panels and of course, I will add pockets. Regardless, this is a very cute dress that I hope I will get lots of wear out of. Another thing I think I may change next time is moving the side zip to the back as personally, I’ve started choosing my daily outfits based on what’s easy to get in and out of, and what I can slip on rather than struggle to get into and pull over my head.

Miss MonMon sews a dress for High Tea at the Raffles Hotel using vintage Simplicity 2109
Miss MonMon sews a dress for High Tea at the Raffles Hotel using vintage Simplicity 2109

I will note that after the High Tea, when we started taking photos out in the courtyard garden, my camera decided to give up on life and die. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get it to work or take another photo so unfortunately, most of these photos were just taken on my phone but my friend Laura did her absolute best and I think they still show the dress really well.

Creating a vintage dress for High Tea at the Raffles Singapore was such a treat within itself and although there was a slight mishap with attaching the skirt and avoiding the bottom layer of velvet ribbon (lessons were learnt for next time), I really loved wearing my dress for High Tea. The High Tea itself was a completely wonderful experience and I will be sharing more details and lots of photos in an upcoming post coming out this Monday so make sure to come back for that. I will of course link the post here as well in case you are reading this well into the future.

Miss MonMon sews a dress for High Tea at the Raffles Hotel using vintage Simplicity 2109
Miss MonMon sews a dress for High Tea at the Raffles Hotel using vintage Simplicity 2109

A special thank you to my darling friend Laura for taking my photo during High Tea and doing such a great job when my camera died mid-shoot (it’s ok, I got it fixed by an awesome camera wizard a few days later). Sharing my Raffles Hotel High Tea experience with such a good friend was a real highlight of the trip and many memories were created that I will always cherish now.


Note: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions and thoughts expressed are solely my own and not influenced in any way. There are no affiliate links and I do not benefit from any link clicks or purchases made.


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