New test: Nina Lee Mayfair dress

This is actually my first bona fide make of 2020, which is kind of crazy, but I zipped this little lady up in no time at all and I adore this dress! It’s a clever, elegant and flattering design. I saw Nina Lee put out a call for makers to test out her new extended range for the Mayfair dress (as well as a couple of other patterns) a month or two ago and signed up as I’ve been intrigued by other patterns of hers I’ve seen around and about. The Mayfair dress actually came out at the end of 2018 and there are some lovely versions around the internet already, such as this maxi version from Diary of a Chainstitcher and this one from Sew Dainty. The extended sizing will go up to size 28 (54″ bust) and will be out soon.

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Mayfair Dress Pattern

The Mayfair is a knit dress that comes in knee-length and maxi versions that has some really nice detailing on it, which is what made me take a closer look at it in the first place. It has an “all-in-one grown-on collar” which makes for some slightly more interesting pattern pieces than usual and results in some lovely pleats that meet at the back neckline and flow round and down either side of the front neckline. This effect is mirrored by a gathered central section at the waist and produces some lovely shaping. The attached long waist tie is clever, because it hides the gathers and allows you to shape the mid-section of the dress to your taste. There are three different sleeve lengths: full, 3/4 length and short sleeves.

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Sizing

My measurements correspond almost exactly to the size 18. However, the extended sizing is drafted to a B cup, so I figured I would need to use the 16 for shoulder width and armhole size. When I looked at the finished sizing I realized there is actually quite a bit of positive ease built into this dress, which is not always the case for a knit pattern. After thinking about it for a while, I decided to go for the straight 16 and I am pretty happy with that choice. The dress fits me really well, with a very comfortable level of ease.

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The only change I might consider is to add a little room at the bust and/or moving the waist tie down a little. It’s not super tight, but I think my D/DD bust is stretching out those gathers a little and making me look slightly top heavy, which is not surprising given I made a 16 B cup test dress. Having said that, the shoulders and back are perfect, it’s still very comfy and I was wearing my most padded bra in these pics, so maybe not the best choice of undergarment?

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The only adjustments I made to the dress during construction were to hem the dress at 3/4″ instead of 1 1/4″ (I am 5’6″ for reference). I also hemmed the sleeves at 1″ instead of 3/8″, but that is a normal adjustment for me as apparently I have shorter arms than the average bear.

Fabric

This was also a great opportunity to try out some Lillestoff fabric I bought a while back. I’ve used a few of their adorable cotton lycra knits for kids clothes, but was interested in trying out their “modal” for women. Modal is basically a drapey rayon knit and seemed like it would be perfect for this garment. This one is called “Switch” and is a mid-grey base with orange abstract stripes that are added with the effect of hand-sponged detail. Some of the stripes fade out and there are intentional little specks.

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I can tell you that it’s probably the nicest rayon knit I’ve worked with. It’s very smooth and soft, but has some heft to it and you feel that it’s not a rayon knit that will be dragging along the floor by lunchtime because of growing. It cuts well and also sews well. I started out with a walking foot, but changed to the regular foot halfway through, because the fabric was catching on the edges of the walking foot a little and I was getting a few tiny runs in the fabric, so that would be something to watch out for. I will definitely buy some more of this stuff though!

Construction

This is the first knit dress I’ve constructed entirely on my sewing machine for a while and I really enjoyed it. I managed to break my serger somehow a couple of weeks ago and it’s been breaking needles and making murderous sounds like no-one’s business since. I *think* my darling husband has managed to fix it, but in the meantime I thought I’d play it safe and use the regular machine.

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I really enjoyed this project and it came together very quickly! With those extra little details I thought this dress might take a while, but the instructions are so thorough and clear that it was a breeze. 10 out of 10 for those! I enjoyed putting the all-in-one collar together – it was a new technique for me and also doing the burrito roll on a knit dress. I think a first-timer would find it a little confusing (because it is!), but I just did what the instructions said and got it first time. So just read them carefully – I believe Nina is also thinking of adding a tutorial video for this part, so look out for that too.

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I used a straight stitch for most of the sew, actually, rather than the usual zigzag. Due to the aforementioned positive ease, there are many seams that aren’t going to have too much stretch put on them (and the modal also didn’t like my stretch stitch too much to be honest). I did zigzag the sleeve and dress hems.

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You can see how the tie is sewn over the gathering stitches here – very neat finish

It seems like some people don’t care for gathering the waist using elastic. I rather like this method and have employed it to good effect in the Tilly Agnes top and the Colette Moneta, but Nina does provide instructions for using gathered stitch lines, if you prefer that approach. She also provides plenty of hints and tips on sewing with knits, if this is something new to you.

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Conclusion

As I said at the top, I really like the Mayfair. It’s fun to sew, doesn’t use too much fabric (I used 2m here) and produces an elegant dress you can wear on a multitude of occasions. Check out some of the other versions and you’ll see what I mean! Definitely recommended and I’m looking forward to trying some of Nina’s other patterns now as well as keeping a maxi version of this in my back pocket for a suitable occasion.

 

6 thoughts on “New test: Nina Lee Mayfair dress

  1. I had not heard of this pattern before but it’s the top of the list now. Your version is very becoming. Thanks for your fitting details. Looking at the size chart, I’d need the size 8 shoulder/armscye but the size 14 for everything else (though maybe I could get away with the 12 due to ease). Either way, I’ll need to FBA or grade.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Masha! It’s a geat design. I think there’s plenty of ease to work with personally, and also that would could ad an extra pleat or two in the shoulder if required, so I think it would be quite an easy pattern to adjust.

      Like

  2. Lovely Dress! I Have been thinking about sewing up this dress for a while now, but I am unsure how well the lower part of the drapey knit dress will hold up with sitting and running after a toddler …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Susie! 🙂 I think it would be okay, because it’s fairly long (I shortened mine a couple of inches) and there’s plenty of fabric. I definitely run around after my kid and it holds up fine for me.

      Liked by 1 person

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