Nina Lee Park Lane Dress and Golden Afternoons

Posted Sunday, 2 May, 2021

Last week we all went down to a local park to check out some trees which I'd been watching change colour gradually. I was so thrilled when, seemingly overnight, they turned bright yellow! It was time for a closer inspection, with picnic and freshly made dress in tow (of course).

I feel as though this combination of deciduous trees, fallen leaves and floral dress is something which could be appreciated by those of us who enjoy the cottagecore aesthetic at the moment.

Personally, when I initially found out about cottagecore, I thought that it was a sweet sort of mainstream middleground between aspects of Regency fashion or alternatively, was for those who like the slow-living, country-style, earthy aesthetic without the stringent commitment to monochrome and minimalism. I liked the idea of it, but wasn't sure if it was purely foregrounded last year in response to all of the dreadful things happening. I wondered if it was something that would pass away, or stand the test of shifting seasons, cementing itself amongst the mottled list of subcultures that we can all call to mind.

Wearing: Erstwilder brooch, Charlotte Olympia Flats and a Vintage 1980's bag. Lipstick is Mac, Fashion Legacy.

To my mind, my initial impressions still stand. I've seen many references to idealised versions of Pride and Prejudice fashion, 90's floral dress references (such as those worn by Miss Honey in Matilda, hands down everyone's all-time favourite), homesteading, bread baking (a very 2020 thing), and gentle living, albeit with some weird "craft tutorials" via TikTok mixed in for good measure.

In the intentional, creative spaces and vintage places on the internet which I inhibit, this isn't really a new or revolutionary thing. Crafts and creative past-times of old are being popularised, re-packaged and now somehow legitamised. By that, I mean more "feminine" or "old lady" activities such as dressmaking, cooking, gardening and, homemaking (not necessarily in a full-time context) are being looked at through a lens of appreciation and renewed understanding.

People have had to slow down, go out less, look around themselves and take stock of what they truly need. They've been noticing what brings them joy beyond identifying self as "my name is X and my title is Y". I think that surely, this can only be a good thing. By extension, more people are asking fundamental questions such as "who made my clothes?" or "how long does it take to bake a cake? Goodness there's a lot of skill!". I feel as though there's a shift in the way that people value things. A slow, nuanced ripple of a shift perhaps. But in essence, that may be enough. If each person cared a little more, was a bit more thoughtful in their approach, from what they say to how they act (both online and in-person), we may be on a path to healing.

Do I think that cottagecore will get us there? No. Do I think something which values gentleness, intentionality, and self-sufficency is good? Absolutely.

I hope that this week you can wear some floaty attire, put your hands in some dirt, have a cup of tea (or something with a kick!), take in some fresh air, and find for yourself a restful, still moment.

Sewing Notes:

  • Fabric is a cotton poplin bought at Spotlight several years ago. Here are some lovely alternatives at varying price points from The Fabric Store, Storrs London and Strawberry Thief. Note: the dress' recommended fabrics are drapier than the poplin which I used, but as you can tell from the pictures it is fine to use. As with any project, the fabric choice should really be influence by the sewist's desired finished garment drape.
  • Construction-wise this dress was beautifully straightforward to piece together. Nina's instructions and diagrams are easy to understand and her size chart was true to the given measurements. My dress turned out a little roomier than I would prefer, but that's because I believe that I could have gotten away with the size down, I just didn't want to run the risk of the side zip not providing me enough wriggle room! This hasn't been enough of a bother to prompt me to alter it though.
  • Finally, I loved the finishing techniques used for the back of the bodice in particular.

With love,