It’s almost the middle of July, and in my little corner of the world, it’s high summer. At least it usually is. The past week has been cool and drizzly except for the few days of scorching heat. It’s this scorching heat that we typically get this time of year―day after day. So, over the past few years since we moved from the cool-summer Atlantic coast where I always needed a sweater or light jacket close by, I’ve had to adapt my wardrobe to deal with more consistent heat. I’ve found myself searching for perfect summer dresses that I can wear during the day in an urban, big-city place. When you consider my personal aesthetic, that’s no easy task.
Let’s just look at the dresses being touted as the best dresses of the season for this summer in the northern hemisphere.
When I did a Pinterest search, this is the representation of what I found.
Then, that arbiter of all things fashion, Vogue magazine, offers the following monstrosities (sorry if you like them, but they just make me gag).
Then, horrors of all horrors are these gems that Vogue considers appropriate attire for grown women in 2021.
As an aside: These styles got me thinking about Dr. Jean Kilbourne, an American professor who has spent years researching how women are depicted in advertising and how infantilization is a problem (all ads created by men). Well, I won’t go all professorial on you, but I cannot imagine choosing to look infantile. If you haven’t seen her video lectures Killing Us Softly, I highly recommend them. They’re a real eye-opener. As cool as thee dresses might be (and by cool, I don’t mean cool), they send out a message of the little girl who at best needs to be protected (from something, I’m not sure what) or, at worst, is as dumb as a bag of hammers. *sigh* Rant over.
Perhaps I can just be polite and say that they are simply not my style. So, where does that put someone whose personal style is more streamlined and tailored? Well, thank you for asking. It puts me (and maybe you) right there in front of your sewing machine. Thank goodness for our sewing skills!
Over the past few years, I’ve searched for styles and fabrics that represent who I am and have come up with several approaches that work for me. And maybe they’ll work for you.
I started with a little black dress that’s not appropriate for daytime wear (and isn’t cool enough anyway, given that it’s lined!), but it’s a style I can work with.
Then, I designed a shirt-style dress for a cruise that works well for summer in the city. I selected seersucker for it for obvious reasons―it’s light and cool. And, if you’ve ever read anything on my blog before, you know I’m not a print fan (*gags slightly*), but I can do a stripe. It’s my kind of print.
Remember the QR code dress from a month or so ago? It’s a style I’ll certainly make again but in a different fabric. And, no, I haven’t worn it yet. ☹
Finally, my current project. I’m drawn to dresses that are just a bit more than bags, even for hot summer days. So, a simple T-shirt dress with a half-belt tie immediately appealed to me. I bought some striped ottoman fabric (my print!) and embarked on this one, New Look 6650.
I’m not a fan of midi dresses these days. I guess it’s because I lived through it the first time around, and I don’t see the point of a longer dress in the summer. Probably even more important, though, is that I still have good legs and find the hemline just above the knees to be more flattering for me (and for most other women, in my view.) But I do like those short sleeves rather than the elbow-length ones. I also made the hem deeper since that tends to make a light dress hang better.
The fabric is a bit heavier and a bit less stretchy than the pattern is created for (it’s made for drapey jersey), so I cut it just a tad bigger.
I haven’t had a chance to wear it yet (remember the cool drizzle I mentioned earlier), but I will. My husband and I are headed out of the city for the first time in almost a year to a country inn and spa next week. I think I might just take it with me. It might be just the thing for dinner on the patio!
7 thoughts on “Finding the perfect summer dress: a wild-goose chase?”
I like your new striped dress and your idea of having a longer hem for a somewhat heavier weight knit. Good tip! Since there are now so few patterns available I see the value of buying ones with classic lines now. These styles never go out of fashion and they can be updated with small changes. I look at how too many staff at Fabricland and YouTube sewers dress and I find a huge disconnect between fashion sense and reality.
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I hate to say it, but the Fabricland staff members know less about style than just about anyone I’ve ever seen! And I’m not convinced they know a lot about selecting the right fabric for style, design lines and personal enhancement. That’s why I’ve been a “student” of style for so many years! My do-it-yourself course is on-going!
By accident, almost, I found the perfect dress. I didn’t particularly like the photos on the pattern envelope and wasn’t sure of the line drawing either as I was worried the skirt would be too full. Well, fortunately, my fears were unfounded and now, by luck, I think I may have found one that will be an all-time favorite: Kwik Sew (which I had never used before): K4098, without the pockets. The lines are divine! Take a look, too, at Vogue: V1432 which is really flattering and is a bit unusual.
The K4098 one is really lovely, with a vintage vibe. It’s not really my preferred silhouette, since I’m not a fan of full skirts (on me) but the Vogue 1432 is really a good dress. I love the design lines on it. Thanks for the recommendation! I think I’ll be adding that one to my dress patterns!
The prairie/buffet/picnic blanket dress look definitely isn’t for me, either. But I do think the right shirtdress (and I really like your striped one above) can take you almost anywhere in summer. I’ve got 3m of navy tencel fabric that I’ve set aside for one, and I’m deliberating between a few patterns, but the current frontrunner is V9371, view F – I prefer a style I can belt in, rather than a pre-defined waistline (so I guess it doubles as a buffet dress in that way!)
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I love a shirt dress! And I really like the pattern you’ve chosen because it lets you choose from among several options. I love the straight skirt version just because I find that a flattering silhouette for me. I’d love to see your finished product! (Are you in my FB group?)
I was always a skater silhouette girl when I was younger but I’m coming around to straighter skirts now I’m in my 40s… It might be a while before it’s finished as the school summer holidays start soon but I’ll share some pictures on my blog/Instagram when it’s ready. I’ll have a scout around for the FB group in the meantime 🙂
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