Sunday, July 12, 2015

Pattern Whisperer presents: Summer Sundresses

The idea for this post has been floating around in my head for weeks now and I realized that is has an expiration date. Time to get it going as sewing for summer probably comes to a close in parts of the globe sooner than it does here in sunny California.

A Pattern Whisperer post - the topic is summer sundresses. The category of summer sundress has some very specific elements to me, and granted these are just my opinion on features that make this type of dress different from your other wardrobe selections, such as dresses for work, formal events or even a casual everyday dress.

So what makes a sundress special? I love the category of resort wear - which sound a bit what? Elitist? Too specific? Brings to mind women of a certain age swanning around in caftans. That is not what I am talking about. I think of a sundress as that item you might wear when the temps are high, but you want to look pretty and be cool. To wear instead of shorts and a tee. A sundress needs to be sleeveless, and definitely show some skin, so no high necklines or collars. Thin straps, halter necklines or cutouts make it a sundress in my book. Of course fabric choice is everything. Mostly cotton or linen, maybe a cotton or rayon jersey. Depends on the style but nothing that needs a lot of lining or even pressing. Something to wear to a backyard barbecue or a casual outdoor wedding.

As in my previous Pattern Whisperer posts, I mostly suggest patterns from the major pattern companies, Vogue/McCalls/Butterick, Simplicity/New Look with a few ideas from Burda.

First up is one that I consider the quintessential summer sundress, Vogue 9100.

Vogue 9100
Having shown it in that fabric seals the deal  - so cute. It has an interesting bodice which I actually think might be quite easy for fitting. The princess seams are moved to the center and finish in the center neckline. If you have trouble with gaping necklines this is a sneaky way to be able to adjust the dress on the fly, instead of on the pattern. If I were making it for myself I would add an inch in length to the bodice, plan on shaping it over the bust for a close fit, and presume to shorten it at the shoulder seam, and center back. In fact I would shift that side zipper - which bug me - to the center back just for ease of fitting. And note that if you don't want such a full skirt you could reduce the circumference or even use a different skirt pattern.

Cutouts - when else can you wear them? Well I don't know your life but probably not too often in winter :)  I like this Simplicity Amazing fit pattern because:  Amazing Fit.  They do have a bit too much ease but if you can figure out the starting size and put in a bit of fitting work they are really nice. Plus offer more than one pattern view and I always like things that have more than one look for my pattern dollars. Cut in shoulders, my Fave! cute cut-out but looks bra-friendly. Comes in the full range of sizes. Pockets! Nice princess seaming over the bust. Cup sizes. I just might have sold myself on this one  - like I need any more summer dresses and/or new patterns.

SImplicity 1354

For something a bit more sporty, McCalls 6955.

McCalls 6995

I like that it has both a non-gathered skirt and a gathered option. The shaped back gives it a lot of interest but I think you could easily wear an adjustable X-back bra which is nice. I really like the contrast hem look, I could see making this in two complementary fabrics instead of the solid contrast.

This New Look pattern must be a really good seller because it has not been discontinued and I first bought it at least 4 years ago.

New Look 6457
 I have used this bodice for a lot of different things and my pattern pieces for the gathered skirt are my TNT for that look, they have so many pin holes and fold marks but it is full but not too full so doesn't actually take up all that much fabric. It also has the 2 halter views so a lot of choices.
This was the pattern for this dress and I first used it for a dress that I gave to my hairdresser. Works really well with cotton sateen and see this post for a clever trick that I copied from a J. Crew bridesmaid's dress.


This Simplicity dress is probably a tricky fit, as the bodice has to fit just so for the contrast to look right but I like the sharp white contrasted with black. Or in chambray denim with a dark denim accent. It is a similar idea to the Vogue 2902, which is also very pretty and probably a big fabric hog.

Simplicity 1688Vogue 2902

Somehow I think the Vogue pattern might be both easier to sew and fit, and also must be another one that sells well as it has been around a while.

Both versions on the envelope of this Burda pattern sold me.

Burda 6918
The white one is really cute, the seaming allows for lots of fit possibilities. The stripe one just looks very designer - maybe I saw it recently? (I think on Amal during her Clooney wedding fashion parade?)

For a similar shape and easy wear, this Burda downloadable could be sewn in any fabric and be perfect for summer.
Burda Easy sundress
You could change the straps to anything you want, even halter tie. The smocked back could make fitting very simple. The pleated front is also easy to wear without being too much fabric. Kind of the easy version of a corset style dress.

As for knits, there are plenty of summer styles to choose from. One that caught my eye is this New Look pattern.

New Look 6122
I have had good success with these New Look patterns that offer a multitude of looks in one pattern envelope. There are a lot of small pattern pieces to rummage through to find what you need to make up the selected style, but this one doesn't look too bad at all. A lot of New Look patterns have this same skirt, kind of straight, gathered at the center of the empire bodice. Super easy to wear (read: hides the big barbecue meal) but not full looking since the sides are tapered. I like that grey example - the cowl neckline - not the fabric choice. But a easy pattern for knits with some cute options.

I know there are zillion choices out there for summer sundresses - and I have sewn many of them. My appetite for this type of pattern always exceeds any need for something new. If you read back through this blog you know I have more than enough in this category. And just today I saw this Decades of Style pattern  which is so pretty. And I love the Lonsdale dress from Sewaholic. Why have I not made that?

Too many patterns, not enough time. Are you with me on that one?

Hope you are having a good weekend! 
Happy Sewing, Beth

Today's SunnyGal garden photo: I planted so many gladioli bulbs and they are randomly popping up all over the yard. The colors are great but they don't last very long.

pink glad



    I feel better shouting that out!

    I can't deal with the fact that UK summer lasts about three days as it is, and I have fallen behind on my sewing projects.

    That's a great selection of patterns you've got there Beth, that New Look ones has loads of variations, so worth the money.

    My problem is I draft my own pattern and I am so so so slow!

    Enjoy your weekend


  2. Some great suggestions there beth! Wish I was at home sewing some right now but currently in India.

  3. Here's a question on this topic: at what age are sundresses no longer appropriate, in your opinion? I struggle with this one, since I'm in my 60's. Of course, there's always the option of a shrug or bolero, but that can defeat the purpose , I think.

  4. Thank you for the great pattern picks. I can't wait to sew McCall's 6955.

  5. Thanks Beth, use by date not so pressing for us in Oz, still a cold, windy and wet Winter's day here but forecast of a very hot Summer to come. Some lovely styles to look forward to.

  6. Oooh, let's put sundresses on and go to lunch outside somewhere

  7. Hi Beth. I enjoy your sewing blog. I too love summer dresses. I made four dresses using Simplicity pattern 1354. It’s one of my favorites. The only thing, I recommend that anyone using this pattern work with the pattern first to the right fit. Only after using it a couple of times, I got the “Amazing Fit” the pattern claims. Thanks for your posts. Debora

  8. Thanks for sharing so many great sundresses . I've added a few to my wish list.

  9. I love the pattern whisperer posts! I never would have given Vogue 9100 a second thought based on the photo. At first glance it looks like a "standard" dress (bust and waist darts with gathered skirt). These posts are a good reminder to always look at the line drawings too. You've definitely helped me become better at assessing patterns, but I always learn a thing or two from this series.

  10. Beth, I made Vogue 9100, with some changes: raised neckline and back neck 1 and 1/2 inches, full waist adjustment :-), shorten shoulder straps. Although I am not overweight (but weight is at upper healthy range for height and bone structure), this dress makes me feel like a butterball! Would you be interested in seeing it/commenting? I'd especially like feedback for skirt variations, or "how-to" turn this into a sheath. thanks!