I’m not really a sundress kind of woman. I know this about myself. All those flowy, floaty, cottony printed dresses with strappy bodices are simply not my style. With that off my chest, I can concede, though, that there is nothing quite as cool and comfortable, not to mention pulled-together, than a well-fitting “sunny day” dress. That I could get into – as long as it fulfils a number of important GG criteria. But before I get to that, what about all those sundresses out there?
Let’s start with a definition (forgive me: I’m a former Professor and this is where we always begin).
Dictionary.com (what would we do without those online dictionaries? Open a book perhaps?) defines a sundress as follows…
a dress with a bodice styled to expose the arms, shoulders, and back, for wear during hot weather.
Well, isn’t that interesting. Not a thing about flowy, floaty, cottony prints! Just a lot of exposure. Interesting. But then, there’s the Urbandictionary.com definition (Don’t blame me; I’m not endorsing anyone’s definition. I’m just sharing what they say for the sake of discussion…)
A one piece dress with a to-the-knee or lower hemline, usually worn by clingy, slutty, chunky-looking women during the summer, often accented by clogs, flip-flops, and the absence of panties…
Geesh! Duly noted…but I’m a bit old for the last element! Well, I guess everyone is an expert these days. And if you didn’t know there were other descriptions out there, maybe it’s a good thing to be educated! In any case, that’s not how I see them. In any event, this definition doesn’t seem to mention that flowy, floaty, cottony thing either. So, I’m on firmer ground than I thought by establishing my own criteria for the perfect sundress.
In general, I think we can all agree with that all-knowing authority we call Wikipedia, that it is a “dress intended to be worn in warm weather…” This is a suitably vague definition that has endless design possibilities. I have seen references to American designer and socialite Lily Pulitzer as leader in making the sundress a must-have summer garment choice in North America in the twentieth century. Her tropical coloured prints, so reminiscent of Palm Beach where she lived, became my reference point for Florida- style hot-weather dressing, and it never did suit my aesthetic. But it was everywhere. So, you can see where I got my notion that sun dresses are printed!
…Although I have to say that I would wear a few from the current collection that even has black *gasp* and other non-print colours.(These are dresses from the current collection…Lily herself died in 2013.)
The brand really took off in 1962 when Jackie O. (then Jackie Kennedy) was photographed with her husband and children wearing an LP dress. As you already know, Jackie O.’s Mediterranean style is one of my design muses for this little cruise-worthy collection.
So, then, what are the attributes that I look for in a cool summer dress that is at the centre of my cruise wear day-time wardrobe?
- The dress should be in a natural fibre – or at least a natural blend.
- The dress should be in a light colour. I do love a black dress (no kidding), but have you worn a black T-shirt or top out walking in the sun? Not good.
- The dress should be a sheath. In other words, it should not, as the original definitions of the sundress suggest, be a bodice with an attached skirt. That’s not as cool as a well-fitting sheath in my view.
- The dress should be sleeveless, exposing arms: it should not expose the back. Have you ever walked a distance in the Caribbean sun in a backless garment? Not good at all. I don’t want to be nursing a sunburn for three weeks.
- The dress should have a tailored vibe. Yes, that’s right. T-a-i-l-o-r-e-d. That’s who I am.
So, when I put all of these together, it’s little wonder that I was inspired by an old sewing pattern image I stumbled upon when collecting ideas for this collection.
I did a few sketches and decided that this was the one I’d go with.
It’s really a shirt dress style, but I love the fact that the collar goes right to the edges of the cross-over at the front rather than to the centre front. If I were to actually close it over (which I nave no intention of ever doing) it would actually create a kind of stand-up collar, a look I might be inclined to use in a winter dress or top. I love the intentionality of the popped collar on this one.
I began with drafting a pattern from my sloper…
…and sewed up a muslin…
After a few tweaks, I was ready to select a fabric from my cruise fabric selections. I chose the striped seersucker.
I did learn one new skill with this piece. Don’t laugh: I learned to use the machine button foot. Not the button-hole foot – I already use that – I mean the one that sews on buttons. I have to credit my husband for goading me into it. I always hand-sew buttons on a garment, but he, a master of gadgets, asked why I don’t use the machine foot designed for this purpose. I always thought it would be more trouble than it was worth. I was so wrong!
I have created a dress that will be an important part of day-time dressing on the cruise and during our pre-cruise week in Puerto Rico and post cruise couple of days in Fort Lauderdale. (Keep in mind that a Silversea ship isn’t exactly a sloppy T and cargo shorts kind of venue).
It may not be what you call a sundress, but it’s my “sunny day” dress! Photos of it in action will have to wait until the cruise!