Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Focus On: Sundresses

By Sherri, sewbettyanddot

It's July, it's hot and/or humid (in most parts of the Northern Hemisphere, in any case!), so let's keep it simple, shall we? Let's look at the easy-breezy sundress. 

By the very loosest definition, a sundress is a simple garment that does not require anything else: no belt, no jacket, no stockings...and if you can get away without a foundation garment under it, so much the better! (That being said, many vintage sundress patterns often have little boleros or jackets, presumably to don when the sun gets to be too much, or perhaps to wear for a bit more coverage while in a restaurant). It is sleeveless and may or may not have a relatively revealing neckline.

Historically, the sundress--loose, comfortable, worn without rigid girdles or slips--follows on from the more relaxed garments seen in the 1920s. In the 1930s women began to embrace the notion of physical fitness, and tanning became popular. This is an interesting sociological development: for centuries, pale skin was desirable because it indicated that you were of an upper class--you didn't work outside so your skin remained pale. In Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (1813), Caroline Bingley shows her snobbishness here: "How very ill Eliza Bennett looks this morning, Mr. Darcy," she cried. "She is grown so brown and coarse..." Women worked hard to stay covered up when outside (long sleeves--check; sunbonnet--check; shawl--check; parasol--check). In the late 1920s and 1930s, however, social mores switched course and being tanned meant that you were wealthy enough to have leisure time to spend on the beach, golf course, etc. It is alleged that Coco Chanel started the tanning craze after she accidentally got sunburned while on a yachting trip--one more thing we can attribute to Mademoiselle Chanel!

The first sundresses (as we know them) appeared in the 1930s...not coincidentally, around the time playsuits became popular and around the same period when swimsuits exposed more skin. And fashion has never looked back: every decade has seen some version of the sundress--halter, maxi length, mini, backless)--and apparently sundresses are on trend this year. 

So let's look at some lovely sundress patterns from members of the Pattern Patter team:

Top row, left to right: Pictorial Review 7022: kinseysue

Which of these sundresses floats your boat? Tell us in the comments!


  1. So many cute ones, it would be hard to pick my favorite! Love that quote from Pride and prejudice. :)great job Sherri!

  2. You've found so many darling patterns! It's definitely that time of year. :-)

  3. I can't choose just one! So here goes
    First group - Row 3 #4
    2nd Group Row 1 #1
    Last Group Row 4 #4

    Great post. I always look forward to reading yours. So well researched!

  4. Nothing as cool as a sundress in the summer!
    I live in them
    These are some great choices!!

  5. Great finds - so many of these are already in my favorites! I love the button-on bolero designs, but for me personally to wear, I have to go with the classic Marilyn-style halter dresses or any full-skirt v-neck style.

    1. The Marilyn style halter dress will never go out of style!

  6. Awesome article & wonderful patterns!

  7. Great article. Interesting how tanning became so popular. Thank you for including one of my patterns in this informative blog.

  8. Great selection, it would so hard to choose a favorite.

  9. Great post and lovely patterns! I don't think I could choose just one either!

  10. Anne Adams 4613 from Bluetreesewingstudio.

    But so many great memories there. I can count @ least 4 patterns that I made in high school

    I live in sundresses all summer.

    Thanks for a great post