The Last Dress of Summer

Last dress of summer

Every year I make the last dress of summer. (Some years I make it more than once.) Even here in Greater Suburbopolitan San Francisco … digression: I really have trouble with the phrase “the Bay Area” — I mean, it sounds like something you tell your doctor when you have an embarrassing ailment: “It hurts in … [vague gesture] the general bay area.” Also: lots of places have bays: Massachusetts, Tampa, Wisconsin [they have a Green one!].

Sorry, epic digression. As I was saying … hereabouts … where it will be summerishly warm for another couple of weeks, at some point in October lightweight and light-colored cottons start to feel seasonally inappropriate. And judging by the number of people I saw in the city wearing corduroy and tights today (when I was perfectly comfortable in a sleeveless dress), I’m not the only one who inclined to go by the calendar instead of the thermometer.

Yep, this is ANOTHER Vogue 9929, in this Michael Miller gray and green key print:

I really like the key motif. (Prediction: I think keys are the new bicycles. They may even be the new birds, mustaches, and owls.)

The way you can tell when you’re sewing the last dress of summer is that it takes a real effort to finish it. When you started it, you were excited to get it finished so you could wear it, but then at some point … you slow down. You start to fondle pieces of corduroy in your fabric stash, and think about what might look good with boots and leather jackets. You work on it, not because you want to hasten the wearing of it, but because you need the cutting table for something that has sleeves, or is mustard-colored, or that is plaid (or all three).

If you give in to giving up, if you don’t buckle down and finish the last dress of summer, one of two things will happen: there will be a freak early-fall heat wave just when you are SOOOO BORED with all your summer clothes, and/or you will gain or lose a size-changing amount of weight before summer dress time rolls around next year. This is guaranteed. If you *do* finish it, though, you’ll only wear it a couple-three times before it gets autumned out by last year’s unfinished Last Dress of Winter wannabe, which you will finish immediately after finishing the Last Dress of Summer. This is also guaranteed.

The upside is that the Last Dress of Summer often turns out to be The First Dress of Spring, because when you dig it out on the first warm day next year, it will feel absolutely brand-new.

There are other ceremonial-slash-seasonal types of clothing, of course … some of my favorites are The First Day of Wearing Those Tights You Bought On Clearance Last Spring That You Thought Would Never Go With Anything, But Somehow This Year Work, and It’s Still Too Cold For Sandals But These Are Super-Cute Day (in Chicago this would happen in late April/early May), and everyone’s junior-high favorite, First Day It’s Cold Enough to Wear Your  Fashionable Back-to-School Sweater. (Which, when I was in junior high in Florida, didn’t usually happen until after Thanksgiving. Torture!) And of course many people celebrate Charmingly Ironic Holiday Sweater Day (or week) as well as (under varying levels of duress) the annual Day of Wearing the Gift Well-Meaning Relatives Gave You Last Year at This Event.

Of course, you can’t take these seasonal influences too far … or you wind up with this.

What’s your last dress of summer?

16 thoughts on “The Last Dress of Summer

  1. Agreed. It’s 75 degrees again today in central NC, but I managed to track down a dark brown pair of lightweight slacks, and a closed-toe shoe in chocolate brown, and a white long-sleeved blouse to wear today — because, dammit, it’s mid-October and I am sick unto death of my pastel summer clothing! Also, the insides of all my sandals are full of three seasons of foot sweat and dirt, which makes them icky to feel against my feet anymore.


  2. Great dress, have loved all the vogue 9929 dresses you’ve made. Being in Australia, I’m thinking about making some cool dresses for summer, so you’ve been inspiring. In relation to your “bay area” comment, I wondered if you were familiar with some Australians calling a certain area on a woman “map of tassie” (Tasmania)? – silly to mention it maybe, but the kind of slang I thought you might be interested in….


  3. I live in the upper Midwest, so I’ve been wearing wool for a couple weeks. My main seasonal regret is when I have to start wearing socks again.

    But I love that I get to make a Halloween costume for my bff’s daughter. She’s three this year and going to be a rainbow pirate.


  4. I’m in New Zealand and today I’m still wearing layers, tights and ankle boots. But this weekend is Labour Weekend, a long weekend for us, when everyone plants their summer vegetable gardens, fires up the BBQ and get out the outdoor furniture. I’m going to spend some of my weekend sewing the first of my summer dresses. Can’t wait! Bring on summer!


  5. It was 96 degrees when I left work yesterday at 2:30 in the afternoon! No wool slacks or sweaters for us!! In SoCal you have to coordinate your favorite shorts with the iconic holiday sweater even up to January. When my grandmother was still alive we used to take a picture every Christmas Day of all of us in front of her house wearing shorts and tee shirts. The picture would be sent to relatives in St. Louis, MO to rub in the fact that we were not shoveling 6 feet of snow off the front sidewalk…


  6. I think keys may be the new bicycles, but I’m hoping jellyfish are the new owls. I can’t wait to see what is the new mustache, and I’m so over birds that I’ve moved on to hedgehogs.


  7. I love it! Really cute fabric. It looks familiar. I think I have a piece of another fabric in the same… series? collection? Whatever, I’m not really up on design-speak. Anyway I really like that whole group of related fabrics and it’s hard to resist the temptation to buy more of them.


  8. I absolutely love this pattern and have been trying to track it down or find something similar in a plus size. Does anyone have any suggestions?


  9. It was unseasonably warm last March and I wore sandals with colored tights to a wedding. Of course, it snowed and I had to dig the driveway out before changing out of my very favorite, Michael Kors platform sandals.


  10. I’m a little disappointed that keys may be the new bicycles/mustaches/owls, because a couple of years ago I made a pair of dance pants from some vintage key printed fabric I bought at a rummage sale. (Before it was cool.)

    Except I’m not really disappointed because I like key motifs, and if they become popular then it means it will be easy for me to find them for reasonable prices! 🙂


  11. Hello, I just found your blog, surfing another blog, and another. I guess as a stone skips out across the water, I have landed here ! Awesome concept, and I’m going to come back often and lurk around in your archives… this place is surreal (like , in a good way, a very, very good way). I love to sew , by the way, but have not sewn much but DH’s xmas shirt for years running… and well, you know, I got my circa 70’s Elna overhauled just last month, then I promptly put the machine back in the closet. WEll, you know what I’m going to do A.S.A.P ? Yup, you got it. NIce to meet you, I’m Jen, from North of SanFrancisco, the mtns of Napa. 🙂 See you around !


    • Jen — where did you get your 70s Elna overhauled? I have one from my grandmother that I’ve never used (shamefully) — it has a very strange foot pedal and uses a set of cams to make pattern stitches, and it’s just basically an odd duck. I’d love to bring it somewhere that knows about such machines!


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