Monday, May 5, 2008
Summer Dresses Vs. Winter Dresses*
It's not quite what you think. The summer dresses are not duking it out with their winter counterparts in the closet. I was just pondering aloud about what I like in summer dress versus the same kind of garment worn the rest of the year.
1) Will it breathe? Fabric has to be supremely comfortable - 100 percent cotton or linen is ideal, but a blend is ok, although I will bypass the poly/cotton eyelet that I see parked on the walls at Vogue Fabrics. I can spot that stuff an armslength away along as I have my contacts on. The giveaway? The shiny, polyester thread. Blech. This fabric is just flimsy, and has no heft like the completely natural eyelet does. Besides, it just looks cheap. Another cottony fabric I like a lot is lawn - one sprinkled with bright and cheery florals is perfect. Ok, I'm walking through the store mentally right now. Another fabric I've my brown eyes on is this gold metallic Georgia mud dirt 100 percent linen from Italy. I think this particular fabric is like $14.99 a yard, not bad considering it's from a country shaped like a shoe with prices that feel like a kick in the pants. I could see that made up in a floaty strappy dress that will feel awesome especially in mucky August.
2) Can I layer it? This is also quite important since you can go from 90 degree weather to a 60 degree weather in a nano second, and that's not just because you're inside an air-conditioned office. If a particularly cold breeze blows through town, you need to be prepared. If you're near the lake (Michigan), you're going to feel colder than an ice cube in a freezer tray. Sitting in the shade will do the same thing. Layering for me in the summer usually means whipping on a jean jacket, but I despise carrying around the same. I'm not one to wear sweaters in the summer, not even lightweight cotton ones. For me it's a jean jacket or a straight-jacket.
3) How about a hat? Can I wear it with a hat? Yes, a lid of some sort is probably the quickest, easiest, most sane way to get warm in a hurry. Besides, it's so portable. If it's squishable, you can just put in your purse and go. If the temperature drops, pull it out. Now, it might not keep you warm in the same way a jacket or a sweater would, but it'll at least keep you from getting too cold. Or at least keep you from freezing until you can get somewhere warmer like a car or a campfire. A hat is also handy if it starts raining, and you're caught without an umbrella. It will keep your hair somewhat dry while the rest of you get damp. It also insulates you in the event you become wet and cold. If I wear hat that doesn't fit inside my purse, I make sure to bring a plastic bag, in the event the sky dumps water on me unexpectedly. That way my super-cute straw hat can stay dry while the rest of me is drenched. Yes, I'll be shivering but at least my pricey sun hat will remain in shape and dry.
4) How cute does it look with sandals? This is a fairly important question for me, because I live in sandals and wedgies nearly every day during June, July, August and sometimes September. So anything on the top of my body has too coordinate with what's on the bottom. Now that I really think about it, most dresses I own would look cute with sandals, especially my Borns which have interchangeable flowers. I probably need to deliberate more about whether my feet have a decent pedicure more than about whether my footwear goes with my dressware.
1) Can it Be Layered? During the cold winter months, I'm more like to put layers beneath my clothes than on top. I'll start with a tank top and put on tights. I'll slip on the dress over that. If that's not enough to keep me from quaking like a leaf, I'll put on a shawl on my shoulders or a sweatercoat. If that doesn't do the trick, clearly I need to move somewhere warmer. I won't quibble with the fabric quite as much during the month of my birth (November) as long as I can bundle up and keep my teeth from chattering. That said, it's not likely you'll find me in eyelet or linen on December 1. But I might still wear a jersey knit wrap dress, but I won't wear it the same way I might wear on July 1.
2) Does it look good with boots? Not all dresses can be worn with boots. I find I can wear virtually anything, including burlap, with sandals. Not so with boots. I don't like when the top of my boots clashes with my dress hem or worst yet, its beneath the dress. When I walk you see the bulge of my boots beneath my dress. From afar, it looks like I've got shin guards on, or I'm going to kneel down and do some garden work. I'm not opposed to wearing boots during summer but they have to stay a good distance away from any hems, particularly those on dresses and skirts. There will be no fighting between leather and softwoven goods. Not even flirting.
3) Can I wear a coat with it? Now I really don't like to wear a long dress with a three-quarter length jacket. It just looks like I fled a fire and I don't have anything else to wear. If I'm going to wear something floaty that skims my ankles I'll wear a wrap, shawl or even a lengthy sweater coat.
4) Who cares how it looks with a hat! It's nice that by this time of the year, I don't give an owl's hoot about how my hat looks with my clothes. By now, any dress I don is hidden underneath my coat. You can barely see it.
What about you? What's important in a summer dress?
* The dress above? It's another surplice-wrap dress, made from fabric from Metro Textiles in New York. The shoes are a well-loved 1940s pair of suede platforms.