Seersucker Summer Staple
Shall I state the obvious? It’s hot as hell. I’ve been pretty resistant to installing air conditioning in our house given the expense and the drain on electricity. I think my resolve was directly related to having a temperature-controlled workplace to run away to 9-5 Monday through Friday, though. I am very grateful to be able to work from home since the craziness that is a global pandemic began but, as I write this from a pool of sweat, my tolerance for heat is quickly melting (buda-bum!). Until we make our way to the top of what I’m sure is an especially long waiting list for mini-split installation, I must address my discomfort with my most precious super tool: the sewing machine!
Last summer I recognized a pretty specific gap in my wardrobe: a comfortable but cute, lightweight dress to be worn for casual socializing or those hotter than hell days. My parents have retired on Cape Cod, where the tide and the sunset are landmarks in time, make-up is forgotten, and you never know who might stop by for some little necks and a glass of wine. This way of life (while admittedly privileged) requires a garment that is easy but still put together enough to avoid embarrassment if a sunset photoshoot arises. I decided on the following requirements:
- Breathable, lightweight, washable fabric – shelling clams can be messy business!
- Wearable with or without a bra – enough coverage to hide bra straps and enough space in the chest area to still provide modesty if I’m in close enough company to forgo the bra all together.
- Wearable with a jacket or sweater – I’ve been wanting to learn how to make puffy sleeves so that’s where my mind went with this piece, but I didn’t want to sacrifice the option of wearing a sweater.
- Easy/not fussy – If it requires work to get into, to assemble, or to adjust throughout the wear, it won’t be chosen after a long day in the sun.
- Pockets – Do I have to expand on that? I own a wallet and a phone. Shocker.
- Flattering – I have a lot to say about this word and will dedicate a post to it at some point but I knew if I was going to wear it out, it had to flow well over my body.
With this in mind, I was immediately drawn to a peach seersucker cotton at my local discount fabric store.
Design & Construction
Sustainable fashion takes many forms. Sometimes it looks like scrapping ideas, picking stitches, and chopping up nearly finished details to increase wearability. It can also mean determining design based on the size and shape of available fabric scraps. This project exemplified both.
In an effort to make this garment versatile (versatility = sustainability!), I originally planned to make it a matching shirt and skirt, which could be worn together as a dress. I eventually abandoned this idea, however. A skirt needs to be fitted at the waist in order to stay above the hips but I couldn’t figure out how to do that without foregoing the looseness that is so essential to being comfortable in warm weather. Will definitely experiment with this concept in the future though!
Although you wouldn’t know from the finished product, I was inspired by Julia at Contour Affair and her Easy Square Neck Puff Sleeve Top (if you’re not already familiar, definitely check out her simple but sophisticated designs). I followed her amazing tutorial for the neckline and sleeves but wasn’t happy with how puffy they ended up. I experimented with elastic and resizing the sleeves but ultimately decided I would need a lighter weight fabric with more drape to get the look I was going for.
So I took a deep breath and chopped the sleeves off! That’s why the styleline at the armpit seems a bit random. I still really liked the idea of a raised silhouette on the shoulders, so I added a half-circle flounce (this tutorial explains how to construct and adjust the volume of circle flounces).
I had never made a tiered dress before so I again turned to Contour Affair and her Classic Tiered Sundress with Tie-Up Straps tutorial for guidance on the width measurements of each tier. I was primarily guided by the size of my remaining fabric pieces, though. I basted the three layers in the seersucker and immediately knew it wasn’t going to work for me. I knew the dress would be a bit tent-y but the mono-pattern made me feel entirely shapeless and blah.
I figured I needed a contrast color for the mid-section and started picking through my stash. I landed on a recent FABSCRAP purchase: orange, medium-lightweight, presumed cotton or a cotton blend. This worked exactly as I had hoped and offered the opportunity to add a coordinating detail along the bottom. FABSCRAP is a phenomenal resource for any creative looking for sustainable alternatives to fabric by the yard. I’ll dedicate a post to how it works next week.
I am definitely happy with this piece in terms of its comfort and function. I think I’m happy with the look but the jury is still out on whether it is too childish or not. Although, these days all I want to do is eat ice cream and run through my neighbor’s sprinkler, so maybe childish is where I belong.