Pattern Roundup: Sundresses
Sundresses are the epitome of warm-weather wear, perfect for a sunny summer day. Traditionally, a sundress is sleeveless, with either thin straps, a halter-style strap, or strapless. Often, they would have wide necklines.
The sundress came into popularity in the 1960s, thanks to Lilly Pulitzer. She designed almost exclusively summer clothing with bright, vivid prints. Her dresses, with their simple silhouettes and bright colors, were a hit with the styles of the 1960s. Called “Lilly” dresses after their creator, they were soon worn by Jackie Kennedy, who was a former classmate of Lilly Pulitzer, as well as other members of the Kennedy family. With that boost, they came into even more prominence and Lilly’s business boomed.
As fashion veered away from bright colors toward neutrals and muted tones, the Lilly dress fell out of prominence, but sundresses have remained a staple and are still worn by women and children today.
Now, sundresses are defined by their style rather than the print or color, though they are commonly available in bright colors and patterns in ready-to-wear stores. For sewers, sundresses can be made in nearly any style, as there are many patterns to choose from and numerous fabrics that are appropriate for summer sewing.
For advice about creating sturdy straps, check out “Seriously Strong Spaghetti Straps” by Ann Steeves. This technique enables you to sew thin straps that will not stretch with wear.
If you want to explore strap options, read “Four Strap Variations to Transform Your Wardrobe” by Dana Finkle. In this article, Dana takes you through how to create and style four types of straps that can be applied to many garments.
A complementary belt can elevate a simple sundress into a lovely summer date-night look. Sew your own with “4 Belt Styles That Are a Cinch to Make” by Joyce Murphy, originally published in Threads #118 (April/May 2005).
For guidance in altering a bodice pattern for a better fit, turn to Adjusting the Bodice Front, a video tutorial by Judith Neukam. This video explores adjusting for a full bust as well as for a small bust.
Click “Launch Gallery” below to see 10 summer-ready sundress patterns.
Butterick 6349 has a semifitted bodice with a V-neckline and shoulder straps, as well as French darts and optional handkerchief hem. A self-fabric belt finishes the look. Choose fabrics such as voile, chambray, and challis.
Cashmerette's Holyoke maxi dress features princess seams, wide straps, and an angled neckline. It also has large side-seam pockets and a center-front faux button placket. Select fabrics such as challis, lawn, and lightweight linen.
DP Studio's LE 9005 dress features a draped, layered front and low back, with skinny straps and an A-line skirt gathered at the waist. Select fabrics such as voile, lightweight cottons, or silky fabrics.
Friday Pattern Company's Hilo dress is loose-fitting with a drapey bodice overlay. It comes with two back options: low and open, or a higher, V-shaped bra-friendly version. Select knit fabrics with at least 10 percent stretch.
KwikSew's 3874 features a fitted bodice, princess seams, center-front button closure, and gathered skirt with a V-shaped waistline seam. Choose fabrics such as challis, lawn, and lightweight linen.
McCall's 7950 features a fitted bodice with shoulder straps and several pocket options. Closure options include a center-front button placket and a tie-front bodice. The skirt is gathered. Select fabrics such as poplin, linen, and cotton blends.
The Jessica dress by Mimi G. features a sweetheart neckline with spaghetti straps and a center-front button closure, as well as large side pockets and a gathered skirt. Select fabrics such as shirting cottons, linen, and poplin.
The Sewaholic Saltspring dress features adjustable spaghetti straps and a V-neckline, an elasticized waistline, as well as a center-back zipper and side seam pockets. Choose fabrics such as crepe, challis, or lawn.
The Seren dress by Tilly and the Buttons features a center-front button closure, waistband, wide straps, and neckline and length options. Choose from either a flounce or tie-front bodice, and midi or knee length. Select fabrics such as lawn, seersucker, and crepe de Chine.
Vogue 9252 is a high-low dress with a fitted bodice featuring a high neckline and front and back princess seams. It also has in-seam pockets and the option for a contrast bodice. This pattern includes separate pattern pieces for cup sizes A to D. Select challis, ponte knits, or lightweight linen.