Hot! In Praise of the Patio Dress

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This weekend, I added another item to my "allowed to buy because I really can't make it easily" rulebook: The vintage patio dress. My rational for buying and not sewing this comes down to the embellishments — it's quite hard to find vintage trim, rickrack and embroidered ribbon (at least at great volumes). So I bought this patio dress at last week's Alameda Fashion Fair for a very reasonable $32. 

Ever since I started checking out Mexican-inspired vintage dresses for my friend's wedding, I've had these patio dresses on my mind. I didn't know they were called that until I saw a bunch of patterns on Etsy with that tag. I've also seen them called by the little less politically correct moniker "Squaw dress." Fundamentally, they're tiered dresses made in guazey fabric and sewn with very decorative trim. Fundamentally, they're muy awesome!

I will make my own patio dress!  I even have a pattern in my stash already!

Here are some more patterns I found on Etsy:

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And because these dresses call for significant yardage (between 4-6 yards), here are some gauze fabrics that won't cost an arm and a leg:

Gauze Metallic Stripe Brown Cotton Bubble Gauze Fuchsia Cotton Bubble Gauze Grass Cotton Bubble Gauze Yellow

Gauze Metallic Stripe Brown from ($1.99 per/yard)

Cotton Bubble Gauze Fuchsia from ($3.98 per/yard)

Cotton Bubble Gauze Grass from ($3.98 per/yard)

Cotton Bubble Gauze Yellow from ($3.98 per/yard)


Mena Trott

Mena Trott started The Sew Weekly to document her attempt to sew all of her own clothes in 2010. Since then, she's made over 125 outfits and has way more clothes than she needs.


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  1. I have been looking for a dress like this for so long. I found one cool one on etsy but someone else snagged it before me. The hunt continues!

  2. BEAUTIFUL! I love it! I didn’t know what these were called until now…I might have to add one to my pattern stash :)

  3. This is stunner Mena! Totally love it!

  4. they are a very festive style of dress – how pretty.

  5. Love the color – you look stunning and the dress is gorgeous!

  6. Ooh, I love it! You look marvellous in orange! :)

  7. I collect these dresses–I started with one from my mom and now, when I find a good one, I tend to buy it (I grew up calling them “squaw dresses” but am glad to have something else not quite so un-PC to call them now). It would be really fun to make too!

  8. I LOVE THESE DRESSES so much! I got a red one with silver trim a while ago and it quickly became my favourite dress. I found one very similar to it and got it as well as a back up, but I think I should branch out of red with silver soon.
    I also love sew weekly. I really enjoy having five seamstresses who have a theme. I found your site late last year and have really enjoyed it since then; great new additions this year!

  9. This is a treasure! What a great find and it looks lovely on you Mena! The fact that it’s vintage takes the sting our of buying a finished item, at least in my book. I agree sometimes you just can’t recreate with all the lovely notions.

  10. I agree with Sarah! Orange REALLY suits you! You look gorgeous! I’d never heard of the patio dress either. But then again, I only really worked out what a ‘shirt dress’ was this year! LOLZ