Hot! The “Urban Desert” Dress

The Facts

  • Fabric: sheer print (stash) & white lining (stash) (I imagine these are both man-made fabrics)
  • Pattern: Vogue 8234 ($5)
  • Year: 2006
  • Notions: thread (stash), invisible zipper ($2), vintage button (stash)
  • Time to complete: 7 hours?
  • First worn: May 27, 2012
  • Wear again?: Yes
  • Total price: $7

My original plan for this challenge was to do this very dress in a red crinkly fabric, thus making something that looked at home in a casino. But my secondhand red fabric had fading from the sun that will have to be dyed out in order to use it, so I switched to a sheer fabric I got a couple years ago on sale (I don’t remember the amount it cost and it’s over a year old, so I consider it free). But this didn’t say “casino” to me so much as it said “desert.” But hey, that’s where Vegas is. In a desert.

Living in Michigan, a state surrounded by the Great Lakes and covered with 11,000+ inland lakes, rivers, and wetlands, it’s not easy to find a real desert. In fact, in this state you are never more than six miles from a fresh water source. However, the big buzz around the capital city lately is a proposed casino run by the Sault (pronounced “Soo”) tribe of Chippewa Indians to be built downtown not far from where these photos were taken outside the Lansing Center and in front of the Grand River and the Accident Fund building (which I chose because of its desert-like colors).

This dress was easy to construct and I once again did nearly every seam as a French seam, including the ones that are enclosed by the lining, because this fabric frays quite easily. The French seams will make it much more wearable and washable. The one thing I noticed I screwed up on is that the waistband doesn’t meet up quite right in the back. But I’m hoping normal, non-sewing people won’t notice so much. Anyway, with how much this dress floats around in the wind, I’m pretty sure most people’s eyes are drawn away from my waist, if you know what I mean. It has been strangely windy this spring.

I am a big fan of (intentionally) uneven hems and of doing narrow hems with the machine. I also love sheer layers for hot weather. And this dress incorporates red into my wardrobe, a color I would like to see more of, and what I think is a bit of subdued Latino influence. It definitely says Southwest to me. I used a vintage button from the stash and a loop made from embroidery thread to do the neck closure rather than a hook & eye (since I’m out of those) and I really like the more finished look it gives the piece. I think I may start making a practice of this and use up some of my lonely single buttons.

Sunday afternoon as we walked around downtown I took the photo above as Daddy went to get the car, which is the last one taken of my son at age three. As of Monday he’s four. Wow.

Not sure if I’ll ever make it to Vegas (as I have absolutely no desire to go), but I have a feeling that if I can drag my husband out west to go to some national parks (to which he seems to have absolutely no desire to go), a side trip to Vegas will have to be the incentive to entice him into the desert.


Erin Bartels

Erin is a copywriter by day, a novelist by night, and a wife, mother, dressmaker, quilter, zoo docent, painter, poet, and photographer in between. She only gets paid for the copywriting.


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  1. I really like your interpretation of Vegas. This dress is divine on you.

  2. This is lovely Erin. I love reading how you are defining your style. Some women never manage to achieve this in their lives! I think the uneven hem is really flattering on you – what great legs you have! And also the floaty fabric suits you too. And the colurs in the print are perfect – 10 out of 10! I think it is my favourite out of all that you have made so far this year. Four years is such a great age, but I found it really challanging then incredibly sweet the next minute! He is gorgeous!

  3. I love your dress . The hem line is so pretty.. And your son is absolutely adorable.. Happy sewing.

  4. I love the drape! Great take on the challenge.

  5. Hey Erin. This fabric really brings out the blue in your eyes and I just love the smile on your son’s face. I agree, the hemline is very attractive and summery.

  6. Love the dress!! And the history lesson!
    ps- my waistbands almost NEVER match up and I dare someone to mention it! ;o)

  7. The dress is beautiful but my favorite picture of you is the one with your son : ) 4 is such a great age, enjoy it AND your amazing dress!

  8. Beautiful dress and print! I love how flow-y it is!

  9. Love the fabric and the pattern you chose. That handkerchief hem is so fun! I’ve got to try that. Vegas? Been there, done that. You aren’t missing that much. Go to the national parks and wear that dress. It will be awesome!

  10. This is such a pretty dress on you! I love the breezy fabric choice and uneven hem.

  11. This is so lovely, the print is delightful and I love the handkerchief hem (trying to sound brainy but I wouldn’t have known it was called that either if Barbara hadn’t of said). Very pretty.

  12. Gorgeous dress and fabric. I can only imagine how many french seams you had to sew. From your smile and the lovely swish of that dress, the extra labor looks totally worth it!

    • You know, once you get used to it, the French seam thing isn’t so bad. It does take a while longer, but it’s totally worth it for someone without a serger, in my opinion. :)

  13. OH! I just love that fabric! The photo of your lovely dress blowing gently in the wind is stunning – you look fantastic :) That asymmetrical hem is perfect!

  14. Thanks! You’re too kind. ;)