Hot! My “Napa and the Pirates” dress

The Facts

Fabric: Vintage black and white marlin-printed cotton from stash
Pattern: Vogue 8812
Year: 1940
Notions: 1 red zipper
Time to complete: 3 1/2 hours
First worn: June 2012
Wear again? Already have : )

Total Cost: ~4.32 for pattern

I was SO looking forward to this weeks challenge after last week! I even had a mini vacation planned out with my daughter – take a day trip on Saturday up to Napa where a friend would do our hair; have brunch or lunch, do some pics, shop in some vintage stores and maybe stay for dinner. Sunday was the annual Pirate Festival in Vallejo that is a must-attend every year if only to see old friends and buy a new mini hat : ) Oh the plans we make…

I was on top of things Sunday. Had the dress cut out and ready to sew. Monday I had another project come up that pushed everything aside so I didn’t get back to my dress until Thursday. As far as construction this pattern is a breeze. There are a few things that I changed/would change in the future. First, I lined and interlined the lower bodice pieces. Unless I missed something in the directions they only have you cut one layer of fabric which may be fine for someone with better abs : ) I like feeling secure and held in there! I shortened the skirt by 3 inches and then put in a 2″ hem so for those of you who are of”average” height check the length. This was a vintage piece of 36″ wide goods so I had NO room to mess up and those few inches made the difference between squeaking by and being comfortable with the layout.

In the future I wouldn’t gather the top piece they’re calling the “bra” all the way around, I’ll stop it at the side and finish the edge off. I see no reason to have the back pieces with the gathering since they tend to puff out and make it look like gravity has taken over more so than it really has : ) I will also get a second set of hands to help fit the top, trying to pull it around and mark it myself meant I was almost 2″ too big when I went to put in the zipper.And why a red zipper? Because I thought I had a black one and couldn’t find it Saturday morning, an hour before we were supposed to leave. I did have a red one so in it went and it’s really not the worst thing I’ve seen…lately…

We started off in downtown Napa after hair appointments. We LOVED the HUGE lights in front of the Post Office. This pic is from my daughters Instagram experiment. We had to do something when our regular camera got too hot and stopped working briefly. Why would that be?

That’s why : )

And it was still raising, it hit 105 as we were finishing up around 4 pm. Seriously, it’s only like this a handful of days each year but this was one of them.

And just let me reiterate, that was 102 IN THE SHADE, as in where I’m standing!

There is an actual river that runs through the town of Napa, it’s rather small and this time of year a bit sluggish. We went down there anyway on the off chance it was a tad cooler.

Cool (as in nifty, not temperature!) kinetic sculpture behind me, no shoes on the feet. It not only wasn’t cooler, it was probably more like 110 taking into account the reflected heat! You’ll notice I’m in the shade. We tried a couple pics in the sun but since one of my best friends’ husbands describes my skin color as “two shades darker than milk” we vampire-type girls tend to stay where its shady whenever possible.

This may be the most telling pic of the day:

We stopped in at a major celebrity chef’s home goods store and crashed in the big comfy club chairs. A picture says a thousand words…

We did *briefly* go into Chef Morimoto’s restaurant (one of the original Iron Chefs) but we took one look at the enormous ancient table for tasting parties and knew there were too many zeros to the left of the decimal point for our budget.

There were no thoughts of further meals or shopping, we beat it back to the relative comfort of the air conditioned car, passing this piece of public art:

Curious about how to do the Cha Cha Cha? You can learn right here. In the sun, and the heat…

I did say there would be pirates, right?


When my daughter was very young we worked at a fencing booth at the Renaissance Faire here in Northern California. I had my fill of breathing in clouds of dirt, fencing in 100 degree heat and giving up three months worth of my weekends so I stopped working there but we still keep in touch with the people. Every year during Father’s Day weekend a group of historical re-enacting nuts decided to put on a Pirate Festival on the edge of the Bay in Vallejo. It’s fun, irreverent and if you need to let your inner pirate self out every once in a while this is the place to do it : ) We went a-visiting.

Isn’t my parasol cute? Perfect accessory to my dress.

I promised my daughter she didn’t have to dress up (full pirate regalia is layered and then there’s all the weaponry..) and there was shade and breezes off the bay : )

This pattern gets an A+. It was comfy, moved well, once I had the top fitted just right I wore NO BRA and didn’t feel unsupported. I did wear a pair of  cotton-lycra shorts underneath in lieu of a slip. They allowed me to move and not get sticky or sweaty in places that shouldn’t be, if you know what I mean : ) I wore this dress for 2 days straight and am looking through my fabric stash for a suitable candidate to make another.

If I go on another “vacation” this is at the top of my list of things to wear!



Loran is a Bay Area designer, stitcher and suburban farm girl. Having done theater for years she's finally taking on her most demanding client (herself!) and fashioning a wardrobe from her huge stock of vintage patterns and fabrics, all while writing her daily tablesetting blog. Let's see if she can keep up with both : )


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  1. Adorable fabric and great pattern! And I just love that you went to the Pirate festival. I’m not really a RenFaire/Pirate Festival girl, but all my Bay Area costuming friends do it, and my facebook feed was full of pics from it this weekend. And now Sew Weekly is full of pics! And I think your dress was a much better choice than a pirate getup!

    • Thanks Leimomi – I have to say I got that whole Ren Faire thing out of my system years ago but I’m glad I did it when I did. I have to say there was a small amount of joy in just showing up in ONE layer of clothing instead of the usual 4!

  2. Your dress is lovely and I’m just impressed that you went out at all. Believe me when I tell you that if it is that hot here this summer I will be taking pictures indoors beside the AC unit.

    • It’s not usually that hot here, this was just an exceptional weekend : ) And yes, if it keeps up there just may be pics indoors, next to the AC!

  3. You’re dress is a stunner! Love the vintage fabric, and that weather? I have never ever been anywhere so super hot, it sounds down right ghastly. Glad you enjoyed your day out!

    • Thank you Hannah : ) It really isn’t the norm but we had plans so what are you going to do? I’d rather live here than where Ms Tempest lives since that IS the norm!

  4. What a great use of fabric with fish on it! I’ve been drooling over that pattern for awhile, but I wasn’t sure about that gathered bust part. I like your tip on not gathering the back and lining the bottom part of the bodice. Looks like you had fun despite the heat. However, it does have to be on the warm side for us gals to show off our summer dresses, right?

    • It’s a fabulous dress pattern, Barbara, and would be great on you! And yes, warm is one thing but that was only a few degrees short of….well, you know what I mean : )

  5. Very nice, and it looks like the perfect choice for a 102F day (that’s above body temp, right?), and I think that having enough support to be able to skip a bra is the ideal reward on a hot day.

    I wish that dresses with waists would come back into style. I don’t care what anyone says, a dress that puffs out just below my chest doesn’t “skim the body”. It just makes me look pregnant.

  7. I’m sweating just thinking about 100F weather!! Good job with still looking gorgeous though! I love the print, I love the pattern, beautiful job!

  8. That weather reminds me of home. I got married outside in 112 degree weather. That’s dry heat with no escape-even in the shade. I’ve never underlined but will be doing that with my blazer.

    The dress is beautiful and the girls look great!

  9. Love the story of your getaway and the pictures – definitely conveyed the heat! lol It was a toasty week! Great job on the dress and that’s so cool that you used to work in a fencing booth.

  10. What a wonderful print and the dress is lovely. I just wilt like a flower in the heat – hate it. Napa looks like my kind of place – my only impressions of it are from the movie “Sideways” – and are not great – it’s clearly not the best advertisement for the place. This post was a treat Loran. Thanks

  11. Personally I love the red zip….it works perfectly with the red sunglasses and your Bakelite bangles. I bet you sewed it in immaculately too. I love your dedication of still taking so many pics in the heat. This is my third summer in Arizona’s 109-115s but the dry heat does make all the difference….Southern California’s humidity has been killing me all week. Thanks for the tips on the pattern too… I have this one but agree with you on gathering at back giving illusion of rear boobage.

  12. Fabulous dress! The fabric is perfect for pirates. And the parasol. I’m so envious of the parasol. Our East coast heat wave– with a million percent humidity– has finally abated; hope you’re more comfortable too. Nothing like a great dress to perk you up enough to get through miserable heat, though.