Hot! The “Relaxed Late Summer Polka” Dress

The Facts

  • Fabric: very staticky synthetic, but it was the only polka dots in my stash
  • Pattern: Simplicity 3539
  • Year: 2007
  • Notions: thread (The same thread I’ve used for my last two projects!), bias binding
  • First worn: September 16, 2012
  • Wear again?: Most likely
  • Total price: $0

I have had this pattern practically since I started sewing apparel and have made up the pants, the tunic (which you may remember I remade into this dress), and this dress once before. It’s a fun pattern to reuse because I keep having to go down to the next smaller size (I got it and sewed the pants when I still had all my baby weight on). The last time I made this dress I used a blue (big surprise) fabric that in retrospect I see was too stiff for it. So I thought I’d try it in this flimsy synthetic. Like all such fabrics, it feels so soft (which is why you buy it), was ultra cheap (which is also why you buy it), and is super prone to static cling (which is why you sort of hate it). But, when a challenge calls for polka dots and you happen to have just one piece of polka dot fabric left in the stash, beggars can’t be choosers and you stock up on Static Guard. (Aside: I have seriously gone nine months without buying fabric. I’m taking a bow now.)

I was smart this time around and tried on my previous version of the dress to see where the fit needed adjusting. And so I made a size smaller than the pattern suggested according to measurements (and I’m now down to the smallest size on the pattern). The slippery fabric was not a joy to cut and sew, but since there are few pieces and few seams, it wasn’t so bad and the whole thing went together ultra fast.

And now I have something that, with a belt, works for spring and summer; with a sweater or jacket, tights, and boots would work for autumn; and with no belt works as a nightgown!

And despite the static, I think it’s kind of cute. When I wore it on Sunday, I sprayed the heck out of it before leaving the house, then brought the Static Guard to church with me. Even with all the up and down and in and out of chairs and pews, I only sprayed it one more time. So it’s not too bad in this perfect late summer weather we’ve been having. I plan on crocheting a little ivory shrug for it next year when I’m taking a sewing break. And I must say, it is really comfy for lounging around at home after dining al fresco after church. In all these photos just one thing is going through my mind: I should have ordered another tiramisu.


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. Darling! It’s so elegant, despite how casual and relaxed the fit is. No wonder you love the pattern. And congratulations on no fabric buying for 9 months! I bow before your restraint!

  2. Love the dress, the color, and the amazing photos! You look so beautiful! Hat’s off to you for not buying fabric for 9 months! I’ve gone 9 months without buying a single new RTW item. It must have been your new year’s resolution? Not buying clothes was mine. But now I like your idea of not buying yardage. I’m going to consider that very seriously for my next pledge.

    • Yes, it was my New Year’s resolution. I live a couple blocks away from a Jo-Ann’s, which is one way my stash grew so fast, and is also what makes this pledge complicated–especially since I have to go in there from time to tmie for notions. And when people know you sew, you tend to fall into a lot of free fabric. The 35 things I’ve sewn so far this year are but a dent in the stash. I may have to pledge again next year!

  3. Gorgeous! Nine months without buying fabric! How? I keep making this pledge and the longest I’ve lasted is about three weeks.

  4. It does take a fair amount of resolve! And not really having the money for it helps too. ;)

  5. Great photo’s and dress Erin. I don’t know how you have not managed to buy fabric. I get the shakes and start to feel all queazy. Kudos to you.

  6. The dress is really cute.. Love the brown and white polka dots. Happy sewing.