Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The evolution of a dress

Patio dress is another name for maxi dress, and these casual dresses have been in the fashion scene since the 1940s.  The dress itself is taken from Southwestern culture, and allows comfort from sun, wind and is just plain pretty.
 If you have researched this style, you will know the dress was also known as a "squaw dress", a derogatory term I am loathe to use.  I find the use of this term demeaning to Native women, and only include it here as it is used in the ad above from Life Magazine 1943.

The style re-surfaced in the 70s with a leaner silhouette, worn as a caftan or belted with a sash, and was meant as a casual party dress.
As always, alternatives existed:
And here we are today...with an immense variety of styles in maxi dresses to choose from.  I continue to use the word patio dress for my current project, as that connotes sporty, preppy, cotton or linen, a bit fitted, and meant to be worn at home after a day on the water or the court.
A maxi dress seems to be a bit more stylish, with more draping and details and perhaps made up in a style which shows off  some skin.   
~Of course, your definition may be entirely different~

This is KS 3872 and I am making View A in a bright, printed linen blend.  The front of the dress falls in a simple line from the bust, and the back has a zipper and ties. 
So far, I have the front panels done, and one seam finished.  This is a slow sewing process for me as I love the dress, love the fabric, and love the history behind this style. Here is a photo of the pieces pinned on the dressform before I started sewing.
Here is closeup of the print.
Stay tuned as I take my time with this dress which represents so much of my California childhood. 


  1. I love the term "patio dress"! And that fabric is wonderful! I can't wait to see the dress on you as you lounge on the patio!

  2. I too love the term patio dress. All of my maxis make it out of the house far to much in this Texas heat to fit the bill, but it is a thought to consider for easy at home dressing. Cute print!

  3. Ive never heard of a patio dress. Maxi, yes in the 70s. Pretty fabric,lovely colours, cant wait to see it finished.

  4. As the saying goes, what's old is new again. Your fabric and pattern are a perfect match and I know it is going to look great on. Beautiful work so far Mary. I've been casting about casually for a long dress or skirt pattern. We'll see if I find anything I like enough to make.

  5. Interesting history comments, thanks. And I love the print on your fabric!

  6. Love the fabric and the style. Can totally see you relaxing in Mexico on the patio, calm, cool, and beautiful!

  7. You will look lovely in that dress, Mary; your colors (hair, skin, etc.) are perfect for it. Will this be a part of your winter in Mexico wardrobe? That fabric! It's really interesting/pretty. And thanks for taking the time to share what this all means to you. And "slow sewing" to savor the process -- I've been thinking about that lately. I sew slowly and now, seeing this, am going to intentionally enjoy the process, the one I'm in, not the next project in my mind. Thank you so much!

  8. Love those colors! Interesting to hear the patio dress concept, such a part of an American lifestyle. Ah, yes, the 70s. My dress was made from an Indian printed bedcovering; must find the pic and post it sometime. Glad to hear that you are enjoying the memories while enjoying the process.

  9. This is going to be a perfect patio dress. I love,love the fabric


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