Summer Dresses, All Year Round

After Monday’s post – 75% Winter, 25% Summer – I thought I’d try to layer up one of my favourite summer dresses for a winter look. Because I’m a visual person and I like to see examples – and maybe you do too! It’s easier to relate to real-life photos than just a list of ideas.

This Chantilly Dress is just about as summery as it gets. Bright colours, bold painted flowers, lightweight fabric and a full swishy skirt! But can it look wintery with enough layers? You tell me!

Let’s compare summer Chantilly versus winter Chantilly:

The summer version is so much easier. With a great printed dress, all you need is an equally great pair of shoes and you’re ready to go! Or for the beach, even flip-flops would do. (I’d go for yellow ones personally!) Not a lot of thought required to look good. That’s why I love summer! It’s so easy to look pretty. I also feel most like me in a printed, colourful dress.

But you can see the winter version is pretty easy to do, too. I’m thinking the trick is in having the right coloured layering pieces. A black cardigan would deaden the bright colours and look like there wasn’t much thought put into it. (Or perhaps that all I own is one black cardigan and I put it over everything.) Adding cheerful yellow and rich plum make this wintery outfit still feel like me.

Another point to note is that the yellow cowl is the brightest colour, so it draws attention to the face. It also helps balance out the look. If I’d worn a dark scarf and a dark cardigan, your eye would go to the bit of skirt at the bottom, not my face, and the bright flowers would look out of place with the rest of the outfit.

Anyways, there it is, a summery sundress in wintertime! It feels winter-appropriate with the right layers, yet still looks fun and cheerful by adding colourful accessories. Thought I’d see if I could do it with clothing I already own, after yesterday’s thoughts on balancing winter and summer sewing. It works! (I think so, anyways. Definitely for a casual workplace or on the weekend.)

Wardrobe planning notes:

  • Find cardigans and scarves to go with summery printed dresses.
  • Sew dresses that coordinate with existing cardigans, jackets and coats.
  • Consider solid-coloured dresses instead of prints for a more sophisticated and season-less outfit.
  • Choose colours you love, to make winter dressing more fun. (For me, anyways. I feel blah in black, but feel great in yellow!)

This is where picking a colour palette and sticking with it is a good idea. It would be easy to make more items in purples, yellows, and olives to work with these existing pieces. In fact, this would work with any multi-coloured item in colours you love. Pick out the colours within the print and make jackets, sweaters, tops to coordinate. I’m no style expert, but it seems like a logical way to build up pieces in colours you like and wear. (Now if only we could sew faster, or had more time to sew!)

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45 Responses to Summer Dresses, All Year Round

  1. Tasha November 29, 2011 at 6:10 am #

    That looks adorable and perfectly appropriate for the season! I think it helped that you buttoned your cardi to cover most of the top portion of the dress which I think of as the most summery part of it. I see no problems in extending summer dress wear so long as you aren’t freezing your patoot off. I used the same concept at least a few times last winter and plan to again this year!

    • Tasia November 29, 2011 at 10:24 am #

      It’s a great way to extend the life of summer garments! Especially if you really love something.. or don’t have a ton of clothes.

  2. Irene November 29, 2011 at 6:15 am #

    I know that you love dresses, but… I do think that you’ve overlooked the versatility of skirts. (They’re faster to sew, and you can produce more of them.) In summer they can be paired with airy tops. In winter, those same skirts can work with cozy knit tops. Love the way you styled the winter version of the summer dress!

    • Tasia November 29, 2011 at 10:25 am #

      This is true – I think the reason I like dresses is the ‘one easy piece’ factor. One item (in the summer that is) and I’m out the door! But you’re right, if this were a skirt, a white cotton top would be great for summer, a plum sweater for fall. It means a little more planning on my part that’s all! :)

  3. Josephine November 29, 2011 at 6:28 am #

    Love the summer dress for fall, but I would consider brown tights!

    • Tasia November 29, 2011 at 10:34 am #

      You know, that would look much better than black tights, brown to go with the warmer tones. (I have black winter boots though, and I tend to buy the exact same type of tights in black only because I know I like how they feel to wear!) I like the idea of coloured tights but haven’t experimented much with colours on the legs. Although, since it’s cold here 75% of the time, it’s probably a good idea to get comfortable with colourful leg-wear!

      • Josephine November 30, 2011 at 5:45 am #

        I must confess I actually own a pair of bright pink tights to go with my bright pink shoes and black dress. I’m quite short and always feel taller when I wear the same color shoes and tights. And when I got those little pink high heeled boots… I stick to black and brown most of the time!

  4. Amanda S. November 29, 2011 at 6:34 am #

    I love it! Did you knit that infinity scarf? I’m going to have to go back through your posts to see. It looks easy and I LOVE the pop of color up at your face. Great styling!

    • Tasia November 29, 2011 at 10:27 am #

      I did knit it! Here’s the original post –

      It was my second knitting project so it’s not perfect, but I wear it all the time, it’s so warm!

  5. Mary November 29, 2011 at 6:43 am #

    Simply lovely with your cardi and Honey Cowl! A breath of Spring on a Winter’s day!

  6. puu November 29, 2011 at 7:04 am #

    great, really appropriate combo that brings gorgeous bright colors–like that cowl!!–into the winter. wearing that on a gray day will never fail to cheer you up!

  7. Hearthrose November 29, 2011 at 7:15 am #

    So beautiful! And you look *amazing* in it.

    The colors evoke fall more than winter for me, maybe greens for winter/spring? But oh so pretty.

    • Tasia November 29, 2011 at 10:29 am #

      I agree – they are more autumn colours than winter, for sure! Golds and purples and olives are definitely fall colours. I like the idea of greens for winter, maybe cooler tones instead of warm ones!

  8. Roisin November 29, 2011 at 7:21 am #

    Mmmm, I love that yellow cowl :)

    I wear dresses all year round, regardless of weather. My best tip for making summer dresses more winter friendly is to think about your underpinnings. Seriously! I’m not good at layering up – lots of bulky layers drown me, but I’ve found that longline bras, slips, and even fleece lined tights (although I don’t really like tights) all help to keep warm. I totally agree with you about the coloured cardigans too – they can bring a whole new life to summer dresses!

    • Tasia November 29, 2011 at 10:31 am #

      That is a good idea, layering up UNDER dresses as well as over! I had the idea to make a flannel slip last year and never got around to it, but that would be warm and cosy on the legs for sure!
      Fleece lined tights? Do they stretch? I’ve been considering wool tights instead of my usual cotton/nylon ones for extra warmth. My favourite tights are from the grocery store and they’re so budget-friendly, I don’t mind if I ruin them from cycling.

      • Amanda | Sewin' in the Rain November 29, 2011 at 5:38 pm #

        Ooo, those are great tips, Roisin! I love wearing dresses, but get cold really easily and resort to the warmest thing I can find regardless of look when temps hover around freezing. I love my sweater tights, but now I want to find these fleece lined tights you speak of! And, Tasia, I l love cardigans so this is such a great idea.

        • Tasia November 29, 2011 at 5:42 pm #

 has a TON of wool tights, wool and cotton tights, over-the-knee socks and good stuff to keep us warm. I’ve got a few things in a theoretical shopping cart now! (Josephine’s comment started it for me, now I’m thinking of trying out coloured legwear. In dark colours like burgundy and brown – baby steps!)

          • Tasia November 29, 2011 at 5:42 pm #

            Haven’t actually bought anything there, but there’s a wide range of options and cosy-looking tights!

            • Roisin November 30, 2011 at 5:05 am #

              I’m not sure where in Canada you might be able to find fleece lined tights, but for anyone from the UK – you can get them in Primark. Wool and cotton tights are great too, I’m not sure about the variety of colours available, though.

              I gripe every winter about having to wear tights, but they certainly do help with keeping warm – and I found that brightly coloured tights are really good for making you wear your bright clothes, or even giving a pop of colour to darker outfits.

              Tasia, you should make that flannel slip! Another great thing for warmth is silk – something like the Colette cinnamon slip in silk would be lovely and warm under summery dresses.

  9. Kat November 29, 2011 at 7:31 am #

    Oh I really love your colour combinations! I say go for pretty prints all year round to ward off those winter blues. I think I may have said this before but I adore your sunshine cowl…I am currently in the process of knitting my first one, I hope mine comes out as well as yours did! Although I am now kicking myself for not going for a brighter colour (mine is brown)…something tells me there may have to be a cowl number two in the works before long in a more cheerful colour!

    • Tasia November 29, 2011 at 10:35 am #

      That’s the great part about knitting things like cowls – you can make them again in multiple colours, they don’t take too long to make (unless the pattern is hard) and even if your first colour choice isn’t your favourite, there’s a good chance it’ll get worn anyways!

  10. Sam November 29, 2011 at 7:33 am #

    That dress looks lovely as a summer dress, but personally I think it looks even more gorgeous with the plum cardi and beautiful yellow cowl. I’m all for continuing to wear bright colours throughout the dark days of winter and in fact am currently knitting myself an orange dress!

  11. Wendy November 29, 2011 at 7:38 am #

    That looks like a really well put together outfit. Just gorgeous!

  12. Sarah November 29, 2011 at 8:49 am #

    That’s a great look! I love the yummy yellow cowl :)

  13. Lois November 29, 2011 at 8:52 am #

    I think this outfit looks good for winter. I see no reason to stick with the old-fashioned that one must wear only dark colors in winter.

    Since I’m always cold, I went to the thrift store & bought a lot of ‘sort of dressy’ jackets. So I have lots of colors of jackets to go with different outfits. And I could afford to do this. Jackets are expensive to buy nice ones. You might consider this until you can sew more. They have cardigans too, but I think I look better in jackets.

    • Tasia November 29, 2011 at 10:38 am #

      Good idea! I wish I had time to sew up some jackets as alternatives to cardigans. I also prefer a little more structure, like a jacket, but I already own this cardigan! I do have a pinky-purple jacket that might work with this dress, for a more fitted look.
      Thanks for the suggestion! I like the idea of fitted, semi-dressy jackets with dresses or skirts.

  14. Monica November 29, 2011 at 9:06 am #

    It is paired so perfectly and cozily, I’m almost more in love with the winter look!!!

  15. arlene November 29, 2011 at 9:17 am #

    Beautiful, as always!
    My Mom did this back in the 50s…..she was always well dressed – never went out without her lipstik on kinda gal!

  16. Miss Crayola Creepy November 29, 2011 at 9:48 am #

    I think adding something teal would really make the color pop! :)

  17. kirsty November 29, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    You look lovely and you know what – I actually prefer the dress as an outfit when styled for winter !! It’s a snazzer of a look and you have certainly given me some food for thought in terms of my own wardrobe. xx

  18. Nan York November 29, 2011 at 10:20 am #

    I love how you did this and the colors are just delicious. I love the gold setting off the other colors.

  19. Tasia November 29, 2011 at 10:23 am #

    Thank you guys! I was hesitant to put up an ‘outfit post’ because you know, this is a sewing blog not a fashion blog or outfit blog. But sometimes it’s interesting to see what happens after a sewing project is complete right? Does it ever get worn? How does it get worn?

  20. Sara @ Sew Sweetness November 29, 2011 at 10:31 am #

    How lovely! I love seeing the different versions, makes me brave to try out the same with my own wardrobe!

  21. Jessica November 29, 2011 at 11:34 am #

    Loving this look. Makes me want to own more pretty summer dresses just to have the versatility. I think it’s great to have a post about fashion, helps to plan what fabrics to buy. I have a bunch of sweaters that don’t go with a lot of other items in my closet, but now maybe I will match them to a fabric to make a dress.

  22. Rennai November 29, 2011 at 11:36 am #

    With dresses you can layer from under too. Which can make it nice and warm. I only wear colours I like until you mentioned it I never gave seasonal colours a thought.

  23. Laurie Brown November 29, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    Another way to make summer dresses winter warm is, if the dress arm and neck openings are roomy enough, to wear a thin, tight turtleneck underneath, making the dress into a jumper.

    But I think what you’ve done to winterize this one is adorable!

  24. Lucy November 29, 2011 at 12:37 pm #

    I LOVE the colours together – winter is so depressing it’s always wonderful to be able to look bright and cheerful and still be warm!

    People will laugh at me, but I’m such an ’80s throwback that I still wear bodysuits in winter. They make a great base layer, and keep your back warm. Then you can wear your summer dresses over them and just have that layered effect.

    The trick is just to make sure they’re long enough for your body, and the ones I get have bra-back hooks in the crotch rather than those bulky snaps so they’re way more comfortable.

  25. Lindsay November 29, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

    I love this! I’m always looking for ways to maximize my existing wardrobe rather than add to it, and I definitely need more colorful outfits. Thanks for the inspiration!

  26. Dani November 29, 2011 at 5:43 pm #

    I actually love this look, and you’re definitely right about needing the cowl to be bright. It takes away from the skirt pattern as the main feature, but just enough.

    On the topic of coloured tights you mentioned in a reply somewhere up top, I think they’re a little harder to pull off. I know that I usually just fall back on black, brown or nude coloured tights because they’re easy to wear and require next to no styling. However, coloured tights can look fantastic, they just need a little more planning so they don’t end up looking tacky and juvenile. But judging by what I’ve seen from you in the past, I think you could definitely pull them off!

    • Tasia November 29, 2011 at 5:45 pm #

      I agree – I don’t want to look tacky, cheap, or juvenile! I already get mistaken for being way younger than I am. I only own black tights now, but I’ve worn brown and burgundy in the past and liked the look. (You just can only get black at the grocery store, and I avoid shopping at the mall!)

  27. Gail November 30, 2011 at 1:37 am #

    Its hot and steamy here in Sydney. We probably sew more summer and transeasonal wear than most given our climate. However as the mercury rises I am thinking about sewing a few pieces for my trip to Europe in January. I’m thinking bright green overcoat!

  28. Ledys December 5, 2011 at 5:20 am #

    I love all your posts, Tasia! And I particularly love– and find very helpful– all the posts about styling and wardrobe planning. I really think I need to figure out what my colors are now, it is going to be so much easier once I do!

    Thanks for all the inspiration.

  29. Sundresses December 28, 2011 at 9:32 pm #

    Yeah who says summer dresses are only for summer ? Winter is so depressing, we need these colorful dresses to spice up the winter. Nice suggestions and tips.


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