A Penny Dress made of a fabric printed with palm fronds should be worn under palm trees, right? I started sewing this dress when I discovered that my husband and I were moving back to Tampa Bay after living in Washington, D.C. for several years. A bright and summery dress seemed the perfect way to celebrate our homecoming.
Life in D.C. was, compared to Florida, fast-paced and exciting. There was always an event to attend, a new restaurant to try, or a trending bar to while away some late hours. It seemed everything we could want was within a 15 min walk or metro ride from our apartment. Nearly a Florida native, I discovered that fall is my favorite season (I will take pumpkin spice everything, please!) and I learned to drive in snow (TERRIFYING). I bought sweaters and greatly reduced my flip-flop collection. I got really good at parallel parking. I even learned to knit.
While it looked like I’d acclimated well, I found myself increasingly missing Florida and feeling like an outsider in Washington. I couldn’t stomach some of the accepted D.C. social conventions. I hated the fact every encounter is “networking” and the first thing people ask when meeting someone new is, “So, what do you do?” This question often ends a conversation if the questioner determines you have nothing to professionally offer him/her. Perhaps even worse is when the conversation continues, leaving you to wonder the entire time, “What does this person think they can gain from me?”
It took a few years, but the glitter of the capital eventually wore off. Living in D.C. turned from exciting to just okay.
In high school, I remember discovering the poems of Carl Sandburg and marveling at how someone could love a place so ardently. While I adored the rhythms of his Chicago poems, I couldn’t relate. The city he described was far from perfect and his feelings for it seemed ill matched to the realities of the place.
After five years away from Florida, I get it. I missed the sun, heat, and humidity. I missed the laid back culture and unassuming locals who will know you for months before they ask what you do. I even missed the terrible thunderstorms. D.C. rain is prissy. Driving through a boring rain shower one evening, I found myself craving a murderous sky with deafening cracks of thunder and and angry tendrils of lighting. When it rains, I want a STORM. It was then I realized how desperately I wanted to move back to Florida.
Luckily, my husband agreed that moving back was a good idea. Some positive professional changes for him made the move a viable option.
Two weeks ago, we played furniture Tetris and crammed all of our things into a U-Haul. As we drove south, we shed jackets and sweaters.
This Penny Dress was the first thing I wore after unpacking my closet. I threw it on with a pair of sandals… in December. It was glorious.
Tropical Penny Dress
The fabric is a rayon challis in a bright green and white palm frond print. This challis sat in my stash for a long time. I purchased it in Florida at Hancock Fabrics before I moved to D.C. The white plastic buttons were bought at Joann Fabrics.
I made two changes for this version. First, I took about 4 inches off the bottom. The reduction in length was due to the fact I was short on fabric. As drafted, the dress is too long on me. I shorted my first version quite a bit and it still falls below my knees, so loosing some more length wasn’t a problem. Second, I added a fourth button to the top of the dress. The pattern calls for three buttons, but, after playing around with dress pins to close the dress, I decided it looked better on me with four buttons.
Normally, I don’t have the patience to let a dress hang before hemming it, but, after nearly finishing the dress one evening, I was too tired to sew a straight hem. I decided to let the dress hang overnight and finish it the next day. I woke up to a very wonky hemline. For the first time, I used the hem tool at the bottom of my dress stand. To my surprise, it worked really well. The tool is easy to use and the resulting hem is straight.
She turned out as I’d hoped- cheerful and easy to wear.
I’m home. Bring on the rain.