September 8, 2009

20 “summer into autumn” appropriate vintage dresses

One day the sun has you reaching for the shade a parasol provides, the next nippy winds and spitting rain have you diving under your umbrella. Capris seem appropriate one moment, yet seconds later you’re wishing for flannel lined jeans. Not entirely summer, but not quite full on autumn either. Eager to get a precocious start out of the gate, signs of fall sometimes appear as early as late August or the start of September, yet it generally takes a few more weeks for all elements of summer to vanish entirely.

During this indecisive time it can be tricky to select what to wear each morning. Too light an outfit and you risk freezing both indoors and out (especially if you’re in a highly air conditioned building), too heavy and you might suddenly feel like it’s July again. The key to dressing for this “in between” season is to pick medium weight fabrics, pieces that layer easily (cardigans, twin sets, etc), light to medium weight hosiery, pieces with elbow length or longer sleeves, and dresses with more substance to them than summer frocks but not so much bulk that they could keep January’s chill entirely at bay.

Loving dresses as passionately as I do, this post is going to focus on end of summer-slash-start of autumn appropriate frocks. Naturally the weather and climate of your own part of the world will factor into what kinds of clothing choices work best for you during this fickle time of the year, but in general I find that for the unpredictable nature of a Canadian climate (where snow in October is certainly not an unheard of occurrence), the following kinds of dresses can really work well throughout September and into early October.

The selection of frocks below are all either genuinely vintage or contain elements that lend them a telltale sense of vintage style. When looking for such types of dresses yourself, be sure to hit vintage stores, thrift shops, and consignment boutiques at this time of year, as autumn appropriate wear begins to be cycled into such stores stock. The sooner you start your hunt, the more likely you are to find great dresses before the masses have begun yearning for autumnal pieces, too.

♥ ♥ ♥

{Move over summer, autumn might just be the new hottest season in town with sultry body hugging frocks such as this sweet-as-chocolate brown number! “Heartbreaker Fashion Brown Knit Super Spy Dress”, currently available in sizes XS and XL, $59.95 (US) from Babygirl Boutique.}

{This long sleeved dress looks immensely contemporary, yet, according to the seller, hails from the late 1930s or early 40s. Sporting a cheekily fun pattern of leaping deer and flowers, this olive and purple hued silk frock could easily be worn on its own or paired with tights and a light coat to take you into the cooler days of fall. Silk print, keyhole neck dress vintage dress, fits up to a 29” waist/34-36” bust, $125.00 (US) from Viva Vintage Clothing.}

{With its built-in capelet and knee length A-line skirt, this classy and classic 1940s inspired dress would be wonderful for a diner date, night out on the town, or cocktail party. Black “Eva Bow Dress”, available in sizes small through to 3X, $138.00 (US) from Unique Vintage.}

{During the 1940s and into the 50s, a popular style of dress that was often seen in catalogues (think Sears) and fashion magazines was the coat dress. Styled like a fitted ladies coat, but made from lighter fabrics and intended to be worn on its own or under a coat, this style was both feminine and often a lovely way to stay warm on breezy fall days. This slate grey vintage coat dress is made of a lightweight wool, fits up to a 32” waist/41” bust, and is adorned with two decorative silver hued buttons near the lapel. I adore this style of frock and could just image how lovely a piece this would be to wear all autumn long. $135 (US) from}

{Cute as a button! This longer length dress with built in bolero style sleeves and ruffled hem is so sweetly beautiful. It’s cheery red pallet instantly calls to mind thoughts of candy apples and crisp maple leaves blowing down the sidewalk. “Red Plaid Belted Lucy Dress” available in sizes 36 to 46 (which are akin to 4-6 through to 18, according to the site’s sizing chart), $39.95 (US) from Chic Star (note, this same style of dress is also available in a black and white version).}

{A tranquil pallet of wonderfully autumnal hues adorn this classic 1950s shirtwaist dress, making it so easy for you to pull colours from this pattern for use with shoes, cardigans, handbags or accessories. Vintage striped “Toni Todd” dress, fits a 28” waist/38” bust, $65.00 (US) from etsy seller Timon Michelle.}

{This dark blue and green dress, simple as it may appear at first glance, is in fact captivatingly beautiful and ripe with wonderful details such as buttons all the way up the front and feminine tailoring. Vintage 50s “Lucy Plaid” dress, fits 26” waist/36” bust, $89.00 (US) from Planet Claire Vintage.}

{Classic tailoring (that calls to mind many 1940s styles) and figure flattering ruching combined with the rich coffee brown hue of this ¾ length sleeve dress add up to create the sort of frock you’ll happily reach for year after year. “Julian Taylor Ruche Waist Dress”, currently available sizes 6, 8 and 14, $57.77 (CND) from}

{A strikingly lovely rust-meets-pumpkin hue colours this long sleeved, full skirted, button front frock in the perfect shade for September, October and November. Vintage faille shirtwaist dress, fits 28” waist/38” bust, $145.00 (US) from Couture Allure.}

{Shades of purple and green take on a muted tone in this classic long sleeved shirtwaist style dress. I could easily imagine pairing this frock with cardis and coats in shades of cream, brown, green, purple, and camel for days when you needed a hint more warmth. Vintage 1950s dress, waist 26”/bust 36”, $52.00 (US) from etsy seller Jewels 4 Pandas.}

{A wonderfully classic cap-sleeve, fully lined sheath style meets an autumnally appropriate shade of crimson in this lovely dress, which would be great for everyplace from the office to a candlelit supper just for two! “Jessica Belted Dress” available in sizes 6 to 18 (in petite and average sizes), $69.99 (CND) from (same style also available in black).}

{Looking fantastically like a piece that could have come right off the stage of Mad Men (not to mention this season’s catwalks where houndstooth is currently in vogue again), this vintage black and tan dress is unlined, but could easily be worn with a slip beneath and a cardigan or lightweight coat over top. Early 1960s cotton houndstooth dress, fits a 38-40” waist/44 to 46” bust, $50.00 (US) from Viva Vintage Clothing.}

{Two classic hues comprise this charming lightweight corduroy 1950s dress that sports generously sized pockets, a stand-up collar (which can be worn flat, too), and a cute little matching slim width belt. Red and navy blue corduroy dress that fits a 29” waist/37” bust, $89.00 (US) from}

{A little alluring, wonderfully timeless and entirely gorgeous, this dress looks as though it could have been worn on the back of a 30s or 40s Hollywood starlet, yet is a modern frock with a hint of stretch to ensure it hugs your figure just right. “Curves Ahead” dress available in sizes XS to XL, $137.99 (US) from}

{A pattern of quintessentially fall foliage adorns this lovely tie waist, button front dress complete with a swooping fully skirt and shirtwaist style tailoring. Vintage “Autumn in Paris” dress, waist 32 to 36”/bust 42”, $34.00 (US) from etsy seller Nod to Mod Vintage.}

{Imagine that this pretty model isn’t wearing gladiator-esque shoes, but rather t-strap or d’Orsay pumps and the 1950s bombshell (think Marilyn or Jane) appeal of this light grey dress instantly jumps out at you as being a great early autumn piece (thanks to its longer sleeves and becoming pleated hemline). Fully lined “Paloma Belted Dress” available in sizes 14 to 30, $128.00 (US) from}

{A subdued, classic plaid pattern in blue and grey covers this schoolgirl inspired dress, which features dolman sleeves and four large buttons up the front. 1950s “Prep School” dress, waist 28”/bust up to 40”, $42.00 (US) from etsy seller The Greedy Seagull.}

{Called the “Joan” and looking every bit as though it could have come from this stylish Mad Men vixen’s closet, this brown herringbone plaid dress with matching belt would hug all your curves yet still be office appropriate all autumn long. “Joan Dress in Profession”, available in sizes 0 to 12 (though at the time of writing, only size 2 is in stock), $89.99 (US) from}

{The moment you spy this two tone frock, you’re stuck by the fact that it clearly telegraphs a distinctly vintage vibe befitting a woman who loves styles from the mid-twentieth century. Grey and black “Diamonique” crepe dress available in sizes extra small and small (it’s currently on clearance, so hence the lack of a greater selection of sizes), $86.70 (US) from Plasticland.}

{A rich array of green and brown autumn inspired hues adorn this beautiful 1950s wiggle dress, whose long skirt, elbow length sleeves, and conservative neckline would make it perfect for those cooler fall mornings when you want to feel covered up but aren’t quite ready to dig out the winter coat yet. Vintage “novelty print” dress, 35” waist/43” bust, $34.00 (US) from etsy seller Timon Michelle.}

When selecting dresses for this time of the year, as the examples above help to illustrate, it’s wise to look for pieces that have at least one element (lining, longer skirt and/or sleeve length, heavier fabric, higher necklines, etc) that sets them apart from sun dresses, so that they’ll be able to help carry your wardrobe from autumn into winter (and/or be appropriate for spring weather as well).

However that said, do keep in mind that some summer frocks can still work into the fall if you layer other pieces under (turtle necks, button down skirts, blouses, etc) or over them (such as cardigans, boleros, shawls, shrugs, stoles, and lightweight coats). I personally find that if I have to opt between being a little chilly or being a tad warm, I’d take warm anytime. It’s easier to fan yourself with your pocketbook while waiting for the bus than it is to have to stomp your feet and shuffle from foot to foot (all the while blowing hot air onto your hands to keep them from turning blue) in an attempt to warm up.

Always more of a fan of cool weather dressing than summer styles (gorgeous as many summer looks can be), I for one am tickled pink about the arrival of September and the need for “in between” season dresses and pieces of all sorts. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for bargains on dresses that fit into this category over the next few weeks, while toping my existing frocks with cardigans and pairing some styles with blouses and turtlenecks underneath.

What kinds of dresses and other types of wardrobe items do you love to sport during these lovely weeks when summer gives way to autumn’s arrival?


  1. Very very pretty dear friend! I mentioned you on my blog today, and thank you again for the award. :)

    xoxo, nicolette

  2. These are so fabulous, I love coat dresses!

  3. I just love so many of these...I was compiling a list, but its basically of every item you posted here! My favorite has to be the coat dress though. So much better than the 80's versions.

  4. Love those coat dresses! I just watched the Changeling with Angelina Jolie this past weekend. Now I'm in search of a swing coat like she wore in the movie. I know it was the late 20 or early 30s but that swing coat came back again in the 50s.

  5. Lovely post, I'm quite inpired

  6. Hi Jessica -
    Your comments always make me smile. It looks like we both had decades fashion on the brain today {you the 20s, me the 40s}. I'm lovin' the light grey dress - cute! GirlWhimsy always appreciates your visits! Sweet dreams!

  7. Oh my goodness! I cannot believe how many stunning options that you found! They are all so beautiful! I just love the first look, especially paired with the veil! I too like cool weather dressing better-I feel like there are more options and opportunities for more interesting outfits.

    I added you to my blogroll! :)

  8. That first dress is stunning! i also love the joan dress from modcloth.

  9. Wow you put so much into your posts, great job honey. Really.

    Such a lot of pretty dresses to choose from there, thank you so much.

  10. There were so many dresses to love in this post. My favourite has to be the grey dress with the pleated hemline & the grey and blue dress near the bottom of the post with the sort of futuristic looking side panels. For fall, dress with 3/4 or long-sleeves are such an essential. But if not, I wear a cardigan over them and I'm set. I'm pretty lucky it's spring here in the Southern Hemisphere though.

  11. Oh gosh, I'm always so divided about these kinds of posts - don't get me wrong, they're wonderful but I just end up wanting far more things than I already did ;] Haha. I really do think you're wonderful - you clearly go to a lot of effort to create these posts, which I admire a lot. =D
    -Andi x

  12. Those dresses are fabulous ! Tahnk you so much !

  13. I am absolutely drooling over the black Eva dress!

  14. Wonderful post! I so appreciate all the thought and detail you put into this, Jessica! It makes it a very rich and rewarding experience, not to mention a lot of fun!

  15. Thank you for your comment...I love coat dresses at the moment I only have one though..but one's better than none!

  16. All these dresses are beautiful and I enjoyed so much this post!Here in Italy we don't feel the change of the 4seasons...the last years we have only the hot summer and the cold winter.So... fresh summerdresses and warm wintercoats!
    I send you a very big hug!Good night...
    x x x

  17. I adore cardigans and I can't live without them! A small, fluffy cardigan also provides a nice retro vibe, don't you think?

  18. @ Simply Colette, thank you so very much for the lovely mention, honey, you are simply too sweet for words!

    @ Maggi, I adore them so much, too! I can't say as though I've ever owned one, but I certainly hope to someday!

    @ Kelley Anne, thank you, sweetie! You should definitely still compile your list, I would love to see it!

    I agree, most 80s versions of coat dresses are best forgotten...really, really forgotten ;D

    @ Sher, swing coats are amazing, aren't they? If I can be of any help to you in your search for one, please don't hesitate to let my know, honey.

    @ Farce Herself, thank you kindly, my dear, it's a joy to know you found this post inspirational. I always strive to share those things that inspire me each week with my wonderful readers.

    @ Debbie, thank you very much, sweetie! I always have the 40s on my mind, they tie with the 50s as my favourite decade and are a continual source of fashion inspiration for me. I loved your post on this decade, thank you for putting it together!

    @ Leproust Vintage, oodles of thanks, darling girl!!! I adore the first dress, too (Ok, I love them all...but still... ;D). You know who it reminded me of? Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle :)))

    Thank you so very much for adding me to your blog roll, I'm honoured. (And have added your marvelous site to mine, too!)

    @ Trishiekoh, I agree with you, sweetie, they are both fantastic. Very curve hugging and alluring, but still the kinds of outfits that could be worn to most offices.

    @ Dustjacket Attic, thank you deeply, my beautiful friend. I always feel the same way (that you put so much care and attention) into your posts, too, and was sincerely touched by your lovely comment.

    @ Ana b., you are lucky to be heading into spring, honey! Spring is often the shortest lived season here in Canada (at least in my part of it), and so I find myself longing for it during ever other season (even my beloved autumn). Thank you for sharing your fave frocks from the post with me, I always love knowing which items I highlight grab my readers attention.

    @ Andi, ohhhh, I know exactly what you mean, darling gal, don't worry for a sec! I feel that exact same way often when bopping about the vintage blogsphere. Still, I wouldn't trade it for a sec. Virtual window shopping is just too much fun not to love fashion themed posts, if you ask me :)

    @ Stéphanie, merci, sweet dear!

    @ Kristin, ooohhh, so am I! I have a wedding anniversary coming up and wish I could sport that dress for it! (I'm quite sure it would get a big thumbs up from DH, too ;D)

    @ Georgianna, thank you deeply, kind dear. You always say such sweet and meaningful things that touch my heart so!

    @ The Vintage Kitten, let's *swoon* in unison, sweetie!!! :)

    @ Gingeygine, you're welcome, honey! You're one coat dress ahead of me! I hope to find one someday, the tailoring on 40s and 50s versions has me enamored with this style of frock.

    @ Greetz from Tiz, ohhhh, I can relate in a season. Sometimes autumn - and especially spring - are on the very short side here in Canada, though I'm sure it's not quite the same as what Mother Nature does in Italy. I hope that you'll be able to have some semblance of an autumn this year, honey!

    @ AlicePleasance, I am wild about cardigans, too! Aside from skirts, they are probably the biggest staple in my closet. I wear them every month of the year, no matter if it's 30 degrees above or below :D

    For sure, sweetie, a small, adorable little fluffy cardigan (perhaps in a mohair blend or even real cashmere!) certainly has a lovely vintage vibe to it.

    Thank you each very much for your fantastic comments! It was a joy putting this early autumn dress post together, and I really like hearing which frocks in particular you lovely ladies fancied from the list above.

    Huge hugs & happy wishes for a beautiful Thursday to you each!
    ♥ Jessica

  19. Darn you! I had declared a complete moratorium on clothing purchases, and I had been so good. But then I had to buy one of these dresses (Prep school dress from thegreedyseagull). I guess I can resist everything but temptation :P They are gorgeous!

    I added you to my blog roll!

  20. Oh my goodness, every one of these dresses is making me drool....YUM! Seriously if I could choose just one, I never would be able to! One of each PLEASE!!!!

    Lovely blog, just discovered it from someone elses blog, HAD To come check it out!

    Wicked Plum Vintage

  21. Oh I love these especially the blue plaid number!
    Fantastic blog xx

  22. @ Gabriel Girl, thank you sweetly for adding me to your blog roll, I truly appreciate that!

    I'm sorry to have made you bow to temptation, but that dress looks so amazing, I'm sure it will be worth for a slight "slip up".

    Thank you again, my dear!

    @ Wicked Plum Vintage, thank you so much for your great comment, Angela dear. I hear you entirely, one of each is the only way to go! :)

    @ Bucca, thank you very much, honey! (I agree, the blue plaid is fantastic!)

    Thank you each for your wonderful comments, ladies!

    Big hugs,
    ♥ Jessica

  23. Wow, wonderful pics! These dresses are GORGEOUS!

    Hope you are having a wonderful weekend, lovely Jessica.

    <3 Gina

  24. Hi Gina dear, thank you very much! I am having a pretty good weekend, much better than the last two or three, for sure! I hope yours is going fantastically, too, sweet heart!

    Big hugs,
    ♥ Jessica

  25. I can't even begin to pick a favorite!