The Girls in Their Summer Dresses Summary

Irwin Shaw


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Girls in their Summer Dresses” chronicles the origin and conclusion of a married couple’s quarrel as they walk through lower Manhattan on a Sunday morning in November. Michael and Frances Loomis have left their apartment and are proceeding along Fifth Avenue toward Washington Square. As they are walking along the crowded thoroughfare, Frances observes that Michael has turned to look at a pretty girl and remarks good-humoredly about it. Michael, who seems unaware that she has previously noticed his habitual girl-watching, also makes light of the incident. He explains that the girl’s complexion drew his attention to her, a country girl’s complexion seldom seen in New York.

The conversation, sprinkled with jokes and patter, suggests that so far they have had an enjoyable weekend. Frances expresses a need for more time with Michael and urges that they call off a previously planned country outing with friends so that the two of them can spend the day in the city together. After Michael readily agrees, she begins making plans aloud for his approval, while they continue their walk. They will attend a Giants’ football game, have a steak dinner at a famous restaurant, and go to a film.

As Frances is making her plans, selecting the activities that she knows her husband will enjoy, Michael’s eyes stray to another attractive girl, and this time Frances is unable to conceal her frustration and dismay. She intimates that because he is so interested in the girls, he might prefer to spend the day walking along the avenue. Michael’s point of view is that he takes only an occasional glance. Further, he tells Frances, there are few really attractive girls to be seen in the city. Frances dismisses this conclusion, making it clear that she considers Michael’s behavior habitual and ingrained. Indeed, she can describe not only the frequency...

(The entire section is 762 words.)