GREAT IDEAS: SUMMER DRESS DIY

For this project I had the pleasure of getting together with Madeline Rawlings of The Essentials Club for a fun morning of sewing, good music and general creative geekery. As someone whose job was once teaching teenagers to sew, it seems crazy that I haven't touched a sewing machine for nearly 5 years, so this was a really fun project for me personally. Turns out, its a bit like riding a bike.

Onto the dress... We figured that every summer wardrobe needs a simple wrap dress and what better than an easy, breezy white cotton one. For those of you feeling inclined to whip out the sewing machine and get crafty, read on for the how-to. For those who would rather avoid the pin pricks and iron burns, you can find amazing summer dresses (which inspired the one we made) by LJC Designs, Cloth and Hide and Sir.  

The easiest way to do this is to find a dress (or top) with a similar neckline to the one you would like to replicate in your dress. We were lucky to have a wrap dress that we loved enough to know we’d wear in another colour.

Usually wrap dresses are made of three main panels (right front, left front and back) but we also made a front and back facing because the cotton we used was white and quite fine and also using a facing gives the neckline edge a nicer finish.

Round up any dresses or tops which have a similar style neckline and shape to the one you want to make. This makes creating the pattern pieces super simple. 

Round up any dresses or tops which have a similar style neckline and shape to the one you want to make. This makes creating the pattern pieces super simple. 

Using the dress you have as a pattern, trace each of the panels onto your fabric using tailor’s chalk (or a soft lead pencil). Cut out each piece.

To make the facing pieces, trace the neckline of the front and back pieces, but only make them long enough to sit just under the bust. Make sure you have a right and left facing and one for the back panel.

You will also need some pieces for your straps and ties. Cut 2 lengths of fabric about 1 meter in length and 3cm wide (for waist ties). Cut 2 lengths of fabric about 30cm in length and about 3cm wide (for shoulder straps).

Now it's time to sew!

FACING:

Take your facing pieces and finish the edges with either a sewing machine, pinking shears or a zig zag stitch to prevent fraying.
With right sides of the fabric together (the side with the pattern or top of the weave), match the necklines and underarm edges of the right front panel and the right front facing and pin along the edge. Sew with a 1.5cm seam.

Trim the seam to half, and turn through to the outside. Push the seam out and iron the sewn edge flat.

Repeat with the left and the back panels.

SIDE SEAMS:

With right sides together, join the side panels to the back panel using a 1.5cm seam. *On the RIGHT side seam, leave an opening of about 1cm under the bust line. Make sure you reinforce either side of the opening. This will allow you to thread your waist ties through.

Overlock (or use pinking shears or a zig-zag stitch) to finish and prevent fraying.

OPENING EDGE AND BOTTOM HEM:

Hem each panel’s raw edge by turning the cut edge under 0.5cm and press with iron (or overlock the raw edge). Turn under again 1cm and press. Sew, following the inside edge of the presser foot as a guide to stay close to the folded edge.

dress16.jpeg

STRAPS AND TIES:

To create the straps take the precut lengths of fabric and fold in half, with rights sides together and the long edges matching. Sew a 0.5cm seam along the long edge and one short edge. Take a small safety pin and attach to the open end. Push the safety pin inside the “tube” and along so that the fabric turns in on itself and and you can pull the tube through so that it is right side out. Iron flat. Complete the four lengths of fabric using this method.

Take the two shorter pieces, these will be your shoulder straps. You may need a friend to help you pin the straps in place once you have tried the dress on and determined how long your shoulder straps need to be.

ATTACH SHOULDER STRAPS:

Now you are going to turn the facing of the front panels inside out and unpick a small section of stitching along the shoulders where you want you straps to sit inside. Make sure you have the unfinished, short end of the strap piece coming through the seam to the inside. Stitch the seam shut again, trapping the shoulder strap. Make sure you reinforce using reverse stitching to ensure it is secure. Repeat this in the seam attaching the back panel to the back facing.

Repeat to secure the other shoulder strap.

dress17.jpeg

ATTACH WAIST TIES

Take the raw edge of one both long straps and turn the raw edges inside the tube and seal with a couple of stitches.

For the left front panel: Take the short edge of one of the long straps and join to underside of the outer opening edge, just under bust height. Make sure you reinforce the stitching here (by reversing) to make it secure. Thread the waist tie through the opening you created in the side seam earlier.

dress18.jpeg

For the right front panel: Take the short edge of one of the long straps and join to underside of the outer opening edge, just under bust height.  *You may want to pin this tie in place first and try the dress on to see if you want to shorten this piece for even ends when you tie it in a bow to wear.

A straw hat, breezy wrap dress and The Great State = summer essentials.

A straw hat, breezy wrap dress and The Great State = summer essentials.

And you’re done! All you need now is a pair to slides, glossy lips and the slightly obnoxious air of someone who can respond to compliments on their fancy new dress with a hair flick and a casual “Oh this dress? I made it.”

xo Enjoy!

Ellen Newman