Welcome back to See It/Sew It/Share It - a new series here at Pattern Revolution where we look to ready-to-wear styles for inspiration and make it work, handmade-style! This month I dug deep into my daughter’s closet, where I’d stashed a long-outgrown dress that I loved. It was bought for her at Nordstrom a few summers back and I haven’t seen anything like it since. It was a great example of the knit bodice/woven skirt trend that has since taken off like crazy, and I thought it would make a great dress to try to recreate. At the time, I wasn’t terribly confident in my pattern hacking skills and placed the dress into a pile of similarly fated items (stay tuned for future installments of this series ;) ). I shouldn’t have been so worried - this was much more straightforward than I thought!
Want to make a cute little sundress of your own? All you need is one slim fitting tank (I used rib knit tanks from Old Navy, but you could easily make your own too) and approximately a yard of woven fabric. I used the full width of fabric for mine, which is approximately a size 4/5 - that was sufficient width for my daughter, but if you’re sewing for an older/bigger girl you may want more width and therefore will need to piece together the skirt from more yardage. Because the skirt is a simple gathered rectangle, you want to make sure you allow enough ease for the wearer’s waist and hips and enough to allow movement.
To prep your tank top, you’ll want to decide how far down you’re going to attach your skirt, and cut the tank top to size. You can cut it now, leaving an extra inch or so for attaching the skirt, or just leave it attached for now but mark clearly where you’ll be attaching your skirt. Also, you’ll need to find the exact center of the front of the tank, and cut straight down this line to the hem.
I finished the top edge of my skirt fabric with a rolled hem, but you can finish with a narrow hem on your sewing machine if you don’t have a rolled hem foot or a serger. You just want to make sure there isn’t too much bulk in your finished edge since that’s what will be gathered. I sewed a basting stitch about ¼” from the top edge with elastic thread in my bobbin to gather the skirt. Once I shot a bit of steam over the elastic it gathered up really nicely. You could also use a simple basting stitch or sew on a length of clear elastic to gather. You’ll want the gathered skirt to match the width of the tank from one cut front edge of the tank, around the back, and to the other cut front edge. Sew the skirt to the bodice, using a long straight stitch, a small zig zag, or other stretch stitch.
Next, I finished the hem. Nothing fancy here, just pressed up ½” and then ½” again, and then topstitched to lock the hem in place.
Last, you’ll want to bind the open front edges of the dress and attach closures. You can use buttonholes and buttons, as in my inspiration dress, or snaps if you prefer. I used size 16 metal snaps from Snap Source and they worked great for this application! To bind the dress, I cut two strips of my skirt fabric that were 2” wide and the length of the dress from the neck of the tank all the way to the hem of the skirt - and I added about ½” extra for the top and bottom since they’d get folded over into the binding to finish the edge. I pressed these strips as if they were double fold bias binding, and attached them to the dress in the same fashion. I sewed the strip to the wrong side of the dress, tucked the ends over at the top and the bottom, and then folded the binding over the raw edge and to the right side of the dress. I topstitched in place and repeated for the other cut edge of the dress. You could also simply sandwich the binding and sew in one step (or even use premade binding to save a little prep time) - just make sure to finish the raw edges at the top and bottom before attaching. My final step was to install the snaps. I used 9, making sure to start near the neckline of the tank and keeping them spaced close enough together than the dress wouldn’t gape open. I also made sure to put one snap right at the seamline attaching the skirt to the bodice.
And that’s it - a simple and straightforward summer dress that could be made in a variety of fabrics and styles. The stretchy nature of the bodice and the drape of the skirt gives me hope that these might still fit Miss P into next year, too. I don’t remember what intimidated me so much a few summers ago, but I’m glad I held onto this little dress and gave myself another chance!
What have you been inspired by lately? Make sure to share with us in the Pattern Revolution group over on Facebook!