This knit, midi dress is perfect for so many occasions and is so quick and easy to make that once you start, you can’t stop. In fact, it is very likely that you will own 23 of these by this time next week. At 1.5 yards (around $10) and only 20 minutes, I wouldn’t blame you if you made one in every color and length possible!
You will want a midweight cotton jersey blend knit for this dress, so it will drape nicely and not be see through. My favorite place to order knits is Girl Charlee fabric. She has so many fun high-quality florals at such terrific prices! My girls chose these fabrics from Girl Charlee so I could make them each an Easter dress. I looked at all of our local fabric shops, and online everywhere and could not find cute, floral knits until I finally ran across Girl Charlee.
I used 1.5 yards for this dress. My daughter is 5’10” and a women’s size 6.
My grandma gave me her fabulous serger, which I am so in love with! But you can whip this dress out with any stretch stitch on your regular sewing machine, too, which is what I’ve been doing for the last 35 years of my life. And no, I’m not as old as you just thought — I started sewing when I was 4! I was a sewing prodigy, ha, ha!
Use a well-fitting T-shirt as your pattern. Put the T-shirt on, make sure it fits you pretty close everywhere, place a safety-pin right over your belly button so you will remember exactly where your waist hits, and note where (how high or low) the T-shirt neckline is compared to where you want your dress neckline. The crewneck T-shirt I used had a slightly higher neckline than I wanted for my daughter’s dress.
Dress cutting instructions:
1. Lay your T-shirt on top of your fabric (doubled and folded in half because you are cutting both the front and back of a symmetrical bodice) and cut this shape. Notice that this dress does not have set-in sleeves, though it is not sleeveless. The sleeve is just a short extension of the bodice. Also notice that we cut the bodice length one inch below the safety pin and not to the same length as the T-shirt. This is because you want the waist of the dress at your natural waist, but you need a small seam allowance and 1/2″ for the elastic casing.
2. I cut the front and back bodice at the same time, then just separate them and re-cut the neckline of the front bodice to slightly lower than the crewneck of the T-shirt, like the photo on the right. You will be adding a 1/2″ wide band to the neckline, making it just a tiny bit higher, but not much.
3. Cut the skirt. I just used the entire 56″ width of the fabric, cut to 28″ length, because my daughter wanted it midi (between knee and ankle) length. A smaller person will not want to use the entire 56″ wide piece. A good rule of them for a casual dress like this is to make the skirt 1.5 times the width of the bodice. Cut off the selvages. My daughter just wanted a straight hemline, but if you want hi-lo or rounded or assymetrical or anything different, you should cut your hemline that way now.
4. See how it will fit together? The bottom rectangle is the skirt, which will be gathered onto the bodice.
5. Now cut the neckband, which you will sew into the neckline to finish that seam. Measure the length of your front bodice neckline plus your back bodice neckline, subtract 1″ for the seam allowances, and multiply by 0.9 to find the length. The width will be 1 1/2″. So it is basically a rectangle, 1 1/2″ wide by __(your measurement)___ long. Mine was 1 1/2″ wide by 16″ long. Different fabric weights and types will affect the stretch of your band, so the length may need to be altered slightly once we’re sewing. You want it to stretch, but not pucker. It’s not hard, though. We’ll talk more about it when we get there.
You are finished cutting. To the sewing machine!
Dress sewing Instructions:
1. Sew across each shoulder seam, right sides together, using a stretch stitch.
2. Sew up each side of the bodice.
3. It’s time to sew the band into the neckline. Sew the ends of the band together, so you have a circle. Fold the band in half, lengthwise, and iron, right sides facing out, wrong sides together. Find the center front of the band, directly opposite the seam, and mark with a straight pin. Now fold in quarters, marking each quarter with a straight pin. Mark the neckline into quarters with straight pins in the same manner. Now pin the neckband to the neckline, right sides together, matching straight pins, so that the stretch will be evenly distributed around the neckline. I like the seam to be at the back of the neck.
You will be able to see at this point whether the neckband is the right length so that it will be stretched enough and not too much. Alter the length if need be, and sew the band in, right sides together, using a stretch stitch.
4. Sew the two selvage edges of the skirt together, creating a tube.
5. Gather the top edge of the skirt so it is the same size diameter as the bottom edge of the bodice. Pin them together and sew, right sides together, using a stretch stitch. Your dress is nearly complete! Try it on and make sure there is nothing you want to alter before proceeding.
6. Now we’re going to create the casing for the elastic at the waist. I used 1/4″ wide elastic and cut it 24″ long, because my daughter’s waist is 25″. The casing is created by sewing the seam allowances at the waist to the fabric of the bodice just above the seam, as if you were just topstitching that seam. Make sure your needle is set to the left, so your casing is large enough for your elastic, and that your seam allowances are large enough. You really are topstitching that seam, but 1/4″+ away from the seam, and the gap creates the casing.
7. Draw your elastic through the casing with a safety pin, then stitch the ends together and close up your casing.
8. The very final step is to hem the bottom of the dress and the sleeves. I just put in a rolled hem with a straight stitch on both the sleeves and hem of this dress, but I think a scalloped hem would have been cute, or even an invisible hem.
Have fun wearing your new dress! Are you tempted to make 17 more now that you’ve realized how simple it is?
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