Combine a few yards of fabric with a few hours of your time and you'll be ready to beat the summer heat in style!
It's the perfect sewing project for a beginner. It consists of sewing two fabric rectangles together with an elastic casing at the dress top and at the waistline.
I found the fabric, belt and even the bias tape used for the casing in a thrift store, so total investment for my "Island Dreams" maxi dress was less than $10.
I call this my Island Dreams dress as it reminds me of hot weather, lush flowers and refreshing drinks served with little umbrellas.
Here's how you can sew your own Island Dreams maxi dress (or swim suit cover-up if you prefer).
- Lightweight woven fabric 45” wide - enough yardage to cut two dress lengths. You’ll determine the dress length in the next step.
- Choose a lightweight fabric as the width of the dress is about 64" when sewn. If you want less ease just cut your rectangles narrower.
- 1/2" elastic
- Bias tape
- Tape measure
- Chalk or other marking pen
- Sewing machine
- Fabric scissors
Determine the length of the dress
- Measure from your underarm to the floor (or where you want your dress to end).
- Add 3 inches to this measurement for upper casing and hem. This will be the length you cut each rectangle.
- I cut my dress 50” long.
Cut the fabric
- Lay your fabric on a large flat surface.I used my cutting table, but the floor works just as well.
- Cut two rectangles 33" wide by the length you determined in the step above.
- If you want a closer fitting dress this is where you'll want to cut a narrower rectangle.
- If you want a looser fit, cut the rectangle wider.
Sew the side seams
- With right sides together pin the two large rectangles together along the long edges,which are the side seams.
- Using a 1/2” seam allowance, stitch the side seams.
- If desired, finish the seams with a serger, a zig zag stitch, or pinking shears. Some seam finish examples can be viewed here.
- Press the seams open.
- Turn under 1/4" on the top edge of the dress. Press.
- Turn under another 3/4" on the top edge. Press.
- This is the upper casing of the dress.
- Stitch close to pressed edge forming the casing.
- Leave a 1" opening to insert the elastic.
- Turn the dress so the wrong side of the fabric is facing out.
- From the top edge of the dress, measure down 9” and mark with chalk or pen.
- Continue measuring and marking 9” down from the top edge of the dress until you've drawn a solid line around the entire dress. This is the line for the waist casing.
- Starting at one side seam, place one edge of the seam binding along the line you just drew.
- Pin in place.
- Stitch close to both edges of the seam binding. Be sure to leave a 1" opening at one side seam to insert elastic.
Insert the upper casing elastic
- Cut a piece of 1/2" elastic that fits snugly around your chest (above your bust.)
- Place a safety pin on one end of the elastic and thread it through the upper casing.
- Don't forget to pin the other end of the elastic to the garment or you’ll lose the elastic in the casing when you begin to pull to thread the elastic through.
- Once the elastic is all the way through, secure the elastic to the dress by pinning both ends to the dress seam.
- Try the dress on to make sure the elastic is tight enough to hold the dress up. Adjust if necessary.
- Remove the pins, overlap the two edges of elastic, stitch together securely (you don't want that elastic to come undone while you're wearing the dress now do you?) and tuck into the casing.
- Sew the casing opening closed.
- Cut a piece of 1/2" elastic that fits comfortably around your waist.
- Place a safety pin on one end of the elastic and thread it through the waist casing you just created with the seam binding.
- Once again, don't forget to pin the other end of the elastic to the garment.
- Overlap the two edges of elastic, stitch together securely and tuck into the casing.
- The hem of the dress is created the same way as the upper casing.
- Turn under 1/4” on the bottom edge of the dress. Press.
- Turn under another 3/4” on the top edge. Press.
- Stitch close to the pressed edge.
Add a belt, some great costume jewelry and go enjoy the compliments you'll get while wearing your new dress.