Saturday, August 10, 2013

Strapless Maxi Dress Tutorial

Whew...I finally dug out of my craft room redo, prepping for a garage sale and staining leather furniture (more on that soon) to actually sew something. A couple days ago I decided to try making a strapless fitted maxi dress using two thrifted fabrics. I am pleased with the way this turned out. You can dress it up or down and the best cost me about $5. This dress took me a little over 2 hours from start to finish, but that was while figuring things out, having a horrible battle with twisting elastic, and taking I am guessing you could complete it much faster than me if you give it a go. Would you like to make one? The tutorial is below. As always feel free to ask me questions at 2ndstorysewing at gmail dot com.


1. Gather your supplies: About 4 yds total fabric. I used a 1/2 yd piece of thrifted fabric for the top. I am not totally sure what it is but it feels like some sort of polyster knit. It stretches but is a bit scratchy to the touch and I used a 3 yd piece of blue light weight knit (not totally sure on the exact kind) for the skirt and top lining. The skirt used extra yardage because it was cut on the bias. You will need a sewing machine, serger (optional), thread, scissors, and 1 1/4 inch elastic.

2. Begin by creating your top. You will need to take some measurements to create your pattern. First, measure under your armpits, all the way around your body. For me, this was 33 inches. Then measure around your lower ribcage, or where you want your top to end. For me, this was 29 inches. Now, divide both of those numbers in half, for me this was 16.5 and 14.5 to use on your pattern. Finally, measure from your armpit down to your ribcage, or where you want your top to end. For me, this was 10 inches.  Add one inch to this number for your pattern = 11 inches for me. Now sketch the following measurements on your fabric. (NOTE: You do not add seam allowance to the upper and lower measurements b/c you want it to be quite fitted.)
When I drew mine on my fabric, I did it as follows. First, I drew the 16.5 inch line across the top, then measured straight down 11 inches and marked on each side of the 16.5 inch line. From those marks, I measured in one inch on each side and marked (this was the marks for the start and stop of the 14.5 inch line since it was two inches smaller than my top line.) Then I used my ruler to connect the 16.5 inch line to the 14.5 inch line. The pictures show this below. 

Once you have your pattern drawn, flip the fabric on top of itself and cut out so you have two main fabric top pieces. Then place those pieces on your lining and cut 2 pieces.

3. Stitch and serge (or zig zag stitch) your two side seams on your main fabric. Place fabric right sides together and use a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Then repeat with the two lining pieces. 

4. Now it is time to put the lining and main top piece together. First, turn your main fabric right side out and have your lining fabric inside out. Now, slide your main fabric piece inside of your lining fabric until the meet at the top (the 16.5 inch side). Make sure your side seams line up and then stitch a 1/2 inch seam allowance all the way around the top, then serge. 

5. The first picture above shows what it should look like. You should have three edges sewn and the the bottom edge open. Now, open your fabric and press the seam towards the lining. 

6. Turn the fabric right side out and press again, making sure your lining is fully behind your main fabric. Then topstitch close to the top edge. After you top stitch, measure down 1.5 inches from the top of your fabric and make a line all the way around. This will be your stitching line for your elastic casing. Stitch on your marked line, leaving a two inch opening to insert your elastic. Next, take your 1 1/4 inch elastic and cut off the needed amount. I wrapped it under my armpits to determine the length. I wanted it snug but not so tight that it was uncomfortable. 

 7. Insert your elastic through your 2 inch opening using a safety pin. Feed the elastic all the way through your casing and overlap your two elastic ends. MAKE SURE YOUR ELASTIC IS NOT TWISTED...(enter the 30 minute fight I had with my elastic here)...Now, stitch your overlapped elastic ends using a zig zag stitch.  Now, go back and stitch the two inch opening closed. The center pic shows what this top should now look like. Now, onto the maxi skirt portion.

8. For this skirt I used a maxi skirt block that I already have. It originally came from Elle Apparel's website and since she now sells the pattern, I didn't want to put the pattern pieces on here. Here are a couple resources you could use to create your own or purchase a maxi skirt for this tutorial:
Elle Apparel's Maxi Skirt or U-create crafts Free Maxi skirt tutorial

I cut my skirt out on the bias for this dress. For info on cutting on the bias, see HERE. When I used my maxi block I originally thought I would have to add several inches at the waist for it to be tall enough. However, later in construction I realized this was way too small. So, disregard my photo showing the addition of 7 inches to the waist and instead only add 3 inches to the waist. Then I used chalk to match the new waist line to the side seam.

9. Once you have your skirt cut, stitch and serge the side seams using a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Take your open edge of your top and baste. Now it is time to insert the top into the bottom. Have the top right side out  with the top edge at the bottom and the skirt wrong side out. Slide the top inside the bottom, matching side seams. Slide it all the way in until the two straight edges meet. Pin and stitch using a 1/2 inch seam allowance.
 10. Turn right side out and press. Finally, hem the bottom of your dress. For this dress I tried this great tip from Mabey She Made It, for hemming a curved edge and it worked great. My knit was a little difficult to work with for this technique, but I would still use it again in the future. It made a beautiful clean hem with a little weight which is nice.

 And that's it. I hope you could follow these always sounds so much better and easier to follow in my head. But, if I was not clear, feel free to ask questions.

Pair with a jacket for a more relaxed look.
    Dress: DIY Denim Jacket: Polo (old), Necklace (from my latest Stitch that service!)

Looks like a longer slip would be fabric was a little sheer (oops).

Have a great weekend, Shannon


  1. wowza! Now that's sexy maxi!! Nice work!

  2. This is so cute and easy. I'm definitely trying it.

    1. Thank you, I am glad you will be trying it. Love to see a pic if you do- Shannon

  3. Hello,

    Thank you for sharing! I pinned it to make it later ;)
    I stopped by from the Sew Chatty's linky and follow you through Bloglovin. i hope you'll return the favor.
    See you

  4. Oh my gosh!!! This one is super cute as well!
    So talented! Give me your sewing skills ;)
    ~Kat |

    1. Thank you- and thanks for linking to my blog for the skirt tutorial- I just checked out your blog and it is lovely- gorgeous photos!!!!

  5. Oh my gosh!!! This one is super cute as well!
    So talented! Give me your sewing skills ;)
    ~Kat |

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. I love this, I love the fabrics as well.


  8. paula.white39@yahoo.comDecember 6, 2013 at 10:01 PM

    I just found your blog and I have really enjoyed it. I watched my mom and my mil to learn some, then after i had my daughter i decided to learn to sew. Mom, mil, and ladies at Walmart taught me along the way. I would sew and they would rip out ,repin and tell me to sew it again.I very seldom sew with patterns. I do mostly measurments and eyeball. I LOVE this dress. I look forward to following you for a long time. Have fun sewing and remember to enjoy family, they grow too quick. :)


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