A (Sort of) Maxi Dress Tutorial--EASY!

Some time back I began to experience angst about how hard it is to find modest dresses. When I got pregnant, I developed an instant aversion (okay, inability) to wear anything aside from flowy and loose dresses with leggings, and it began to just irritate me that everything I bought had to be paired with a tank-top (because it was too low-cut), a sweater (because it was sleeveless), and/or leggings (because it was too short). Quite often, I had to add all three, and I began to just be annoyed as I put on all of those layers of clothes. The point of dresses was to be easy; the point of dresses was to have nothing touching me. Wearing a dress andandand missed the point. And really, while I don't generally get indignant about this stuff, I began to wonder what is wrong with this world that I can't find a dress that doesn't expose my goodies. I mean, I confess my aim for modesty is related to my religious tradition, but it also it just seems like I'm a grown woman, you know? And I'd prefer to be able to dress like one, to have the option, for goodness sake. I don't want a dress with a teeny tiny skirt. I just don't. And there are so many many beautiful dresses out there that are just worthless to me for this very reason.

All of this to say that one evening, while walking with Sam back to our car after a lovely meal of Ethiopian food, I began to notice how simple the maxi dress I was wearing actually was. I had bought it from Target, and it was in heavy rotation in my closet, even though I needed to wear a tank-top with it. And I started to think it really couldn't be that hard to make one of my own, though the task still seemed daunting. I was determined I would figure it out.

Soon thereafter, miraculously I'd say, this tutorial popped up on Pinterest. And, also miraculously, it actually looked as easy as it professed to be. Foregoing the fabric-dying step, it would be even easier. I pulled out some knit I'd had for some time, and went to town. And boy howdy was I pleased. A dress! With sleeves! As long as I choose! A neckline I wanted! And it came together faster than I could have dreamed.

So I bought more knit! More! And I made more dresses! More! (This post is exclamation point heavy. Sorry.) And this is one of them. It's made from a lovely denim knit that was on clearance, so I got the whole lot of it for ten bucks, and it took me maybe a half an hour to make. When I wore it to church and it garnered compliments, I couldn't help but responding, "I made it! Ten bucks! Half an hour!" (Is that annoying? Oh well.) I added one detail that wasn't in the original tutorial, and that's the elastic thread waistband, since enormous wide belts are lovely, but not really an option for my increasingly pregnant self.  

I find these outfit pictures so embarrassing. That's the truth. This was the best of the lot.

Here's the elastic waistband, which is easier than it looks.

And here's a pregnant belly shot at (I think) 24 weeks, though it pains me to post it. I got this dressed up for a doctor's appointment, which is what happens when they put you on bed rest and a doctor's appointment is the only time you leave the house all week.
That tutorial is just really good, and will walk you through it just fine, but here's my mini-version, so you can see how easy it really is.

1. Get yourself 2 yards of knit. Or less. If you want it knee-length, 1.5 yards will do. I think this was 1.75 yards, but I'm short. When in doubt, hold up the fabric in the store and see how much you need.

2. Fold the entire piece of fabric, right sides together. You're going to basically make a giant pillowcase out of it, with the opening for your feet.

3. Sew two seams (just two!): think of the pillowcase--sew down one long side, and down one short side. Don't worry about arm or neck holes just yet. Since knit can be slippy and slidey, this part can be frustrating, and you'll worry you're ruining the whole thing. You're not. Don't worry. Just keep going. The dress is forgiving.

4. Now do the neck hole by folding the whole thing in half long ways, and cutting a straight line down the very center. Start with five inches or so. You can deepen it if you want to. This makes the neck, once you have it on, and the back, which is pretty. You don't need to finish any of the seams since it's knit and won't unravel.

5. On either side of the top, cut the arm holes. Nothing fancy here. You're just opening up the seam and the fold. Starting from the top, trim as close as you can to the edge for maybe 7 inches? Again, you can make the hole longer later if you decide you want to.

6. Now try it on! It will seem like a big fat sack, but you should be able to begin to envision how it's sort of dress-like. Decide whether the sleeves and neck are working for you, or whether you want to deepen them. And either put on a big wide belt, or stick a little pin where you'd like the waistband to be.

7. Here's a brief description of the waistband: I made it with elastic thread, which is super easy to work with once you figure out it only goes in the bobbin. (Trying to use it for both thread sources is disaster, which I learned the hard way.) Using a ruler and where you pinned as a marker, use more pins to mark a straight line across the dress. Then sew that line, using the elastic thread in the bobbin and a thread to match your dress as the top thread. Use the line you just sewed as a guide to do another line, and another, and another (as many as you want), and it will just naturally start to look as it looks in the picture. It's pretty sweet to see it start to cinch up.

8. And that's really it, my friends. Cut the bottom, if you need to. And you're done. And you have a new dress. And you're happy. And so am I.


Russanne said…
You have truly changed my dress wearing life by sharing the gospel of maxi dress making! I wear mine all the time, and I am never looking back.
belann said…
It really tickles me to see you sewing such lovely things and enjoying it. Sort of redeems me from never teaching you to sew.
Amara said…
I still haven't done this so I suck. I'm thinking about it again now... The dress really did look great when I saw it.
Bryson and Tara said…
I'm super impressed with your craftiness. You're looking beautiful, pregnant lady. :)

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