Introduction: Ultimate Convertible Dress
This pattern is an ode to my beautiful bridesmaids who rocked my wedding almost 2 years ago today, wearing floor length Two Birds dresses. The dresses not only looked stunning, but they were comfortable thanks to the stretchy jersey fabric and the multiway convertible straps which could be tied any manner of ways to suit, and provided an (almost) headache free way to flatter every body shape from my 5 foot little sister to my 6 foot cousin-in-law – yay, mission accomplished.
I wanted to create something similar, but which was more casual so it could be worn swanning by the pool or, equally, perched at a bar on the promenade.
Now for the pattern….it’s somewhat an All Saints, Two Birds lovechild. My version is based on a half circle skirt with long ties to wrap around the bodice and features:
- Tapered straps: These mean no bulk across the tummy when wrapping or bulky knots at the back for a more flattering fit, but maintaining modesty at the chest
- Elasticated waistband: Giving more support to the dress and a better fit
- Finished hems: A proper finish at the skirt hem and a partial hem to the front chest (optional)
- Half circle skirt with hitches: A sleeker cut with hitches to the front adding drape and interest
And for those wishing to also create this in stripes, the pattern creates a chic chevron effect to the centre front and back – bonus.
- Approx 3m of fabric, depending on your size and your desired length
- Matching thread
- 1.5 inch wide elastic (enough to go around your waist)
- 0.5 – 1m of 0.5cm wide cotton ribbon
More pics and sewing projects over at my blog Foxlovescrow.com.
Step 1: Creating Your Pattern
Skirt: This is essentially a half circle skirt.
- Draw two lines at 90 degree, each about 80cm long.
- Calculate your radius (R) by using By Hand’s handy calculator, here: https://byhandlondon.com/pages/circle-skirt-app
- Mark these points on the paper on the 90 degree lines and connect by using a giant’s compass, or simply by measuring from the corner and connecting the points with a curve (easiest).
- From here, measure 53cm. This is the length of the skirt (50cm) plus seam allowance (1cm) and hem allowance (2.5cm). Tweak this is you want a longer skirt but you’ll probably need more fabric.
- Cut along the two curved lines you’ve made. Finally, fold skirt pattern piece in half. You’ll need to do this so you can fit it on your fabric.
- Draw a rectangle 30cm wide by 163cm long.
- At one end, taper into a width of 12.5 cm, being sure to measure this out from the centre. If you prefer, simply use the rectangle, and then taper by hand once the straps are attached and you can try it on. This is what I did, but I think it’s easier to do it at the start when cutting the pattern out. Even easier if you have a rotary cutter.
- (Note, tapered straps mean that some of the multi-way wrap styles may not be open to you…but you still have many options!).
- Cut a 13cm wide rectangle. The length is your waist measurement plus 1cm seam allowance each side.
- Try it on, and remove a little fabric so that it will be snug.
Step 2: Cut the Pieces
Start with the skirt panels, placing the pattern piece on the fold. You’ll want to cut two and then we’ll stitch them together in the next step (if you can fit the skirt piece in without folding, as mentioned in the last step, then super as you can just cut one on the fold).
Next cut your straps. You may want to shift your fabric around or refold /open out to do this so you get the length. Finally, find a small piece to cut the waistband – this is less important as it’s mostly hidden while wearing (except at the back).
Step 3: Skirt Seams
Stitch up the two skirt pieces at the seams, using 1cm seam allowance and straight stitch (seeing as you don’t need the length to stretch!).
The seams on my skirt are at the centre front and centre back to give a nice V effect with the stripes. Take care when lining up at this obvious place. Press the seams apart.
Step 4: Waistband
Cut 1.5 inch wide elastic to your waist measurement and check the fit – you want it to be snug to hold the dress in place. Zig Zag or overlock stitch the short ends of the waistband together with the elastic to make a band. Fold in half, press.
Zig zag or overlock stitch the short ends together to make a band, fold in half. Line up the raw edges the waistband to the skirt waist, right sides together. Zig zag or overlock stitch in place with a 1cm seam allowance, trying to be snug next to the elastic.
Step 5: Straps
Position the wide end of your straps against the front of the skirt, right sides together. You’ll want to overlap the straps, at the centre, by around 10cm for modesty. Zig zag or overlock stitch in place.
Flip up, press, and admire…it’s coming together.
Step 6: Finishing the Straps
At both edges of the straps, at the front, fold a 1cm hem and straight stitch up about 27cm. This gives a neater finish, encouraging the hems to roll-over and hide the raw edges.
(you only want to stitch part-way, as it’s important to have no bulk at the points where the straps wrap and tie).
Step 7: Hemming the Skirt
Using your preferred technique, create a 2.5cm hem at the skirt. I cheated a bit, stabilising the hem first with strips of iron on interfacing, turning up once 1cm, then 2.5cm. This gave a really neat seam with no raw edges on the inside. Shout if you have any tips on making this easier though!
Step 8: Hitching
To finish, we’ll create four small hitches at the from of the skirt. Snip x8 10cm lengths of 0.5 cotton ribbon.
Pin in place according to the measurements and diagram below. The first pair of ribbons, are stitched on the wrong side of the skirt as follows with a back and forth straight stitch (this is mostly hidden once tied but can be visible from the front, so keep it neat):
- R1 = Approx 19cm down from waistband, 18cm out from centre
- R2 = 11.5cm below from R1The second pair
- R3 = Approx 17cm down from waistband, 23cm out from centre
- R4 = Approx 33cm out from centre, 34cm from waistband
Repeat for the other side of the skirt. It doesn’t need to be exactly symmetrical since this is an organic look.
Once stitched, flip the skirt up, tie the ribbon pairs together to create mini hitches – the tighter they are tied, the deeper the hitch and more dramatic the effect. And…you’re done!
If you liked this tutorial, please check out my blog over at www.FoxLovesCrow.com.
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Please be positive and constructive.
I’ve sewn a lot d stuff (duffel bags, packs, pants repairs, curtains, alterations) but no dessses “from scratch.”
Having a reasonable deep sewing background, would it be okay to make this as a first dress for my wife? I think she would like it a lot, but I don’t want to get over my head too much on a first project also.
Second- Can the soft cotton jersey and/or bamboo knit jersey (that is thin, soft, and stretchy?) be purchased at JoAnnes, or is it better to look at an online retailer?
Hey Steven, LOVE that you're interested in doing this as a first dress for your wife! If you can sew pants, then I reckon you'll have no problems. Take it slow, maybe look at some tips online for sewing jersey if you've not tried it before (jersey / knit needle is essential). To make this project more simple, you can omit the hitches (although they are fairly straightforward to do) and you could remove some of the other detail like the seam on the straps, and I'd recommend using something like a 'wonder web' fusible hemming tape to hem up the skirt to make life a little easier. If you get stuck, feel free to drop me a message, and there are also plenty of tutorials on doing things like waistbands online. On your question about JoAnnes, I'm not sure as I assume this is a US brand, however if you are in the US, I'm incredibly jealous as you have tons of fantastic online shops for fabrics. I think this would work really well in bamboo jersey as it has such a lovely drape. Good luck!
Could you please provide a bit more explanation and perhaps an image or two of "hitching?" How is it done, and what does it look like? Thanks!
Sure! It's a technique that I've noticed All Saints use on some of their dress and skirt designs to give body / fullness, drape and a stylistic feature - I absolutely love it and it's easy to do (here's an example from All Saints that I quickly found on Google: http://coolspotters.com/clothing/allsaints-ditzy-ezra-dress). It's essentially a tuck done from the underneath of the skirt. To do this, you sew two short pieces of ribbon on the underneath of the skirt about 10cm apart. The idea is that when you tie them together, it pulls the skirt into a tuck from the underneath. From the front, you just see a few tiny stitches. The beauty is you can tie the ribbons more closely together for a more pronounced look, or simply untie them for a longer 'un-hitched' conventional skirt! You can place your hitches anywhere you like - and they look totally fine a bit uneven for a fluid, organic look - but I've included a diagram in the Instructable for where I placed mine. Hope that helps! I'm sure I'll do another hitch skirt later this year, so will be sure to include more photos.
Thanks a bunch, Claire. I have heard of tucks and hitching (the latter a more old-fashioned term) and it didn't occur to me to search google. Thank you very much for the clarification!
Hey, no probs at all! Always helps to see examples. I'll include more in my next one! :)