Maxi dresses are perfect for the summer months. They’re light and breezy, plus they can provide some protection from the sun’s rays on hot days.
This lovely maxi dress pattern designed by Portia Lawrie can be worn on the beach or dressed up for evening wear. You can also cinch in the waist with a belt if you want to give the dress some more shape.
This is a good project for sewers with some dressmaking experience to attempt, as there are a few techniques used that absolute beginners might struggle with. If you are a beginner and you want to make your first dress, we’d recommend our DIY dress for beginners tutorial.
New to sewing? We’ve got lots of great beginner’s guides to help you get started. Check out our sewing for beginners and how to use a sewing machine guides to learn the basics. Stock up on some craft supplies with our best sewing machines for beginners and sewing kits for beginners.
This tutorial first featured in Simply Sewing Magazine. Simply Sewing is the UK’s best-selling magazine for makers who sew will have you at your machine from the get-go! Each issue includes fresh projects for your home & wardrobe, beautiful photos and step-by-step guides.
Looking for more patterns to sew for your summer holidays? Check out our best summer dress sewing patterns for more inspiration. If you enjoy making this maxi dress sewing pattern, you might also enjoy our DIY maxi skirt sewing pattern.
Read on to learn how to make our maxi dress pattern…
Maxi dress sewing pattern
The instructions and measurements given here should achieve the desired outcome on a UK 10-16. We are using the full width of the fabric 150cm (60in) on a model with a 34-36in bust and calculate that these instructions should suit up to around a 42in bust. If you are under a UK size 10 then you can reduce the width of the rectangles you cut to avoid too much gathering and fullness.
If you are larger than a UK size 16 you can increase the width of your rectangles; this will require additional fabric to the 2m (2¼yds) stated for sufficient fullness. So the maxi will have the desired amount of gathering around the bust, the fabric width needs to be around 1.5 to 2 times your bust measurement.
You Will Need
- Lightweight or drapey viscose (150cm (60in) width x 2m (21/4yds))
- Elastic (at least 1.5cm (5/8in) wide and as long as your bust measurement)
- Basic sewing kit
Using the full width of the fabric, cut out the following pieces:
- Flounce: 150cm (60in) wide x 23cm (9in) deep.
- Main body: 150cm (60in) wide x 140cm (55in) deep.
Making the flounce and main body
Finish the raw edges of the flounce by overlocking or using a machine zigzag stitch.
Fold it in half along the grainline with right sides (RS) together and selvedges aligned.
Sew together to form a loop then press the seam allowance open and flat. Repeat this with the main body rectangle piece.
Joining the flounce and the main body
With both the flounce tube and the main body tube turned wrong sides (WS) out, slide the main section inside the flounce section, aligning the seams you have just sewn. If your fabric has a directional print then make sure the pattern on the flounce section is orientated upside down at this stage.
Match up the raw edges and pin.
Sew together all the way around then finish the raw edges.
Press the seam allowance downwards towards the body and understitch.
Press the flounce over to the RS of your dress with the seamline rolled and pressed to the inside. This is now the dress top edge.
Stitching the elastic channel
Measure your elastic. We used 1.5cm (5⁄8in) wide elastic and wouldn’t suggest going much narrower than that. If you have elastic that is wider, you can safely trim it down by cutting along the grooves as it doesn’t fray!
The channel for your elastic needs to be 3-4mm (1⁄8in) wider than your elastic. Sewing through both the flounce and the main body, on the WS, sew a line of stitching 2cm (¾in) away from the folded edge, all the way around the top of the dress, but leaving a 7.5cm (3in) gap in which to insert the elastic. Reverse stitch either side of this to secure the stitching.
Inserting the elastic
Using a safety pin, thread the elastic into the gap you left and through the channel. This is accessible under the flounce from the RS of the garment. The important thing here is to ensure that the elastic doesn’t twist in any way as you feed it through.
When the elastic emerges the other side of the gap you left, try the dress on and stretch the elastic until it’s comfortable and secure above your bust but not too tight.
Mark the point at which the elastic meets on both sides then stitch the elastic together with a zigzag at those points.
Topstitch the gap closed to hold the elastic inside.
Hemming the dress
Hem the bottom of the flounce by finishing the raw edge then turning it over by 1.5cm (5⁄8in) to the WS and stitching in place.
Try the dress on. If you’d like it to be shorter, trim it to 1.5cm (5⁄8in) longer than you want the final length to be, then hem as before.
We unpicked a section of the skirt seam at the bottom to create a split as an extra design detail, before hemming. This can be at the back, or to the side, but you need to decide which before adding the optional straps.
Making the tie
You can wear a belt or make a matching fabric tie. This wraps around twice and ties obi-style. Cut two strips of fabric, 10x150cm (4x60in) then join them RS together to create one long strip.
Fold the strip in half lengthways with RS facing and sew together along the long edge, leaving a 7.5cm (3in) gap for turning.
Sew the short ends at a diagonal then trim the seams and clip the corners.
Turn RS out, press, and topstitch the opening closed.
Making the straps
The straps are optional if you want the extra security, to cover bra straps or just because you like the way they look. Even after you attach them you can choose to tuck them away and wear the dress strapless. Cut four strips 5x40cm (2x16in).
Fold each strip in half lengthways with RS facing then sew together along the long edge and one short edge.
Turn RS out and press.
Try the dress on and pin the straps to the inside of the top edge of your dress at the front and back so they are opposite in a position that sits well on you.
Stitch into place on the inside of the dress for a neat finish.
You’ve finished! We hope you enjoyed making this easy maxi dress pattern.