make your own drop waist blouson beach dress

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If you sent me into a clothing store with $50 to spend, chances are I’d come out with a new dress (or two- depending on the store). I realize that it’s probably more practical to buy separate pieces, but dresses continue to woo me with their ease and promise of a one-piece-outfit.

And I kind of feel like I hit the jackpot when I find an uber-comfy dress (I feel the same way about dressing Piper Jane, incidentally, which is why there are three versions of the jersey JCrew-y dress tutorial). The jersey drop waist dresses that are popping up everywhere this spring are right up my alley (above from Victoria’s Secret, PiperlimeSplendid, Jcrew, JcrewSessun and Anthropologie).

Of course, I needed to try my hand at making one- and the “Upcycled/Repurposed” challenge week at Sew-vivor was the perfect opportunity.

To make one of these super comfy dresses, you’ll need-

-three men’s XXL tshirts

-RIT dye (mine was navy RIT dye)

-1″ wide elastic (at least 6″ long)

-wide, sturdy ribbon (about a yard)

-sewing supplies and machine

-a stretchy belt

First dye your tshirts (unless you’re wanting to make a white dress). Wash and dry. Next, cut your shirts into three pieces-

A- One piece that includes the bottom 7/8s (or so) of the shirt. Cut the sleeves off and then cut straight across under the collar.B & C- Two pieces that include the bottom 2/3s (or so) of the shirts. Cut a straight line from one arm pit to the other on both shirts.

To determine sizing, lay a strapless dress that fits on top of Piece A. If it has elastic in the top casing (like mine does), stretch out the elastic and mark the edges. Then trace the side edges all the way down (mine was a slight A-line).

Sew along the two A-line edges, making a tube (well, a tube that’s narrower at the top than the bottom).

Tuck the top edge 2″ under and pin a casing in place around the entire tube. Sew in place (you can tuck the raw edge under if you want it to look a little more clean). Leave a gap of an inch or two for threading your elastic/ribbon top.

Cut 6″ of elastic. Sew to one end of thick, sturdy ribbon. To determine the length of the ribbon, wrap the elastic-plus ribbon around your chest at the place your dress will sit. Pull taut. Hold with your finger and mark.

Using a clothespin, thread the ribbon-and-elastic through the top casing. Be sure it lays flat. Sew into a tube at the place you marked and then sew the casing opening closed.

Try the dress on. The top will be too big. Smooth out the front casing so that the top edge on the front of the dress is completely flat. Move all of the extra fabric to the back of the dress and pinch to find extra fabric. Pin the edges of your ‘pinch.’ Scoot the elastic portion of the ribbon-elastic to the back, in between to the two pins. Gather the extra fabric together until the circumference of the top equals our chest measurement. Sew two vertical lines, securing the casing and making the top edge a perfect fit.

With Pieces B and C, cut along one vertical edge, opening up one long rectangle of jersey. Pin pleats in place along the top edge until the pleated edge matches the width of the bottom of Piece A.

Sew the pleats in place. Sew Piece B and C together along the vertical edges, making a skirt. The circumference of the top of the skirt should match the circumference of the bottom of the dress.

Tuck the right-side-in top of the dress into the flipped-up (and inside out) skirt portion of the dress. Pin and sew in place.

Check your measurements- you should have a much too long top (that makes a bubble/blouson) and a skirt that falls at appropriate dress length. If you need to adjust the bottom length, you can hem the skirt. If you need the top portion to be shorter, you can pin a bit of length in and reattach the top and skirt portions.

If you’re lengths all look good- grab your elastic belt. Cinch around your hips. Slide the dress up until the blouson looks correct and the belt is sitting at the seam between the top and bottom (this takes a little adjusting). And you’re done (unless you now just want to make another one like I do- ha!)!

Ok, your turn, if you had $50 to spend in a clothing store, A- Which store would you go into? and B- What would you spend your $$$ on?


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  1. This dress is super cute. After 4 kids, there is no way I could pull off wearing a dress with out a bra or straps though :/ I might have to toy with modifying it with straps.

  2. Can you explain one step to me. I’m sure what you mean when you say “Sew two vertical lines, securing the casing and making the top edge a perfect fit.” If you have a picture available, maybe that would help. I’m not really sure what it should look like and I guess the purpose of this stitch is to make the top fit tight.
    Thanks, great dress, I can’t wait to make one.

  3. Wow! You made a fabulous outfit from not-so-good-looking items! Two thumbs up. I’ve got of clothes here which I think would be great in making a fashionable clothing. Great tutorial!

    Annabella Merlin
    Creative Photo Albums

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