How To Make a Summer Dress Without A Pattern

This is a great summer essential to add to your wardrobe, how to make a summer dress without a pattern.

I haven’t owned a dress for quite some time, I grew out of wearing girly dresses and decided I was a more T-shirt and shorts kind of person. I had one dress that I kept in my wardrobe for interviews and more formal occasions but it got too big and had to throw it out. Now I don’t need anything like that as I work for myself I never replaced it. Now we are counting down the days until we go to Orlando, Florida and yes I am extremely excited! We go away in 8 days and I really wanted to have a nice dress to wear, I don’t want to spend hours trying to find one in a shop because I would rather be working. So I decided to make one. I used a vest top to help me create the top half of the dress to the style I like so I wouldn’t be disappointed.

* A useful tip is to find something within your wardrobe that you like the style of, a t-shirt, a vest or a dress you already have and use that to model the next one from. This will help you work without a pattern and means you can work directly on your shape, no changes to paper needed and so on.

Equipment And Materials


Creating the Skirt Pattern

You can draft this into paper first or you can jump straight onto fabric if you’re confident. To make the skirt you want to make 2 panels, 1 will be the front and the back will be split into 2, this will allow for a zip. Start by creating the pattern, using only half of the paper as you want to cut your pieces on the fold. Measure across 15 inches, this is 1/2 of my waist measurement, measure down from your waist to knee measurement and mark down a point on your paper. Draw a straight line to create the hem edge, now measure along that line to create 22 inches. This is going to be the point in which you slope up to the 15 inches point to create a nice curve edge. This edge will create a nice curve seam and make the skirt look fuller without all the bulk.

Cutting the Skirt

Cut 2 of this panel and take the second fabric piece and cut in half. The two halves will be the centre back and the whole panel will be the front. Sew together the panels right sides together with a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Once sewn together press open all seams.


Creating The Gathers

Create 2 rows of the longest running stitch along the top of the skirt, this will create neat and tidy gathers to pull in the excess fabric on the waist. Pull the gathers together until the skirt is your waist measurement. Remember to leave the centre back seams an extra inch so place in a zip.


Creating The Bodice 

I used a vest with a nice triangle point towards the chest to create a nice bodice for the top. Start by laying out the fabric and laying the vest on top. This meant that the vest measured over the front half of my chest, so I needed to add on another 10 inches either side. To create a continuous piece you want to make sure you have left enough on each side to reach around your body to meet at the centre back. I added on 11 inches to include seam allowance. Cut out and leave to one side.


Cutting The Straps

To make the straps I created 2 lengths of fabric as 2 inches thick and 13 inches long. If you have a longer drop from your bodice to the back you can make your straps longer and vice versa. Take your fabric to the ironing board and press. Press in the 2 sides like you would for bias binding and press in half again, this will create a 1cm thick strap. Top stitch in place and put to one side.


Sewing The Bodice

When sewing the bodice together you want to lay 1 piece down with the right side facing up and take each strap and pin into place. Pin at the very point of the peak as I call it, lay over the other bodice piece with right side facing down. Pin into place and sew along the top edge. Remember to leave the side and bottom edges open as you will need to make adjustments for fitting and for the zip to go in. Cut into the seam allowance on the curved edges before turning through.


Fitting The Bodice

Take the bodice to the mirror to fit yourself, it is simple to do and easier than you think. I wore a tight vest and pinned the bodice to wear I wanted it to sit. Pin the back together as if it was zipped up and pinned in place 2 darts, 1 under each breast. This created a nice curve and made the bodice fit me. I took the bodice to the sewing machine and sewed in the darts. I pressed them to one side and moved onto the next step.


Creating A Waistband

Create a waistband the length of your waist plus seam allowance and thickness of 3 inches. I didn’t want it to be very thick as I had a lot going on with my dress already. Cut the same strip into light weight interfacing and pinned it to my skirt. Remember to find the middle point of your skirt and the middle point of your band. This will ensure you always have an even amount of fabric to go the whole way around. Sew in place and this will hold all the gathers in place too.


Attaching The Bodice To The Skirt

Laying the skirt and bodice right sides together, find the middle point in both pieces. You always want to make sure you find the centre front point as this will mean that your dress will be symmetrical. Pin into place and sew with a 1/4 inch seam allowance.


Hemming The Skirt

To hem the skirt, I simply took it to the ironing board and pressed up to a 1/4 inch fold all away around. I did the same again to conceal any raw edges. Pin into place and sew into place with a 1/4 inch seam.


Sewing In The Zip

Last but not least, place in the zip. I am still learning wth zips but I placed in a zip of 8 inches long from the top down. I used a zipper foot and pinned the zip in first.


Finishing Touches

Neaten off the edges of the straps, originally I had them going to attach to the back of the dress. The dress looked better as a halterneck. I folded the ends in to create a neat edge and top stitched them into place.



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