jersey dress + tutorial

7 February 2010 by


This dress is so wonderfully comfortable! I can’t wait to wear it for my next long-haul roadtrip, plus since it’s lycra I won’t be worrying about wrinkles. Perfect project!

on the Santa Monica pier

The story of this dress goes back to late August, on my way to Burning Man. I’d driven 2,500 miles straight through, wearing the same clothes I was in when I left New Orleans, had one shower over 4 days (and it was in a Shell station) and about 12 hours sleep over the same period of time, and as I stepped out of the sweaty port-a-potty on the side of the highway I spotted two girls across the road. They were laughing and pretty as they got out of their uncrowded Honda, and looked so cool and fresh in their jersey sundresses. They weren’t any more or less comfortable than I was in my tank top and pajama pants, but they were infinitely more stylish. I burned with envy, and sun exposure.

Months later I was in the LA Fashion District with the man I met at BM when I found some slate blue jersey in the back of a shop heaving with bolts of fabric. It was thin enough to drape perfectly but still forgiving, the color was a cool blue-grey (maybe even the color of my eyes), and the price was right at $4/yd. I let the salesman talk me into buying 2 yards and skipped out of the store, imagining how beautiful my “driving to Burning Man dress” was going to be.

in front of the carousel

I used about 1 1/2 yd of fabric for this, plus a few inches of the dark blue jersey that I happened to have around. The bodice was based on the shelf bras I’ve been making lately. I’d been planning on attaching the skirt directly to the top, maybe with an inverted V between the breasts, but Jason said it looked like a slip and suggested adding a band in contrasting fabric. Brilliant man!

the straps crossed tied as a halter

The straps are adjustable–I can wear them tied straight, criss-crossed in the back, or tied around my neck in a halter. There are two small loops at the back for the straps to pass through. The bodice is double-layered, with the inner layer a little tighter than the outer so that there’s more support for my chest. I added about 8″ of elastic below the bust seam to keep that area snug.

Although I made this dress for summertime adventures it works great with leggings and a cardigan.


Before I get to the pattern, I wanted to say a word about sewing stretch fabrics. I’d been using a 3-stitch zig zag (like on my bodysuits) but a tailor told me that a straight stitch at the longest stitch possible and zero tension would work better. Well, I don’t know about better, but it is prettier on the dress. At the beginning of the seam I backstitched to secure the stitching, and before cutting the thread at the end of the seam I pulled the fabric out and stretched it to the limit, which required several additional inches of thread to accommodate the stitching. STRETCH YOUR FABRIC BEFORE CUTTING THE THREADS AT THE END OF A SEAM!!! Trust me y’all, I’m right about this. I did all the seams for the dress the zero-tension straight-stitch way, but I still like the zig zag for bodysuits.

Here are the basic pattern pieces for this dress, in case anyone’s wondering about the construction:


  • I cut all of my pieces on the fold. Make sure the fabric is facing the right way, because there is a right side on jersey!
  • The fabric is supposed to stretch over your chest, so for the bodice width subtract 2 or 3 inches from your measurements. You should cut the band even smaller to keep it from riding up over your breasts. To absolutely make sure this doesn’t happen, sew about 10″ elastic under your breasts at the top of the band.
  • Cut 2 of the bodice piece. For better support, cut the lining about 2 inches smaller and stretch it to fit the outer piece as you sew.
  • I used a heavier weight jersey for the band so that it will give some structure to the flowing shape of the dress.
  • The weight of the fabric will cause the skirt to stretch down and become longer. This is also the case for the bodice, so don’t make the neckline higher unless you want to be more modest (???).
  • There is one seam in the back of the dress.
  • The strap could be cut in the same contrasting fabric as the band.
  • I wound up handstitching the strap to the top of the dress, because I wasn’t satisfied with the evenness of machine stitching. This way, no stitching shows!
  • If you want the straps to be convertible you will need to make two small loops (about 1″ long each) and sew them on the inside of the dress so that they won’t show when worn as a halter.
  • The skirt is more gathered at the back than it is at the front, giving a slimmer silhouette.

This is all available for download as a PDF.

Plus, I’ve got lots of insight on sewing tubes to make straps, in case you’re a little lost.


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