I remember the first time I wore a maxi dress. I walked into my college lunch room and was asked by a guy friend why I was wearing a gown. I busted out laughing thinking, I literally threw this on because I didn’t have to match any pieces of clothing together. But the more I thought about it, maxi dresses really set you up for success. They require zero thinking and make you look like you have your life together. You also appear ten feet tall, and are essentially wrapped in a blanket. Win win win win.
Since I can’t get enough of the off the shoulder trend as seen here, here, and here, I decided to go for it again with the simple tube dress plus two tube sleeves approach, similar to my velvet off the shoulder top. In order to make sure this dress didn’t swallow me up, I cinched the waist with elastic. For added detail, a ruffle was added to the bottom of the dress, since my new motto seems to be, “Put a ruffle on it”. (The original version of this phrase as seen on Portlandia, for reference.)
I’m planning to wear this on dates with my favorite guy to the fanciest of restaurants and/or at home on the couch watching recorded episodes of The Goldbergs and eating popcorn. Because we’re glamorous like that, and gowns are for every day wear I hear.
The first time I put on this dress I wore it on a quick trip to the mall and was asked seven times where I got it. SEVEN TIMES. Y’all are too sweet. When I said I made it, most people then asked if I had an Etsy so they could buy one since they weren’t about to attack a sewing project. I figured some of y’all might feel the same way, so I found some options that are similar in stores:
Scroll below to see the full tutorial.
Off the Shoulder Maxi Dress Tutorial
4 yards of linen or cotton fabric (my fabric from Joann)
Thread to match the fabric
~2.5 yards of 1/2″ Wide Elastic (see instructions below for sizing)
Large Safety Pin
1. Cut out your fabric pieces from the 4 yards of linen fabric as shown in the instructions above. You should have two BODY pieces that are 42″ x 35″ each, two ARM pieces that are 10″ x 22″ each, two RUFFLE pieces that are 17″ x 66″ each, and two WAIST pieces that are 3″ x 35″ each. Also cut your elastic in to four pieces: one for the bust (mine was 30″), one for the waist (mine was 26″), and two 14″ pieces for the arms.
NOTE: The elastic lengths will depend on how stretchy your elastic is. I started with longer pieces and ended up needing to cut them down since the dress was a little heavy and the elastic had a high… stretch factor? Is there a way to measure stretchy-ness? Someone let me know…
2. Take your WAIST pieces and hem both long sides of each piece by folding the fabric over 1/4″ and sewing it down. Now place the WAIST pieces on top of one another so the right sides of the fabric are touching. Sew along the short edge on one side about 1/4″ from the edge of the fabric. You should now have one long, thin piece of fabric with hemmed edges.
3. Start assembling your dress by placing both BODY pieces on top of one another so the right sides of the fabric are touching. Sew along one of the 42″ sides of the fabric.
Take the new BODY piece and both ARMs and hem one edge (84″ side for the BODY and 22″ sides for the ARMs) to be the tops by folding over the fabric 1/4″ and sewing along it. Then fold over this edge again about 1″ and sew along the seam you made for the hem originally. This will make a pocket that the elastic will go into.
For the BODY, we will also now create the pocket for the waistband. Take your WAIST piece created in step 2 and place the top edge 10″ from the hemmed edge of the BODY with the wrong sides of the WAIST and BODY fabric touching. Sew along the hem seams on the WAIST piece to attach it to the BODY and make a pocket for the elastic.
4. Use a large safety pin pinned to the end of each of the elastic pieces and string them through the pockets, being careful to not loose the elastic in each of the pockets.
To secure the elastic and close up the BODY and ARMs, fold the BODY and ARMs again so that the right sides of the fabric are touching and sew along the other 42″ and 12″ sides that we did not sew along before in step 3, also making sure to sew the elastic together at the ends.
NOTE: During this step I would suggest trying on the BODY when the elastic is in and pinned together, but has not been sewn closed. This is where I adjusted the length of the elastic drastically because my fabric was weighing it down so much that it would have fallen off!
5. Flip the three tubes right side out and pin the ARMs to the BODY at the top where the seams line up. Sew about a 2″ section along both ARMs at the pins in order to connect the ARMs to the BODY. You now have the main portion of the body of the dress and the arms mostly complete.
6. To create the ruffle, take the RUFFLE pieces and place one of the long edges in the sewing machine. Sew a straight stitch along the entire length about 1/4″ from the edge of the fabric without back-stitching at the start or the end. Cut the thread at the ends with about 3″ of extra thread hanging off.
Take the fabric out of the sewing machine and while holding one of the two threads at the end of the fabric, push the fabric in the opposite direction. It will begin to scrunch up. As you pull on the fabric, you will have to keep adjusting the ruffle to make sure that it is evenly scrunched throughout the length of the fabric. You can also work from the other thread remnants hanging off of the other side. Scrunch the RUFFLEs until they are about 35″ long.
For more reference on ruffles, see the It’s Sew Easy: How to Create a Ruffle tutorial.
7. Take one of the RUFFLEs and place it on top of the front of the BODY so that the scrunched side of the RUFFLE lines up with the bottom edge of the BODY and the right sides of the BODY and RUFFLE fabric are touching one another. Sew along the seam that you made to create the RUFFLE to connect the RUFFLE to the BODY on the front. Repeat this on the back of the BODY with the other RUFFLE.
Finish the shirt by lining up the RUFFLE pieces on the sides (still inside out) and sewing along the 17″ sides. Then, hem the bottom of RUFFLE by sewing the edge over two times about 1/4″ each time. Also hem the ARMs by sewing the bottom edges over two times. I also used an iron to make the hems clean and crisp.