Ultimate Convertible Dress

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Introduction: Ultimate Convertible Dress

About: When I'm not up to my ears in metal filings, cotton and paint, I like binge watching Netflix, yoga, coffee and writing. I blog about making at FoxLovesCrow.com.

This pattern is an ode to my beautiful bridesmaids who rocked my wedding almost 2 years ago today, wearing floor length Two Birds dresses. The dresses not only looked stunning, but they were comfortable thanks to the stretchy jersey fabric and the multiway convertible straps which could be tied any manner of ways to suit, and provided an (almost) headache free way to flatter every body shape from my 5 foot little sister to my 6 foot cousin-in-law – yay, mission accomplished.

I wanted to create something similar, but which was more casual so it could be worn swanning by the pool or, equally, perched at a bar on the promenade.

Now for the pattern….it’s somewhat an All Saints, Two Birds lovechild. My version is based on a half circle skirt with long ties to wrap around the bodice and features:

  • Tapered straps: These mean no bulk across the tummy when wrapping or bulky knots at the back for a more flattering fit, but maintaining modesty at the chest
  • Elasticated waistband: Giving more support to the dress and a better fit
  • Finished hems: A proper finish at the skirt hem and a partial hem to the front chest (optional)
  • Half circle skirt with hitches: A sleeker cut with hitches to the front adding drape and interest

And for those wishing to also create this in stripes, the pattern creates a chic chevron effect to the centre front and back – bonus.

Supplies:

  • Approx 3m of fabric, depending on your size and your desired length
  • Matching thread
  • 1.5 inch wide elastic (enough to go around your waist)
  • 0.5 – 1m of 0.5cm wide cotton ribbon

More pics and sewing projects over at my blog Foxlovescrow.com.

Step 1: Creating Your Pattern

Skirt: This is essentially a half circle skirt.

  • Draw two lines at 90 degree, each about 80cm long.
  • Calculate your radius (R) by using By Hand’s handy calculator, here: https://byhandlondon.com/pages/circle-skirt-app
  • Mark these points on the paper on the 90 degree lines and connect by using a giant’s compass, or simply by measuring from the corner and connecting the points with a curve (easiest).
  • From here, measure 53cm. This is the length of the skirt (50cm) plus seam allowance (1cm) and hem allowance (2.5cm). Tweak this is you want a longer skirt but you’ll probably need more fabric.
  • Cut along the two curved lines you’ve made. Finally, fold skirt pattern piece in half. You’ll need to do this so you can fit it on your fabric.

Straps:

  • Draw a rectangle 30cm wide by 163cm long.
  • At one end, taper into a width of 12.5 cm, being sure to measure this out from the centre. If you prefer, simply use the rectangle, and then taper by hand once the straps are attached and you can try it on. This is what I did, but I think it’s easier to do it at the start when cutting the pattern out. Even easier if you have a rotary cutter.
  • (Note, tapered straps mean that some of the multi-way wrap styles may not be open to you…but you still have many options!).

Waistband:

  • Cut a 13cm wide rectangle. The length is your waist measurement plus 1cm seam allowance each side.
  • Try it on, and remove a little fabric so that it will be snug.

Step 2: Cut the Pieces

Start with the skirt panels, placing the pattern piece on the fold. You’ll want to cut two and then we’ll stitch them together in the next step (if you can fit the skirt piece in without folding, as mentioned in the last step, then super as you can just cut one on the fold).

Next cut your straps. You may want to shift your fabric around or refold /open out to do this so you get the length. Finally, find a small piece to cut the waistband – this is less important as it’s mostly hidden while wearing (except at the back).

Step 3: Skirt Seams

Stitch up the two skirt pieces at the seams, using 1cm seam allowance and straight stitch (seeing as you don’t need the length to stretch!).

The seams on my skirt are at the centre front and centre back to give a nice V effect with the stripes. Take care when lining up at this obvious place. Press the seams apart.

Step 4: Waistband

Cut 1.5 inch wide elastic to your waist measurement and check the fit – you want it to be snug to hold the dress in place. Zig Zag or overlock stitch the short ends of the waistband together with the elastic to make a band. Fold in half, press.

Zig zag or overlock stitch the short ends together to make a band, fold in half. Line up the raw edges the waistband to the skirt waist, right sides together. Zig zag or overlock stitch in place with a 1cm seam allowance, trying to be snug next to the elastic.

Step 5: Straps

Position the wide end of your straps against the front of the skirt, right sides together. You’ll want to overlap the straps, at the centre, by around 10cm for modesty. Zig zag or overlock stitch in place.

Flip up, press, and admire…it’s coming together.

Step 6: Finishing the Straps

At both edges of the straps, at the front, fold a 1cm hem and straight stitch up about 27cm. This gives a neater finish, encouraging the hems to roll-over and hide the raw edges.

(you only want to stitch part-way, as it’s important to have no bulk at the points where the straps wrap and tie).

Step 7: Hemming the Skirt

Using your preferred technique, create a 2.5cm hem at the skirt. I cheated a bit, stabilising the hem first with strips of iron on interfacing, turning up once 1cm, then 2.5cm. This gave a really neat seam with no raw edges on the inside. Shout if you have any tips on making this easier though!

Step 8: Hitching

To finish, we’ll create four small hitches at the from of the skirt. Snip x8 10cm lengths of 0.5 cotton ribbon.

Pin in place according to the measurements and diagram below. The first pair of ribbons, are stitched on the wrong side of the skirt as follows with a back and forth straight stitch (this is mostly hidden once tied but can be visible from the front, so keep it neat):

  • R1 = Approx 19cm down from waistband, 18cm out from centre
  • R2 = 11.5cm below from R1The second pair
  • R3 = Approx 17cm down from waistband, 23cm out from centre
  • R4 = Approx 33cm out from centre, 34cm from waistband

Repeat for the other side of the skirt. It doesn’t need to be exactly symmetrical since this is an organic look.

Once stitched, flip the skirt up, tie the ribbon pairs together to create mini hitches – the tighter they are tied, the deeper the hitch and more dramatic the effect. And…you’re done!

If you liked this tutorial, please check out my blog over at www.FoxLovesCrow.com.

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19 Discussions

Actually trying to get this going now and I’m having a hard time figuring out the layout... in the picture on step 2, “cut the pieces” where the skirt panel pattern is laying on the fabric, is the pattern paper folded in half? Also, I’m pretty sure the answer is yes, but is the fabric folded in half too?

1 more answer

Yes, you are correct! I folded the skirt piece in half, and one edge is against the fold of the fabric - so each piece you cut is half of the 1/2 circle pattern, if that makes sense. If you get a bit more or a bit less fabric, it's not the end of the world...it will just make the skirt more or less full. If it's easier, you could just do a full circle...it's just preference and I prefer a more streamline look.

Is the waistband on the outside of the fabric or on the inside? It doesn’t align with most of my sewing knowledge to have it on the outside, and I can’t see it in the photos... but in the picture it looks like it’s on the outside?

Also, it says, “fold in half and press” do I fold it the long way?

I’m thinking maybe the elastic in the waistband shouldn’t be placed on center... and then the “fold in half and press” direction makes more sense.

1 more answer

Hi Steven, glad to hear the project is progressing and would love to see the final version. The waistband is actually on the inside (unlike many other dress patterns). The purpose of this is to provide support and structure (like a normal waistband). So, when you are sewing, you make a sort of waistband sandwich: you have the waistband right side against right side of the skirt (raw edges against raw edges of skirt), then the straps are on top with right sides against right sides of waistband. In this position, the long part of the straps will be pointing down the length of the skirt. Once you've sew it, you flip the waistband and straps up, and ta da! There's probably some YouTube tutorials for doing an elasticated waistband that are better than I could explain in this comment box, but do shout if you have trouble finding one Hope that helps.

Really trying to figure out the calculator... I’m not sure if I should select “quarter” or “half” circle on the Calculator. I know it says “half circle” in the write up but I guess I’m confused because there are two seams?

It seems like, if I select a “half circle” on the calculator and put in the measurements it says (pretty much no matter what) I need a 60” wide panel. But if I select “quarter” on the calculator it seems to fit.

2 more answers

I found a different write-up online saying that with the calculator, the quarter circle skirt ends up being one panel. So I am making a quarter circle because that’s what I picked due to ease of layout on my fabric. But I believe other than having one seam, it should be basically the same!

Now that I’m getting a feel for how the whole thing gets cut and goes together, I’ll have to make another one that is actually the “half circle” with some wider fabric.

I like to take my time learning and understanding each piece of a process. :)

Hey Steven, so I've gone for a 1/2 circle, but if you went for a 1/4 it will still work, it just means the skirt portion of the dress will be less full / more straight. I cut two skirt pieces on the fold, as I didn't have enough room in the fabric to cut it as one piece (so I folded the 1/2 circle pattern piece in half, cut one on the fold, then replaced on the fabric and cut a 2nd piece). One of the seams is at centre front and one at centre back, so the strips create a chevron effect. I hope that makes sense. I'm going to make a maxi version soon, so I'll take more photos and do a more detailed write-up then.

Cool! How was the weather when you took the pictures? I noticed you were wearing boots. Rain boots, possibly.

I’ve sewn a lot d stuff (duffel bags, packs, pants repairs, curtains, alterations) but no dessses “from scratch.”

Having a reasonable deep sewing background, would it be okay to make this as a first dress for my wife? I think she would like it a lot, but I don’t want to get over my head too much on a first project also.

Second- Can the soft cotton jersey and/or bamboo knit jersey (that is thin, soft, and stretchy?) be purchased at JoAnnes, or is it better to look at an online retailer?

Thanks!

1 more answer

Hey Steven, LOVE that you're interested in doing this as a first dress for your wife! If you can sew pants, then I reckon you'll have no problems. Take it slow, maybe look at some tips online for sewing jersey if you've not tried it before (jersey / knit needle is essential). To make this project more simple, you can omit the hitches (although they are fairly straightforward to do) and you could remove some of the other detail like the seam on the straps, and I'd recommend using something like a 'wonder web' fusible hemming tape to hem up the skirt to make life a little easier. If you get stuck, feel free to drop me a message, and there are also plenty of tutorials on doing things like waistbands online. On your question about JoAnnes, I'm not sure as I assume this is a US brand, however if you are in the US, I'm incredibly jealous as you have tons of fantastic online shops for fabrics. I think this would work really well in bamboo jersey as it has such a lovely drape. Good luck!

Could you please provide a bit more explanation and perhaps an image or two of "hitching?" How is it done, and what does it look like? Thanks!

3 more answers

Sure! It's a technique that I've noticed All Saints use on some of their dress and skirt designs to give body / fullness, drape and a stylistic feature - I absolutely love it and it's easy to do (here's an example from All Saints that I quickly found on Google: http://coolspotters.com/clothing/allsaints-ditzy-ezra-dress). It's essentially a tuck done from the underneath of the skirt. To do this, you sew two short pieces of ribbon on the underneath of the skirt about 10cm apart. The idea is that when you tie them together, it pulls the skirt into a tuck from the underneath. From the front, you just see a few tiny stitches. The beauty is you can tie the ribbons more closely together for a more pronounced look, or simply untie them for a longer 'un-hitched' conventional skirt! You can place your hitches anywhere you like - and they look totally fine a bit uneven for a fluid, organic look - but I've included a diagram in the Instructable for where I placed mine. Hope that helps! I'm sure I'll do another hitch skirt later this year, so will be sure to include more photos.

Thanks a bunch, Claire. I have heard of tucks and hitching (the latter a more old-fashioned term) and it didn't occur to me to search google. Thank you very much for the clarification!

Hey, no probs at all! Always helps to see examples. I'll include more in my next one! :)

Thanks! I'm a jersey addict - can't beat the comfort of a soft cotton or bamboo knit.

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mekert

2 months ago

From the little I can see, it (she) looks absolutely gorgeous.
Only two grainy photos from a distance, no video, and certainlyno information whatsoever about the 'convertible' aspect of the dress?

1 reply

Heya, thanks for your comment and very important question! These are based on my bridesmaid dresses - the well known TwoBirds 'infinity' dresses (although there are many other brands out there that do this style) and you can see detailed instructions for tying on their website: http://twobirdsbridesmaid.com/collection/classic/...

As I mention, some of these styles are not possible as the straps are tapered in my version for a more flattering fit (less bulk) across the stomach, but most of them are possible! Personally, my fave is the one pictured, with the cross cross straps at the back. Enjoy! :)