How To: Bandeau Maxi Dress With Spaghetti Straps & Low Back

Contour Affair
by Contour Affair

I know I say this all the time, but this really is one of my favourite makes ever. In it come together two things I've had on my inspiration board for a while - the Cecile Bahnsen bandeau + gathered hem silhouette, and this back detail I've pinned at least a couple years ago (designer unknown). Get some live footage of me sewing this up in this IG Reel.

I made this dress from an almost no-stretch cotton, so I cut the top pieces along the bias for them to have some stretch for comfort. If you're a beginner and prefer something simpler, I'd use a fabric that in itself already has stretch. Also, if you're more busty, I would probably recommend doing a more structured top style - for example something like this. I'm not, so I could get away with just the stretch from the bias cut, I didn't even do darts. If you'd like to add those, check this blast from the past post.


  • Fabric, 2.5 m full width (I used a light premium cotton)
  • Scissors
  • Pins & Safety pin for inserting elastic
  • Matching thread, sewing machine (I also used my serger but you can zig-zag as well)
  • Not pictured: elastic (I used 0.7 cm wide), about 45 cm

I. I started by cutting my top pieces - I made it lined so two of the front piece, and in total 4 of the back tie-up pieces on the right. Given the tie-up element + elasticated back, this dress is very flexible in size. I'm EU36/US4, but with these same measurements this would work at least 2 sizes up, if not potentially 3 (especially if you use a fabric with stretch).NOTE: I wasn't sure at this point how long I would want my top piece to be, so I cut extra. Later on, I ended up taking the seam connecting the top to the skirt in several times, my final top length at the front being only 14 cm. So if you want the same look as on my finished dress, you can cut your pieces less long at this stage already.

II. Next I cut two rectangles for the skirt (110 cm was the right length for me to achieve ankle length, adjust for yourself - from where you want your top piece ending, to hem).

III. Then I prepped the back piece of my skirt. I first double folded one 90-cm edge, and sewed across two stitches to create the casing for the elastic. Stitches need to be spaced out just a bit more than the width of the elastic.

.. Then I inserted my 45 cm piece of elastic, and secured it in place with a stitch at both ends.

IV. To prep the front part of the skirt, I sewed two basting stitches and gathered the waistline to match the width of my top front piece. Tip: the easiest way to gather is to set your machine to its longest stitch setting + highest tension setting, and just sew - the fabric will already gather nicely, and you'll just need to adjust the gathers after. Once I had done this, I felt the result was just a bit too heavy, so I trimmed away about 8 cm of width on both sides. I did this by cutting out triangular pieces since I did still want to maintain the volume in the hem. After that I had the amount of gathers I liked..

.. Corresponding to the width of the top front piece (I had also sewed the top piece side seams at this point. forgot to take a pic..)

V. Next bit is optional, but who doesn't want pockets. I cut two pairs and pinned them onto the front and back pieces, taking care to pin the ones on the front skirt piece 1 cm lower than on the back piece (reason being the way I was going to attach the top to the skirt).

I first overlocked the pocket area (you could zig-zag) & also added a straight stitch to secure the pockets in place..

.. And then pinned the skirt sides together, aligning the pockets - which means the front piece waistline will be a bit higher than the back piece - on purpose.

VI. Because I had trimmed some width off of my front skirt piece, I had to adjust the sides down from the pockets a bit so they'd match, but that was no big deal.

I sewed the sides (making sure you go around the pockets and don't sew them shut), and had my skirt ready.

VII. Onto attaching the top to the skirt. I first had sewed the top side pieces to the main front piece, to create two long top pieces, the right side and the lining. Then I took one of them and pinned the gathered front of the skirt to the front piece, right sides facing. Sewed across.

So I had this.

VIII. Then I made my straps, using this technique. I made my straps 60 cm long each, which turned out to be the exact right length for me. I attached the strap ends to their spots on the top with a couple stitches first..

IX. .. Before taking the top lining piece, and pinning it on top, all around. (You can see the strap ends peeking up from in between).

Then I sewed around, except for the front part, and after turning right side out and pressing, I had this. The key is to make sure you align the stitch that ends at the side seam, with the top of the back piece. This way the way the top attaches to the skirt at the sides is clean.

At this point I tried the dress on, and decided I wanted a shorter bandeau part (closer to my original Cecile Banhsen inspiration dresses). I ended up taking the seam in 3 times little by little (I did this with a curved stitch, started at the side seam at my original stitch attaching the top to the skirt, curved out towards the center of the front piece, and back in).

To end up with a top piece 14 cm long at the front, that I was finally happy with. I also did a top-stitch all around the top part.

X. On the reverse, I folded the lining under and hand-stitched it in place for a clean finish.

XI. Last were the shoulder straps. There are a couple options.. If you were to leave them attached only at the front, you could tie them up behind the neck and leave the back open:

.. But I wanted to create the back from my inspiration photo so I hand sewed the strap ends onto the back piece.

That was it! Just hemmed the dress with a wide double fold. My 7-month bump is very happy with the space for it:)



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Contour Affair
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