Watch Me Make a Perfect Summer Dress With My Grandma

Jessica Shaw
by Jessica Shaw
9 Materials
3 Hours

Recently at a thrift store, I picked up this beautiful yellow fabric. I got to talking to one of the women who work at the store, and she convinced me to turn this fabric into a summer dress. I thought it was a great idea, so I brought in my grandma to help me, and ended up with a dress I really love. Keep reading to see exactly how I made it!

Tools and materials:

  • 2½ yards of fabric
  • 20” invisible zipper
  • Paper bags
  • Already owned jumpsuit
  • Already owned dress
  • Marking chalk
  • Marker/pen
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine
  • Ruler
Summer dress
Draw the pattern

The first thing I had to do was draw my pattern. If you know me, you know I like to use brown paper bags to make patterns; so I cut some up and began drawing. I then traced the bodice of a jumpsuit I had onto the paper bags. 

Make a summer dress
Add darts

To make the darts I took a piece of pattern paper and created an endpoint for the dart. Then I drew a vertical line going down and cut that line. Next, I opened the slit up by an inch and drew lines around it. Then I closed the dart and finished outlining the pattern paper. Moving the paper out of the way, I drew lines that were ½” on each side of the vertical line. 

DIY summer dress
Make the back bodice piece

The next thing I did was cut out the front bodice piece and try it on to make sure it fit. Then I made the back bodice by using the front bodice piece for reference. The only differences were that I needed to leave extra room for the zipper and that I made the neckline a little lower. I then tried it on to make sure it fit and checked that the front and back pieces of the bodice matched each other in width. 

Casual summer dress
Cut out the fabric

Using a dress I already owned as a reference, I cut out the skirt from the fabric. After I cut out the front piece, I used that to cut out the two back pieces of the skirt, leaving ⅝” for the zipper. Then I cut out the front piece of the bodice as well as the two back pieces from the fabric. After making sure the bodice fit, (check out the video for some hilarity about that) I also cut out fabric for the straps of the dress. Lastly for the cutting step, I cut out duplicates of each piece so that I could give the fabric a lining.

Summer dress for women
Add waist darts

Before sewing together the front of my bodice, I had to first add some waist darts. So I took the fabric and marked where the center of the bust would be. Then I marked 1” below the center, which is where the dart would end. Next, I drew lines ½” out from the vertical line, and folded and pinned the dart. Once I was done, I sewed the dart in place. I then cut the lining to match the piece with the darts but it turns out that was a mistake. Oops. What I should have done, according to Grandma, is added darts to the lining as well. Oh, well.

Summer dress with straps
Make the straps

Now it was time to make the straps. So remember those rectangles I cut out earlier? I took those and folded each one in half. I then sewed the fabric together along one edge. Once that was done, I flipped them inside out, and I had my straps.

Cute summer dress
Make adjustments

With all my pieces pinned together, I tried on the dress to see what needed to be fixed. The neckline was a total disaster; it was way too wide. So I took it and cut 1” off of the neckline, which then allowed me to bring the straps in a little bit. I also felt like I looked a bit rectangular in the dress, so I also cut about ½” off of the back bodice pieces, as well as the back of the skirt. 

How to make a summer dress
Sew together the bodice

With my adjustments made, it was finally time to head over to the sewing table. I started with sewing the front piece of the bodice to the back pieces, by connecting them down the sides. Next, I added the lining and the straps with one seam across the top. I did this by laying down the front of the bodice with the lining on top, right sides together, and sandwiching the straps between the two, leaving ⅝” from the edge. I pinned that down, then took the strap and brought it to the back bodice, and pinned it between those pieces as well. 

How to sew a summer dress
Add the skirt

To sew together the skirt, first I laid the front piece down on my work surface and placed the back pieces onto it, right sides together. Next, I took it and sewed all the way down the sides. I then repeated the same process with the lining. With that done, I put the skirts down, right sides together, and pinned them. Then I matched the bodice lining to the skirt lining, right sides together. This prevented any of the raw edges from showing when I flipped the dress right side out. I then sewed along both of those pinned edges. 

Summer dress DIY
Add the zipper

Once the dress was put together, I tried it on to make sure everything was in order. Satisfied with the fit, I was ready to add the zipper. So I took the zipper, opened it up, and placed it down on the dress, right sides together. Next, I folded over the top flap and pinned the zipper in place, then brought over the other side of the zipper and pinned that in place as well. Ready to sew it, I put in my zipper foot into the sewing machine and sewed it down. 

Make your own summer dress
Finish up the skirt

Now I needed to close the center back of the skirt. So I sewed a seam where the zipper ends and pulled down the lining over the zipper on the inside. I then sewed it right along the seam allowance, not the garment itself, and stopped when I got to the end of the zipper. I then went on and closed the center back of the lining. The very last thing I needed to do was hem the bottom. I rolled the edge and finished it off with a normal 1” rolled hem. Then I cut 1” off of the lining, and hemmed that as well so that the lining was 1” shorter than the skirt. 

Homemade summer dress

And that is it! You guys, I LOVE how this dress came out! It’s so fun and perfect for summer, and I am actually impressed with how perfectly it fits me. I’m obsessed. I absolutely can not wait to wear it, and y’all just have to try this out. So pick out a fabric you love and show me your results in the comments! 

Suggested materials:
  • 2 1/2 yards fabric
  • 20" invisible zipper
  • Jumpsuit
See all materials

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