Something more practical again: how to draft a summer dress pattern starting from a basic bodice block. Which means, the #makenine -challenge is back!

I was checking the list of garments I was going to sew this year and saw 2 pieces that were supposed to be worn in the summer. There was a shirt and a dress.

I already missed the season with my trench and wasn’t going to let that happen again. So here we go with the dress! Maybe next month I can still get the shirt done.

Features of the dress

I got the idea for this dress from Pinterest but ended up modifying the original so completely that there’s no sense even adding the picture here. The only thing I left, was the high-low shaped tulip skirt.

Just to have a reference, here’s the finished dress:

flower dress

I was going for a flowy look, as the fabric I chose was light weight viscose that flutters nicely in the wind. To achieve that, I made the skirt wider than the original.

When it comes to the upper part, I turned the darts towards the sides and made the neckline wider. Also, the sleeves are short, because it’s a summer dress. The original had longer sleeves.

The zipper is at the left side seam. I didn’t want to break the c.back of the skirt with a seam.

There’s a seam at the waist line and the dress will be worn with a belt.

The whole dress is lined with very light weight cotton, except for the sleeves. Otherwise it would’ve been too transparent! I figured cotton would be a cooler material than the actual lining fabric.

First draft

The pattern is quite simple. I used a basic bodice with darts as the starting point. Here it is. The colored part was the base for the skirt.

basic bodice block

The bodice

Starting with the bodice, I got rid of both back darts and rotated both front darts to the side as follows:

summer dress pattern: dart manipulation
  1. Here you can see the bodice copied from the basic block. It ends at the waist line. I already united the front darts at the bust point.
  2. FRONT: I drew a line from the bust point towards the side seam. This is where the new dart will be. I slashed it open and closed the original darts. BACK: I re-drew the armscye, taking 1 cm off at the tip of the shoulder. Doing so I could cancel the shoulder dart. There would be just 0,5 cm of ease left. The waist dart was 2 cm wide. I got rid of it by taking 0,5 cm off from the side seam, 0,5 cm from the back seam and the remaining 1 cm by rotating the dart towards the armscye and then closing the dart.
  3. FRONT: I moved the starting point of the new dart a couple of cm from the bust point. BACK: I re-drew the waistline.

At this point I checked the waist line measurement. I wanted to leave some extra ease. After all, this dress was going to be worn with a belt.

Next thing to adjust was the neckline. Like I said, the zipper is at the side seam, so this meant the neck opening had to be large enough to pass through the head comfortably. 60 cm is pretty good as a minimum neckline circumference for these cases. But measure your head to be sure.

I usually prefer the boat neck type. So here it is.

First you draw the front and then measure the distance from the shoulder tip to the starting point of the new neckline and draw the back part starting at the same distance. Doing so, helps a bit with the gaping neckline -problem, as I’ve explained before.

Remember to check the front- and back pattern pieces around the waist line, armscye and neckline to adjust the lines so that they flow nicely from one piece to the other.

The sleeves

This is quick. Your basic bodice pattern should come with the sleeve, so you can use it directly. Just modify the length.

The skirt

To draft the skirt, you can use the same basic bodice pattern. The part between waist- and hip line.

The idea is to make a flared high-low tulip skirt. I have written quite a few skirt tutorials, so you can find more info for example here and here.

The very first thing to do, is to decide the final length of the skirt at the back and at the front. My skirt starts above the knees in the front and ends at the mid calf level in the back.

Here are the next steps:

summer dress pattern: skirt
  1. I copied the part between waist- and hip line from the basic bodice block and built the approximate skirt shape around it. I started adding flare to the sides and at centre front and -back. Then I decided where to add some more flare with the slash and spread-method.
  2. Here you can see the situation after adding flare. I drew the high-low hemline. Never mind that bump between front- and back pieces. It’s not supposed to be there..
  3. And now the tulip-bit. Continue the hemline from the centre front to create the overlap.

Check to make sure the skirt waist line matches with that of the bodice.

Here are all the pattern pieces. I drew both front skirt pieces here just to illustrate the tulip shape. Obviously you only need one front pattern piece to be cut twice.

summer dress pattern

Toile and corrections

At this point it’s time to sew a toile to see how the dress looks like.

It was quite good, but I needed to make a few corrections.

First of all, the sleeves were a bit tight at the bicep-area. This is why it’s a good idea to leave some ease at the sleeve cap unless you’re dealing with flared sleeves or a bodice with much ease.

The upper chest area was too wide which made the neckline gape, too.

I also felt like I had exaggerated with the skirt flare. There was too much flare at the sides and the front.

Here’s how I corrected the pattern:

corrected summer dress pattern

The lining

At this point I had the final main pattern. I could use the same pattern to cut the lining of the upper part. But I needed to draft a separate pattern for the skirt.

Making even the lining in the tulip shape would’ve been too much hassle, so instead I just decided to draft a normal, A-line skirt that was a couple of cm shorter than the shortest part of the main skirt.

summer dress pattern: lining

Sewing the dress

This time I won’t cover the sewing part of this project much. The truth is, I was too much in a hurry to finish the dress and didn’t stop to take pics!

Anyways. This is the very first flower dress I’ve ever had. I have no idea what made me choose the fabric, but I guess I liked the colors. Also, the flower dresses are everywhere lately and probably I was influenced by that. This fabric has summer dress written all over it. The material was light weight viscose.

summer dress fabric

I sewed the upper- and lower parts separately, both lining and main fabric.

Here you can see the stay stitching at the neckline. It stretches easily, so it’s best to stay stitch at an early stage.

The zipper starts right below the armhole, but if you sew a few cm, it’s easier to attach the sleeve.

I attached the lining first at the neckline, and then around the armholes, stitching near the previous seam (that of the sleeves).

This skirt had such a long hemline that I used the sewing machine instead of hemming by hand. I did a rather narrow hem because it was quite curved.

When the skirt and bodice were ready, I attached them at the waist line and finally sewed the zip to the left side seam.

Here’s what came out of this summer dress pattern again. I need to get a nicer belt. And a wind-machine! 😀

flower dress pattern
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