Sunday, July 17, 2011

Convertible dress tutorial!

convertible dress sleeves croppedThanks so much for the great feedback on my convertible dress post. A few of you even asked for a pattern or tutorial, so I’m going to do my best to outline what I did.

I’ve included a cutting guide with some measurements on it, but in the interests of full disclosure, this is a very forgiving dress, and I didn’t bother breaking out a measuring tape when I made mine. The knit doesn’t ravel, either, so the edges of the straps are unfinished.

This dress is a bit odd in that it doesn’t have an actual top, just wide straps that you can wrap in different configurations. As far as dresses go, it looks a bit strange once sewn. See how it runs the length of my hallway!

convertible dress full shot

Here’s what you need:

* approximately 3 yards knit fabric with a bit of stretch
* thread
* 3/4” elastic the length of your waist
* safety pin
* ball point needle for your sewing machine (nice, but not necessary!)

Lay out your fabric on the floor and cut like so:

convertible dress cutting guide

Please note, this drawing is not to scale, and I used an empty spaghetti box as a straight edge! I’m a fairly chesty plus sized girl, so I made my straps about 8 inches wide and the full length of my fabric (9 feet). I wanted to make sure I had enough to get plenty of wrap coverage, but if you're thin, about 6 feet should be plenty.

Once I cut out the straps, I held up the remaining fabric to my waist and had my four year old mark where it hit the floor. I added about three inches to that mark and cut across the width. This was the front piece of the skirt. Cut another piece to the same length for the back of the skirt portion of the dress. Make sure the pieces are equal, despite what you see in my drawing! I needed the volume to accommodate my hips, but if there’s too much volume for your body shape, make the skirt pieces narrower. The remaining width of fabric just happened to work for my tastes and body.

Placing right sides together, stitch along one side of the skirt. Since this is a stretchy knit, you will want to use a stretch stitch (or use a serger). My sewing machine has a special stitch setting for knits, but a narrow zig zag stitch works just fine. Don’t forget to secure the beginning and end of all seams by going forward 3-4 stitches and then in reverse 3-4 stitches.

convertible dress waistI find it easier to fold down the waistband casing before the second side seam is sewn, so fold down the top of the skirt one inch, and then another inch. Stitch down near the lower edge of the casing. Unfortunately, I only had 1/4” elastic on hand, so had to use that, but I’d definitely use a wider bit if I make this dress again. I also added an extra row of stitching for stability.

Next up is strap placement. Brace yourself for another totally technical drawing.

convertible dress strap placement

With your sewn-on-one-side skirt pieces right side down on your work surface, find the approximate centre of the waistband of the front section. Pin one strap (also right side down) so that it is two inches to the left past this mark, and the other two inches past the right of this mark, overlapping them. Clear as mud? Hope the diagram helps. Ignore the fact that I forgot the r in straps.  (=

I once again enlisted my four year old to help with holding the straps in place while I pinned. They can be a little unwieldy. Stitch them down. I just stitched on top of the casing stitches that were already there, and then added some small hand stitches to secure the very top of the casing to the straps. You could machine stitch these or skip doing this and it will be fine.

For the hem, I serged the edge and left it as is, but I will probably go back and fold under the edge and stitch it down. Same process as the casing, except narrower. Fold the edge under 1/4 inch and then 1 inch and stitch down.

Once that’s done, fold skirt pieces right sides together and stitch the side seam as far as the casing. Add your safety pin to one end of the elastic and thread it through the casing. When the elastic is threaded, overlap it 1.5 inches and stitch it well with zig zag stitches. Adjust the gathers so they are evenly spaced around the dress and either hand or machine stitch closed the opening in the casing. You’re done!

convertible dress one shoulder          convertible dress sleeveless

Definitely let me know if you try this dress, and have fun experimenting with the different looks! There are lots of wrapping tutorials on YouTube.


  1. I love your drawings! LOL

    Thank you for sharing this. I'm not sure if I will ever get around to making one, but I sure do love it.

  2. Wow! I'm pretty impressed with your sewing skills! Turned out very cute

  3. Thanks for sharing this tutorial. Your dress looks amazing and very flattering on you.

  4. Wow!What an awesome dress! You go girl! Hope you week is wonderful! Angie xo

  5. Several years ago, I made a version of this dress...using a baby wrap that my baby had outgrown (knit wraps only go to about 25lbs, but are so comfy!). I still loved the fabric so turned it into this dress. I did find I could really only wear it one way, or there wasn't enough coverage on my sides...wonder if I should have used wider straps? I also think tapering the straps would be good.
    You can see it at

  6. WOW, I love that dress! What a great dress this would be for travelling - especially in black or other basic color. A few different accessories and you'd have a few days' worth of outfits.

    I will be buying a sewing machine once I'm back in Canada next year. You've inspired me to try to make this! Bookmarked to try then! Glad to be in touch! :)

  7. Well done with your tutorial! You really have done a great job figuring out the science behind this!

  8. Wow! That looks fantastic, you are a genius.

  9. Thanks for visiting my blog and checking out my version. I'm really thinking of getting back to it; trying it on again and maybe making some adjustments. Or trying it again in a lighter knit...

    Thanks also for the DVD recommendation! I might just get that. There are so many tutorials out there like you said, but they never seem to be what I need. Or I follow one, but my armhole ends up really weird looking and I'm afraid to actually cut it out, LOL. Right now, I think I'm having success with just cutting narrower shoulders, and if necessary, adding a bit of a wedge for extra bodice length. But I'm keeping my options open!

  10. Come see my son's room with some Alberta touches!

  11. Thanks for visiting my blog :) Love your space and following you now for more great ideas! Inviting you to follow me if you have the time too :)

  12. wow that looks a tricky idea....very well shown technique..nice work Tanya :)

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