My favorite dress to wear in the summer is a store-bought red and tan printed maxi dress by London Times. I’ve had it for quite a few years now, and don’t remember where I got it. If I had to guess, I would say either Ross’s or Nordstrom Rack. I haven’t been able to find another maxi dress that suits me as well as this one, so I decided to try to recreate it!
Before I jump into construction, I should mention the fabric. It was an impulse buy at Hancock’s going out-of-business sale. It was super cheap at $2.08 per yard. I bought three yards of it, but ended up needing only two. Who knew you could make a maxi dress out of just two yards of fabric!?
Okay, on to the construction. I didn’t make a pattern as part of copying this dress from my RTW one, though now I wish I had. Instead of tracing the pattern pieces onto paper, I traced the dress directly onto my striped fabric using a chalk wheel pen.
I started tracing with the bodice back, which seemed like the most simple piece. On the original dress, the back has a left and a right. There was no obvious reason for this, though, so I cut my bodice back on the fold. To trace it, I laid the dress on top of my fabric, aligning the center seam with the folded edge of my fabric. I pinned this into place and stretched the elastic waist to the natural width of the dress around the waist. I pinned this into place, flattened out the rest of the bodice, and then started tracing. I traced around the side seam, armholes, and neckline about 1/2″ away from the dress in order to include seam allowances.
I cut this piece out immediately to make sure that it looked reasonable. It did, so I then continued with the front bodice, also cut on the fold. For the first time, I realized that the dress had pleats along the neckline coming from the shoulder seam. To mimic this design element, I made my straps wider, and traced as before.
The skirt was quite simple to trace. I cut the front on the fold, and the back in two separate pieces in order to save fabric. The front and back skirt pieces are basically identical, so I used the skirt front in order to line up the stripes and cut the skirt back.
Once I had all five pieces cut out, I started sewing by assembling the bodice. First, I sewed the seams using my serger and a lot of pins in order to match up the stripes. I then folded over the front bodice along the shoulder seams to imitate the pleats on the original dress and sewed the shoulder seams. Already, I had a bodice and things were looking good. I finished the neckline and armholes by serging the raw edges and then top stitching them down using a double needle on my sewing machine. Despite my instinct to use a binding, the original dress used the fold over method, and I figured if it was good enough for my favorite dress, it was good enough for me.
It took a little patience to pin together the three skirt seams lining up the stripes. I pinned every 5 stripes together. After all of the pinning, the skirt came together quickly on the serger, and, though not perfect, the stripe matching is pretty good.
Next up, the bodice and skirt were attached. This step was probably the most tricky of them all because I wanted the juncture to appear seamless, without any wobbly stripes. I didn’t quite achieve this, but I don’t think anyone would notice from far away. I can also always wear a belt if it bothers me. Finally, I sewed a strip of 1/4″ elastic to the waist seam allowance, as in the original dress. Voila! A replicate of my favorite maxi dress.
All together, it took me about one hour to trace and cut out the dress, and three to sew it together. I am super satisfied with this make. It is comfortable, and a style that I already know fits into my life. It is also extra gratifying knowing that I “made” the pattern that the dress is based on. I’ve worn it weekly every since it was finished.
Pattern: n/a, traced my favorite London Times dress
Fabric: 2 yards of striped mystery knit from Hancock Fabrics @ $2.08/yard
Notions: 1/4″ elastic from stash
Cost: $4.16 in fabric + elastic from stash = $4.16
Time: 4 hours