DIY: Summer Midi Dress

tribal post title final

Hi there!

I have a little confession to make – I am a hunch fabric shopper. Yes, I often go to the fabric district to buy one thing, and I just get overwhelmed by the variety and end up buying fabrics for which I didn’t even plan a pattern, or have a slight idea to what I am about to sew with this. I just fall in love. So in case the fabric is interesting enough, and not too expensive of course, I buy 2 meters, because who knows, I might need it for a maxi dress.

And this is exactly what happened with this pretty fabric, it’s a light weight printed viscose.

Tribal fabric
Tribal fabric

I researched quite a bit to get a clue about what would be a nice solution for this baby, and I found this wonderful tutorial by Mimi on blogspot: Mimi’s maxi dress. She even has a step-by-step video, everything is explained in detail and she’s just awesome.

Of course, nothing in life is simple and I had to make 2 alterations:

  • Unfortunately, I didn’t get enough fabric for Mimi’s maxi dress, but I figured if I shortened her pattern a bit it would fit with no problem. It’s summer anyways, right? More air to mah legs.
  • Because my fabric is printed, it’s better if I don’t make the mid-front seam Mimi did on her dress, because then I’ll have to match the print’s pattern so it’ll match, and that’s just an unnecessary headache.
    However, in order to achieve her V-neckline, I would have to follow her pattern on the top panels, but it’s unnecessary to make 4 panels on the skirt. Anyways, the pattern is so dense, you can’t even tell if there is a seam in the front.

Let’s do this, shall we?

Here is what you’ll need:


Now, take your measurements.
I recommend you take your measurements once, and keep that chart in some place safe where you won’t accidentally throw it away.


So, here are the pattern pieces I cut:

Notice the notches:

  • On the skirt: I added 2 sets of notches, so we don’t confuse the widest part with the waist part later.
  • On the bodice front: one notch is for marking the neckline depth, I wanted it to be 9″, but you can choose it to be whatever you’re comfortable with.
    The 2 notches are for the armhole. I chose it to be 10″, but you can measure yourself and make it bigger or smaller to fit your body/style.
  • On the bodice back: the one notch is for the neckline depth, and I wanted to make it shorter than the front neckline. The armholes are the same.

You should end up with 2 sets of 2 bodice sections, the measurements on all of them should be the same, but the difference is in the notches’ location – they are opposite. That is because you need to make 2 sections for the front and 2 sections for the back of the dress.




Pay attention you lay the bottom pattern piece on the FOLD.
Oh, I wish I had fabric weights… this fabric is so slippery! Also, 100% of the times I use pins, I poke myself. Ouch.

Now Stop! Scissor time!

—————— ✂ ———————————— ✂ ———————————— ✂ ——————

If you don’t have a rotary cutter, and have a possibility to invest in one – please do! I got mine just a month ago, and it’s a game changer! Cuts the cutting time in half, pun intended 😉

Quick Tip:  The best way to cut with a rotary cutter  is to use a ruler.
Lay the ruler on top of the pattern, and cut alongside. Don’t lay the ruler on the outside of the pattern’s edge, because then your rotary cutter will astray and might cut too much into the fabric. You can always cut less, but you can never add fabric to a piece that was cut the wrong way.

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Make sure you cut 4 panels of the top. However, with the bottom – there should only be 2.


Ok, so now that we’ve cut all the parts comes to fun part – sewing!

Step 4: Choose the right needle for your fabric, and finish the seams along the top and the skirt sections.
Notice you finish only the seams of the longest parts. Don’t worry if you sew over the notches – just make sure you mark them with a tailors’ chalk, so you can find them easily later.

Also, here I am using a walking foot. It’s one of my favorite presser feet, it feeds the top fabric and bottom fabric through the machine equally.


Step 5: Find all the top sections. Take the 2 front sections, put them right sides together, align the neckline notches, and sew with 5/8″ seam allowance.
Back-stitch the seam to secure. Make sure you stop sewing at the notch.
Do this with the 2 back sections.
Don’t be confused by the photos – I accidentally did a 1/4″ seam allowance. Oh well.

Step 6: Now you have 2 sections for the top – one for the front and one for the back. Take the 2 parts, put them right sides together, align the armhole notches, and sew with 5/8″ seam allowance. Back-stitch to secure. Don’t sew past the notch.



Step 9: Turn the top inside out, so the wrong sides are facing you. Match the shoulders, and sew them together, with 5/8″ seam allowance. Finish the seams with an overlock stitch, or a serger. I didn’t have a serger, so I used an overlock stitch. It was less professional, but practical none the less.

Step 10: Set your sewing machine to the longest stitch – mine is 4. Lower the thread tension to 2.5. Now we need to sew 2 rows of straight stitches inside the bounds of the 5/8″ we sewed earlier. So, set the needle about 1/4″ left to the seam, and sew. With no back-stitching!!! Make sure you leave a long tail of thread at the end of each stitch. Then, shift the needle again 1/4″ to the left of the former stitch and sew again.


Step 11: Secure the ends of each stitch at the beginning of the seam (not where the long thread ends are). Hold the fabric with one hand at the beginning of the stitches, and with the other hand grab the long thread tails and gently pull. Now you’re able to gently gather the fabric. When you’ve reached the desired amount of ruffle (mine was about 4″ long at the end), knot the two ends each stitch together.


Step 12: Repeat steps 10-11 on the other shoulder.

Step 13: OK, now it’s the tricky part – we need to secure that ruffle, and we’re top stitching. Turn the top right sides out, hold the fabric so the shoulder seam is vertical to you. Place the needle 1/4″ left to the shoulder seam, making sure the flappy inside of the seam is also folded to the left (where we sewed 2 rows earlier, remember?). Reset your thread tension and length to normal, and sew a row of straight stitching. Remember we are securing the seam so that means back-stitching.
Repeat for the other shoulder.


How satisfied are you when you finished the ruffle, right?


Yay we are done with the top for now! Moving on to the skirt!

Step 14: Take to 2 parts of the skirt, match them right sides together, align the notches, and sew along the sides with 5/8″ seam allowance, with back-stitching.

Step 15: Press the seams to one side.


Step 16: Finish the seams of the bottom of the skirt. Fold the bottom of the skirt for the hem for about 1″, and press. Hem with 5/8″ seam allowance.


Skirt is done! Now we need to put the 2 parts together!

Step 17: Follow carefully – take the top and the skirt sections and turn them both wrong sides out. Align the top’s bottom with the skirt’s waist, and fold the skirt inside the hole of  the waist of the skirt. You now should be holding on the waist of the dress. When you look through the hole you should see the top hanging upside down. Stitch the two parts together with 1″ seam allowance.


Step 18: Serge/overlock-stitch  the ends together.

Step 19: Now we’re going to make the elastic tunnel. For that we need to fold that strip of fabric we’ve created towards the top of the dress and press it down. Make sure you press it well, so there’s no bumps or folds under this strip of fabric. Pin 2 pins 2″ apart marking the hole for the elastic to sift through.

tribal_17Step 20: Sew along the serged ends of the tunnel, with back-stitching,  leaving out the pinned area. Make sure you have the lower part of the fabric stretched straight, so it wont fold and create a mess. This is where I had all sorts of accidents, and had to use my trusty seam ripper quite a few times, so be careful.

Step 21: Take your elastic band, measure the length of your waist minus 4.5″, so the elastic will be shorter than your waist measurement. Attach a safety pin to one end and insert it through the entire waist tunnel, carefully keeping the other end outside at all times.


Step 22: So, now that we have the 2 ends of the elastic sticking outside, we secure them together. I overlapped the two ends, sewed a box shape, with some zig-zag stitches in the middle.


Step 23: Pull on the waist tunnel so the elastic band is entirely inside. Now all we have left to do it to stitch closed the 2″ elastic opening, and that’s it!

Final Step – flaunt it!


I hope you’ve had a nice sewing experience with this summer dress. This pattern is versatile, and you can make lots of summer dresses using different fabric prints and colors, and different dress lengths.
For any questions – feel free to ask.

Happy sewing!



3 thoughts on “DIY: Summer Midi Dress

  1. Hey Keren! This is a fabulous and very thorough DIY. Considering that midi skirts are trending this summer 2014, this DIY will definitely come in handy! ….Anyhow, I’m a new blogger, I love fashion-related DIYs and I’m looking to collaborate with bloggers who share the same passion. If you’re interested in working together, please contact me (


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