Thursday, August 1, 2019

Hacking a Classic (Into a Maxi Dress)

It's been a few months since I've done a Winter Wear Designs blog tour. May was too crazy with preparations for my youngest brother's graduation and a play I was costuming for me to commit to a blog tour. In June I was in Japan for most of the month. As for July, with my work schedule and the children's theater camp I costumed, I wasn't sure I'd be able to do this blog tour either. But once I read what this month's theme was, got excited about the idea of getting creative with a new WWD pattern, and realized I'd finally be able to use up a fabric I bought 3 years ago, with a specific project in mind, I was all in and knew I'd find time to make the dress and join the blog tour.

Thus, last Saturday night, I made myself a new dress. Last Sunday morning I wore it to church. And on Sunday afternoon, my brother photographed it for me. (Ever since he got a camera he's been a surprisingly willing blog photographer!)

Approximately 3 years ago, I bought 3 yards of this white, orange, and blue stretch shirting fabric with the intention of turning it into a ruffly summer maxi dress. Shortly there after, before I got around to making the dress, I decided to do the World Race, and left the country for a year. Upon returning home, over a year and a half ago now, every time I've seen this fabric in my stash I've thought "oh yes, I need to turn that into a maxi dress!" Yet have I actually gotten around to doing it? No. Honestly, I've considered using this fabric for other projects, but I just couldn't. It needed to be  maxi dress. That's what I bought it for, and that's what it was going to be - one of these days.

That day finally came, when Suzanne announced to the Winter Wear Designs blogger team that the July blog tour would be all about the "Classics". The Classic Shell and Classic Shift patterns are good, basic, versatile, woven patterns which can be used to make many different looks. I used the Classic Shell pattern to make my sister's Easter dress, so I decided for this project I would try the new Classic Shift pattern for me. The tester photos of this shift dress pattern looked fabulous, and I loved all the different neckline and sleeve options it offered.

When I looked at the pattern with this blog tour in mind, trying to decide what sort of personal spin I wanted to add to it, I suddenly remembered the maxi dress fabric. With a wide ruffle added to the bottom, the Classic Shift pattern could definitely be used to turn the fabric into the dress it was begging to become. It was settled just like that. I got the pattern and finally made the maxi dress I'd been planning on making for three years.

I chose to make my dress with a notched square neckline and gathered flutter sleeves. I cut out the pattern at the longest length option, knee length. Then I cut two rectangles of fabric,  16" wide, and 44" long (the full fabric width) for the ruffles. And I forgot to cut out pockets. That had to be remedied later.

As I have a broad back and wide shoulders, I adjusted the pattern accordingly before cutting into my long horded fabric.

I did a broad back adjustment similar to the way this tutorial recommends. The only change I made from the tutorial was to skip adding the shoulder dart to make the back shoulder seam match the original front shoulder seam. That dart is needed if you have "average" width shoulders. As I have wide shoulders along with a broad back, I didn't need to remove any of the newly gained shoulder seam length.  Instead I added extra width to the front shoulder seam to make it match the newly widened back shoulder seam.

This rather simple adjustment, which I have to do to almost every pattern I make, regardless of brand, gives me an almost perfect, very comfortable, fit through the back and shoulders - which is something I never get with store-bought shirts and dresses!

The pattern recommended finishing the neckline and armholes with bias tape, but I decided I wanted to use a facing instead. To make an all-in-one, neckline and arm hole facing, I traced the upper bodice, both front and back, onto some scrap paper.

Then I drew a curved line on my traced bodice pieces from a couple inches under the armhole up to a couple inches under the neckline.

The gave me the all-in-one facing patterns I wanted.

I was able to use the resulting facing patterns to cleanly finish the neckline and armhole by sewing them into the bodice using the "burrito method" - just as you would if you were fully lining the bodice. 

After sewing the bodice, before attaching the bottom ruffle, I tried on the dress to check the fit. I immediately loved the shape of it, and was tempted to leave it as a shift dress and skip the ruffle which would turn it into a maxi. Except, the fabric still needed to be a maxi dress, so I proceeded to add the ruffle, (deciding I'd have to use this pattern again in the future to make a shift dress) but first, I had to make a couple minor fitting adjustments.

I'd cut out the pattern as a size medium through the bust and hips, blended the a size small at the waist. This is where my measurements put me according to the size chart, and this is how I always cut WWD patterns. They've always fit well me with this combination of sizes. This time, however, when I tried on the dress for a fit check, it fit perfectly through the waist but felt too big through the bust and hips. So I took it in at the bust and the hips until I got the fit just right. For this pattern I probably could have cut a straight size small and had the right fit from the beginning. I also lengthen the back darts a couple inches to fix a minor sway back issue.

After sorting out the bust and hip fit, I attached the wide ruffle to the bottom - with a slit up the front for a little extra pizzazz - and the dress was done!

Atleast, that's what I thought until I put the dress on for Church the next morning and realized I'd forgotten to add pockets to it!!

I don't wear dresses without pockets, so this had to be remedied right away! I yanked the dress off, ran to my cutting table, and spread out the fabric left over from making the dress.

I hastily cut two patch pockets from the fabric scraps, hemmed the top of each pocket, pressed in the other edges 1/4" then pinned the pockets to the front of the dress. Some how I managed to match the print while I was at it.

With the pockets pinned in place, I rushed to the sewing machine and top stitched them down. Then I threw the dress back on, filled my pockets with the necessities, milked my goats, and went to church. I was only about 5 minutes late.

And so, that is the story of how this fabric finally became the maxi dress it was always meant to be - a blog tour which was just the push I needed, a Saturday night of sewing, and a rushed pocket job on a Sunday morning.

It was worth it.

I enjoyed getting to hack this "classic" pattern into something a little different, and I will be wearing this dress over, and over, and over again.

Don't miss out on any of the creative inspiration!


Laura of Kitty Makes It


Ilse of Sew Sew Ilse


Suzanne of WWD



Florence of Ftmom3

Josianne of Sewista Fahion


  1. That’s a lovely hack. I will have to try it too.
    Great fabric for a maxi.

  2. This turned out so good. I need to make a shift dress

  3. I love it. Very pretty fabric and I’m glad you got your maxi dress. Great job.

  4. Hehe! It's always great when a sibling gets excited about doing a favour ; P
    I love pattern hacks, and you always do a fabulous job of them! The inspiration for you dress reminds me of the idea I was toying with a while back of turning the Brooks Blouse by Brijee into a maxi dress.
    I love all your details, and i think the deep ruffle at the bottom totally makes the dress.

    1. Thank you! Oh, I like the idea of turning the Brooks Blouse into a maxi dress!