As soon as I made my first square neck tank I knew I wanted to make a dress version with ties in the back. This tutorial will walk you through the steps of how I made this dress with some tips for figuring out measurements for the gathered skirt.
This dress was made using pattern pieces that I made for my Square Neck Tank Hack so head over to that tutorial to get started on tracing out your pattern. I’ll mainly be focusing on how I added the ties to the back bodice of this specific top, but I’m sure you could apply the techniques to different pattern (with some different methods depending on the pattern).
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What you’ll need
- Pattern pieces from Square Neck Tank Hack
- Rotary cutter or fabric scissors
- Cutting mat – a must have if using a rotary cutter
- Loop turner – used for the straps and ties
- Fabric – Use the amount of fabric that you would typically use for a dress in your size (I had 2.5 yards to work with for my example). I made mine with a gorgeous gingham linen from Blackbird Fabrics.
Prepare your pattern pieces
Start by figuring out where you want your skirt to start from at your waist. Shorten your bodice piece to that length, making sure to include seam allowance for when you attach the skirt. I wanted my skirt to be a couple of inches above my natural waist, so I just folded the bottom of the pattern piece the amount I wanted to shorten and added 1/2″ for seam allowance.
Gather all your pattern pieces that you made for the Square Neck Tank Hack. The only additional pieces you will need are two Skirt panels and what I’m calling the Tie Placket pieces – two rectangles the length of your bodice and 1 1/4″ wide. These pieces are what you will be enclosing the back ties with, folding to the back and topstitching.
Cut out your pattern pieces
You will cut out the same pieces for the Square Neck Tank Hack but you will cut the Back bodice and the Back Facings not on the fold. If you’re using fabric with a clear right and wrong side, make sure to cut a mirrored pair.
Cut out the Front bodice and Front Facings on the fold.
Ties and Straps
I cut out 5 ties 18 1/2″ long x 1 1/8″ wide. You will need 4 for the back ties and 1 will be cut in half for the straps.
Tie Placket pieces
Cut out two Tie Placket pieces the length of your bodice and 1 1/4″ wide.
Skirt Pieces (and optional Pockets)
Figure out your Skirt panel measurements by measuring your finished bodice and multiplying by 1.5 or 2 (depending on how gathered you want your skirt.)
For example, my finished Front bodice width at the bottom was 19″ – I added 1″ for seam allowances so that gave me a total of 20″. I multiplied 20 x 1.5 to get 30″ which was the width of one of the skirt panels. You will need to cut out two skirt panels the same width. Figure out how long you want your dress as well – I made mine 36.5″ long – and include seam allowance for the hem.
Don’t forget pockets if you want! I used a favorite pocket pattern piece from another dress pattern. Head over to my tutorial How to Add Inseam Pockets if you need more detailed instructions for this step.
time to sew!
Ties and straps
Before sewing your ties, I recommend figuring out how long you want them. You can pin them to the back pieces and loosely tie them to see how long you want them to hang. (I ended up cutting off 5″ off of my ties after they were sewn on, so I had to unpick the ends so I could fold in the raw edge).
Fold the straps in half longways right sides together and sew with a 1/4″ seam allowance down the side and one of the short ends. Trim off the seam allowance and turn through with a loop turner. Cut the length in half of one of them to make two straps.
Pin the Ties to right side of the Back bodices. Place two at top, 1/4″ from top. Find the middle between the bottom of the bodice where the skirt will be attached (accounting for seam allowance) and pin the other two Straps in the middle. Baste the ties in place (or leave them pinned if it’s hard to baste with your fabric).
Fold the long side of the Tie Placket pieces in towards the wrong side 1/4″ on one side and press.
Place Tie Plackets right sides together to the back bodice, sandwiching the ties in between. Sew with a 1/4″ seam allowance.
Place the back straps at the top, 1/4″ from the sides. Baste or pin in place.
Sew Front and Back Bodice
Sew bust darts on the Front bodice and press darts down. Place the Front and Back bodices right sides together, sew the side seams with 1/2″ seam allowance and finish seams. (I found it helpful to tie the back ties for this part to keep them out of the way).
sew facings together
Sew the Front and Back facings together at the side seams at 1/2″ seam allowance (or whatever your seam allowance is for your side seams). Finish side seams and press towards back (You’ll see I forgot to do this in the photo above, and instead pressed my seams open…). Finish the bottom of the Facings.
Alternatively, if you want to topstitch your Facing to the bodice later, then you could press the bottom edge under in preparation.
Sew Facings to Bodice
Next it’s time to sew the Facing to the bodice. Starting at the Back, place the Facing right sides together lining up the raw edges and matching side seams. Layer the Facing over the Tie Placket (see above right photo) and make sure all the ties and straps are out of the way.
Pin the Facing all the way around but leave the top Front of the bodice open for now. Sew all the way around the top of the Facing with a 1/4″ seam allowance. Make sure you’re catching the top of the Tie Placket when you’re sewing since it’s a pretty small seam allowance.
Turn right side out
Turn the Tie Facing right side out carefully, using a point turner to turn out the top corners.
Understitch Facing and Tie placket
Press the seam away from the bodice on the Back Facing and Tie Placket. Understitch as close as you can to the corners along the top edge of the Back Facing and along the Tie Placket.
Sew Straps to Front
With the top inside out and the Back facing up, bring the other end of the straps up towards the Front and under the Facing. Pin 1/4″ from edge (pushed up against the existing stitch line). This is a good time to try your bodice on and check the strap length – it’s pretty easy to unpick the straps and readjust if you need to later. Once you have the strap length decided, you can baste the straps on or keep them pinned for the next step.
Sew Facing at top Front with 1/4 seam allowance.
Understitch Facing at Top and armholes
Press the Facing seams away from the bodice at Front and armholes. Understitch the Facing getting as close as you can to the corners where the straps are. Press from the right side and double check that everything looks ok and fits how you want.
At the sides I secured the facing to the side seam by stitching in the ditch (stitch right along the side seam) from the right side – this helps to keep the facing from riding up at the armholes.
Now, for these next steps, I’m assuming that you have sewed a dress before and are familiar with attaching a bodice to a skirt. I will go through the steps, but I’m not going into too much detail. For detailed instructions I wrote a tutorial specifically for How to Sew a Gathered Skirt to a Bodice.
Sew the pockets to the skirt panels, if you’re including them (my tutorial How to Add Inseam Pockets goes into more detail). Sew the side seams and finish seams.
Prepare skirt for gathering by sewing two lines of basting stitches at the top, starting and stopping at the side seams. Pull on the bobbin stitches until the skirt is the same width as the bodice and the gathers are even.
To prepare the bodice for sewing to the skirt, I sewed the bottom of the back of the bodice with a zig-zag stitch to make sure it stayed together during construction.
Sew skirt to Bodice
Sew the skirt to the bodice at 1/2″ seam allowance and take your time to make sure the gathers are laying smoothly. Try on your dress to check the fit. Remove basting stitches if visible, finish seams and press skirt seams down towards hem.
Hem your dress at desired length and you’re done!
Thanks for following along and I hope you were able to take away from helpful tips from this tutorial! Let me know if you have any questions by commenting below! Happy sewing 🙂