Plain jane cover up to fun summer dress

Let me start by saying that this dress never really was long enough, but back when I bought it I was still living in close proximity to the beach, so I must’ve bought it thinking I would use it as a cover up. (It is so short on me, that I couldn’t even fathom putting up a before picture of me in it, so you’ll have to trust me on this one.) Sadly, it hasn’t actually gotten much wear as shortly after I bought it I ended up moving to Lyon, and I haven’t budged since.  In Lyon, beachwear gets little to no use, as the closest thing we have to a beach here is the shore of a small lake.

After a few years of staring longingly at this dress in my closet and wondering what possessed me to move so far away from the beach (something about having to earn money in order to put food on the table and clothes on my back?), I decided that this dress deserved more than a lifetime on a hanger. When I spotted this salmon jersey knit at the fabric store, inspiration struck. Without further ado, behold my new and improved (wearable) summer dress!

Summer Dress Refashion: Before & After

I’m super happy with how this dress turned out, especially because I took so many wrong turns along the way (as per usual – why do I always decide to make it up as I go along instead of following a pattern?!). Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes!

Well, let’s get to it!


– Tank top / Tank dress / Really any jersey top

– 1 m jersey material in one color (in this case, salmon)

– 1 m jersey material in another color (in this case, black)

The dress:

I started out by trying on my dress and decided where I wanted the grey part to come down to. I find that higher-waisted dresses look better on me since they bring to focus to my waist instead of my gigantic Norwegian / German hips, so I decided to cut it a little bit above my belly button (allowing a little extra length for the seam).

My first mistake was not ripping out the side seams, and trying to just add onto the bottom. This made for a side seam that was “piecey” and lead to an unflattering bubble effect. Being the perfectionist that I am, I ended up taking it all out and starting over. It may seem like more work to unpick the side seam, but trust me, it is worth it! If your dress is too wide, you could save yourself the time and just cut along the side seam, however before doing this make sure that after cutting it, you will have enough room for the seam without making the dress too small.

Step 1 & 2

The next thing you should do is cut out 2 rectangles out of your other fabric. Depending on how much gather you want your dress to have, you should cut them more or less wide. I cut mine to be about 27 inches wide x 30 inches long. Keep in mind that when you are cutting jersey, you want to make sure that the stretch goes width-wise (It is pretty easy to do this, just pull a little bit on both sides, and you’ll notice which way there is more stretch).

At this point, the mistake I made was to sew the bottom hem before attaching the bottom half to the top half. The logic behind this decision was solid: I figured it would be easier to sew the hem first, while the material was still completely flat. The problem with this method is twofold:

1. If you sew the bottom hem first, when you sew the side hem it will be on TOP of the bottom hem, instead of vise versa. Depending on the project, this may be more or less visible. On my dress, it ended up not really showing too much. At least not enough that I was willing to take it all apart and start over.

2. If you do the bottom hem first, you have to make sure and line up the pieces perfectly so that the front and back of your dress are the same length. This can prove to be difficult with the gathering at the top of the dress, however I ended up doing a decent job of it.

Anyway the point is: Don’t do it this way! Instead, start by doing the gathers at the top of your “skirt.”

Another mistake I made here (wow I’m just racking them up aren’t I?) was to try and sew my gathering stitch on my machine. Now, you may be able to do this without any problem on some machines and with some fabrics, but despite my efforts to use the longest available stitch and the loosest tension, I was unable to get my gathers to go across the entire width of my fabric without the thread breaking. I ended up giving up and doing them by hand, which turned out to be easier than I thought. (If you look closely, you can still see the machine stitches I tried doing in the beginning in the picture below.)

Summer Dress Refashion: Step 3

I really recommend doing it by hand unless your machine has a very long stitch, because otherwise it’ll just be more frustrating than it needs to be. By hand, you are just going to want to do a basic running stitch across the top of your fabric, and then pull on each end until the width of your fabric is equal to the width of the top that you want to attach it to.

Once your gather is finished, put right sides together, and sew the skirt to the top.

Repeat these 2 steps for the other side.

Next comes the side seam. Match the sides together, pin and sew along them, making sure that the grey parts are matched up to the grey parts, and the salmon parts to the salmon parts, in order to avoid a mismatched side seam.

Once you have finished sewing up the side seam, the only thing left on the actual dress is the bottom hem.

The sash:

Now that the dress is done, it is time to make the sash. All I did here was to cut 2 long pieces from my black jersey fabric, making sure to cut the fabric so that the stretchy part was lengthwise (mine were 80 inches by 6 inches – I wanted to be able to wrap the sash around my waist several times). If your fabric isn’t long enough, then cut 4 long pieces and sew them together to make 2 long pieces.  I then folded it in half lengthwise. The only real difficulty here was that the jersey fabric kept rolling up. In order to make sure it was straight, I ironed and pinned it before sewing along it.

Summer Dress Refashion: Sash

I then turned it inside out, folded the two ends under and top-stitched over them.

Et c’est fini !

It really should’ve been a simple project, and my hope is that it really will be for you!



6 thoughts on “Plain jane cover up to fun summer dress

  1. You’ve made a really pretty dress there.
    I smiled when I read that you tend to make things up as you go along. I’m usually guilty of that myself 🙂

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