DIY flowy, drop-waist dolman dress

Flowy dress1Flowy dress3Flowy dress2

Before embarking on this occasionally heart-wrenching adventure, you need to ask yourself some questions.

1. Do I have plans this weekend?
2. Do I have something else I could do with this pretty pretty chiffon material that I will like? (Such as this lovely, four-seam dress.)
3. Have I hated myself before when attempting some pretty-looking blogger DIY that uses flowy fabric? And did I swear consistently from about 20 minutes in.
4. Does the sheer length of the instructions below scare the hell out of me?

If the answer is yes, to any of these, stop. Perhaps try the dress above?
Or maybe, get yourself some knit fabric that doesn’t need a lining, and hop over here for a knit drop-waist dress. Who’s ever been angry at some knit? It doesn’t even need to be hemmed (but it looks better if you do, obvi).

If you’re still with me, poor you. Let’s go.

Recommended reading/watching:
1. Morning by morning productions drop-waist dress. In the same way the Purl Bee tutorials were good guides for the structure of those blankets (four seams, I know, but everyone needs a guide), this gives us a good framework.
2. With Wendy lined lace top video. This is fast and gives you a good idea about what’s going to happen with your lining. Cause eff facing? Also her voice and music are really calming. You’ll need that.

First, a tip: You know the old adage/cliche, ‘measure twice, cut once?’ That shiz is true, but to it I would add: Measure twice, add an inch, or two if you’re routing around your chest or butt, and then cut once. Running a straight stitch up the inside of a seam to contour your shirt/dress/skirt closer to your body is easy. Hastily coming up with a fix-it in the middle of a project, like, say sidepanels, when you realize you are not going to fit into your creation is not easy. It is a pain in the ass.

forgetting to measure + being under the illusion you have straight hips = last minute fix in the form of side panels. don't do this
forgetting to measure + being under the illusion you have straight hips = last minute fix in the form of side panels. don’t do this


1. If you have a dress you can use as a model, or a skirt, great! Get it out.  Fold your flowy fabric in half. Fold it again. Put it on the floor. Fold your lining fabric in half. Fold it again. Put it on top of your flowy fabric. (Note: this is the opposite of what’s in the photos, but I realized half-way through that the lining’s weight and ‘stickiness’ tame the flowy fabric and make your measuring job easier. Plus it doesn’t pull when you’re tracing on it.)

2. Put your model dress/shirt on top. Trace the contours. If you want your sleeves to go out further, extend the sloping angle from the shoulder out.

Measure the circumference of your arm.
Divide by two.
Add 3/4 to one inch. This is not a joke. you need seam allowance, space to put your arm through and enough fabric to roll the hem.
2.25: For the shirt length, stand up. Measure from the top of your shoulder to your hip bone, or wherever you want the dropped waist to hit. Add an inch. Or even an inch and a half. Smile knowing you will not be mad later.

2.5. Measure and trace the skirt. Wasted tip: Don’t forget about your ass. I have straight hips. I always always think that I can just measure straight from the waste. This is not true. Straight skirts look a little A-liney when they are laid flat. Don’t you forget it.

3. Take model dress/shirt off the layers. PIN ALL THE LAYERS. You will think this is fussy. It is, but it will keep the fabrics lined up with one another when cutting. It will reduce the variation between them. You will smile at yourself for how well they line up. If you don’t do this, you run the risk of having a back panel that is 1.5 inches longer than the front panel, and having to adjust on the fly.

4. If you want a fully lined garment, great. You are choosing a faster adventure. You will want to imitate With Wendy’s video here. I’m going to let you do that all on your own. When done, skip to step 14.

5. If you want your lining to be a tank so that the sleeves remain flowy, consider again step 4. If you insist, welcome.

6. Set the outside of the shirt aside. Fold the lining in half. Take a tank top. Fold it in half and lay it over the lining for an approximation of the armholes.Cut armholes. Do not cut the neckline. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU MAKE THE NECKLINE DIFFERENT FROM THE OUTSIDE NECKLINE. Unelss, of course, you are looking for some self-flagellation in the form of multiple unneccessary rolled hems.

7. Sew up the sides of the tank. Do not sew up the armholes (I mean, duh, but I can’t have been the only person ever to have done this). Do not sew the shoulder seams of the tank. The shoulder seems are how you will join the tank to the outside.

8. Get out the iron. It is your best friend today. Fold along what will be the right armhole, and iron it down. Do not stress about these being a precise lenth. Try to keep the fold as small as possible, while taming it down. Fold again along this same u-shaped, unjoined arm hole, iron and pin as you go. Repeat on left side. Sew along both armholes.

9. Take outside of shirt. With right sides facing, pin. Sew up the sides and along the underarm seam. Sew the two shoulder seams. Do not sew the neckline. Don’t.

10. Try on your shirt to make sure you aren’t restricting circulation at the arms. If they are too tight, just slice them up a few inches on each side until they aren’t.

10.5 Go to your ironing board. Fold and iron flat the edges of the shirt cuffs. Fold and iron flat again, pinning as you go. Try on again to make sure you’ve averted most disasters.

11. Flip your shirt outside/rightside out. Keeping your tank inside-out, slip it over your shirt. Pin all along the necklines that line up beautifully. If they don’t, pin them as though they do and then trim after you’ve sewn. No one will ever know the difference.

12. Sew along the neckline! Sew the shoulders of the tank down, along the shoulder seam of the shirt. Flip the lining up and drop it inside of the shirt. Don’t despair when there are weird folds or the neckline looks wonky! Calmly walk to your ironing board and iron that seam flat.

13. Take the lined shirt back to the sewing machine, and sew 1/4 inch seam along the neckline. Iron THAT flat. Marvel at how professional this all looks.

14. Welcome back fully-lined shirt-ers. Everyone, time for the skirts.
14.5 Lay outside front skirt panel on the ground with right side up. Lay lining front panel on top. Pin and sew along the two sides and the bottom, leaving the waist open.

14.75 Repeat with back panels.

14.8 Iron open your seams. Turn these panels outside/rightside out. Iron the seams flat.

15. Pin the front and back panels together, with right sides facing. Gingerly step into the skirt to make sure it fits you. If it does, congratulations, move to step 17. If it’s too big, whatever. You will just have a generous seam allowance.

16. If your skirt is too tight: Stop. Go to your fridge. Get a beer. Drink half of it. Then come back.

16.5 You, my friend, now need to make panels for your skirt like I did. This will nearly double your project time. I’m sorry.
Upside: The little shirt tail effect from the panels is pretty cute if you cut the panels about one to two inches shorter than the front and back of the skirt.

16.55 Measure your hips, then measure the skirt panels seam to seam. Figure out how much your’re off by. For example:
My front panel was 17.5 inches.
My back panel was 18 inches.
The circumference of my hips at the apex of my ass is about 37 inches. 17.5+18=35.5. I was off by 2.5 inches at the top of the skirt.

16.6 Divide the top seam extra needed by two. Add an inch for seam allowance. If you have too much in the end, it’s fine. The way we stitch together the skirt and shirt with the elastic is very forgiving for excess material.

16.7 Fold outside fabric and lining in half. Draw out a rectangle. Pin it all together and cut.

16.8 Repeat step 14 with these small little panels. This is such a pain, I’m sorry you’re going through this.

16.9 Lay the front of your skirt flat, right side up. Lay the two side panels on top, right side down. Pin. Sew. You now have one long front panel. Iron the seams flat, drink the rest of your beer (or a second, no judgment). Proceed.

17. Put your two skirt panels right sides together. Sew up the sides.

18. Make sure shirt is inside/wrongside out. It’s rightsides will be facing each other. Make sure your skirt is outside/rightside out. Slip your skirt into your shirt. The right sides should be facing each other.

When following these instructions but translating for lining, I had the right sides of my skirt together. Sewed with elastic. Got all ecstatic I was done. Flipped the skirt down. And was confronted with this:IMG_0307

Yes, that is the shirt lining on the outside of the dress. Maybe you are smarter than me and this is obvious, but you want the RIGHT SIDE OF SKIRT to be facing the RIGHT SIDE OF SHIRT.

You if you look at the raw edges your material should be layered like this: ‘

front panel shirt lining
fp shirt outside
fp skirt outside
fp skirt lining
back panel skirt lining
bp skirt outside
bp shirt outside
bp shirt lining.

19. Pin all along the waist seam.

20. Take out elastic and wrap it around the point at your hips where you want the drop waist to hit. Cut. Sew the ends of the elastic together. If using fat elastic (of like an inch), open your seams and iron flat. If using thin elastic, no worries.

The next two steps will seem fussy. They are intended to make sure you evenly stretch your elastic and don’t wind up with a super bunchy waist in one section and super flat in another. Trust.

21. Find the halfway point on the elastic from the seam and pin to mark it. Find the two halfway points between the seam and the halfway point (these are quarter-way points?). Pin to mark those as well.

22. On your joined shirt/skirt raw edges, find the halfway point on the front and back panels. Mark it with a pin.

23. Pin the seam of the elastic to one of the dress side seams. Pin the halfway point of the elastic to the other side seam. Pin the elastic quarter-way points to the midway points on the front and back panels.

24. Walk to sewing maching. Make sure you are on zig zag stitch. Starting at the seam of the elastic, put presser foot down and insert needle though all your layers. Pull the elastic taught from the quarterway point, so that it is the same length of the fabric and sew a zig zag stitch. Keep pulling taught through your quarter sections until you are all the way around.

25. You did it!!! Flip that shiz ouside out. Pull over your head. Rejoice. You did a great job. Put on a blazer, wear it to work and when people are like ‘What did you do over the weekend’ you can be like ‘Psh, just made this dress and did some drinking, no big deal’. It is a big deal though. Good work.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s