Perfect Beach Dress for Summer Fun

perfect beach dressThe town where I grew up sits in a valley over a mile (1800 meters) above sea level and surrounded by mountains.  But if you found it on a map, you’d see we were not really too far from the sea.  From time to time, we went to the beach in the back of a big pickup truck.  It was the same one they used to move the cattle, horses and chickens to the abattoir, so it was pretty rustic.

On the way from my small town to the beach, we would pick a few of my cousins on the way.  When I say “a few” cousins, I mean until the pickup truck was full.  It only really took 3 or 4 stops to fill the truck because as it happens, I have 68 cousins, if you can believe it, and filling almost anything with my family isn’t really all that hard..

It took two hours to get to the beach, a bit more if we had to get out of the truck to say hello to the aunts and uncles, but eventually we would arrive to play in the waves and the surf.  We would only come out of the sea to quickly to dress and get the truck back home.

Perfect Beach Dress

Even today, much of the coast of Panama is devoid of human population and you can still find beaches where you will be the only one there.  So needless to say, there are no dressing rooms and you learn to do “your business” before you arrive at the beach.  That is why stopping to pick a few cousins was very handy and convenient indeed.

Because of the lack of facilities, we also learned to dress and to remove certain pieces of clothing without the need of getting completely naked.  Of course we had to keep on the bottom part of the bikini.  We often wore this under our cut-off shorts made from jeans that were passed down from a bigger sister or cousin.  Unfortunately, those cut-off shorts never dried in time for the trip back home.  Going from a sea-level, tropical beach back to the mountains in the back of truck is not exactly the most comfortable trip as you can imagine.  It was clear to me that I needed a dress that was not too short and not too long, that I could wear over my bathing suit and still be able to dry quickly.

Perfect Beach Dress

The Perfect Beach Dress is an A-line dress, meant to be worn over your swimsuit and it falls above the knee.  I have made this dress for myself in a few colors.  It’s my “go to” dress when I come back from the beach and I need to swing by the store or stop for a quick dinner before going home.  It’s the perfect beach dress to walk back from the pool to your cabin on a cruise or for sitting under the thatched roof of a beach bar.  It truly is very easy to make, even my mother had one.


  • 2 to 2.5 yards of fabric of your choice not too thick and with good drapability.  Here are some fabric options:  Batik turtles, Batik stars, and Challis black
  • 3 yards of 2″ bias tape.  I made my own.
  • thread to match
  • a 2″ wooden or plastic ring
  • clear plastic strap slider adjusters.  I used these.
  • sewing machine
  • zipper foot (optional)

Download the Pattern

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Download the Free Pattern

You can download the pattern for this Perfect Beach Dress from our account at Craftsy.

For help downloading and printing PDF patterns, please CLICK HERE.

Finished Garment Measurements

perfect beach dress

Step One:  Cut the pattern

You will need to sew three pieces of fabric.

Cut two of the back and one of the front on the fold.

Step Two:  Sewing the Perfect Beach Dress

Use a French seam to sew the two back pieces together,perfect beach dress then sew the sides.perfect beach dress Here is a useful tutorial if you don’t know How to sew a French Seam.

How to sew a French Seam

If you are not using a French seam, keep your seam allowance at 5/8″

Step Three:  Making your bias tape

We’re going to use bias tape in two parts of the dress –along the front neckline and back which will also then form the straps of the dress.  We’ll start with front neckline.

Perfect Beach Dress

The fabric I am using is hand dyed and beautiful, so I decided to use the same fabric and make my own bias tape.  With this design the bias tape actually becomes the straps for the dress, so an attractive choice of fabric is important.  If you want to do the same, please check out our tutorial on Making continuous bias binding tape.

Making continuous bias binding tape

Step Four:  Apply bias tape to the front neckline

Gather or make tiny darts to reduce the neckline to 10 inches for sizes XXS, XS and S. To 12 inches for M, L and to 13 inches for XL and XXL.  To gather the neckline sew a straight stitch at 1/4″ from the edge.  Sew another beside that stitch at another 1/4″ further in.  Then pull both of the bobbin threads to gather the fabric.  For more guidance on quick and easy gathering, please check our our tutorial.

perfect beach dress

perfect beach dress

Start on the right side of the fabric and pin the bias tape on the right side of the fabric.perfect beach dressTrim the seam allowance by half to reduce the bulk of the fabric.perfect beach dress

Fold the bias tape and sew again on the right side of fabric. perfect beach dress

Step Five: Attach the bias tape straps

Start by folding the top edge of fabric and iron it.perfect beach dressPin the long strip of bias tape from the back where the ring will be locatedperfect beach dress and continue to pin all the way to the front.perfect beach dress The bias tape will become the straps for the dress.  Start to sew from the back and continue to sew the whole bias tape transforming the bias tape into the strap for the dress.perfect beach dress

perfect beach dress

Step Six:  Attach the ring

Before we can finish, we have to attach the ring to the back of the dress.

Thread the fabric through the ring, perfect beach dressfold the fabric again another 1/2″ and pin the fabric.perfect beach dressPush the fabric to one side and continue pinning the fabric down.perfect beach dressTake it to the sewing machine and sew at 1/8″.  I found  that for this step, it helped to change the foot to a zipper foot to be able to sew closer to the ring.  Please give it a try if you have one.

Perfect Beach Dress

Step Seven: Finishing the Perfect Beach Dress

Thread the slider under perfect beach dressover and under and slide it to the front perfect beach dress

Then thread the strap over the ring through the hole perfect beach dressperfect beach dressand under the bar of the slider.  perfect beach dressThis step is easier if you pull the fabric up then threading the strap under the slider is easier to do. perfect beach dress

Fold the end of the strap to hide the raw edge and sew it down by hand of sewing machine. perfect beach dress

Next will be to make a seam for the hem 5/8″ to 1 inch from the edge. perfect beach dressWith the help of your seam ripper or tailor’s awl, pull the threads out up to the seam to make a frill.  This raw edge style seem to be so popular now.  perfect beach dress

Perfect Beach Dress

Perfect Beach DressWhen the raw edge style passes though, you can just cut the treads and hem the dress normally.

You are done.  Off to the pool or beach!


perfect beach dress






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21 Responses to Perfect Beach Dress for Summer Fun

  1. Mary says:

    Hi. Everything went as predicted until I got to the bias trim/shoulder straps. 22″ doesn’t come near the length I need, yet the pattern pieces match for a size M. What am I missing? I’ve read the instructions … I think I’m on my 50th time … and still can’t figure out where I went wrong and I don’t see how you can help.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Mary, 22″ inches is not enough to go around the armhole, back and shoulders, you need 44 inches of bias tape per side. I will make this point clearer, so others can avoid the having the same problem. Thank you for your comments, it helps improve the site and teaches me how to write the tutorials better.
      Kind Regards,

  2. Dennis says:

    great site. plenty of wonderful info. only problem is the pinterest, facebook, google+ twitter links on the left side of the page blocks the text of the instructions. How can I remove them they are in the way and quite annoying.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Dennis, if you download the pattern from Craftsy, it has the full written instructions in PDF format. This may be easier for you. Alternatively, just zoom your screen. Not sure if you’re using a PC or Mac. On Mac it is Command + “-” key that will resize the screen. Hope that helps.

  3. Helene E says:

    Just finished the beach dress in a pretty pink peach-skin fabric. This pattern is as perfect and as easy to follow as all the other so-sew-easy-patterns I have used. Thank you so, so much!

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Helene, thank you for making the dress and I really would love to see your finished product, please load a photo on your project section on Craftsy or on our chat group! Cheers!
      Kind Regards, Mayra

  4. Kim Antonsen says:

    Great pattern, thanks! I live in El Valle de Anton, Cocle, Panama. This will be perfect for beach days.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Kim, you live in a beautiful part of Panama, I am from the other “Valle”, El Valle de la Luna, Volcan en Chiriqui; espero que algun dia podamos conocernos. Un saludo muy afectuoso desde Singapore.

  5. Tammy Mattson says:

    I can’t wait to make this! I have some black and some buttercream yellow challis that would work for this. I’m thinking the black this time for my my first one. Now to find some time…..
    Thanks Mayra

  6. Carol says:

    Fabulous pattern, thankyou for sharing. I am going to make a couple to go into Xmas parcels

  7. Lily says:

    Thank you for sharing your story and this great pattern! I can’t wait to make one for myself and one for my daughter.

  8. Bev Gunn says:

    Darling dress. Think my one daughter would relieve me of it once she sees it!

  9. Brenda zinkhon says:

    Ok am I missing something? The pattern is 22 in long where are instructions on how to make it longer?

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Not sure what setting you have but definitely the dress is 30″ long to accommodate for am average 5’7″ tall woman. make sure you are printing on Actual Size, are using adobe reader and a computer.

  10. Trish says:

    Great beach dress, but in the UK you would have to include a cardy to top it off. Thanks for your story of a family visit to the beach. Sounds lovely. 🙂

  11. Lilla says:

    Where did you get that beautiful fabric??

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Lilla, I’ve had this fabric in my stash for a while, so I don’t know where to get it anymore. However, I’ve put some links to a couple of good fabric options in the article if you want to check those out. Thanks for mentioning and happy sewing!

  12. Wendy says:

    Perfect! I can see it as a shirt too!
    Thank you.

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