The 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.
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 the 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.
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 -5 depending on size 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)
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Download the Pattern
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Finished Garment Measurements
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, then sew the sides. Here is a useful tutorial if you don't know 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 the front neckline.
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.
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 out our tutorial.
Start on the right side of the fabric and pin the bias tape on the right side of the fabric. Trim the seam allowance by half to reduce the bulk of the fabric.
Fold the bias tape and sew again on the right side of the fabric.
Step Five: Attach the bias tape straps
Start by folding the top edge of fabric and iron it. Pin the long strip of bias tape from the back where the ring will be located and continue to pin all the way to the front. 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.
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, fold the fabric again another 1/2″ and pin the fabric. Push the fabric to one side and continue pinning the fabric down. Take 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.
Step Seven: Finishing the Perfect Beach Dress
Thread the slider under over and under and slide it to the front
Then thread the strap over the ring through the hole and under the bar of the slider. This step is easier if you pull the fabric up then threading the strap under the slider is easier to do.
Fold the end of the strap to hide the raw edge and sew it down by hand or us your sewing machine.
Next will be to make a seam for the hem 5/8″ to 1 inch from the edge. With 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 seems to be so popular now.
When 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!