Summer is here! Time for more summer dresses and here is my Empire of the Sun-Dress. It has a cross-over bodice front and back, and an elastic fitted empire-line waist, and a softly gathered skirt. Pull it on and go – it's actually reversible! The front and the back are the same.
If I can get the time, I'll try to do a bonus extra pattern in July too – no promises!
Features of the Empire of the Sun-Dress
- Cross-over front and back
- V-front and V-back
- Empire line waist with elastic
- Flared skirt
- Optional contrast trim on neckline and armholes
- Layered PDF file – just print the size you need
- Just two pattern pieces
- 7 sizes for 31 to 45-inch bust
For your summer sundress pattern, you will need:
- Softly draping stretch knit fabric
- Optional – contrast fabric for the trim
- Narrow 1/4 inch elastic
- The pattern download
How to Make the Empire of the Sun Dress
Download, print and assemble your pattern. If you need help in printing the layered PDF file just in your size, check out this previous article – How to Print a Layered PDF Pattern. Or you can just print all sizes, like a regular pattern. Instructions for printing are included in your download.
Cut your fabric pieces. You'll need 2 skirt pieces and 4 bodice pieces. The back and the front of this dress are the same. Lay out your bodice pieces so you can be sure which pieces go where and that the ‘points' are pointing towards center with the armholes on the outside. I know it seems obvious, but just double check. Then join two opposite pieces together at the shoulder. Repeat for the other side.
To finish the edges, you have two options:
Contrast or matching fabric trim
Cut yourself some contrast (or matching) trim 1.5 inches wide. The stretch in the fabric runs along the length of your trim.
Fold it in half and match the raw edges of the trim with the raw edges of the bodice armholes and neckline. You can pin if you like, or just match up as you sew. Slightly stretch the trim as you sew it on. As a rule of thumb, your binding should be about 85% of the length of the neckline, but this depends on your fabrics so use your own judgment and experience. Sew along the middle of the width of the binding. Leave an inch of spare binding at each end, we can trim this later.
Fold back the binding and press seam allowances to the main fabric. Stitch through all layers close to the binding stitching line. This holds everything neatly in place on the back and keeps it all flat.
Here's what it looks like on the inside. You can choose to trim away any extra close to the stitching line if you like.
No trim – turn and stitch option
You may also turn a small seam allowance to the wrong side and stitch if you don't want to use binding. Finish the neckline edges while flat. You may choose to turn and finish the armhole in the round once the side seam is sewn if you aren't adding the binding.
Here are the finished bodice pieces.
Join the bodice side seams. If you've added the trim, make sure the edges match neatly under the arm.
Mark 9 inches from the point on each bodice piece and overlap the points by the 9 inches. Pin the overlaps in place. CAREFULLY try on your bodice and check for fit. Try not to get a pin in the eye! Depending on your size and unique body shape, the 9-inch overlap might or might not work for you. Adjust the fit until you are happy with the neckline. Hand baste in place with a loose stitch. Repeat for the front and the back. Both are the same.
Sew the skirt side seams to make a tube of fabric.
Match the side seams on the skirt with the side seams on the bodice, matching right sides together. Your bodice and skirt empire lines will be different lengths. No problem, our fabric is stretchy and we're going to ‘ease' the two together to fit.
Find center front and center back on the skirt and bodice and match. Ease the fabric evenly between the 4 quarters and pin the bodice and skirt together.
Join the two with a 3/4 inch seam allowance.
With raw edges matching, finish with a serger, a zig-zag stitch or an overcasting stitch to join all fabric edges and create a casing within the seam allowance for your elastic. Leave a small gap to thread through your elastic.
Press the casing down towards the skirt and sew close to the edge to secure it. Make sure to leave enough room for your elastic.
Thread your elastic through the casing and then try on the dress to check for fit and trim your elastic to fit snugly but comfortably. Stitch the ends of the elastic together and close the gap in the casing.
Try on your dress and check the length of the hemline. Trim if necessary. Finish the hem with your favorite method. A stretch stitch isn't necessary. I just turned up the hem, pressed and stitched. You can use a twin needle for a nice finish – read how here.
Your dress is finished. I hope you have great success making this summer sundress pattern. Enjoy wearing your Empire of the Sun-Dress and maybe think about making one in a glitzy fabric for a date night dress. That would be nice too with the low back.