This pattern is an ode to my beautiful bridesmaids who rocked my wedding almost 2 years ago today, wearing floor length Two Birds dresses. The dresses not only looked stunning, but they were comfortable thanks to the stretchy jersey fabric and the multiway convertible straps which could be tied any manner of ways to suit, and provided an (almost) headache free way to flatter every body shape from my 5 foot little sister to my 6 foot cousin-in-law – yay, mission accomplished.
I wanted to create something similar, but which was more casual so it could be worn swanning by the pool or, equally, perched at a bar on the promenade. I picked up a cotton jersey in candy cane red stripes from Toto in Nice. It was perfect.
Now for the pattern….it’s somewhat an All Saints, Two Birds lovechild.
My version is based on a half circle skirt with long ties to wrap around the bodice and features:
- Tapered straps: These mean no bulk across the tummy when wrapping or bulky knots at the back for a more flattering fit, but maintaining modesty at the chest
- Elasticated waistband: Giving more support to the dress and a better fit
- Finished hems: A proper finish at the skirt hem and a partial hem to the front chest (optional)
- Half circle skirt with hitches: A sleeker cut with hitches to the front adding drape and interest
And for those wishing to also create this in stripes, my pattern creates a chic chevron effect to the centre front and back – bonus.
Anyhoo, let me know what you think – I already have ideas for a swimsuit version!
Full tutorial and pattern directions after the photos (excuse the wellies…the weather waits for no one).
The ultimate convertible dress pattern
- Approx 3m of fabric, depending on your size and your desired length
- Matching thread
- 1.5 inch wide elastic (enough to go around your waist)
- 0.5 – 1m of 0.5cm wide cotton ribbon
1. Create your pattern:
Skirt: This is essentially a half circle skirt.
Draw two lines at 90 degree, each about 80cm long.
Calculate your radius (R) by using By Hand’s handy calculator, here. Mark these points on the paper on the 90 degree lines and connect by using a giant’s compass, or simply by measuring from the corner and connecting the points with a curve (easiest).
From here, measure 53cm. This is the length of the skirt (50cm) plus seam allowance (1cm) and hem allowance (2.5cm). Tweak this is you want a longer skirt but you’ll probably need more fabric.
Cut along the two curved lines you’ve made. Finally, fold skirt pattern piece in half. You’ll need to do this so you can fit it on your fabric.
Straps: Draw a rectangle 30cm wide by 163cm long. At one end, taper into a width of 12.5 cm, being sure to measure this out from the centre.
If you prefer, simply use the rectangle, and then taper by hand once the straps are attached and you can try it on. This is what I did, but I think it’s easier to do it at the start when cutting the pattern out. Even easier if you have a rotary cutter. (Note, tapered straps mean that some of the multi-way wrap styles may not be open to you…but you still have many options!).
Waistband: Cut a 13cm wide rectangle. The length is your waist measurement plus 1cm seam allowance each side. Try it on, and remove a little fabric so that it will be snug.
2. Cut the pieces
Start with the skirt panels, placing the pattern piece on the fold. You’ll want to cut two and then we’ll stitch them together in the next step (if you can fit the skirt piece in without folding, as mentioned in the last step, then super as you can just cut one on the fold).
Next cut your straps. You may want to shift your fabric around or refold /open out to do this so you get the length. Finally, find a small piece to cut the waistband – this is less important as it’s mostly hidden while wearing (except at the back).
3. Skirt seams
Stitch up the two skirt pieces at the seams, using 1cm seam allowance and straight stitch (seeing as you don’t need the length to stretch!).
The seams on my skirt are at the centre front and centre back to give a nice V effect with the stripes. Take care when lining up at this obvious place. Press the seams apart.
Cut 1.5 inch wide elastic to your waist measurement and check the fit – you want it to be snug to hold the dress in place. Zig Zag or overlock stitch the short ends of the waistband together with the elastic to make a band. Fold in half, press.
Line up the raw edges the waistband to the skirt waist, right sides together. Zig zag or overlock stitch in place with a 1cm seam allowance, trying to be snug next to the elastic.
Position the wide end of your straps against the front of the skirt, right sides together. You’ll want to overlap the straps, at the centre, by around 10cm for modesty. Zig zag or overlock stitch in place.
Flip up, press, and admire…it’s coming together.
6. Finishing the straps
At both edges of the straps, at the front, fold a 1cm hem and straight stitch up about 27cm. This gives a neater finish, encouraging the hems to roll-over and hide the raw edges. (you only want to stitch part-way, as it’s important to have no bulk at the points where the straps wrap and tie).
7. Hemming the skirt
Using your preferred technique, create a 2.5cm hem at the skirt. I cheated a bit, stabilising the hem first with strips of iron on interfacing, turning up once 1cm, then 2.5cm. This gave a really neat seam with no raw edges on the inside. Shout if you have any tips on making this easier though!
To finish, we’ll create four small hitches at the from of the skirt. Snip x8 10cm lengths of 0.5 cotton ribbon.
Pin in place according to the measurements and diagram below. The first pair of ribbons, are stitched on the wrong side of the skirt as follows with a back and forth straight stitch (this is mostly hidden once tied but can be visible from the front, so keep it neat):
- R1 = Approx 19cm down from waistband, 18cm out from centre
- R2 = 11.5cm below from R1
The second pair:
- R3 = Approx 17cm down from waistband, 23cm out from centre
- R4 = Approx 33cm out from centre, 34cm from waistband
Repeat for the other side of the skirt. It doesn’t need to be exactly symmetrical since this is an organic look.
Once stitched, flip the skirt up, tie the ribbon pairs together to create mini hitches – the tighter they are tied, the deeper the hitch and more dramatic the effect.
What is Me Made May?
I hear you, my non-sewing friends…what the hell is this Made May thing about….
This my first year and I’ve been wanting to take part for so loooong, but not had the time until recently with my travels to France.
Essentially it’s a whole month dedicated to sharing and wearing what you’ve made, whether by sewing, crochet, knitting, weaving…you name it. More detail here.
It’s inspiring to see what other’s have created, and I love celebrating the maker culture and being given a focus for my dressmaking among like-minds.
Check out the hashtag #MMMay18 to swoon over the latest makes.