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Easy Breezy: Sew a Maxi Dress for Summer

A loose, flowing maxi dress is perfect for the hot summer months. And since the shape is so simple, it’s a great project to try if you don’t have much experience working with knits.

Maxi Dress

Here’s how you can sew a maxi dress for summer:

You’ll need 1 ½ to 2 yards (depending on your height) of 58” or 60” wide jersey knit, ½” wide non-roll elastic (about 2 yards), and thread to match.

Step 1:

Before you begin sewing, make sure you have laundered your fabric and set up your sewing machine with a ball point needle.

Next, measure yourself from wherever you want the neckline to lay (probably somewhere just at the top of your bust, around your armpit) to where you want the hem. Add 1” as a seam allowance.

I’m 5’0” and I determined that my maxi should be 47” long.

Then, with your fabric folded in half widthwise, sew the side seam with a ¼” seam allowance. If you have a serger, by all means, use it. Otherwise, use the zigzag stitch on your sewing machine. (This allows the stitches to stretch a bit with the fabric.) Since jersey does not fray, there’s no need to finish your seams.

Sewing Elastic Casing

Step 2:

For the elastic casing around the bust, fold down ¾” at the top of the dress and sew in place, close to the edge. Make sure to leave around a 2” gap to thread the elastic through. I like to leave the gap at the back seam so it’s less noticeable.

Step 3:

To make the elastic casing for the waist, cut a strip of fabric 1 ½” wide and a length equal to the width of your fabric (likely either 58” or 60”). Fold in half and sew the short ends together.

Step 4:

Next, measure from the top of your bust to wherever you want the waist of your dress to be. I decided to make mine with an empire waist, but you could just as easily make yours with a natural waist.

Mark this measurement on your dress. Pin your elastic casing in place, folding the raw edge under ¼”. Topstitch. (I found it easier to pin and topstitch the top edge first, then to go back and do the same with the bottom edge.) Again, be sure to leave about a 2” gap to thread the elastic through. (You only need to do this on the top or bottom edge, not both.)

Jersey Maxi Dress

Step 5:

Then take measurements for your elastic. Measure around your bust and again wherever you decided the waist will be. (Either under your bust or at your natural waist.) I have found I get the most accurate measurement by stretching the elastic around myself and then cutting.

Thread your elastic through each casing. Once you have the elastic in place, stitch the short ends together and topstitch the openings closed.

Top Stitch

Step 6:

You’re almost done! Lastly, turn up the hem by ¼” and topstitch.

Maxi Dress Hem

For a variation, you could also add straps, or try a sash instead of the elastic around the waist.

To learn how to make other wardrobe essentials, enroll in Meg McElwee’s Sewing With Knits and Linda Lee’s Sewing Fashion Knits. And be sure to come back to the blog tomorrow for a roundup of all my favorite dress patterns!

Will you sew a maxi dress for summer?



do these dresses look nice on plus size women? I would definitely add straps, maybe not the elastic at the bust…but just wondering especially since it is a knit…
thanks in advance


I would definitely think this could good on plus size women as long as you don’t use too large of a bold type print, maybe make the elastic lower than your bust, depending on your age, so people don’t think your pregnant, however I do think it would make a cute maternity dress and definintely add straps, especially if you are large busted. And perhaps a strapless bra. And shorter than the length shown if you are short so as not to be over powering. give it a try, maybe use some less expensive knit to begin with and definitely like the tut said use a ball point needle.


How do you determine the width of the fabric?


measure across the fabric from selvedge edge to fold, then double measurement. Most knits are 54 to 60 inches wide


Do you sew the waist elastic casing to the inside or outside of the dress?


I have the same question as Laura is this sewn on the inside or outside?



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