Monday 3 November 2014

How To: Long-Sleeved, No Zipper Dress

Denim cutoffs + crop top has been my lazy Sunday outfit for a few summers now, and panic always starts to settle in as September rolls around and the weather no longer supports bare legs. When I saw this Bally SS2015 combo, I knew there was some hope for me in the form of a long-sleeved jersey dress with a full skirt. If you think of track pants when I say jersey, think again. A soft, firm jersey mix is amazing to work with, and actually has a luxurious feel when made into a close-fitting garment like this one. This ridiculously comfortable piece also requires no zipper, which is always good news.

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photo 4tracetop.jpg
2 m of a four-way stretch fabric (I used a soft jersey mix with a nice, thick feel. You need four-way stretch to be able to get into the finished dress without adding a zipper)  |  Pins  |  Fabric marker  |  Scissors  |  Sewing machine & thread

I. Fold the fabric in half width-wise, right sides facing, and trace your skirt. Don't waste your time with boring circle skirt math, use this awesome calculator brought to you by the amazing ladies at By Hand London. You'll want to get the measurements for a half-circle skirt, length is up to you. 

II. Once traced, cut out your skirt with a 1 cm seam allowance.
III. Now trace the top. Fold the fabric again, the fold being a bit wider than the width of your top. The bottom width of the piece should equal half of the waist-radius of the circle you just cut out - these will be attached to each other later. You can use a top you have as a model - to avoid ending up with an unpleasant size surprise at the end, make extra sure the top you're using as guidance has the same amount of stretch as the fabric you're using. Cut the two pieces out and adjust the neckline to the depth you are looking for (when cutting out, 1 cm allowance is good).
IV. Now for the sleeves. Make a fold again, right sides facing, measure your arm at the critical spots to make sure you're not going too narrow (as long as your elbow-bone - and your bicep if you're a fit lady - have room in there, you're good) and trace the sleeve as shown below. The diagonal line where the measurement tape is should be the same length as the place for the sleeve in the top piece (for me, that was 20 cm). Don't sweat this too much - four-way stretch is incredibly forgiving to work with. As long as you don't make your sleeves too small, you can always try on and take in until you reach the desired fit.
V. In addition to the half-circle for the skirt, you should now have four pieces.
VI. If your fabric frays, you can finish the raw edges of your pieces now with a zig-zag. Then make a 1 cm fold at the neckline of both the front and back pieces of the top, and iron flat. Sew a straight stitch about 0.7 cm from the edge.

VII. Place the front and back pieces right sides facing each other, and pin the shoulder lines together. Sew a straight stitch about 1 cm from the edge.
VIII. Attach the sleeves. Start by laying the attached front and back pieces right side up on the table. Then fold the sleeve width-wise to find the middle spot. Pin that spot to the shoulder seam, making sure the right side of the sleeve piece is facing down (=the right side of the sleeve is against the right side of the top). Then continue pinning both ways until you reach the end of the diagonal edge of the sleeve. Repeat for the other sleeve.
IX. You should have a situation looking something like this. Sew a stretch stitch (or use an overlocker if you have one) about 1 cm from the edge to secure the sleeves in place.
That should get you to this point. Sleeves attached, but their under seams still open.
X. You can throw the top on at this point to make sure you're going in the right direction. Once you've confirmed the size of the sleeves looks good, pin the edges together and sew a stretch stitch (or with overlocker) all the way. I did a double stretch stitch to make sure the seams hold as they'll be subject to quite a bit of stretching when the dress comes on and off. Try on, and when you've confirmed all's still looking good size-wise, pin the sides of the top together as well and continue the stretch stitch all the way.
XI. Return to the skirt. Pin the edges together, making sure the wrong side is facing out, and sew a straight stitch all the way.
XII. Almost there..! At this point put on the top and see where you want the waist seam to be (where you want the top end and the skirt to start). Mark that spot on the top with a pin. Then lay the top flat, back facing up, and align the skirt with it, the back seam in the center.
XIII. Based on the mark you made in the previous step, start pinning the skirt to the top, right sides facing. Go all around and make sure there are no wrinkles or folds. If you measured correctly, these pieces should have the same circumference and go together perfectly. Once pinned, Sew a stretch stitch all through. Cut off excess seam allowance.
XIV. The last step is to hem the skirt and finish the sleeves. Use this technique (step III), or if you had enough of sewing, get some iron-on hemming tape and be done with it. Press the whole dress with an iron, and slide into this soft cloud of comfort.



  1. Hi Julia,

    I loooved that dress! After a failed attempt a couple of years ago, I wanted to give it another chance and the photos have disappeared here too!
    Any chance to reupload them soon?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Louise!! So sorry this took so long, I completely missed your comment and have been slowly fixing the photos from newest to oldest, but jumped to this one now to fix the pics! Give it another go:) the key is definitely in picking the right fabric (enough stretch but firm enough not to look cheap).


I would love to hear what you think and learn about your DIY adventures! If you use one of my tutorials, tag me on social @contour_affair, I'd love to see!


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