the “easy tee” maxi dress | how to sew a maxi dress

how to sew a comfy maxi dress without a pattern

I hate wearing jeans in the summer. Hate it! Jeans are just so uncomfortable when it’s hot out. But I’m not a big fan of shorts either – I wear all my clothes to the knee and I don’t love how long shorts look on me. So I like to wear casual skirts and dresses in the summer. I saw this dress from The Gap and just loved it: cute, casual, and it even has sleeves, unlike most maxi dresses (why are they all sleeveless? I don’t get it).


But it’s $75, which is a little pricey, and I could tell from the photo that the gathered waistline would hit very low on me – I’ve tried on a few dresses with low waistlines this season and they look pretty terrible (maybe better for taller gals?). Plus in the reviews people complained that the fabric was very thin, which means it wouldn’t hide my muffin top very well. So I figured out how to make my own. Mine cost $17, is made from a nice medium weight interlock knit that’s not even see-through, and I could customize the waistline to right where I wanted it. Even better? It’s a pretty easy hack of my free Easy Tee pattern.

how to sew your own comfy maxi dress

I didn’t take photos of every step since this was a bit of an experiment, so I’ve made some really awesome illustrations to try to explain what I did. I started with 2 yards of knit fabric, which is 60 inches wide (I used this fabric from Girl Charlee and I absolutely love it! I have a terrible time finding white knits that are not see through, and this one is perfect!).

I laid out the fabric flat, then folded in each selvedge edge to meet in the middle. Then I put my easy tee pattern along one fold, as you can see in the illustration below:


(Note: the easy tee pattern is only available in size L, and you can get it here. If you are a different size, I show you how to make your own easy tee pattern in this post.)

I cut around the neckline, shoulder, and sleeve of the easy tee pattern, then under the armpit I just gradually widened it out and took it down to maxi dress length. I’m 5’3″ and had at least 10-12 extra inches of fabric at the bottom that I didn’t use. However, if you’re tall you’ll probably want to cut the dress all the way to the end of your yardage. Cut one piece from the left side, then flip it over and cut an identical piece from the right side (just lower the neckline slightly so it can be the front of your dress).

Sew up the shoulder seams and down the side seams as directed in the original easy tee post. You’ll have something that looks like this:



As you can see in the illustration above, once you have the front and back pieces sewn together you need to finish the sleeves and neckline (see the original tutorial for instructions), and then add a casing at your waist. The casing will hold elastic that will cinch the dress in at the waist.

To make a casing, cut a long strip of knit (either from the bottom of your yardage or from a different piece of knit), that’s 1.25 inches wide and long enough to go all the way around the dress at the waistline.



You’ll place one end of your casing strip in the middle front of your dress, at the waistline. Pin the casing all the way around your dress and back to the middle of the front, leaving an inch wide opening. Then you’ll sew the casing to the dress, all the way around the top of it, then all the way around the bottom of it, to make a spot for the elastic to thread through. Here’s a picture of the casing and a close-up:


Sewing on the casing is honestly the hardest part of this whole dress, and it’s not that difficult – it just takes a little time. You can see in the close-up photo that my stitching is a little wonky here, but when the elastic cinches it up you can’t tell. (Be sure to use a long stitch length when sewing on knits.) I cut 1/2 inch elastic just shorter than my waist measurement, then sewed ribbon to each end of the elastic, and threaded it through. That way all the elastic hides inside the casing, and I can use the ribbon to tie a bow in front. Then you just hem the dress and it’s done!


Easy, comfortable, and much cooler than jeans (and 60 bucks cheaper than the Gap’s version!). AND my muffin top is nicely hidden, which makes all of us happy.



  1. 1

    Camille says

    YES!!! A dress for the ‘rest of us’! Thank you so much! I’m going to start looking for some knit.

    • 2

      autumn says

      No kidding! Why do stores think we all look like the gals they have modeling their clothes? I’m kinda hating how everything I try on this season looks on me. Oh well 🙂

    • 3

      Kathleen says

      Now I know what to do with the stash of knit fabric I couldn’t figure out what to do with and was afraid to sew with it.

    • 4

      Helen McCallum says

      I love this dress….I am 5″3-1/2 (used to be 5″4-3/4!) ……and I have huge ‘bat wings’. I am going to try this pattern but I think I may try to do a dolman-type sleeve – to cover my arms. I love the simplicity – I love how comfy it looks – and I love that the pattern could easily be adjusted/adapted for lounge-wear or evening wear. Thank you so much!

  2. 6

    Cyndi says

    I love this! I also have an aversion to shorts, and prefer knee length dresses and skirts in the summer. If I wasn’t having a baby this summer, I would absolutely make this dress very soon, but it is definitely on my sewing list for next year, along with the other easy tee versions!

    • 7

      autumn says

      You know, if you made the waistline high this would probably work pretty well as a maternity dress! Congrats on the upcoming baby and good luck!

  3. 14

    Carole says

    Gorgeous! Beautiful! Brilliant! can you tell I love this dress? just what I need and sleeves as well. Thank You so very much for posting

  4. 16


    Thank you! Yes! Sheesh, why no sleeves? Ever? I mean, I have cardigans, but it’s not as easy as it could be. Very excited to give this a shot!

    • 17

      autumn says

      I hate always having to wear something over or under sleeveless dresses – what a hassle!

  5. 19


    Finally, a maxi dress with sleeves! I love the idea of creating it to fit your own body style. Thanks for sharing! I’m definitely adding this to my list of things to make. And I love the fabric you chose!

  6. 21


    I’m so anxious to make this dress! I am 5’2 and dislike my upper arms showing so basically I can’t wear ANY dress that’s popular right now and also have a momma muffin top to hide, so this sounds perfect! Thank you 🙂

    • 22

      autumn says

      Sounds like we’re twins except I’ve got a whole inch on you! 🙂 I hope it works out for you!

  7. 24

    Judy Kirkpatrick says

    I really like this pattern, as I don’t like shorts, either. I’m 74 and short. I need patterns like this!

  8. 26

    Debbie says

    Love the dress idea. I love your site because you are a “normal” size girl as most of us are. Thanks for offer the great T pattern and showing us so many options to use it.

  9. 28

    samantha says

    Wow I just love this. I am seeing it in a French terry…think swim suit cover up nice enough to wear out for lunch. I am definitely going to have to make more than one…I go out to lunch a lot! Thank you so much for something beautiful and yet doable without spending a lot of cash or all weekend creating. I love this dress.

  10. 30

    Julie says

    Such a cute dress! I have the perfect knit just waiting for a project like this. And the ribbon sewn to the ends of the elastic – genius!!! So much better than just ribbon threaded through. I hate having to constantly adjust it and may go back to update some things I’ve made in the past .

    • 31

      autumn says

      Thanks, Julie! I hope your dress turns out great – send me a picture of it once you make it!

  11. 32

    Corinne Sridhar says

    Thanks for the pattern and its even more easy as I teach and do alot of sewing.
    It is very comfortable.

    • 34

      autumn says

      I think you could – I’ve actually been meaning to try it. The only thing you’d have to be careful about is that if you use a material that doesn’t stretch you’ll need it to be loose enough to take on and off over your head. I think mine is roomy enough on me that it would work even without stretch – but I haven’t actually tried it yet so I can’t say for sure!

  12. 35

    Hailee says

    I love this! I am going to try to make it but I’m nervous about the neckline as I”m a beginner and I’ve never sewn a neckline before. Do you have any tips for doing that part? I checked out the easy tee tutorial but don’t understand how to make it stand up like that.

  13. 37


    Thanks for sharing your maxi dress post. Your dress looks great! And I have the exact sentiment as you, why are most of the maxi dresses out there with spaghetti straps! I have bought a long maxi dress which I need to cut a few inches off the hem and have actually make wider straps for the dress. Now if only I could find one long enough to cut at the hem to make decent sleeves with…haha.

  14. 38

    bree says

    Hi! This may sound like a silly question, but I’m new to sewing apparel….When I sew the shoulder and sides together, the dress is inside out correct? But when I sew the casing on, is the dress turned right side out? Sorry…just a little confused! Thank you!!

    • 39

      autumn says

      Not a silly question – and you’re absolutely right! Most seams are sewn with the garment inside out, but we add the casing on the outside of the dress, so yes, it’s right side out then.

  15. 41

    RacHael says

    I love this! With some modifications, I made it into a maternity dress to wear for a wedding I’m in this month. The cut of the sleeves and the collar are beautifully modest, which is something I have trouble finding in maternity clothes. Thank you for sharing your patterns!

  16. 42

    Jennifer says

    Hi there, thank you so much for posting this dress. I’ve done a lot of sewing, but always with a pattern, and I hesitate to mess with a pre-made pattern to size it to me, don’t know why I have that hang-up! I also wear sleeves & clothes to my knee, so thank you for drafting your pattern to have a higher neckline than most! I have a question though, I wear a M or L, depending on the manufacturer, would you be willing to share the finished measurements on your dress? (bust, shoulders, etc.) That way I’ll know if your size L might also be my size L! :O) I’m 5’2″ and about 140 lbs (no secrets here!) for reference. Thanks so much!!

  17. 43

    connie katz says

    I live the look of this dress. I hope I can make this. I have the muffin top also. Thanks for sharing.

  18. 44

    Bev M. says

    I know I’m late to the party, but this pattern is AWESOME! I live out in the boonies, so maxi dresses are just hitting big where I live. 🙂 I love this and plan to use the pattern, though I might make some changes to suit my style/tastes. Or I might not put in the casing, because I’m lazy like that.

  19. 48

    Holly Ket says

    Since this is an older post, the fabric link no longer works. I am new to buying this type of fabric. How do I find fabric like this? Thanks!

  20. 49

    MaryLou Barnett says

    I’m going to make this dress leaving off the casing for the ribbon at the waistline. By adding my own narrow belt I can pull the dress material up and bunch it over the belt, making a shorter dress but with a blousey over hang. I’d add a drawing here if I could


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