The giraffe dress (aka a very easy, quick, pattern-free, tank top dress)

4 Aug

I have had very little sewing time recently, much to my disappointment. I’d hoped to get some done last weekend – the first free weekend I’d had in about a month – and I had great plans, but ran out of time with all the other things that needed to be done. We did do a huge clean/tidy/sort out of the flat on Sunday though, and I rearranged my sewing area slightly, so I can get to everything a bit more easily, which is great. By sewing area, I mean the end of our living room, with the dining table, that we used to eat dinner at occasionally…ahem…

I did however manage to make my giraffe dress last week! I’d been trying to decide what to do with my lovely giraffe fabric from Walthamstow, and then I saw this post on ShanniLoves about making a tank top dress. I thought that would be perfect, as a whole dress of giraffes might be a bit full on, and I hand’t yet figured out what else to do with it. I didn’t have any spare tank tops unfortunately, but while I was down in Cardiff for a hen do I hit Primark and picked up a couple (I have plans for more than one of these dresses!).

Easy dress supplies

This really is a really easy, really quick dress to make. I would have got it all done in one evening (about 3 hours, I hate commuting!) if it hadn’t been for the fact that a couple of bits went wrong.

I won’t go into the full details of how to do it, as there are already great tutorials on A Small Snippet and Talk2TheTrees, but essentially it’s a case of:

1. Buy a cheap tank top. Mine was £2.50 from Primark.

2. Choose your fabric and cut a piece that wraps around your waist about 1.5 times (more will give you a slightly fuller skirt, less a slightly closer fit), and as long as you want it to be, measuring from about your high waist point (or basically whatever height you want the skirt and top to be joined at) down to wherever you want it to be, plus a bit for seam allowances. I went for a knee length dress, but this also works well as a maxi dress.

Easy dress supplies


3. Cut off your tank top at the point at which you want the top and skirt to join (allowing a bit extra for seam allowance). Remember though (as I didn’t) that whereas the back of the top will go straight down your back, the front has to go around your bust, so if you just mark one point, take the top off and slice straight across (ass I did!), the seam will end up sitting higher at the front. I ended up just marking a couple of points at what I thought were vaguely level, and then joining them up to use as a new seam position.

tank top dress

This was after my first cut, before realising my mistake.

4. Sew up the side of your rectangle of skirt material, so that you have a big tube.

5. Gather the top edge of the skirt using your preferred method. I went with the suggestion from the tutorial on A Small Snippet and used elastic thread in the bobbin. I knew that if I didn’t, then I’d struggle to get the dress over my waist or bust. Also, I’d just been to a John Lewis, so had managed to get some. If I hadn’t, I probably would have tried it without, and regretted it when I couldn’t get it on! I’ve never used elastic thread before, but I was really pleased with how easy it was to use. I went with the guidance of winding the thread with the bobbin winder, as I have a top-loading bobbin on my machine.

gathering with elastic thread

6. Once the skirt is gathered, pin it to the top, easing them round so that the gathers are evenly distributed. Then sew the two together.

7. Try your dress on, decide on the final length of it, and finish the hem. Because of the kind of fabric I was using (not sure what it is, something polyester-y I think), and the fact that I was lazy and wanted it done quickly, I used the rolled hem on my overlocker to finish off the bottom of the skirt, which worked BEAUTIFULLY. Little bit in love with my overlocker right now. This fabric tears straight really easily, so I just marked where I wanted it, tore the excess off all the way round, and ran it through the overlocker.

tank top dress

Now the issues that I ran into…

When I first sewed the gathered skirt piece onto the tank top, I realised that the top obviously hadn’t been lying quite flat on the sewing machine, and I had caught up an extra bit of the top in the stitching. I didn’t really want to have to take it all out and start again, so I tried just removing the stitching from that area, and doing that bit again. This worked fine, except when I tried it on again the next evening, I noticed a couple of things:

1. I’d actually caught the top up in the stitching at a couple of other points as well.

2. The waistline of the dress wasn’t level all the way round – it was sitting quite a bit lower at the back. I’d forgotten about my boobs.

So much for not re-doing the whole thing. Even though I knew I’d probably be wearing a wide belt over the seam (the gathering makes it a little pouffy and not overly flattering on its own), I’d like the option of not having to, so I ripped it all out and essentially started again! You can see in the photo below how much I ended up moving the skirt up on the back compared to the front.

New seam allowance at back

New seam allowance at back

New seam allowance at front

New seam allowance at front

End result – I really like the dress, although it does definitely look better with a belt. The fabric is a little bit clingy/static-y, so I might need to try and put a lining in, or make a slip to wear with it, to stop it clinging to my legs as I walk. It is a lovely summer dress, and I’m definitely going to be making more. The fabric and top combined cost me a grand total of £3.30 as well! And I still have almost 2.5m of giraffes to decide what to do with. Any ideas?

Anyway, enough talking, here are some pretty pictures.

tank top dress

Complete with yawning OzzieDog. And tired Kelly. Sorry, these were taken this morning, after my friend’s wedding last night, and I’m a little worse for wear. And also full of lurgy :(

tank top dress

And a couple without the belt – it looks fine from the back, but don’t like the fact that it makes me look even shorter than I actually am from the front.

tank top dress

tank top dress
I apologise – it has taken me over a week from making it to get round to taking photos , despite the fact that I’ve worn it 4 times! Either Marcus (my cameraman) was busy when I was free, or the sun disappeared and it started chucking down so outside photos were out. As a result, it’s also been a while since I’ve updated the blog, so apologies for that too! I have a few posts in the pipeline, and am hoping (although I’m not sure it’s going to happen!) to try and get a bit more sewing in this week, so hopefully I’ll have some more makes to show you soon.


8 Responses to “The giraffe dress (aka a very easy, quick, pattern-free, tank top dress)”

  1. Daniela August 4, 2013 at 18:09 #

    I really like your dress both with and without the belt. You did a great job with persisting to get the seams right. I didn’t know that you can make a slip to wear under the skirt, I just had to look it up. Thanks for the (unintentional) tip because I have a few dresses and skirts that stick to my legs.

    • Kelly August 6, 2013 at 20:40 #

      Thanks Daniela! I so didn’t bother fixing the seam, butI think it would have bugged me if I hadn’t! I wouldn’t have ever thought of wearing a slip before reading mentions on other sewing blogs, so glad to pass it on :)

  2. Gjeometry August 5, 2013 at 00:14 #

    I think this came out very cute!! Nice job. Adorable yawning dog photo. :)

    • Kelly August 6, 2013 at 20:33 #

      Thanks! It was so easy! Advantages of taking photos whilst at my parents’ – a garden to take them in, and an added dog! Just realised it kind of looks like he’s trying to eat my foot!

  3. ShanniLoves August 7, 2013 at 01:14 #

    It turned out sooo well!!! I just love this easy dress. I really must make me another before summer is over!!!

    • Kelly August 7, 2013 at 23:23 #

      Thanks! I’m so glad you posted the link! I really want to try a version with a t-shirt instead of a tank top as well.

  4. Ashley August 16, 2013 at 14:39 #

    THAT FABRIC! Is awesome! I love giraffes, and anything with animals on it, really. It looks great on you too :)

    • Kelly August 16, 2013 at 20:16 #

      Thanks Ashley! I am rather fond of the giraffe fabric, I wanted something a bit different! I think I need to build up some more animal prints :)

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