Sewing a Dress from Scuba

Any of you who watch our vlog will know I have some serious love for this white floral scuba fabric. I sourced it way back in February and was instantly dreaming of the perfect summer dress. I had a few other projects to finish before I could get stuck in.

Although I was dying to get started I'm glad I waited. Allowing myself time to think meant I found the perfect pattern pairing. So much so I am definitely making it again in this ponte jersey fabric we added to the website recently.

Choosing the Pattern

My initial plan for this fabric was to make some sort of bodycon dress. Something along the lines of this McCalls pattern or this Closet Case dress. However, in the height of summer I was yearning for something sleeveless.

Then I changed direction completely and started thinking about some sort of fit and flare dress such as this McCalls design. I thought it would be fun to create shape and structure using the scuba.

Still not quite sure and googling scuba dresses I came across this RTW dress. I loved the halterneck and knew it was a flattering cut on me thanks to a RTW vest top I already own.

Halterneck Dress Inspiration

As luck would have it I had recently spotted Simplicity 8330. I knew it was a match made in heaven. The only problem - it was a pattern designed for woven fabrics and I was working with scuba.

Simplicity Fitted Halterneck Dress 8330

When I consulted Angela she said that scuba would probably work quite well with a woven pattern. This is because it is a lot more stable than other jersey and knit fabrics. Music to my ears.

Fitting the Bodice

I was excited to be working on such a figure hugging dress and was determined to get the fit just right.

I decided to do a tissue fit to identify if my usual high round back issue would be a problem. It most certainly was. Angela said the waistline was riding up at the back a good inch. I made my usual adjustment by slashing a few inches across the back bodice piece from the centre back seam then adding in a piece of tissue paper as per the instructions in a 'Fit For Real People'.

The front bodice piece also looked like the neckline was too high. Angela suggested I added a pleat in the pattern piece to reduce the length by about 1/2".

Based on the packet measurements I cut a size 12. I basted the bodice pieces together first to get an idea of fit and it was massive! I had forgotten to take into account the fact that scuba does have some stretch and this was a pattern for wovens.

I cut a size 8 and basted for fitting. This time the fit was much better, however, I needed to make further adjustments. The suggested seam allowances were only 3/8" so I unpicked the princess and side seams and sewed 5/8" seams instead.

The fit was now almost perfect, but my shortcomings in the bust department meant the princess seams still gaped slightly under the bust. I simply pinned the excess and moved the seamline accordingly.

This process really didn't take me long at all - an evening in fact and it was sooo worth it to achieve the perfect fit. I was feeling positively smug.

Floral Scuba Dress


The construction of the dress was super duper easy and I would definitely recommend this pattern. The fitting adjustments were largely due to using a stretch fabric and once I cut the right size it was very easy to fit.

Bias Bound Armholes

The pattern suggested interfacing the bodice, but it was unecessary with scuba so I didn't bother.

I decided to create and attach a bias binding at the armholes for a neat finish. I cut 1 and 1/4" wide strips of fabric in the direction with the most stretch long enough to fit the armholes with a bit of excess for good measure.

Bias Bound Armholes

With right sides together I lined the raw edges of the binding and dress fabric up and stitched it in place with a 3/8" seam. I then turned it to the inside of the dress leaving a 1/4" binding visible and stitched in the ditch to secure the inside binding.

Sewing the Neckband

When it came to making the neck band I cut the fabric piece and tested it around my neck. This is a great tip I learned last year when making a turtleneck jumper. I'm glad I did because I had to shave quite a good piece of fabric off the length for it to fit properly.

Neckband Fastening and Back Slit

Making the neck band was relatively easy and I used our John Kaldor Ritual soft jersey fabric for the lining. Both edges of the neckband are visible in the gaps between the back bodice and front bodice and the pattern suggested machine stitching these gaps before attaching the neckband which worked pretty well. I hand stitched the rest of the lining in place on the inside once it was attached.

Angela had suggested omitting the zip due to the stretchy scuba fabric used. This was a great idea and made the construction of this dress even easier. However, it wasn't until I attached the neckband I realised the tiniest pea head in the world wouldn't have fitted through the gap!

Angela to the rescue again - she suggested unpicking the back seam 6" or so and having a V opening at the back. She is so clever! The perfect solution and a really lovely additional feature on this dress especially when combined with the buttons and loop fastening. I was loving this dress more and more every second.

Sewing a Dress from Scuba

Fitting & Sewing the Skirt

Finally it was time to create the skirt, which felt like a bit of a head scratcher after all the changes I made to the bodice. How would I get everything to match up? Here's how.

I positioned the darts first and made sure they lined up with the princess seams on the bodice front and back by simply lying the bodice and skirt flat on the table next to each other.

Once I had sewn and pressed the darts I positioned the side seams remembering to keep the back seam at 3/8" in line with the bodice.

Matching Up Princess Seams and Skirt Darts

I ended up with a huge seam allowance due to the size 12 skirt I had originally cut. This was actually really useful because it allowed me to make further fitting adjustments. In fact Angela once told me that couture fashion houses sew with a 1" seam allowance for this very reason. Once I was happy with the fit I simply trimmed the excess off.

I tried it on and the fit was almost perfect. As usual I wasn't entirely happy with the fit across my thighs. I marked where I could see the tightness begin and end with pins and then increased the seam allowance 1/8" between these points tapering back to the original seam line.

When I tried the dress on again it had worked a treat and I felt much more comfortable. Having the patience to make these tiny adjustments to get such a great fit was so worth the effort. It also helped me gain huge amounts of confidence in my fitting skills.

Sewing a Floral Scuba Dress 2

I also tapered the skirt in at the hem by 1/4". I made a marking at 3" up the skirt from the hemline where I brought the seamline back to the original width. This is a good tip for most pencil skirts and dresses, which often aren't tapered or aren't tapered enough for the best silhouette.

Finally I hand stitched the hem (I should mention here I added 2" onto the skirt length and I am 5' 6" so not exactly lofty). I've had a few mishaps with dresses ending up much shorter than I wanted so I thought I'd play it safe with this one.

One Little Problem

There is one sticking point with the fit - the armholes are just a bit too high! I was so fixated on getting the fit round my torso right I didn't pay enough attention in this area.

Having said that it was hard to get a true sense of where the armholes would sit until after the neckband was attached by which time the binding had been applied.

Angela says it would be relativley easy to unpick a section of the binding and move it slightly so when i'm feeling brave I will attempt this.

I will also remember this issue when making my next one in the tropical jersey ponte fabric.

Time to Wax Lyrical

I was absolutely thrilled with the finished dress. I felt like I learned so much.

First up, allowing myself the time to go through a creative process in choosing the right pattern was time well spent. I honestly feel like I couldn't have chosen anything better for the look I wanted.

Secondly, I'm really getting there with this fitting malarky. Although Angela did offer advice on the construction I had a go at the fitting on my own and really enjoyed it. Scuba was a great fabric for coping with the unpicking involved.

Thirdly I flipping love scuba! It is the best fabric ever to work with and I will write a little blog post explaining why soon.

I wore the dress out for a friend's birthday a couple of days after finishing it and she couldn't believe I had made it. I honestly don't think I could have found anything I liked better in the fanciest of fancy stores. It's official - my favourite make ever (so far...)

Floral Scuba Dress 3

Have fun sewing!


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