Sewing a Slip Dress

Sewing a Slip Dress

I don't know about you, but this incredible summer has made me realise I need more summer dresses in my life! I wanted something cool, loose fitting and pretty to wear so decided to sew this simple slip dress.

The Pattern and Fabric

The pattern I chose is New Look 6499 and I decided to make view D. I thought the pretty ruffles were bang on trend and gave the otherwise simple dress an interesting twist.

I chose our gorgeous cotton lawn tropical fabric, which has sadly sold out in my chosen colourway, but is also available in muli colour and navy and green. All the loveliness of the one I chose in terms of the beautiful quality and soft feel against your skin.

Pattern and fabric

Adjustments and Sizing

Although this was a super simple dress I decided to make a toile and try out my new theory of choosing a size based on my high bust measurement rather than my full bust measurement. I was between a 10 and a 12 so I cut the 12 to give me room for error.

The size 12 was much too big under the arms and the fabric gaped here. I made a small bust adjustment and checked the tissue against my body first. When the side seams were in the correct position I could see the centre front was 1/2" over my centre front. Therefore I made a 1/2" small bust adjustment. I will feature a blog post on how to do this in a future post.

Simple Slip Dress

The fit was so much better than anything I have made recently! This is a total revelation! Normally I would cut a size 14 then take it in a good inch at the side seams, which would raise the armholes and cause fit problems there. With this method the fit was great across my bust and under my arms. I realised I could actually even go down to a 10 so I sewed for the size 10 on the toile. The upper body fit was excellent, but it was tight around my bum and thighs!

There seemed to be some loose fabric at the base of my back so I made a sway back adjustment. What I didn't realise was that I should have fitted the hips first before making this adjustment. I also realised I was over fitting at this point. The dress was supposed to be a slip dress and fit loosely and I caused all kinds of drag lines with the sway back. Referring back to my Palmer Pletsch book I noticed you should always fit the hips before adjusting the back. Lesson learned.

I cut a new back minus the sway back adjustment and sewed it to the small bust adjusted front. The fit was perfect.

It might seem like a waste of time making a toile for such a simple dress, but I learned so much. That in itself was worth the time, which honestly, wasn't that much.

Sewing a slip dress view 2


Lining vs facings

The construction of the dress was super simple. The pattern suggests lining it, but I chose to use the interfacing templates for the lining as facings instead. I cut them out in my fabric and interfaced them with our lightweight interfacing. It worked really well and I think lining the dress would have added unnecessary bulk and spoiled the effect of the dress.

Hemming the ruffles

The pattern also suggested narrow hemming the ruffles. In other words pressing them up 1/4" and then 1/4" again and stitching them in place. I thought this would look bulky and awkward in this lovely light cotton lawn. Instead I decided to use the three thread rolled hem effect on my Babylock Desire coverlock machine. I'd noticed this effect on a ready to wear top I bought recently and thought it worked really well. I was really pleased with the results and think it looks much prettier and works better with the ruffles.

Three thread rolled hem effect on an overlocker

Sewing spaghetti straps

I chose spaghetti straps rather than the thicker straps suggested for this view on the pattern simply because I prefer them. I used my favourite overlocker trick to make them, which you can see in the video below.

I always struggle to get the spaghetti straps to line up properly when sewing them in place. If you follow the pattern instructions they always appear to be attached at an angle, but it never looks right from the right side when I do that.

Despite knowing this I followed the instructions and although they worked out well on the front where they were being attached to a straighter edge they looked blooming awful on the back!

Sewing spaghetti straps

At the back the dress curves, almost to a point, where the straps are supposed to join. The straps were sticking out at a really weird angle and although I'd already clipped, graded and understitched I decided I couldn't live with this mess and unpicked them to sew them again.

Sewing spaghetti straps on a slip dress

Another time consuming effort for such a simple dress, but another learning opportunity. Unpicking and looking at the construction I realised I needed to line the edges of the strap up with the edges of the curve and they should be positioned straight rather than at an angle. This might seem obvious to some, but it was a definite light bulb moment for me and now I'll never make the same mistake again. I am so glad I took the time to get it right.

Sewing a slip dress view 3

Final Thoughts

I absolutely love this dress. It is cool and comfortable with a nice feminine twist. I will be wearing it for the rest of the summer and for years to come. Although it is a loose fitting design I think the ruffles hitting just about the waist draw the attention here making it a flattering shape.

I would highly recommend this pattern for a quick, simple yet effective sew, especially if you already have your fit issues mastered!

I think this dress proves that even the most simple projects can help us to learn and develop our sewing skills if we take the time to let them.

Shopping List

New Look 6499

Tropical print cotton lawn in green or multi

Lightweight interfacing

22" Invisible zip

Have fun sewing!


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