Cut-Out Sleeve Maternity Maxi Dress
Hello everyone! My summer of maternity sewing continues at full steam, my closet steadily filling with stretchy, bump-friendly clothes. Most of these garments are pretty casual, summer tops and floaty tent dresses, but one special dress also made its way into my plans. Earlier this month, one of my best friends got married in an evening garden ceremony, saying her vows amongst sunflowers and lush bushes of roses. There was dancing and fantastic food and a moonlit stone villa in the background. How could I not make a fancy dress for such an occassion? You can’t wear any old thing to that gorgeous of a wedding!
Unfortunately, being seven months pregnant doesn’t always lend itself to sartorial elegance, especially in the summertime. My usual wedding guest fall backs, sheath dresses and fit-and-flare gowns, were absolutely out. Instead, I needed to be both chic and comfortable. Thank heavens for maxi dresses and rayon jersey! Take one beautiful print, a swishy skirt, and some interesting details, then–voila!–I had a maternity dress worthy of a night in the gardens.
My vision of this dress was something dramatic, but easy to wear. I used one of my favorite knit dress patterns, the Cashmerette Turner Dress, and tweaked the design to be more formal. This meant adding a long, gathered skirt with a deep hem, switching out the sleeves for a trendier cut-out design, and adjusting the bodice for my growing middle. Ideally, it would be a dark floral print that worked with the vibe of the wedding. Something summery, but still elegant. Mood Fabrics, of course, came through like a champ! This Italian Black and Red Floral Printed Jersey was exactly what I had in mind. The striated flowers and bright colors were just modern enough for this project, avoiding that animate upholstery look that can come with floral maxi dresses. Plus, I’d used its sister colorway, a more casual blue and green print, on an earlier dress and knew it was the right weight for a long dress.
While this rayon is soft and has a very fluid drape, it’s also an easy knit to sew up. It presses well, doesn’t curl up at the edges, and has enough stretch in both directions for a forgiving fit. Process wise, I pretty much invented the order of operations for this dress, picking and choosing my own favorite knit fabric techniques. The bodice is fully lined and the skirt was gently gathered with machine basting stitches, before everything was sewn together. I know that many people love gathering knits with elastic, but doing it by hand gives me more control over the final distribution.
To stabilize this fabric, which is especially important given the weight of a maxi dress, I did use clear elastic at the shoulders and waist. This prevents the fabric from stretching out and getting baggy, as you wear it. As a finishing touch, I bound the open sleeves with thin binding in the same fabric and took a deep hem. A larger hem gives the knit skirt more weight and lets it dance along, as you move. That’s a key factor when you’re actually planning on dancing!
This dress came together in a matter of hours, but looked right at home among the flowers and festivities of a summer wedding. Chic, dressed up, and cheerful–my favorite wedding guest outfit trifecta. Plus, it was 90 degrees outside and I stayed cool as a cucumber. That, my dears, is a Texas wedding coup! I’ve also worn this dress quite a bit, since the wedding. It might be a little dressed up for my average day, but it’s also super comfortable and makes me feel glamorous. In the last trimester of pregnancy, those two things are hard to come by. I’m tempted to make another few maxi dresses before our little girl’s due date in September, just so I can have a full rotation of swishy maternity dresses like this one. We’ll see how it the spirit moves me, though, given everything else we need to get done before then.
I hope you’re having a wonderful summer, if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, and getting plenty of good sewing in! What are your secrets to dressing up for a summer event?