Finished: A Summertime Linen Dress

Sometimes the fabric tells you the kind of garment it wants to be. When I purchased this ice-dyed linen from the artist behind Saint Atma I just knew it wanted to be a dress.

I found her stall and the fabric at Artists and Fleas in Williamsburg, NYC at the tail end of summer and brought it back to Seattle where it hung out in my sewing room for months.

Original idea

Initially I was looking at a dress style that was more of a shirt dress with kimono sleeves. But the more I thought about it, I layer a lot and big sleeves are difficult to stuff into fitted cardigans. Still, the dye pattern and lightweight linen necessitated a loose, carefree style. There was the added criteria, I needed a garment that I could eek out of a 56″ W/50″ L piece of fabric.

Then I saw this dress on Pinterest, designed by Jesse Kamm! It was the kind of dress that I was looking for – loose and airy for summer, but with a sleek silhouette. (If you remember from my Wardrobe Architect experience, I like defined waists.) It was also something I knew I could make for myself.

The bodice is based off a sleeveless shell pattern available through the UK’s SEW Magazine. (I’ve been meaning to remake this pattern because the first time I made it I chose a too small pattern size.) Then I used the Seamwork Catarina bodice to help me know how much to shorten the bodice pieces for a dress with a gathered waist.


The skirt is made from the Zinnia Skirt by Colette Patterns, with some modifications. I started with a size 6 pattern (Version 3). I used my recently acquired draping skills to play with the muslin and determine how much fullness I could remove while still looking maintaining the gathered A-line look that I like about the Zinnia.

Remember, I had less than 2 yards to work with.



Ultimately I folded two and a half pleats out on the front and back pieces so it would fit onto my fabric, which was almost 3.5 inches on front and back.

Using the pattern instructions for the Zinnia skirt, I added in-seam pockets to this dress. The pockets are made from rayon scraps, so I don’t think they will hold much weight (no iPhones here), but would keep a hair tie or just my twitchy hands.

The construction was straight forward. I could follow the instructions for the Sew Magazine sleeveless shell and the instruction for the Zinnia skirt up until I got to the waistband/shirt hem and I just attached the two.

The elastic waist caused me some grief. At first I followed instructions provided for the Seamwork Catarina dress. I measured my waist, subtracted 2 inches, and then sewed the elastic directly onto the waist seam. The fabric was stronger than the elastic and the elastic never fully retracted to where it had been pre-sewing. I had this same issue with the Catarina.

1: no elastic. 2 and 3: elastic over the dress to test the fit. 4: Elastic sewn into dress doesn’t retract as much as it had in 2 & 3. 



After taking my confusion to Instagram, the sewing community came to my rescue. In general, they recommended sewing a casing and sliding the elastic through that. So I closed the edge of the waist seam allowance to make a quick elastic casing. And I am MUCH happier with the result. I will likely go back and do the same for my Catarina dress. 

The back of the dress, like the original inspiration, is open. There is a button to hold the neckline closed at the back, but the rest of the center back is unfastened. The back bodice pieces overlap about an inch beyond center back, so there isn’t obvious gaping. But if you look carefully at the right angle, I am sure my bra strap is visible.



No obvious gaping at the back opening.

I can always add snaps or additional buttons if this becomes too annoying or uncomfortable. I really wanted to try something new, like a design feature that I might normally avoid. It also made finishing the back go faster. 🙂

Me and my puppy.

From a garment creation perspective, I am incredibly proud of this dress. I cannot remember the last time I made a garment that was dictated more by my own desires than by a preexisting pattern. The design may not be my own, but I saw something I liked and I found the pattern pieces and skills I needed to make it happen.

I’m looking forward to this dress appearing in many memories from this summer.




4 thoughts on “Finished: A Summertime Linen Dress

  1. Nice dress and I love the fabric. Definitely use a casing for elastic in the future. Sewing elastic onto the fabric itself is an OK technique for adding a bit of shaping or to prevent gaps (like around an armscye), but if you need elastic to actually hold up or hold in something, a casing is the way to go.

  2. I am a flat casing girl: I like to use the lightest weight fabric I can find, and stitch the top and bottom edges onto the dress/shirt/whatever directly (the waist seam is usually one of those, or it could cover it). This is where my hoard of cheap thrifted sheets springs into action. I like the idea of them having an activity that gets them out of the closet now and then….
    But I no longer have much of a waist to speak of. So this is all theoretical now 😉

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