At long last, I present a tutorial for the tank dress I made a few weeks ago before the end of the semester blindsided me. I’ve been seeing these tank+patterned skirt all over the place lately, but frequently they were too short or too short-waisted for my particular proportions. After some googling, and studying the really excellent skirt tutorial and t-shirt dress tutorial at Ruffles and Stuff and the skirt with pockets tutorial at Freshly Picked, I decided that even my fairly rudimentary sewing skills could handle this project.
And since I celebrated my height yesterday for Dress Your Best week, it seems appropriate to post a sewing project prompted by my need for a longer-than-in-stores dress.
- a tank top
- 2 yards or so of patterned fabric
- scraps of a coordinating fabric for pockets
- matching thread
- disappearing fabric pen or chalk
1. Measurements. Take your measurements for the skirt portion. Measure your natural waist. Stand in front of the mirror and measure your desired length. To make our math easy, let’s say that my waist is 30 inches and my desired length is 22 inches, plus 1 inch for seam allowances and hemming. (Okay, actually it should be more like 1.5 inches, but I was willing to sacrifice a quarter inch.)
2. Then, put on the tank top you’ll be using. Standing in front of the mirror, use a disappearing fabric pen to mark the smallest part of your waist or wherever you want your skirt to begin.
3. Measure and cut your patterned fabric. You’ll need two identical pieces 30 inches x 23 inches.
4. Pocket time! Freshly Picked has a handy pocket pattern, or you can simply fold a piece of fabric in half and draw around your hand, leaving about a half inch allowance all the way around.
Pin and cut out a pair. You’ll need four total pocket pieces.
5. Take your pieces of skirt fabric (30×23″), measure three inches from the top edge, and pin a pocket piece to each side, right sides together.
6. Use a 1/4″ seam to stitch the pocket to the skirt piece. Repeat for all four pieces.
7. Press the pocket pieces open.
8. Pin the skirt pieces together, right sides facing each other. Sew a 1/2″ seam along the edge, going around the pocket.
9. Turn the skirt right side out, press your seams flat, and marvel at your pocket-making prowess.
10. Hemming. Turn and press your bottom hem 1/4″, then turn up 1/2″, press, and stitch. Nice and clean.
11. Tank top time. Remember that mark you made on your tank top? Pin the layers of the tank together to keep things in place. Extend the initial mark across your tank top and (deep breaths) cut. A few tips: measure up from the hem of the tank to your mark, then duplicate that measurement along the width of the tank top, measuring from the bottom. Connect the dots and cut on the line. Also, when I do this again, I’ll probably cut a quarter inch above my initial measured line, to accommodate the stretching/sagging that will occur with the added weight of the skirt.
12. Gathering the skirt. Set a long stitch length on your machine and stitch a 1/4″ seam around the top edge of the skirt. Gently pull the end threads to gather. Carefully spread the gathers evenly around the skirt waist until the width of the skirt waist is the same as the width of your cut tank top.
13. Putting it all together. Here is where things get a little tricky. You need to pin the skirt and tank together, right sides facing each other. I matched up the side seams of the skirt with the side seams of the tank and pinned those first. Then, I evenly pinned the rest of the skirt together to the tank, trying to avoid puckering. You can pull or ease out the skirt gathers as necessary.
14. Stitch the tank and skirt together using a 1/2″ seam. You’ll be sewing just outside of the 1/4″ gathering stitch. Be careful not to stray, otherwise your gathering seam will be visible in the final product.
15. Ta da! Flip everything right side out and try it on!
A note of warning. My tank definitely stretched some during sewing, meaning that it doesn’t hug the narrowest part of my like it used to. I, of course, just used a stretchy belt to solve the issue (a sash would also do the trick) and that usefully covered any awkward puckering too.
If you’re worried about being able to get the whole contraption on easily — given the whole knit + woven situation — I’d bet that you could actually sew in a wide elastic waistband to join the woven skirt with the knit tank, adjusting measurements accordingly. Basically, follow the skirt tutorials I linked to above that have a wide elastic waistband and then attach your tank to the elastic waist rather than the skirt itself. You’ll have a strip of visible black or white elastic, of course, but you can either enjoy the colorblocking or cover it with a wide belt.
I can imagine so many fun variations on this. A striped tank with a floral skirt. A graphic print tank with a solid skirt. An analogous color combination of tank and skirt. An embellished tank with an attached skirt. None of my old tank tops are safe! And, yes, I just may go raid the sheets and table cloth section of my local Goodwill to build up a skirt fabric stash.