My Homemade Denim Dress

DIY denim dress (without a pattern) via abeautifulmess.com  Homemade chambray dress (via abeautifulmess.com)  DIY denim dress (without a pattern) via abeautifulmess.comOne of my goals for the month was to sew a dress. Yes, I have weird goals. And last weekend I finally got to mark that one off the list! For all you super experienced seamstresses out there, this likely doesn't impress you much. But, I'm pretty new to using my sewing machine (it was a wedding gift two years ago), and I've been making 2015 my year to try and learn and grow in my sewing skills.

I'm actually a little intimidated to show you all my latest project if I'm being honest. I feel confident in the kitchen and happy to share whatever I'm up to in that department, but sewing is a whole different thing. 

DIY denim dress (without a pattern) via abeautifulmess.com But hey, we're all friends here. So here you have it—I made a dress. And I want to share a little more about how I did it with you all, but this isn't really a full-on DIY tutorial. It's just something I did last weekend that I want to share. I like to make things and I like to share them, which I guess is how I came to be a blogger in the first place. :) 

I actually used a lesson from our e-course, Sew With Us, on using an existing garment to make your own pattern. So if you want to see a more in-depth look at this type of project, check there. Katie is a little more experienced at sewing than me, and I think she and Rachel did a great job teaching that course. 

Supplies for a diy dress without a patternFor this dress I used my very favorite green Mexican embroidered dress as my template to figure out what size I wanted. I LOVE this dress and wear it all the time (see me wearing it last year in Costa Rica and in Hawaii three years ago). I thought this would be a good dress to use because it doesn't have a zipper but can easily fit over my head and shoulders. I'm still working on mastering zippers, so I wanted to make a dress that I could easily take on and off without one. 

You can kind of see in this photo that I have scissors at home labeled "fabric" with black Sharpie, which totally reminds me of that old Ryan Gosling meme that said, "Hey, girl, don't worry. I know which scissors you use for fabric and which scissors you use for paper." I always thought that one was the best one of those. It's funny AND a real issue. 🙂

How to draft a patternPin the edges before stitchingI drew out my design (which is basically a rectangle with sleeves) with measurements and cut out my front and back pieces. I pinned the edges in place and stitched the dress up. 

For me, when I'm making a garment or tailoring something I already own (which I do more often since ALL my jeans tend to need hemming), I put the garment on inside out, over and over as I work to make sure things are fitting and falling in a way I like. If something isn't, I can usually just undo my last stitching and try again. I never cut off extra fabric until I'm sure it fits how I want. 

You can kind of tell from this photo that I used the opposite side of a denim fabric because I liked the color better (sort of chambray). Just a tip in case you're fabric shopping and just don't see a denim you like…check the other side. 🙂

Press the seamsCan I just say that my least favorite part about sewing is pressing seams. I just don't like ironing very much. I don't know why. It's not hard. It doesn't take very long. But I just don't like it. 

And now you know me a little bit better. 

Making the front detailI wanted to add some kind of weaving piece to the front of my dress. I saw something kind of like this (but much more intricate) at a store in Kansas City a few weekends ago when I was there with some friends. (I wish I had written down the brand name!)

I used Fray Check to seal the edges of the rope so it won't fray (too much) over time.

I'm not sure if you can tell from any of the photos, but the weaving piece attaches by removing the last two rope strands and looping through what are essentially two button holes on the dress. I wanted the piece to be easy to remove so I can wash the dress as needed. 

Homemade chambray dress (via abeautifulmess.com) Homemade chambray dress (via abeautifulmess.com)The weaving piece makes it just a little different, which I love. I can't wait to wear this out on a date night soon. Anyway, thanks for letting me share my latest exploits in learning to sew. And if you're looking to up your sewing game, I cannot recommend Sew With Us enough. xx. Emma

Credits // Author: Emma Chapman. Photography: Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

  • Well done! Feels so good to wear the finished project, right!? I think your dress look great and hope you feel proud if it. Made a similar one recently with Chambray. Its on my blog if you want to see.
    Hope to see more of your dressmaking creations on here!

  • It’s super cute! Well done you. No seriously, how many of us love the idea of making clothes but never quite get round to being patient enough to learn? It looks amazing xx

  • Totally impressed. My first attempt at dressmaking was neither as well done or inventive! Anyone can make a dress but making it your own is something altogether different. Looks fabulous on you 🙂

  • EMMA! This is fantastic. I want you to make one for me. Nice work! I also have goals to learn how to use my sewing machine… soon.

  • Exactly. Learning to sew is tough! My hat is off to all the talented seamstresses out there and I’m just working to grow in my own skills. 🙂

    -Emma

  • I recently started the ecourse Sew With Us and I’m gaining a lot of confidence in my sewing. I just needed a little push. I’m loving the ecourse! The goal is to make a couple dresses/skirts this summer to wear in August when I go back to school. (I’m a teacher) This dress is adorable and inspiring!

    Love from North Carolina,

    <3 Ashton

  • This is so super cute! I’ve had a sewing machine for about a year and a half (used it to make Christmas stockings last year!) but I’ve also had a book about sewing skirts for about a year now…this is might finally motivate me to make something!

  • I really really like it when you celebrate reaching goals and trying new things. Also, I love the dress. One million internet high fives.

  • I have a dress like this in purple that I don’t wear anymore because its faded. I love it so this is a great idea!

  • Cute dress. Just a tip for ironing. First iron the seams as they are (flat) and then open them. It kinda embeds the seam and will make it way easier to iron it open. This is something I learned after several years and it is a game changer for those who don’t like the ironing part.

  • Yep, definitely making this! I am loving the dress that I made with the E-course and I wear it allll the time. I love using the other side of the denim…I love it so much more! The weaving piece just puts this dress over the top into the love category…it is such a marvelous idea and really makes the dress unique and special. The only thing I’m unsure about is the sleeves…I am terrible at them. Did you just lay the sleeves on the green dress out and use the same method for those?

  • This dress is so cute. And simple to make! I especially love the weaving piece. I used to sew when I was younger (member of 4H). Maybe one day when I have the space I’ll get back into it.

  • I’ve always wanted to sign up for that sewing course but I still don’t have a sewing machine! Been tempted to buy one but with my impending move to New York which requires me to move across the globe, buying one wouldn’t be such a great idea and I don’t know if buying one in New York would be a good idea as well since I’m not yet sure if the move will be permanent.

    Your first attempt at sewing your own dress looks pretty good from a non-seamstress perspective. Just keep practising and I’m sure you’ll improve your sewing skills. 😉

    Can’t wait to see your future sewing projects soon!

    xo Trisha
    http://www.trishasales.net

  • Love the style of your dress – great job! I always think sharing sewing projects is a bit intimidating too. Definitely have my eye on something chambray now!
    Zoe | floral and feather

  • awesome job!! i am one of those seamstresses but don’t worry, we love when people start sewing and join the magical world of making your own clothes! the more the merrier! Your dress reminds me of when i started sewing – doing little fold over hems and hating ironing, but the more you do it, the best you get (obvi) and it all becomes just part of the process. And if you ever decide to start using patterns there is a wonderful world of indie patterns out there that are cute largely made by lady bloggers and small business types that you should totally check out! the “big 4” pattern companies have cute stuff too but definitely check out places like Papercut patterns, Colette, By Hand London, Tilly and the Buttons, Sewaholic etc. there are so many!

  • I would love to be able to make something like this, great inspiration! Thanks for sharing x

    ISOSCELLA | isoscella.blogspot.co.uk

  • Way to go, Emma! Love that you used the inside of your fabric on the outside of your dress! Very cool “art” for the dress front and it’s detachable! Great effort and I admire your talent!

  • That’s such a cool dress! I would love to learn to sew, it’s definitely on my list of things to do. My main motivation behind it is I find it so hard to find clothes that I like and that fit me. Clearly I’m not a traditional size or shape haha! I’m so happy to see someone just learning, it gives me inspiration to get a sewing machine and start things as well.

    O.

  • This diy comes in so useful, because I´ve wanted to buy a denim dress for a long time now and just can´t seem to find one that fits me well. So maybe I´ll follow your idea and make my own after I nice dress I already have. I actually have one in mind already.

  • Love this a lot. I like your weaving piece as a necklace so I can wear it with several dresses. Thanks for the idea! I’m sort of an advanced sewer, but I almost never make all the ideas I want to for myself. Thanks for inspiring me with this cute little dress!

  • Whoa! oMGosh! Aside from this being a wonderful on its own account, I’m commenting here because I am wearing THAT GREEN MEXICAN DRESS right now as I read your post! What!? I got it in Santa F, NM in 2008 from a street type vendor. It was floor length, but I hemmed it quite short. Also my fave dress! And now, I shall make another dress using it as my pattern just as you have. Rock on, little green Mexican dress!