Sewing Circle: Modifying patterns for backless dresses

This week's two-part Sewing Circle question is from Jennie! She wanted to know about making both of these partially backless dresses--and what patterns to use and modify...

Q: I'd love to make this adorable ASOS dress. Unfortunately, they're sold out in my size :/
 
Also, how would one modify the back to the urban outfitters inspired, mint-ish lace, backless dress that your friend made (the friend that you blogged about). Again, love your blog and thank you so much for all of the help.


A: Wow, you're adventurous! I don't have any backless dresses myself, but I have some ideas for you.

For the ASOS dress, I would use Simplicity 1913 for the front of the bodice--it has the right princess seams...

...and for the back I would use Simplicity 2444, Simplicity 1873, or, for a slightly looser shape, Simplicity 2215.

Of course you’ll modify the back—cut away from about 1.5” from the center back at the waist and taper it up to almost meet at the center back at the neck, where you’ll put the button loop and button. Looks like the back’s not lined, though the front probably is, so if you use a substantial enough fabric, then just turn the back edges under twice about ¼” and hem. Or, if you give it a full lining (I would), sew right sides together on the center back pieces and assemble as usual, same as if there were a zipper there. Then you’ll just need a short skirt zipper for the skirt at the center back. Super easy and cute! (The skirt you don’t need a pattern for—looks like it’s a full circle skirt. Tons of tutorials online if you need one!)

I offered similar tips to my friend before she cut down the back of her mint dress. It’s really as easy as it sounds—when cutting out the dress (cut the lining out first), cut down the shape you want, accounting for the seam allowance. On the V-back, it’s even easier; you’re basically just making the back of the neckline super low, to the point where there’s no zipper on the bodice part, of course. So cut down from the shoulder seam using a straight edge, to the waist, and sew right sides together with the lining, so you’ll use your normal seam allowance. As long as you’re cutting out a size that you know fits, it should work out just great!

Readers, have you ever made a backless dress?? I never have! They look like fun, though, if you're not worried about not wearing a bra! ;)  Would love to hear your tips for Jennie or your experiences with backless dress-making.

20 comments

  1. McCall 6602 is a backless dress pattern that is virtually identical to the light blue dress in the pic.

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  2. THANK YOU! Oh my goodness I have been dying to make a backless dress. Now I finally can! :)

    Have a great week!

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  3. Also, Simplicity 2406 has a cut out slit down the back (like the ASOS dress).

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  4. I'd say be careful with the one with the v back as to not stretch the fabric (wich will be on the bias there and therefore really stretchy). Make sure to staystitch or even use a stay tape to take in some ease. It worked well for me! Hope that made any sense ;)

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    1. VERY true!! Good point, stay-stitching would be really helpful if you're not sure you can keep the fabric's original shape.

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  5. McCalls 4353 is a different style of backless (and you can wear a bra with it!), but it was pretty easy to make. I skipped the back panel to make it more backless and made an elastic skirt instead since I was intimidated by the buttons. Unfortunately, I still have some alterations to do on mine since I cut the fabric wrong right off the bat, but here it is so far.

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    1. Oh, interesting, cool to see a vintage backless pattern! Fun dress for summer!

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  6. I've been thinking about making a backless dress, but I'm very intimidated by the whole no bra thing. I don't think it would be a flattering look on me. But, I am thinking about making a low back long-sleeved tee, we'll see how that turns out.

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    1. Oh, me, too. I prefer dresses I can wear bras with, for sure! I guess if it was super snug you could insert bra cups in it, like for a fancy party dress, but otherwise... not for me!

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  7. actually, I saw this idea on pinterest a while ago which shows you how to ake a really low back bra. I don't know if you could wear the second dress with it (as it almost hits her waist) but you can definitely try more adventurous backs with this idea: http://www.tightsandtea.com/2012/03/diy-5-minute-low-back-bra.html

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    1. Interesting!! Good concept! Not sure how comfy it would be, but would be fun to try!

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  8. I have attempted 4 before!

    First attempt was last year and it was only the second dress I made, I was overly ambitious!

    Pics of dress here:
    http://www.sewmelove.com/2011/10/pattern-review-my-adaption-of-v8469.html
    http://www.sewmelove.com/2011/11/transformation-of-my-colour-blocking.html

    I didn't know much about adjustments or anything, I winged it and found a "lining" tutorial online which I barely understood.

    Dress turned out alright, but it had issues with falling off the shoulder and gaping at the back.

    I had two more tries and on my fourth attempt, I made this: http://www.sewmelove.com/2012/05/hacked-v8469-with-low-back-full.html

    And it was perfect!! Because it was as now low as the first one, it didn't fall off at the shoulders.


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    1. Oh, fun! Love the floral one and the zipper looks great, and it fits you very well! And you did a great job on the lining!

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  9. Do you not have to make any adjustments to the front of the bodice? I always assumed you would need to compensate for the lack of support from the back fabric. I guess it wouldn't be a problem if you used the v-shaped back. I'm too intimidated to go backless at this point - I still can't figure out how to get my necklines to sit perfectly flat, let alone a low back.

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    1. You don't need to do anything to the front, aside from maybe add some boning, but you don't need to cut it any differently. But it's probably a good idea to wait till you're confident with the pattern straight out of the package before you modify it for backlessness!

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  10. I always wondered how people can wear backless dress without the bra strap showing! :)

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  11. This bra is a must have for women who wear sexy clothing. I own a lot of low back, strapless, or holes here and there. I purchased wonderbra strapless for a particular top that was not sleeveless, but had an odd type or revealing back but required super support.

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