Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer and mom of two little ones. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals.
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Sewing Circle question: Drafting a crossback open back dress

It's been a while, but I got a great Sewing Circle question that I wanted to share with you, and get your tips for! Danielle wrote to me about another kind of backless dress (see this Sewing Circle about how to modify patterns for backless dress varieties and this tutorial on how to make an open back shape) - I had to think about this one for a while! But I think I've got it down and here are some tips on how to make this kind of summery dress yourself. (See also tips for sewing on knits!)

Q: Your blog has inspired me to better my sewing skills and start making more of my own clothing. One thing I've been dying to make is a crossback/open back dress. I loved your tutorial on how to alter any dress pattern to have a cutout back, but the style dress I'm going for is more like this Forever 21 dress:

Or this AE dress:

Where the cutout is right above the waistband. Do you know of any pattern that I could use to recreate this? Or any tips on how to alter a pattern for this? 

My biggest problem is how to finish the waistband in the back. I've only ever made dresses where the skirt attaches to the bodice all the way around so the raw edge of the skirt is all inside (attached to the bodice obviously). I just don't understand how to attach the front part of the bodice to the skirt and then finish off the rest of the raw edge of the skirt in back so it looks nice. Do I just fold over the raw edge on the backside and stitch it down? What if I'm adding elastic to the back like this dress?

A: Cute dresses! Unfortunately I haven't seen the perfect pattern, and I think mainly because those are made of unlined lightweight cotton knit, and most sewing patterns are for lined, structured dresses. But, you can definitely make one with a basic knit dress pattern (like The Out and About Dress) and some pattern-drafting. Picture this simple bodice (any sleeve length you like, or leave off the sleeves), plus a circle skirt or simple flared skirt, and the crisscross back drafted how you want it.

The most similar pattern I found for the open back and skirt treatment was actually for kids (this one), although it may shed some light on the construction. I think the key for your dress, where the crisscross starts at the side seams, is finishing the back of the skirt like an actual separate skirt - so yes, fold it back on itself and add the elastic, or add elastic in a casing. Zoom in on the AE dress in the solid red color to really see how it's made!

As for the crisscross straps, I think you'll have to play around with those and cut two of the back piece (rather than cutting on the fold, as your pattern would probably have you do), and you can finish the edges with either self-fabric bias binding (like the Forever 21 dress) or by turning under twice, maybe with some elastic to keep the fabric from stretching (like the AE one).

You can probably play around with your fabric and look at a few simple patterns that you like to see how you could modify them! And, if you're not confident in drafting or want a more structured dress, luckily there are lots of semi-backless dress patterns out there nowadays. Like this one.

Readers, have you seen a pattern for this kind of dress before? How would you modify a basic dress pattern to make this kind of comfy knit? I'm sure Danielle would love to hear your ideas, too!


  1. Pattern- simplicity 1373 http://www.simplicity.com/p-11796-misses-slim-pants-shorts-tops.aspx

    Erica B made a dress version by just adding inches http://www.ericabunker.com/2014/06/review-simplicity-1373-bringing-sexy.html

  2. Simplicity 2180 has that open cutout with a tie at the center top of the "hole". The skirt is finished with elastic in the back like the pictures you referenced. Also, it is meant for wovens.


  3. That's a very cute one, very close! So many more dress patterns are for wovens than knits, though!

  4. Awesome, that one's just about perfect!! I didn't think to look at top patterns!



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