Sew a Wardrobe in a Weekend : Dresses

Sew a wardrobe in a weekend. – or make 6 dresses 😀

It’s the season of the dress, and Butterick, McCall’s and New Look all think we can make a dress in 1 or 2 hours of sewing time ! Whew. . .

Of course there are many dress patterns which can be sewn speedily. I’ve just listed the ones the pattern companies say can be made in a limited time. I’ve included a few out-of-print patterns still available from BMV, to show the range of styles possible.

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Super Quick Dress patterns for woven fabrics

Butterick 5211 is a 1 hour straight dress.


At the end of the 50s, the ‘sacque’ dress appeared. A group of us bored girls at college summer school decided to make them. It was a huge change in fashion, so we would never have had the courage to do it alone. (At that time fashion was very rigid – and I don’t just mean the corsets – everyone HAD to wear the same style). We cut rectangles of fabric, and sewed round them with gaps for neck, armholes and hem. The boys were horrified, they were used to all those tiny waists and big petticoats.

This Butterick dress may look very simple and shapeless, but it’s much more subtly elegant than those rectangles 😀

oop McCall’s 5519 is a 1 hour sheath dress with pattern pieces for 3 cup sizes.


McCall’s 9172 is a current 1-hour a-line dress, with a pattern piece for adding a bust dart.


McCall’s 5855 is a 1-hour caftan.


McCall’s even thinks that if we have an extra hour of sewing time we can make a princess seamed dress, see oop McCall’s 9456 2-hour dress.


New Look 6804 is a summery 2-hour dress with a variety of straps and necklines.


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One Hour Dress Patterns for Knits

oop Butterick 5100 is a 1-hour knit dress styled as an overdress or over-tunic. The wide neckband is actually a deep cowl.


McCall’s 6074 has 1-hour sleeveless knit dresses with front interest.


McCall’s 5893 is a 1-hour empire waist dress for knits.

McCall’s 6069 has 1-hour knit dresses with a drape back and plain or drape front.


And there are a couple of more covered-up-for-winter styles :

Butterick 5397 is a 1-hour gathered scoop neck knit dress.


Butterick 5247 is a 1-hour cowl neck knit dress.


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Again I’m fascinated by how much variety designers can find for these simple styles. Easy changes to necklines and armholes, with occasional extra seaming.

Interesting to see what’s possible in limited time. But I rarely have reason to wear a dress. If I was going to make a dress, I would prefer to take more time and make one with more style elements. I like tucks, pleats and small ruffles, and waist seams give me the best fit.

I’ve only mentioned patterns which the pattern companies give a sewing time for. There are of course a lot of dress patterns which could be made in half a day by people who can do other sewing processes quickly, like adding a zip or buttonholes.

Many of these speedy dress patterns include darts. Either darts or gathered fullness do give better fit, especially if you’re a larger cup size. But there are patterns without darts, if you’re not happy about sewing them.

Here’s ejvc’s description of Nancy Zieman’s method for making darts quickly :
“Mark apex and snip legs in the seam allowance. Then, pull out a long thread from the needle. Take a few stitches [in seam allowance] to anchor and then stretch the thread to the apex mark (it forms a straight line). Sew along the thread. Very quick, hardly any marking.”

Many of these dresses are slightly flared in silhouette. If that’s not flattering for you, see my post on easy patterns and body shape for some suggestions.

Anyway there are very quick dress patterns in many styles. So pick a fancy fabric and make one in the afternoon to wear that evening. Sheers, shiny, sequins, lace, multicolour abstract prints are all ‘in’ this season. (Ah, warning, most of those fabrics are not quick or easy to cut or sew :D)

And of course it’s easy to shorten simple dresses to make a tunic or top. I’m planning another post on timed top patterns. Interestingly, most of the tops take 2 hours, not one. . .

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Patterns and links available May 2010

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