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Paint Me a Maxi Dress: The Reveal

September 18, 2011

This summer I’m sewing along with Ali at The Wardrobe, Reimagined; Alessa at Farbenfreude; Sarah at Rhinestones and Telephones; and a bunch of other talented seamsters. We’re all making summer essentials, and this post marks my completion of the Sew-Along.

The wind was perfect.  It caught the hem of the maxi dress, which caused the skirt to dance around my feet – an artist’s pallet at play.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, my maxi dress is finally complete.

If you’ve been following along, you already know the lengthy saga of the “Paint Me a Maxi Dress” maxi dress.  If you happened to miss it, here it is in brief, with links to the appropriate posts:

I found the fabric at, officially declared my plans, and then made a muslin to check the fit of Vogue V8182.  After taking a bit of a break to make my baby niece a Christening gown, I got back to this dress only to be slowed by discovering that most of the pattern was cut on the bias and that the ruching was not as simple as instructed.  After several failed attempts at ruching, I then had several failed attempts at inserting the zipper into the bias-cut skirt.  The Lonsdale Sew-Along, a second honeymoon, and the trouble with the zipper pushed the dress into September.  The purchase of an invisible zipper foot and several online tutorials solved the zipper issue, and then – finally! – all that was left was a bit of hand sewing.

The dress has a V-neckline and wide straps that have a bit of gathering at the top.  The waist is highlighted by a band of what is supposed to be ruched fabric.  As I noted above, I had a lot of trouble getting the ruching to work with the dress.  It was at times too floppy, too puffy, too obviously sewn down.  I finally just stretched it taut, while the top and bottom seams were already sewn to their respective matching partners, and cut off the excess fabric in the side seams.

The pattern didn’t come with a maxi-length skirt pattern, but it was easy enough to improvise.

The bias cut puts the stripes of fabric at an angle, which I was unsure about at first as I’d originally imagined them going up and down, but which I adore now. I made sure to match everything up so that the diagonal paint line that begins at the overlap of the V-neckline continues all the way down the dress.

The back diagonal line matches even more closely.

My husband and I decided this dress was worthy of a real photo shoot adventure, so we threw our camera into a bag and left the house with only a loose idea as to where we were going.  We ended up stopping at a spectacular serpentine wall.  We even threw in a silly magazine shot:

Oh là là!

This dress is my final garment for the Second-Annual Summer-Essentials Sew-Along.  I finished it with one week left in the summer.  Maybe it can transition into the fall with a colorful cardigan?  Even if it doesn’t make it out much the rest of this year, I know it’ll get a lot of wear next summer.

I’ll leave you with one final shot.  Though there’s nothing particularly special about this photo, I love how the movement implied by the curved wall is continued into the diagonal of the pattern.

It really feels wonderful to be able to make something unique from a plan and a piece of fabric, wouldn’t you agree? Of everything you’ve made this summer, what’s stood out to you as particularly special or unique? I’d love it if you’d add a link in the comments!

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50 Comments leave one →
  1. September 18, 2011 10:16 am

    SPECTACULAR. seriously amy. oh my god. absolutely stunning and so worthy of your magazine shoot! the way you matched that up is brilliant. i’m terrified of vogue patterns!

    i guess my favorite make this summer was my two hour dress, just barely in front of my bombshell dress :) i wish i knew how to add a fancy link but here’s the long version:

    i can’t wait to see what you begin next!

    • September 18, 2011 10:26 am

      Thanks, Oona, and your two-hour dress is fabulous. I can’t believe you pieced it together yourself. As I just said in the comments on your blog, I’ll have to keep that dress in mind for when I find the right fabric pairings. Thanks for sharing!

  2. September 18, 2011 10:43 am

    It looks gorgeous, definitely worth all the work. And the drive for a better photo shoot scenario.

    I didn’t make much this Summer, as I moved house so no favourites to choose from.

    • September 18, 2011 11:21 am

      Thanks! Moving houses is quite an achievement as is. I’m excited about your new sewing room!

  3. September 18, 2011 11:19 am

    Wow, it turned out amazing! =) To be honest, I’m usually not a fan of maxi dresses, but this one is beautiful. I love that fabric, and you did a great job. I know it feels so nice to finish a project that’s had some complications. =)


    • September 18, 2011 11:25 am

      Thanks, Kristin! It was actually this fabric that turned me on to maxi dresses. With a name like “Paint Me a Maxi Dress,” it’s hard to argue with what it wants to be! It is wonderful to finally overcome the complications in a project and call it finished. I bet you’ll have the same feeling when you finish your quilt! Maybe less because of complications and more because of just how much time a quilt can take!

  4. September 18, 2011 12:56 pm

    Holy cow, this is spectacular! Totally worth all the effort and frustration! I’m with Kristin– I’m not usually a huge fan of maxi dresses, but this is gorgeous! Love it! Great job!

    Between my trip to Europe and my new job, I didn’t get as much sewing done this summer as I would have liked to, but my favorite project would have to be my Lonsdale dress.

    • September 18, 2011 4:11 pm

      Your Lonsdale truly is something special. I’m glad you chose such a fun fabric. And, wasn’t it a delightful pattern? I actually wore mine today to a brunch.

      • September 19, 2011 5:38 pm

        It really is such a fun pattern to sew and to wear! I know I’ll be wearing it often next summer!

  5. September 18, 2011 1:30 pm

    Seriously, the wait and headaches along the way were absolutely worth it. This dress is a stunner and you did such a fabulous job with it. Think of all you learned and the joy of wearing it = priceless!

    • September 18, 2011 4:12 pm

      I definitely learned a lot. It’s nice knowing the advantages cutting on the bias can give to a garment and to have a bit of experience with it now. Zippers are still something that I haven’t quite gotten a knack for, but here’s to hoping that practice makes perfect!

  6. September 18, 2011 2:37 pm

    Ohhh, I love this. I too am scared of Vogue patterns, but you’re tempting me.
    My favourite project of the summer was also a maxi dress!

    • September 18, 2011 4:20 pm

      That maxi dress is a stunner! And, your photography is just amazing.

      Why is everyone scared of Vogue patterns? Is there something I don’t know?

  7. September 18, 2011 2:59 pm

    WOW!! Amy you look stunning in that dress – perfect fabric. Isn’t it great when you do achieve the final result. I believe that it’s fine to be faced with challenges in sewing, it’s a learning process, even though at the time, might feel like it’s never going to work – you’ve proved it does work out. Love the photo-shoot pics and the location is fantastic. Oh – my fav project, because I learned too -

    • September 18, 2011 4:22 pm

      Thank you! And, yes, challenges are good – they keep me on my toes! Love that coat, by the way. You knocked it out of the park with your Valentino!

  8. September 18, 2011 3:35 pm

    Oh, it’s looking just beautiful! I think you made exactly the right call about the ruching (I bet it being on the bias is why it was able to pooch out so much).

    Gosh. The bias cut of the skirt is so amazing, though. It makes it just flow, doesn’t it? Wow. I’m going to go and just stare at the pictures again for a bit, k? :)

    • September 18, 2011 4:30 pm

      Thanks! And, yes, while the bias cut gave me some trouble, I’m thankful for what it added to the dress. It really does just flow!

  9. September 18, 2011 7:54 pm

    gorgeous! just gorgeous!

    • September 18, 2011 9:10 pm

      Thanks! You’ve been on a roll yourself with all that you’ve been making lately!

  10. Josephine permalink
    September 18, 2011 9:48 pm

    WOW! WOW! WOW! This dress was definitely worth all the bother. Great choice of pattern for you and beautiful sewing makes for a stunning dress. It looks like you’ve dropped into a fashion boutique and picked up a designer number for a couple of grand.

  11. September 19, 2011 12:47 am

    That is a really, really beautiful dress. Congratulations on mastering the invisible zip! I’ve just bought an invisible zip foot and look forward to learning how to use it.

    • September 19, 2011 11:04 pm

      That little foot was a life saver. I hope yours will treat you as well as mine treated me!

  12. September 19, 2011 3:15 am

    This dress is absolutely stunning. I love everything about it – the fabric, the pattern, the fact that it’s a maxi dress and especially the ruching! You did such a fantastic job. And what a fab photo location too.

    I didn’t get as much sewing done this Summer as I would have liked, but I’m particularly pleased with my Crescent skirt, I wear it all the time (not quite as spectacular as your lovely dress)!

    • September 21, 2011 6:43 pm

      Isn’t the Crescent skirt pattern great?!

  13. September 19, 2011 7:02 am

    Wow- your maxi has no hint of caftan at all! It’s really stunning, and I feel like it would look great on a red carpet too! The ruched waistline is killer. Love your blog!

  14. September 19, 2011 10:24 am

    This is stunningly beautiful. I bet after it was done you were glad you had persevered through it. It is really lovely. I like the diagonal too … perhaps vertical would have been too mathematically precise?

    I think my favorite this summer is my lonsdale, though I didn’t sew a ton during the summer. Hopefully a year from now I’ll have loads of favorites to pick from.

    • September 21, 2011 6:44 pm

      I just checked out your Lonsdale – beautiful job! The Lonsdale pattern was definitely a hit this summer.

  15. September 19, 2011 12:47 pm

    This is a great maxi! I agree with u regarding the angle of the stripes, it looks great. Nice work with matching the print!

    • September 21, 2011 6:45 pm

      Thanks. I’m really happy I followed the directions and went with the bias cut. The diagonal makes me happy!

  16. September 19, 2011 6:38 pm

    this dress is amazing! It fits you absolutely perfectly!
    The colors are incredible! I got married in a paint-splat-pattern dress :)
    I saw your dress on the Burda site, but for some reason the colors of the fabric don’t pop as much as they do on this blog!

    • September 21, 2011 6:47 pm

      A paint-splat-pattern wedding dress! Wow. That sounds bold and absolutely fabulous!

  17. September 20, 2011 7:30 am

    What a beautiful dress! That’s great you were able to finish it up. It really is perfect. The diagonal stripes look great and I love how the bias cut skirt fits. I have that pattern and wouldn’t have thought to lengthen it. I love maxi dresses.

    Great photo shoot too!

    • September 21, 2011 6:48 pm

      I likely wouldn’t have thought to lengthen it either if I weren’t on the hunt for a maxi dress pattern to use with this fabric. I didn’t have a pattern on hand and didn’t feel like buying a pattern, so modify it was!

  18. September 21, 2011 11:51 am

    Amy, this was so worth all the time, work and wait! It is so gorgeous, fits like a glove, and very well suited to you. Bravo!

    • September 21, 2011 6:49 pm

      Thanks so much!

      PS I love catching your photos for SSS’11. Even your iPhone-in-the-mirror shots look great!

  19. September 21, 2011 11:56 am

    Doh! I forgot my fav summer project. I have book-ended ties, the first being a spring project that I finished at the beginning of summer, the second being a skirt I made just in time to get several wears in before the crisp autumn air comes.

  20. September 22, 2011 9:03 am

    This turned out so beautifully–the persistence paid off! I loove that first photo with your sandals. Nice lovely light. I’ve had almost a month off sewing and we also moved, so don’t have much to show this summer, but I’m still working on summer clothes! (Still summer here big time.)

  21. January 7, 2012 9:45 am

    I just came upon this from the Sew Weekly…I am in love with this dress! The colors, the way you’ve laid out the fabric, the ruched middle, the length, everything! Great job, and it looks like all the dithering was worth it!

  22. February 26, 2012 7:38 pm

    oh wow. I have only just come across your blog today from BurdaStyle and this dress caught my eye immediately! Adding it to my to-do list! But I must say – it really suits you – the fabric and the stylle – very lovely!

    • February 27, 2012 4:27 pm

      Thank you! It’s definitely a favorite.

  23. June 25, 2012 1:17 am

    How did I miss this? It’s stunning!


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