Dottie Dropwaist Dress Tutorial

Is anyone as obsessed with the Great Gatsby being in theatres? I am so excited about it, and realize I must revisit reading the book. With that being said, I am suddenly very influenced by the style of the 1920s and 1930s. I knew that I had to make a dress inspired by GG so I my mind immediately went to the dropwaist that was popular in the 20’s

1920’s dress styles
Different types of drop waists
Women of the 1920’s
On the runway 

Do you see how it inspired me? I started researching what little girls wore in the 1920’s. I found that they still wore more of the full tent shape dress then and I was looking for the dropwaist for a little girl. I had to get to work immediately with my 7 year old as model. The idea in my head was so simple! Why had I never thought of this before? My idea was a simple tie front tank dress with a waistband and dropped waist. Easy peasy, right.

The instructions I am going to give you are for a size 6. I will show you how to draft the bodice piece for the dress, but it is also very easy to size up or down. I will give a brief description on how you can change that if you are working with a different size.

1 yd fabric of your choice
1/4 yd contrasting fabric
bias tape if you choose instead of making your own
paper (i just used packing paper)
measuring tape
  1. Get your paper you are going to draft the pattern on. If you have never drafted a pattern before, do not be scared. It is very simple and so convenient once you get the hang of it.
  2. You are going to start with a rectangle. Use a ruler to draw a line down for height 14 inches tall and then 7 inches across. So you should have a rectangle the shape of a door. This is the base for the bodice.
3. Now find the top left corner. Measure down 2 inches. Draw a dot. Go back to the top left corner. Measure across 3 inches. Draw a dot. Then create a curve for the neckline
4. Go to the top right corner. Go across 2 inches. Draw a dot. Go back to the top right corner. Go down 6 inches. Draw a dot. Go back to the top right dot. Draw a straight line and start curving it to the dot down to create the armhole. 
*TIP* If you are sizing up, the add 1/2 an inch to the width and add 1 inch to the height
If you are sizing down, subract 1/2 an inch of the width, and subtract 1 inch for the height

With the armhole, take away 1/4 in on the dot you go down, so instead of 6 inches, you would do 5 3/4 or go up to 6 1/4
Your bodice piece should look something like this.
If you are unsure, then just use a tank top to trace the bodice shape and add 2-3 inches for drop waist.

5. Cut out your bodice piece. You will need to pin this on the fold. Make sure you are putting the side with the neckline on the fold. This piece will be used for both the front and the back. You can either fold the fabric twice and pin that way, or you can create two fold lines and pin each piece individually. 
Your front and back bodice piece should be identical at first.

6. Cut a waistband piece out but measuring 5 inches tall and 28 inches wide (This size fit my daughter perfect so if you need a bit of room to grow, add 1-2 inches) 
Subtract 1 inch for each size down or add 1 inch for each size up. Measure hips to be accurate
7. Cut out 2 panels for the drop waist skirt. You will need 2 pieces of fabric 13 inches tall and 20 inches wide. Subtract 2 inches for each size down or add 2 inches for each size up.
8. Take one of the bodice pieces and fold in half. Where the fold is, you will measure down 2 inches and cut a slit down. This is going to be your keyhole. 
9. Pin the shoulders together right side of fabric facing each other. You should have the wrong side of the fabric facing you. Sew the shoulders together, then serge or zigzag to reinforce seams.
10. Pin the sides together, with the right side of the fabric facing each other and sew the sides together. You can iron these flat or serge/zig zag seams. 
Sew sides together, wrong side should be facing out to you. 
11. Get your waistband piece and pin the ends together, wrong side facing out to you. Sew the ends together. Iron the seams down. Then fold over waistband in half and iron.
Sew ends together and then iron seam down.

Fold waistband in half and iron flat
12. Turn the bodice right side out. Pin the waistband to the bottom of bodice piece. Sew the two pieces together. 
Pin waistband to right side of bodice. Sew together.
13. Flip the waistband down so that the right side of the bodice and waistband are both visible. Sew the waistband down so that the lip on the inside catches the waistband.
Sew the waistband down on the right side of fabric so that  waistband is seamed down on to bodice
14. Get the panels for skirt. Put right sides of fabric facing each other and sew the sides together. 
Iron hem up two times, then sew hem.
15. With the skirt you have two choices, you can go a gather or you can pleat the skirt. I chose to pleat the skirt. First step is to pin sides together so that its even. Then I find the halfway point of waistband, place a pin, find halfway point of skirt, and pin the skirt to the waistband where the pin is marking the halfway point. Then I put two pleats on each side of halfway point.
pleats pinned to skirt about 5 inches apart

inside of what waistband and skirt look like
16. Sew the skirt to the waistband once you have your pleats set. I press the two pieces together to make sure that the pleats are evenly spaced and even with both sides. Once the skirt is sewn to the waistband, flip the skirt right side out and sew on outside of dress to piece waistband on skirt like you did with the bodice and waistband. 
sew waistband on the RIGHT side of dress over the skirt. 
17. Next step is the keyhole. Again, 2 options, you can just iron fabric over and seam, or embellish with ribbon, trim, etc or use bias tape. I originally did the seam, didn’t like it, and then added the bias tape. 
Keyhole piece.
Seam or use bias tape, or seam with trim like ribbon  or rick rack
18. We are going to attach the bias tape to the armholes next. For this size, it was about 16 1/2 inches around for each arm. I cut the measured piece, sewed the bias tape together at the ends, and then folded over the bias tape and pinned around the armhole. Once it is pinned, you can sew the bias tape around the armholes. 
*TIP* If you want to make your own bias tape and have never done it, here is a great tutorial from  MADE
She also has a tutorial on how to sew bias tape on
Pin the bias tape around like a casing or sandwiched and then sew around armhole. 
19. For the neckline, you will need about 35 inches of bias tape. Find the halfway or fold of the back of the bodice, and find the half of the bias tape. Pin those points togther, the same way you pinned the bias tape around the armholes. pin all the way around the neckline. Then be sure to fold in the ends of the bias tape to sew closed. 
Find halfway point of back of bodice and pin halfway point of bias tape. 
20. Sew the bias tape around neckline and down the strap. Make sure to seam the ends closed. The extra bias tape is going to be used as a tie. The tie is helpful because that means no elastic, zippers, buttons, snaps, etc. 
seam the ends closed

The remaining will make a pretty tie neck. 
Once you finished the neckline and tie, you should be finished with your dress and have a gorgeous 1920’s inspired dress. that is, of course, if you could understand my jibber jabber that only seems to make sense to me. To complete the look, you can make a feathered or tulle fascinator type headband and you will have your own personal flapper girl. If you want to make the fascinator headband, here is a tutorial so you can complete the look.
She grabbed one of my clutches and added my polka dots heels .
She obviously has her own style going on!

Showing the back poses need some more work, but at least she cooperates

she told me, “Mom, I will be your model whenever  you want.”

So go sew your dress up and have fun with a themed photo shoot. 

I hope you enjoyed (and understood) the tutorial. 
If you make the dress, I would love to see your creations and interpretations in the Flickr Group
This tutorial was made for personal use. Thank you.
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below and I will try to answer them as soon as possible.
Stay Malicious, Rebel 😉

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Sarah Rose says:

    Wow, great tutorial! I wish the “Great Gatsby” look would come back.


  2. A says:

    Love the colors everything. Pls come back Gatsby!


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