Silk maxi refashion: the only babydoll dress I’ll wear

Blue silk dress

I don’t like baby doll dresses. Blasphemy? Perhaps. Google “baby doll dress” and you’ll find a wide variety of styles, some of which are lovely. But I am not a fan of the classic completely free-flowing A-line skirt that starts just under the boobs. I know it’s supposed to be flattering, forgiving and adorable, but in the words of my ever-supportive Male Compatriot, I “look preggo. Like, really upscale, sophisticated preggo.” Therefore, I am an avowed babydoll dress hater.

Enter the XL blue silk maxi dress I found at Goodwill. I was supposed to be shopping for my sister (I did find her some cute dresses) but when I saw the two plus yards of gorgeous, fragile, warm-to-the-touch, beautiful, shimmery Havasupai-Falls-blue silk hanging on a return rack, I flipped. I mean, how could I NOT?


But seriously. How could I not?

Breathlessly, I rushed to the cash register. “This is $6.99, right?” I demanded.

“Uhhhh… yes?” the cashier responded dubiously. “It’s a little cold for a dress like that, though, gonna snow tonight.”

“It’s SILK,” I told him.

He was visibly unimpressed.

Undaunted, I set about the task of fretting over what to do with it. Ultimately I decided on a floaty halter dress, and that turned into the babydoll that you see at the top of this post.

The process:

It took me almost a month to dare to cut into this fabric. The dress? Hated it. Didn’t want to look at it. The silk? Fragile and terrifying, beautiful and unapproachable. At last I decided to use the smallest number of cuts and new seams that I possibly could. And a good thing, too; as I suspected, any sort of sewing leaves little holes in the fabric.

This is the professional seam.

This is the professional strap seam. So many micro tears!

Essentially, the body of the dress was a short, transparent tank-top dress layered over a strangely tiered long tube dress. The top was somehow three layers thick. Still not 100% sure how it was put together, even after I dismantled it. Some crazyface just assembled random shapes and called it a maxi dress.

I just cut off the very bottom tier, turned it inside out, and took in the sides a little bit by hand so it tapered slightly to the waist. (I was going to leave it as it was to avoid even that much sewing, but the ‘pregnant’ comment popped out of the Male Compatriot’s mouth again. To be fair to him, he realized his mistake immediately and apologized. They can be taught!)

I took the one-layer middle tier and sewed a long rectangle from it, binding the inside edges with turquoise bias tape. This I attached to the top of the dress-rectangle to make a halter with a moderately low back. I don’t do strapless.

NOTE: This is an easy method to make a halter dress; just take a tube of fabric and attach a collar/ribbon/something to the center front. When you tie the ribbon/collar around your neck, you’ll have a halter dress. Easy peasy. Adjust as needed in case the fit is off, which it probably will be — it’s not the most sophisticated method of making a dress!

Finally, I took an old ivory-colored bra I don’t like to wear and sewed it to the inside layer. I was going to skip this step also, but the dress is a tad-bit see through when back lit. The back of the dress was too low to wear with a bra, too, as well as being a little bit dangerously loose for a fidgety person like me. The bra attachment fixes both of these problems. I just cut off the straps and attached the rest intact. The bra band holds the dress up, in place, and keeps the halter front from slipping away from my body when I bend over. And the cups serve their usual purpose.

I could have achieved the same effect by attaching some plain elastic in the back and bra cups that are meant to be sewn into dresses, but I had the bra lying around, so I went with it.

All of the sewing was done by hand, except for the binding on the scarf-neck; I don’t have a rounded point sewing machine needle, and I wanted to minimize the needle damage.

The end result? A loose-ish dress that moves and clings just right. When the light hits it, you can see a suggestion of the outline of my body without being able to see, say, the color of my underwear. I would feel comfortable wearing it around my grandparents, but it’s still beautiful and not sack-like, like so many dresses of this style.

The fabric really makes this dress: the color spectrum (the fabric looks different in every light and from every angle, as you can partially see from the photos) is one of my favorites and it’s so floaty it practically defies gravity. I do have to be a bit careful turning against the wind, or it becomes a Marylin moment! But overall, it’s floaty, feminine, and just a bit see-through. I think I’m in love.



    • Jessie

      Thanks! It was super easy to make, probably under 3 hours in all not counting time spent being scared to mess with the silk.

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