inspiration: Dresses


Being on holidays inspires in my all sorts of fun and summery DIYs. As you may have noticed, I’m currently loving all things off the shoulder, and what’s more relaxed and beach to bar-ish than a piece that works both as a cover up and a dress? Ok so to be honest, without any lining this piece best functions over bikinis, which works a treat here in Thailand where I’m currently travelling, but probably not so much at home during after work drinks. However, using a less sheer fabric or by adding a slip or lining, this style of dress could have a million different lives, and it’s surprisingly easy to make!

Make a simple off the shoulder beach dress

Wearing DIY dress, J Crew bag and shoes, H&M hat (I love this), Daniel Wellington Watch

Easy off the shoulder dress Easy off the shoulder dress

You need:

  • 2 m (2.4 yards) of heavy (perhaps sheer) fabric, lace style would work well
  • Scissors
  • 2.5cm (1 in) elastic
  • A sewing machine

Simple off the shoulder dress

How to:

So, this dress is really easy because it’s pretty much 2 big squares and 2 big rectangles, that’s all you need. I used fabric which didn’t require hemming which made the process even easier! Refer to the pattern below to understand how that works.

If you’re referring to this off the shoulder top I made recently, note there is a major difference in construction – the top was created  using three gathered tubes each with separate elastic, however this dress is a body and arms attached with one piece of elastic gathering it at the top – making it a little more simple.

Easy off the shoulder dress

1. Cut your fabric pieces out.

Simple off the shoulder dress

2. Now sew your body section by sewing seams up the sides of the large pieces of fabric, stopping 10cm (4 inches) from the top. This is where you will attach arms on each side. Essentially what you will have is a tube with open top seams.

Easy off the shoulder dress

3. Fold and sew the seams of your arms, once again leaving around 10cm (4 in) open at the end, this is where you are going to jigsaw your arms and body together. Can you see how this is coming along?

Easy off the shoulder dress

4. Sew the arms to the body, making sure you sew the seams on the same side (inside out) as the side seams, otherwise you’ll have to unpick and start again!

Easy off the shoulder dress

5. It will look lil this once the arms have been sewn on.

Easy off the shoulder dress

6. If your fabric has holes such as mine did all you have to do is thread the elastic through the whole way around the fabric (making sure to leave an inch at the top for ruffling) and then tie it off once the elastic meets. If your fabric doesn’t have holes, I suggest you sew a hem and seam for the elastic as you would for a gathered skirt and insert the elastic that way.

Easy off the shoulder dress

Voila! Will definitely be adding some skin coloured lining to this when I get back to Hong Kong!

Easy off the shoulder dressEasy off the shoulder dress

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Because of travelling quite a lot recently I haven’t had the chance to hit my favourite thrift store as much as I would like, but a little while ago I got a chance to do a full afternoon wandering the racks and was rewarded with loads of cool pieces – and some not so cool things I thought might make great fodder for before & after projects. Once such item was this denim shift dress – long, unshapely and generally not something you’d catch me wearing. However, given the summer season I thought it might be fun to make myself a summer pleated dress, a little bit 90’s, and little bit Balmain and a whole lot of satisfaction when it was done. This was my first experience with pleating and let’s just say it was an eye opener!

Transform a simple denim shift dress

Wearing: J Crew Bag, DIY dress, Daniel Wellington Watch, Zara heels, Thierry Lasry Sunglasses

This is said shift dress and what I did to it:

Transform a simple denim shift dress www.apairandasparediy.comTransform a simple denim shift dress

You need:

  • A shift dress
  • Scissors
  • A sewing machine
  • Needle and thread

How to:

1. I started by chopping the dress off at the point at which I wanted the pleats to start.

Transform a simple denim shift dress

2. Because the shift dress was very long I was able to create two panels for the skirt part, allowing me to create much more volume with the pleats.

Transform a simple denim shift dress

3. I then trimmed those panels to the same length and sewed them together so I had one long panel, then sewed the hem of the part of the panel that had originally sat in the middle of the dress.

Transform a simple denim shift dress

4. I then took in the top so it was fitting on my body.

Transform a simple denim shift dress

5. Now it’s time to create the pleats. I decided I wanted to create box pleats so they had a one over one under look (rather than side pleats like a netball skirt where they all face the same direction. What I did to do this was to measure both the bodice and the skirt panel, and decide on a pleat size that would divide perfectly (or approximately in my case) – thus allowing the panel piece of the skirt to fit together with the bodice. I worked out a pleat of 4cm wide (approx 1.5 in) would work well.

Transform a simple denim shift dress

6. To create the box pleats I turned the fabric over to the wrong side and did two side pleats (that’s two folds) facing each other, turning over to make sure the resulting box pleat was around 4cm wide. At times it was approximate but I didn’t really mind!

Box pleats

7. I pinned as I went, but found when I got to the end the last pleat was a little short so I had to go along and redistribute a bit so I could finish the last pleat – very much a case of working it out as I went along!

Transform a simple denim shift dress

8. I then pinned the pleats to the underside of the bodice.

Transform a simple denim shift dress

9. Using the sewing machine, I secured the pleats to the bodice.

Transform a simple denim shift dress


Transform a simple denim shift dress

Outfit photos by Marion Tessier


A matching midriff top and skirt combo have been on my wish list for some time, a good year in fact. I always kind of knew it might be possible to make a set myself out of a simple dress, but could never find the right print or pattern in my local thrift store. Recently I was there on a mission to find something completely different entirely and stumbled upon a not so cute fitted dress with a windowpane pattern (aka oversized checks), and knew what I wanted to do with it. It was a very simple cut and wasn’t flattering at all as a dress but somehow worked as a two piece. Hurrah!


diy midriff top and skirt

Wearing:  DIY midriff top and skirt combo, Tony Bianco heels, J Crew bag, Coach watch

You need:

  • a fitted dress
  • scissors
  • needle and thread
  • a metal open end zip
  • thread
  • pins

Before and after cropped two piece

How to:

1. First thing to do is to lay the dress on its front and unzip it.

Before and after cropped two piece (2)

2. Measure where you want to cut the dress in half and cut it using sharp scissors. I used the grid print as a guide. Make sure that the zip teeth are further down than where you cut it in half, thus leaving it attached to the skirt part.

Before and after cropped two piece (3)

3.  Note where the zipper is.

Before and after cropped two piece (4)

4. I then cut the hem a little so it sat about knee length. Be careful with this because in the next steps you are going to turn the waistband over which will make the skirt shorter anyway.

Before and after cropped two piece (5)

5. I rolled the hem and secured with pins.

Before and after cropped two piece (6)

6. I did the same with the waistband.

Before and after cropped two piece (7)

7. When you get around to the zip you can cut the zip away from the fabric because it won’t roll.

Before and after cropped two piece (8)

8. I then rolled the hem of the midriff top and secured with pins.

Before and after cropped two piece (13)Before and after cropped two piece (9)

9. To close the back I added an exposed zip over the top of where the old zip was. My mum would probably look at this and think ‘this is so not how I taught her to add a zip’ which would be very true but it was the easiest way and I like the look of the exposed zip (post justification…).

Before and after cropped two piece (10)

10. I lined up the bottom of the zip with the edge of the hem so that it can be opened completely so you can get in and out of the top.

Before and after cropped two piece (11)

11. Give the whole outfit a good iron so everything is nice and flat and then start to sew all the hems and edges as well as the zip. Finish off with another good iron and you’re ready to wear it!

Before and after cropped two piece (14)

And there you go! I was lucky to find such an on trend print in the thrift store, good luck!

DIY checked two piece 3 DIY checked two piece 10 DIY checked two piece 2

Thanks to lovely (and amazingly talented) Bridget Fleming for taking the outfit photos – we had such a fun day shooting!