Catching some rays in the backyard in my finished dress.
Projects, Sewing

DIY Smocked Maxi Dress

With this tutorial and a few stitches you can easily create yourself a dress. Smocked fabric is easy to work with and gives the project lovely detail once it’s finished.

Shows the detail of smocking.

Smocking is a technique where fabric is gathered and sewn in a way so it can stretch. We’re not going to be doing the smocking ourselves, that’s too advanced for me to tackle, but you can pick up smocked fabric at your local fabric shop.

Take a bust measurement before you go. To measure your bust, bring the tape measure around your back pulling it to the front and around the fullest part of your bust. Make sure to wear a bra while taking this measurement if you plan on wearing one with the dress.

When buying the fabric it is measured from the end that does not have the smocking. The fabric does stretch, but having enough that the smocking stretches comfortably will also help add fullness to the skirt. For my dress I purchased 1-½ meters.

This is the tropical patterned fabric I chose for the project.

You’ll need:

  • Fabric
  • Matching thread
  • Scissors
  • Stitch ripper (if you’re lucky or just plan good, you won’t need it)
  • Pins
  • Tape measure
  • A second set of hands to help pin the hem (optional, but it will save time)

This project took roughly 3 hours to complete. Not adding straps and having an extra set of hands would have cut that time down considerably.

Putting right sides together pin the edges of the fabric together from top to bottom forming a tube shape, this will be the back seam. Sew in the back seam with a ¼” seam allowance. At this point you almost have a finished dress. You can now slip it on to make sure it’s not too loose and see where it needs to be hemmed.

Sewing in our back seam.

Even with choosing a maxi dress style, the fabric was still too long for me. Several inches needed to be taken off. It would have been more accurate and probably less time consuming. if I had someone there to help figure out the length. However with it being just me I took some pins and stood in front of a mirror, pinning up the hem to the length I liked. I kept telling myself it’s good for the abs to keep bending over to pin and straightening out to survey the progress. I wore sandals while I did this just to make sure I wasn’t pinning it too short and was still easy to walk in. You could also take the hem up and make a midi or mini dress as well. Once you find the perfect length add ¾” and cut away the extra.

I didn’t want to leave a raw edge for the hem; I also don’t have a serger, so to start I sewed a line in ¼” from the bottom edge all around the skirt. Then folded in on that line and sewed around ¼”. Lastly folding in once more on that previously stitched line and sewed around ¼”. This will fully enclose the raw edge of the hem.


The dress is now complete. Or not. How about some straps?

This is down to personal preference. Since my bra straps would be showing I would want them to match the colour of the dress so they blend in. Not having anything to match the next best option is to cover them up. Since I had several inches of fabric I cut off from the bottom, I certainly had enough for straps.

Using the leftover, I cut two pieces 19” long and 5” wide. Again the width of the straps is down to personal preference. Using the same method as we did for the hem, I enclosed the edges on both sides of each strap.

These straps are have had the sides stitched up and are waiting to be added to the dress.

To determine the proper strap placement before sewing them on, I tried on the dress again and pinned the straps in place. It’s easier with help but if you are on your own, get the placement of the back of each strap sorted out first and move on to the front. Sew the straps down and try on once more just to make sure everything is how you want it.

To give you some ideas, this is an example of a shorter length of dress that also happens to be strapless. It’s a smock dress a friend made for me.


You’re all finished. Now it’s time to head to the ice cream shop and enjoy what summer has to offer.


4 thoughts on “DIY Smocked Maxi Dress”

      1. Hello Maven! Sorry for the delay on replying. I’ve been so busy this weekend. I look forward to reading more of your posts and I’ll keep adding more posts of mine for you to enjoy. Thanks!


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