Sewing for a Belly: The Airport Maxi Dress + tutorial

mad mim maternity sewing_airport maxi dress

So the night before we left for Austin last week I decided I needed (wanted) a comfy maxi dress for traveling the next day. Earlier that day I had been to Target and also looked through the latest Urban Outfitters catalog. I saw a maternity dress at Target with this simple draw string waistline that I liked, and was drawn to all the color-blocking I saw at Urban (and everywhere else this season).  So this dress marries the two, and I’ve got to say, I love it. Love it because I got compliments from strangers in the airport, and the flight attendant on the plane said “I just can’t believe how cute the maternity clothes they’re making these days are!” In addition to being totally stoked about such flattery, I was completely comfortable. I kinda want to live in this dress, cause really, it’s like wearing nothing–but softer.

So here’s how I did it. (Maxi dress tutorial is written assuming you already have basic sewing construction skills. Email me with any more specific questions.)

Round up:

-1 1/2 yards of soft jersey knit-fabric A (mine was 60″)

-1/4 yard of alternating knit-fabric B (mine was a stripe, and 60″)

-1/4 yard of another alternating knit-fabric C  (mine was a solid, and 60″)

-a normal, meaning non-maternity t-shirt pattern. If you don’t have one, then a) draft your own using my basic fitted t-shirt pattern tutorial–you’ll have to guess on your pre-pregnancy measurments, or 2)buy one at Twinkleann during one of their $0.99 sale.

-matching thread, a sewing machine, and a  good movie to watch while sewing.


Front and back + skirt panels:

Arrange your front pattern piece so the top center point is about  1/2″ away from the folded edge, and then angle it out so there is about 1 1/2″ from the bottom center point. Now measure about 36 1/2″ down from bottom armhole point and mark (see figure 1). That will be the length of the main part of your dress. Aligning with that point, measure out from the fold about 15 or 16″ and mark. This is the maximum width your dress will be. You can make this less or more wide if you’re smaller/larger than a M/L.

Now you are going to cut exactly around your pattern piece through the neckline and arm. For the sides you’re going to cut from that bottom arm point to your maximum width mark. It should be almost straight with a very very slight curve toward the dress (see figure 1 again).

Cut the bottom of your dress with another very slight curve downward.

Repeat with the back piece using the same method/distances. The main thing to watch is to make sure those side seams are the same length.

Now for the additional panels. These are simply rectangles cut from fabric B and C that measure the width of the dress (half the entire circumference, 31 1/2″ in my case) by 7 1’/4″. Cut 2 from each fabric.

*see figure 1.


cut sleeves according to your pattern.

Neck band:

cut a neckband in your alternating fabric B (the stripe) by cutting a rectangle on the bias 3″ by about 3/4’s the circumference of  the neck hole. So if the entire neck hole is 26″ (total estimate), then your neckband should measure about 19.5″.

Drawstring casing and tie:

Measure about 13 1/2″ down from the top shoulder seam and mark (see figure 2). This will be your empire waistline location. Measure the circumference at this point. Cut a rectangle strip from your main fabric (A) that measures about 85% of your total empire waistline circumference by 2″.  So my waistline measured 40″ and so my rectangle strip measured 2″ by 34 1/2″.  This is your drawstring casing.

Cut another long rectangle strip that measures about 1 1/4″ by 85″ from your alternating fabric C. This is your tie.

mad mim maxi-dress instructions

FIGURE 1mad mim maxi-dress instructions


Sew. All seam allowances are a scant 1/4″.

Make sure the sides of pieces front and back are the same length. Sew (serge, overlock stitch or use a slight zig-zag) panels from fabrics B and C to the bottom of both your front and back.

RST, sew front to back at shoulder seams.

Hem sleeves (use this hemming knit tutorial as a reference), and then attach them RST to the dress (top sleeve curve centered and pinned to shoulder seams and arm hole curve.  Side seams are NOT sewn together at this point.

Sew side seams together, being careful to match the skirt panels and stripes if needed.

Attach neckband using this neck and arm band tutorial. I  mis-aligned my raw edges to create a slight twist and add a little interest.

Hem bottom edge.

Now, make this a-line bag into a cute maxi!  Fold your drawstring casing strip RST, and sew down the entire length. Turn right sides out. Fold the very ends neatly inside and sew closed.  Iron so the seam is in the center.

Center the casing around that empire waistline you marked, and then pin and stitch down on either side (seamside down).

Make the tie by folding the strip RST and sew down the entire length. Turn right sides out. Knot the ends, and then fish through the drawstring casing.

You’re done! Now you have a great maxi that will last you through your whole belabored (blessed) pregnancy, and will be perf for hiding that detestable after-baby pooch.

mad mim maternity sewing_airport maxi dress

mad mim maternity sewing_airport maxi dress

mad mim maternity sewing_airport maxi dress

mad mim maternity sewing_airport maxi dress

Pattern: mad mim original–try it out!
Difficulty: So easy! I promise!
Fabric A: Hancock’s, $1.5 per yard
Fabric B stripe: thrifted, $1
Fabric C: handed down from a friend
Size: I’d say a M/L. But man, I’m definitely exiting from that M world about now….
Total cost: $3.25



Soooo…you mean you thought this up, designed it, AND made it all in one night!? Wow, you put me to shame! It looks gorgeous :o)

Amy Morby

This is AMAZING. Uh-mazing. I love maxis this season SO much. I just ordered one, but it’s definitely not as cute as this one!!

Beth M. Stephenson

Okay, Mim, I’ve decided to have another baby. . .unless I can have a cute dress like this without a pregnancy? Ideal for “dressing up” for Sunday without feeling like you need to change to take a nap. Thanks so much for the good directions.


LoL Beth! And Mim, that is awesome ‘I just can’t believe how cute the maternity clothes they’re making these days are!’ And you made & designed it!!!

Jade Mathews

It is a profitable skill. This skill on how to sew a dress helps you save money on seamstresses in altering clothes or fixing a tear. Having to fix your clothes yourself can save a huge percentage of your family budget.


I am loving that you did this series! I am so glad I found it. I just found it by googling for a ruched t tutorial, and found your review of the pattern. And then I found all these fantastic ideas. Thanks. I’m in the research phase of maternity clothes, but will be needing them really soon. I think it will probably hit me on Christmas Eve, and I will be scrambling around trying to make something work for a few days. I made my first belly band on Thanksgiving morning before dinner, to prove my luck. 🙂 Thanks again!

Ashley Heath

Great dress! And WOW, I love your hair style! Can you post a tutorial on that??? My hair could use some serious help in the styling department!


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