The Sauvie Sundress Sewing Tutorial


     Welcome to the Sauvie Sundress sewing tutorial! We've been in the middle of a big move that has taken us away from the usual workload and so I am a bit behind with this tutorial. But...I'm so relieved that I managed to get it up on the blog before the end of the summer (a huge accomplishment right now haha). 

     Sauvie is such a timeless summer dress and I have been living in mine. There are four versions, two pocket options, three hem finishes, two waist finishes and two hem lengths, but you can mix and match any of the version's features.  

  • Front & Back V-necklines - the back neck is low but should just barely cover a bra.
  • Shoulder straps that cover bra straps with optional bra keeper snaps.
  • Bust Darts
  • Pockets: Version A= topstitched, single layer pockets; Version B= in-seam, loose pockets
  • Version #1 - loose at the waist with above the knee hem.
  • Version #2 - loose waist, midi length with side vents.
  • Version #3 - wide elasticized waist, midi hem, A-line skirt.
  • Version #4 - wide elasticized waist, midi hem length with bottom ruffle.

    We will be sewing up version #3 here but also interjecting instructions for the elastic waist (versions #3 & #4) as well as the ruffle (version #4).  

    Fabric & Sundries: Although linen is a top choice for the Sauvie Sundress, you can use just about any woven fabric that isn't too stiff or heavy. If you'd like your dress to have some drape, you might choose a linen/viscose blend, rayon challis, silk charmeuse or crepe de chine. Whatever you choose, be sure to wash your fabric first to avoid excess shrinkage (unless you are using a fabric that you plan to dry clean).

    For versions #1 & #2, you only need fabric, thread and a small amount of light-weight fusible interfacing. 

     For versions #3 & #4, you will also need 1 1/2" wide elastic - preferably something soft so it doesn't cut into your waist. If you plan to make the optional bra keeper chain, you will also need two sets of small snaps - we suggest size 8mm or 2/0 but other sizes may work. 

    Fit & Adjustments: Although this is a pretty quick and simple sew and the fit is fairly loose, I highly suggest making a toile or at least cutting only the lining and straps out first. You only need to create the darts, baste the straps to the lining and baste the side seams together and then try it on to make sure the darts are in the correct place and the straps are the correct length before cutting into the rest of your fabric.  Also, if you are making version #1 or #2, you can shorten the lining if it feels too long. The lining goes to the waist because it is used to make the elastic tunnel. 

    Let's get started!


    Staystitch the neckline and armhole edges of the FRONT DRESS (1) and BACK DRESS (2) . Start your stitching about 1/4” (6mm) away from the top edge. Stitch from the shoulder to the center front or back and shoulder to underarm on both sides.


    Staystitch the armhole edges of the FRONT LINING (3) and BACK LINING (4) pieces to keep them from stretching out. Stitch from the shoulder to the underarm on both armholes.


    Interfacing applied to front and back lining at the neckline.Apply the FRONT NECK INTERFACING (10) to the wrong side of the FRONT LINING (3) at the neckline. Apply the BACK NECK INTERFACING (11) to the wrong side of the BACK LINING (4) at the neckline. Place the interfacing 1/8” (3mm) down from the neck edge.


    Folded and pinned dart.1 a. With right sides together, pinch the fabric along the center of one FRONT DRESS (1) dart to match the notches and dart legs and pin in place.

    Repeat for the other dart. 

    Dart pinned along leg and at tipSewing the dart

    Stitch the dart legs together from the side seam to the dart tip. Stop sewing at the tip without backtacking. 

    Repeat for the other dart.


    Tying long thread tails at the tip of the dart.

    Leave long thread tails and hand tie them into a knot. Trim the threads and press the dart downward.

    Repeat for the second dart.


    A tailor's hamTIP - When pressing darts, it’s best to use a tailor’s ham so as not to flatten or press the shape out of your garment that the dart created.


    Ironing dart with a tailor's ham


    Dress lining with sewn and pressed darts

    Press the darts towards the bottom. 

    Repeat these dart steps on the FRONT LINING (3) piece.

    Pocket piecesFinish the outer edges of the POCKET OPENING FACING (5) pieces and the round, outer edges of the POCKET (7) pieces with a serger or a zig-zag stitch.


    Pocket facing piece sewn to dress front

    With right sides together, match the notched edge of the POCKET OPENING FACING (5) piece to the FRONT DRESS (1) matching notches. Stitch the POCKET OPENING FACING (5) to the FRONT DRESS at 3/8“ (10mm.)


    Seam allowance of pocket facing with clipped curves Clip the seam allowances along the curved edges. Do this by carefully clipping through the seam allowances to the stitch line, taking care not to clip through the stitch line.


    Understitching seam allowance of pocket facingPress the seam towards the facing and understitch along the POCKET OPENING FACING (5) following the seam line, catching the seam allowance in the stitching on the facing side.


    Pocket facing understitching from the front

     Understitching shown on the right side.


    Pocket facing understitching from the back

    Understitching shown on the wrong side.


    Pin pocket facing to wrong side of dress frontPress the POCKET OPENING FACING (5) towards the wrong side of the FRONT DRESS and pin in place. 


    Pocket facing stitching

    With the wrong side up, topstitch a fat 1/8” (3mm) away from the outer finished edge of the POCKET OPENING FACING (5) to secure it to the FRONT DRESS.


    Pocket facing stitched down from the right side of dress front

    Pocket Facing stitching shown on the right side.


    Pockets pinned to dress frontWith the wrong side facing up, place the POCKET (7) on top of the FRONT DRESS at the pocket opening. Match the notches along the side seam and Pocket Opening Facing edges. Pin in place.


    Pockets stitched to wrong side of dress frontWith the wrong side up, topstitch a fat 1/8” (3mm) away from the curved finished outer edge of the POCKET (7) to secure it to the FRONT DRESS (2). Baste the POCKET to the sides above and below the opening. Repeat all steps for the other POCKET.


    Pocket stitching from right side of dress front

    The Pocket shown stitched down from the right side.


    Straps, folded, sewn, turned right side out, pressedWith right sides together, fold one STRAP (8) lengthwise matching the long edges. Stitch the sides together with a  3/8“ (10mm) seam allowance.

    Turn the STRAP (8) right side out and with the seam to one side, press. Repeat for the other STRAP (8). Apologies that I don't have a photo for this step but you can see them turned right side out below.


    Baste straps to dress frontWith right sides together, baste one short edge of each STRAP (8) to the FRONT DRESS (1), centered at the shoulders and with the strap seams both facing the same direction (either outward or inward). Use a 1/4” (6 mm) seam allowance.


    Bottom edge of lining, with seam allowance turned up and pressedFor VERSIONS #3 and #4 fold the bottom edges of the FRONT LINING (3) and BACK LINING (4) pieces to the wrong side at 3/8” (10mm) and press. 


    Pin front lining to dress front at armholes, shoulder, necklineWith right sides together, attach the FRONT LINING (3) to the FRONT (1). Match the FRONT LINING (3) to the FRONT DRESS (1) at the neckline, armhole, and shoulder, sandwiching the STRAP (8) pieces and pin in place.


    Front lining sewn to dress front

    Start stitching along one armhole from the side seam to the shoulder, pivot at the shoulder stitch across, pivot to the neckline and continue around the other shoulder and armhole using a 3/8”/10mm seam allowance. Reinforce the center V by stitching right on top of the previous stitch line starting and ending about 3” - 4” (7.5cm - 10cm) on either side of the center V.

    *Take care not to catch the strap in the stitching. Move the strap out of the way at each corner.

    Clip the seam allowances at the center front neckline and along the curves of the armholes. Trim off the shoulder points.


    Understitch front lining to seam allowance

    Next we will be understitching the seam allowances towards the lining side. This photo merely show my fingers pressing the seam allowances towards the lining.


    Understitch front lining to seam allowanceUnderstitch the FRONT LINING along the armhole and neckline edges following the seam and catching the seam allowances in the stitching on the lining side. Get as close to the shoulder as you can. It’s difficult to get your iron in the tight areas before understitching so you can also finger press the seam allowance towards the lining as you go. 


    Pull straps through to right sideTurn the FRONT LINING right side out by pulling on the STRAPS. Neatly press the neckline and armhole edges.


    Understitching on wrong side of dress front  The inside view of the lining and understitching all neatly pressed.

    Baste straps to dress back

    With right sides together, attach the straps to the BACK DRESS. There is a suggested strap length line indicated on the STRAP (8) piece, although the actual cut line extends past this line. Baste the straps to the BACK DRESS at the suggested length line, leaving the extra length untrimmed. If you find that the straps are too short after fitting, take out the basting stitches and reposition the straps at the correct length and trim the excess.


    Pin and sew back lining to dress back at armholes, shoulders, neckline

    Repeat the previous steps to attach the BACK LINING (4) to the BACK DRESS (2).

    *TIP - Try on the dress (drape it over your shoulders and adjust the length of the STRAPS if needed.



    Sew up side seamsTurn the FRONT LINING and BACK LINING pieces up and away from the FRONT DRESS and BACK DRESS. VERSIONS #3 and #4 un-fold the bottom pressed edges on the FRONT LINING and BACK LINING pieces.

    With right sides together, match the FRONT LINING and FRONT DRESS to the BACK LINING and BACK DRESS at the side seams. Match the notches on the BACK LINING with the darts on the FRONT LINING. Align underarms and notches on the FRONT DRESS with the BACK DRESS. Pin and stitch the side seams at 5/8” (16mm) seam allowance.


    On version 2, stitch side seam to dot at ventVERSION #2 - end your stitching at the vent dot.

     Clip into vent seam allowance at dotVersion #2 - Clip into the seam at the top vent corner.


    Finish side seams with serger or zigzag stitchFinish the side seams together and press towards the back or finish them separately and press them open. 


    Finished side seams to ventVERSION #2 - Finish the side seams above the vent.


    Press side seams towards back dressPress the side seams together towards the back or press them open if you finished them separately.


    Bring the facing pieces down to match the wrong sides of the dress. Press the armholes and underarms. 

    Secure the facing to the outer at the side seam underarm by stitching in the ditch about 1” (2.5 cm) down from the underarms through the side seams.


    Underarm "stitched in the ditch".


    Finish bottom of front and back liningFor VERSIONS #1 & #2 finish the bottom edge of the lining with a serger or a zig-zag stitch.

    For Versions #3 & #4, skip to the bottom of the page. For version #1, you will be simply hemming the bottom with a 3/8" turn up and another 3/4" turn up and a 5/8" hem.


    Press back vent edgesVersion #2 - Turn back the vent edges 1/4” (6mm) towards the wrong side and press. Clip the vent notch further into the side seam as close to the stitching as you can without clipping through it.


    Turn back vents againPress open the vent edges, turning them back 1 1/8” (2.9 cm.) Repeat with all four vent sides.

     Pressed vents and pressed hemAt the bottom of one vent, turn the hem to the wrong side at the 1st foldline, 1/4” (6 mm.) Press (you already pre-pressed the vent side earlier).


    Pressed vent and hemTurn the hem and side of the vent to the wrong side once more at the second hem foldline, 1 1/8” (3 cm) (you already pre-pressed the vent side in step earlier). Press using lots of steam to create crease lines.


    Pressed and unfolded vent and hemUnfold all pressed edges with the wrong side facing up. From pressing, you have created crease lines that form a grid pattern at the corner of the vent and hem. 


    Fold corner for mitered corner hemFold the corner to the wrong side at an angle that intersects the 2nd hemline crease lines at a 45 degree angle. Press.


    Diagonal fold mitered cornerUnfold the angled corner. Re-fold the hem and vent to the wrong side at the 1st hemline. With right sides together, fold the corner back on itself so it is in half, aligning the outer folded edges. 


    Mitered cornerThe most recent crease lines (made from pressing the corner) should align through the layers. Pin in place.


     Stitch mitered cornerStitch along the angled corner crease line. 


    Clip mitered cornerTrim off the excess bulk at the corner, leaving a 1/4” (6 mm) seam allowance.


    Press mitered cornerPress the seam allowances open as flat as you can. Repeat for all four corners.


    Press and pin vent hemTurn the corners right side out and neatly press the mitered corners. Pin vents and hems in place.


    Stitch vents and hemStitch the side vents and hem all in one go. The stitching will be 1/2” (1cm) above the top of the vent and 1” (2.5cm) around the side of the vents and the bottom hem. Start at the top of one vent and stitch across the top of the vent, pivot, stitch down the vent, pivot at the corner, stitch across the hem to the next corner, pivot, stitch up the side of the vent to the top of the vent and continue to the next vent until you return to the start.


    Finished vent and hemFINISHED Version 2!

    Elastic Waist Casing Versions #3 & #4

    *TIP - Turn your dress inside out and try it on to make sure that the lining is landing at your waistline before stitching it down. You can easily shorten the length if needed. If the lining is too long, you can pin the elastic around your waist and mark where the bottom lining fold for the elastic tunnel should be. Take off the dress and trim the lining down appropriately. The waistband should sit high on your natural waist.

    The waistline of the dress lining, pinned to the waistline of the Sauvie SundressRe-fold and press the bottom edge of the lining. Align the lining with the top of the dress, matching side seams and darts. Pin the lining to the dress waist along the bottom pressed edge of the lining.


    Edge stitch the waistline, leaving a 2" space at one side seamAttach the lining to the dress with an edgestitch along the bottom folded edge of the lining and leave a 2” (5 cm) opening at one of the side seams.


    Make an elastic casing. Mark your stitch line 1.75" up from the edgestitching. Create an elastic waist tunnel by stitching 1 3/4” (4.5 cm) above the first row of stitching on the lining. You can mark the top stitch line with chalk or pins or have a ruler handy while you are stitching.


    Insert elastic, using bodkin or safety pinCut a strip of elastic 1 1/2” (3.8 cm) longer than your waist measurement. Using a sturdy safety pin or bodkin, insert the elastic through the waist tunnel.


    Overlap elastic by 1", use wide zig zag to stitch togetherTry on the dress and adjust the length of the elastic for a desired fit. Trim the elastic if needed. Overlap the edges of the elastic 1” (2.5 cm) and stitch together by using 2 rows of stitching, or a wide zig-zag stitch. 


    Stitch closed the gap we inserted the elastic throughStitch the opening of the waist tunnel closed.

    Stretch the elastic and dress at the waistline and adjust the gathers of the fabric to be evenly distributed around the front and back waist. Using the steam setting on your iron, steam across the fabric gathers.


    Arrange the gathers evenly, stitch in the ditch along both side seamsAfter trying on your dress and adjusting the elastic, stitch in the ditch at the side seams of the waist tunnel to secure the elastic and keep it from rolling or twisting. Another option is to add two rows of stitching on top of the elastic by stitching 1/2” (1.3cm) above the outer tunnel stitch line, stretching the elastic so there are no gathers while you stitch.


    Skirt Ruffle Assembly for Version 4.

    With right sides together, attach the two SKIRT RUFFLE (9A (smaller standard sizes only)) pieces OR attach the four SKIRT RUFFLE (9B or 9 for curvy sizes) pieces together in the round at the short sides. Stitch together at 3/8”/10 mm seam allowance. Finish the seam allowances separately and press open.

    Turn the bottom SKIRT RUFFLE  up 3/8”/10mm towards the inside and press. Then turn it up another 3/4”/2 cm and press.

    Stitch the hem in place 5/8”/16 mm from the folded bottom edge. Press.


    Apologies as we didn't have a photo for steps 10a - 10b but they are pretty straightforward.


    Two rows of gathering stitches along the top edge of the skirt ruffle. Set your machine stitch length to the longest stitch length option and stitch 3/8” (10mm) away from the top SKIRT RUFFLE edge. Stitch from the side seam to side seam on the FRONT and again from side seam to side seam on the BACK. Make another row of stitching about 5/8”/16mm away from the edge and parallel to the 1st row of stitching. Leave the thread tails long and do not backstitch.


    Pull on long thread tails to gather the skirt ruffle fabric to fit the skirt bottom.With right sides together, pin the SKIRT RUFFLE to the bottom edge of the dress. Match and pin at the side seams, center front and center back notches. If using SKIRT RUFFLE, match the notches of the center panel to the dress side seam. Gently pull the thread tails on the SKIRT RUFFLE to create and adjust gathers to the dress. Distribute the gathers evenly.


    Sew gathered skirt ruffle to skirt bottom, between your lines of gathering stitchesAttach the SKIRT RUFFLE to the dress by stitching a 1/2”/13mm seam allowance (the stitching should be between the two gathering stitch rows).


    Finish the seam with a serger or zigzag stitch, press seam towards dressPull the basting stitches out once the final secured stitching is completed. Finish the seam with a serged edge or zig-zag stitch and press towards the dress.

     FINISHED Version 4!

    I hope you've enjoyed the Sauvie Sundress Tutorial! Stay tuned for some pattern hacks heading to the blog in the next few days.