Greetings spotted quolls! You guys freak me out with your cute, catlike looks and carrion-eating ways. I know you’re all like “we have luxurious spotted fur, we don’t need no stinking’ dresses,” but I’m thinking you might be interested in THIS… the cabana dress!

I’m on a maxi dress kick, aren’t I, you adorable spotted meat-eaters, you… first the Tribal Maxi and now this! And guess what… there’s more in the hopper. These are SUPER comfy and fun to wear! I used Kwik Sew 3856 and made it from Anna Maria Horner voile with a bit of contrast voile from our newest line at the shop, Prince Charming from Tula Pink. I’m loving how I laid out the pattern – I didn’t take any photos of it, but the patterns match at the side seams of the skirt for extra awesomeness!

This particular dress is a sample for the shop as I’m teaching it as a class at the end of July. I was super excited when I saw the pattern while flipping through the Kwik Sew catalog… it’s a very easy dress to sew up, it’s super on-trend AND it’s a great dress for all the lovely voiles that we’re getting in the shop!

Speaking of voile, a lot of folks are concerned that these fabrics are too transparent for garments. A reasonable question as the fabric appears to be see-through. I’d like to let you ferocious night hunters know that I’m wearing a black bra AND a white denim skirt under mine (don’t ask, it was a long day) and it barely shows!

Living with a surplice

I’ll address the most difficult design aspect first. The neckline. This dress has a full-on surplice neckline. Does anyone know what a surplice neckline is? Anyone? OK, you in the front row (she’s such a know-it-all) From the website Wise Geek “In fashion, a surplice is a diagonally crossed neckline and/or bodice. It is also thought of as a "faux wrap" style and creates a deep v-shaped neckline. The surplice is a fashionable and very feminine look used for women’s clothing, yet, ironically, it was inspired by garments worn by men.”

This type of neckline is a bugaboo for large busted quolls, as it usually is ridiculously revealing. Of course, there’s always the option of wearing the cami underneath for coverage, but I’m not a fan of that look and I feel odd just wearing a tank top under a dress. Like I forgot my pants. I often hand tack the neckline into place right where it crosses and forms a ‘V’. For this dress, I thought I needed to pull out the big guns. I put the dress on, smoothed and carefully pinned the neckline at a more modest point than my belly button. Then I took off the dress, and checked that I hadn’t pinned in any strange wrinkles. Finally, I carefully restitched along the topstitching that was already on the neckline. I’ve darkened my stitchline in the picture below so you can see what I’m talking about.

Here it is from the inside – you can see on the left hand side the floating stitchline from my fix! You can also see all my crazy stitching lines. Grr.

The waistband

The pattern uses a novel method (well, novel to me) of creating the elastic casing at the waist. The seam allowances for most of the dress are 1/4”, but at the waist the instructions are to attach the bodice to the waist with a 5/8” seam then press the seam down and edgestitch so that the seam allowance becomes the casing. I didn’t want the raw edges, so I attached the bodice and skirt with a french seam. I sewed wrong sides together, trimmed the seam allowance to 1/8”, then turned right sides together and pressed. Then I sewed with a 5/8” allowance – I think I might have gone a little deeper than that, actually.

Here’s a photo of the inside of the dress. The french seam is indicated by the pink arrow. The lower line of blue stitching is the edgestitching that forms the casing. the upper line of blue stitching is the second part of my french seam where I sewed with the deep 5/8” seam allowance.

Here’s the view from the right side of the dress.

More finishing!

I used a variety of methods to finish the dress – serging, french seams and, well..Serging and french seams. All of the raw edges are finished very simply according to the pattern instructions. Just overcast the raw edge, turn under 1/4 inch and topstitch. Easy, but somewhat difficult to do on the arms AND the neckline, what with all those curves. The lightweight fabric really wanted to make some nice wrinkles when it got stretched a bit. I stay stitched the neckline and used my new walking foot and managed to get through it!

The hem

I did a few adjustments to the pattern – I added 2” of length to the bodice, 4 inches of width to the skirt and did a 1” FBA. I don’t know if any of these adjustments were all that necessary. I’d already purchased and washed the voile, so when I started to cut I realized that the 2” I’d added to the bodice left me about an eigth of a yard short on the skirt section. Luckily, we’d gotten in some new fabrics that went well with my main fabric, so I added a border section. I just cut about 8” off the bottom of the skirt pattern and cut the contrast fabric from the pattern pieces, adding about 1” to the top (for seam allowances) by eyeballing it while I was cutting. I love the small repetitive print with the swoopy, feathery main fabric! I also love how it is just to the WTF side of matching, color-wise.

The last word – Kwik Sew 3856/3868, The Cabana Dress

fabric: Main fabric: cotton voile from Anna Maria Horner’s Innocent Crush Collection (Slow Dance in Golden, available online); contrast fabric from Tula Pink’s Prince Charming collection (Box Hexagon in Indigo, available online)

pattern: Kwik Sew 3856 (XS – XL), Kwik Sew 3868 (1X – 4X)

notions: thread, interfacing (the sew-in kind!)

time to complete: 30 minutes to adjust pattern, 15 minutes to cut, 30 minutes to sew, 30 minutes to hem, 10 minutes to tack down the surplice neckline

likelihood to make another?: 100% I already have the fabric sitting in my work bag!

curvy girl score – 8 The long skirt is fun to wear and is nice and cool while providing coverage. I really like the empire waistline and the kimono sleeves as well. The neckline is trick for a larger bust but is easy to fix right out of the envelope by pairing with a tank or tacking as I did. Kwik Sew gets double gold stars for releasing a woman’s version going up to 4X (I started with XL and did my adjusting, due to my narrow, wimpy shoulders!)

Bonus picture!

Nikol, my lovely boss and head fabric buyer (aka ‘pusher) made the knee length version out of another of the Tula Pink voiles we got in (available online). Blue is certainly her color, isn’t it??




  1. […] just need to state up front that this is a blatant copy of Patty’s awesome cabana dress.  I fell in love with her version of Kwik Sew 3856 (she made a few, and they’re all good). […]

  2. Cynthia Peacock says:

    I just finished sewing that dress. I think you did a fantastic job–I especially liked her styling. I didn’t like how the pattern finished the neckline edges, so I took the interfacing pattern and used it as a facing. It fit like a glove. If it hadn’t called for 1/4-inch seems, I would have used French seams throughout. Instead, I used seam binding on the garment. I’m like you, I don’t like raw edges. I used a washable rayon challis. I think this pattern looks much better made up than on the envelope.

  3. […] handmade, blogged here sneaks: Target card: New York & […]

  4. MadeByMeg says:

    I LOVE this! Nice touch with the placing of the pattern, too, especially at the hemline.You look gorgeous!
    MadeByMeg recently posted..Sheer SummerMy Profile

  5. […] one is ALMOST the same as my first version (the Cabana Dress.) I’d done a 1″ full bust adjustment (FBA) and added about 2″ of length to the […]

  6. Hetty says:

    I just finished making a dress out of this pattern. I do love it but being busty wish I had been confident enough to add a few inches to the bodice. I’ve already cut out another but I shortened up the skirt so that it will be a very full shirt.

    Think I need to buy fabric to make this a maxi dress.

    Is there an easy change to the sleeves to help change up the look?

  7. Amy says:

    This is absolutely stunning on you… the color, fabric, shape (and your hair is lovely). It's the perfect summer dress. I agree with others–a head-turner.

  8. ms. modiste says:

    This fabric is so fantastic – both on its own, and on you! The colour combo is so great!

  9. What-I-Found says:

    Lovely fabric made into a wonderful dress…you'll turn heads every time you wear it!

  10. Lynneb says:

    Patty, do you have the Kwik Sew patterns available at your shop? Would love to have one.

  11. sarajane says:

    OOOH! Lovely, lovely dress.. just love the mustard and teal and the WTF match! You have perfect timing (in regards to my sewing), as I am in the midst of sewing a Diane Kimono Dress from Serendipity Studios, which is remarkably similar to your Kwik Sew pattern. The current project is a wearable muslin/nightgown, before I tackle the small stack of voile I've accumulated. So pleased to hear the voile isn't as see through as it seems!

  12. whistlepeaknits says:

    It looks great! I have a similar Simplicity pattern that I'm planning to make soon out of jersey. I'm glad to see that this style looks decent on you because we're similarly shaped.

  13. Elle says:

    Your dress looks amazing! I've been eyeing that AMH print online, but the thumbnails I've seen simply do not do it justice! Gorgeous! And I love your border hem.

  14. Tanit-Isis says:

    Woot, maxi-dresses! You're going to have me sewing up another one here soon if you don't watch out. That's the same elastic-casing-sewing method the 70s maxi-dress I made last summer uses. Although I'll confess, the half-inch elastic in that dress feels pretty flimsy. If I did it again I'd increase the seam allowances and use a 1" elastic.

  15. LAP says:

    I totally love how the AMH voile looks in this maxi! The feathers all seem perfectly placed, and the saffron (ha ha or mustard- you just can't limit me to "yellow" with this one Patty!) suits you so well! I love Nikol's version too, that aqua makes her eyes electric!

  16. Evie says:

    I adore this dress. The print is fab and the colors are great on you!

  17. Claire (aka Seemane) says:

    Luv, luv, luv it!
    The dress is beautiful on you Patty & that colour 'n' pattern is gorgeous – it certainly needs the length of a maxi-dress such as yours to show it off properly :)

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