Modest maxi dress with nursing access

I love the look of maxi dresses, but the problem is usually either they show too much skin for my preference, or you can’t nurse in them, or both. So I have been drifting off into my head (and probably giving the kids permission to do all kinds of things without realizing) and thinking of so many ideas for how to make one that is both modest and nursing friendly. This is one of them.

I will admit up front, this is a total cheat, because it starts with a ready-to-wear item from the store. But I still think it’s rather brilliant, so I will share it with you because it’s oh-so-easy, too!

I started with a clearance knit shirt (in my size, maybe slightly bigger) that had a button placket half way down the shirt.

$3!! sweet

Next I measured about an inch or inch and a quarter below the bottom of the detail (to leave room for a seam allowance) and cut.

Scissors work too! Just mark it all around with some pins or soap first.

Turn the shirt inside out and lay it front side up on the table. Make sure the seams are showing on either side, even if you have to get it a little scrunched up in the middle.

Tuck in the sleeves, too and make sure the seam is showing on the front side.

Take the bottom half of the shirt and cut close to the seams on each side. I am using this as an underlayer panel to the dress top.

Now flip that piece we cut from the bottom half, so that the hem is up by the neckine of the shirt. Face it down on top of the inside out shirt so the finished edge is facing the front side.

Line it up the way you want it - either above the neckline (if it's too low for you) or below (if you don't want it to show when you aren't nursing).

Smooth out the under panel and start pinning it along the sides - pin the underpanel to the SEAMS only.

We want to catch in just the seam allowance and not any part of the garment.

all pinned - time to stitch!

This is shown seam allowance side up, panel side down. Stitch it along the edge, pulling out the pins before they reach the needle. If the underarm seam is too tricky just skip that spot and hand stitch it later. Sew it all along the panel edge.

repeat for the other side, turn inside out, and try it on. If it fits right, trim the excess off the sides of the panel, and you're done!

Next is just making the skirt out of coordinating fabric, and attaching it. Important – leave the whole bottom edge of the under-panel free when you stitch the skirt on. The nursing access is to lift the bottom of the panel to nurse. Since this is knit, it stretches fine for that purpose and it won’t fray.

Here’s the dress I finished yesterday:

The bottom I used here was just a regular tiered type deal. I shirred most of the top tier to give it a bit more fitted look under the empire waist. I think you could figure out your own preference on the skirt, but if you want I can provide the dimensions I used for mine. I also added pockets. If you’re interested in a pocket tutorial I can certainly do that soon, too. Just let me know in the comments!

There are so many possibilities for this sort of top – such as a peasant style top with elastic neckline, a cowl style neckline, etc – this method would still work, and you get a perfectly matched underlayer for nursing modesty. I wish I needed as many dresses as I have ideas! Ha. Good thing I am already severely limited by there only being 24 hours a day. And, you know, having to feed the kids occasionally.

What do you think? Have any other ideas?

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6 Responses to Modest maxi dress with nursing access

  1. Emily says:

    I like it! I’m a sucker for a voluminous skirt šŸ™‚

  2. Erin says:

    Very cool! Question: when you cut the fabric out for the top tier, did you make it the same width as the bottom of the shirt, shirred the tier, then stretched a bit to match the bottom of the shirt as you sewed them together? I hope that makes sense.

    • Sarah says:

      My top tier was about 10″ wider than the shirt so I basically had to gather it. I used the shirring as a guide rather than put an extra basting stitch at the top, though. You could do it whichever way.

  3. Lori says:

    oh i love this šŸ™‚

  4. Sheila says:

    This is great! I’m always trying to find ways to make nursing clothes out of the clothes I have.

  5. jamie says:

    YOU ARE MY HERO ! I have been wondering about how to do this and not nearly as creative as you ! Thanks for sharing ! Found your blog from modest inspirations and support and wanted to see your beautiful family profile pic ! so then I found your link to your blog ! thank you again so much …your dress turned out beautifully BTW ~ And you have A gorgeous family! We have seven too, Catholic and baking in Texas ! Love your blog hope to follow it ! I especially like the whats for dinner post, my kids do the same thing to me !

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