2-in-1 Sewalong: Wrap Dress Neckline

OK you guys, I decided to go out on a limb and try something new here. I was going to show you how to put elastic in the neckline area of the wrap dress version of Simplicity 1880 to keep it from gaping, but in all actuality I started working on it and it just never quite meshed. So that’s a technique that I need to work on a little more – hey I never said I was perfect. Right….? Anyway, then I started rethinking the neckline and decided on a bias binding technique that I had yet to try. I decided to give it a whirl on my wrap dress. End result? Ummmm GORGEOUS! I don’t know about you, but I have such a problem with bias binding. It always ends up looking like garbage. Seriously. The thing with bias binding on drapey fabric is that it gets all warped and starts looking thin in one area and fat in another. It’s the nature of the beast. So we’re going to work on counteracting that today. Let’s get started.

Step 1 ~ First you need to trim the seam allowance off of the neckline for the wrap dress. By the way, it’s only 3/8″.

Step 2 ~ Now you need to figure out how wide you want your bias binding to be. I picked 3/8″, which is .375 in decimals. Take that number and times it by 8 and you have the width of the bias strips you need to cut. My bias strips are 3″. Cut 3 of those.

Step 3 ~ Measure the back section of the neckline, from shoulder seamline to shoulder seamline. Mine measured 6 1/2″. From there take 1″ away from that, which would leave me with 5 1/2″. I know we’re doing a bit of math here, but really it all has a purpose. Promise.

This 5 1/2 inches I’m left with is what I’m going to cut one of the strips of bias to be – meaning that it would then be 3″ wide by 5 1/2 long. Now you should have 3 bias strips – one that is short and two that are long and at least as long as the front neckline, so its good to measure that section too. Alright?

Step 4 ~ Now it’s time to sew the bias strips together. With right sides together, match up one end of the short bias strip with another end of one of the longer bias strips and give it a 1/2″ seam allowance straight down the edge. And just so you know, I sew my bias strips together like this because I think sewing them with a seam that’s on the diagonal is a bunch of malarkey. I really do – and you know what I’m talking about if you’ve done this with drapey fabric – quelle nightmare! So forget that and just stitch the bias strips together down the straight edge and it works out just as well (if not better in my opinion).

Now returning to stitching the bias strips together – stitch each right sides together until you end up with one giant strip that has the small strip in the middle. Make sense? Now press the seams open in your bias strip and let’s move onto attaching it to the neckline.

Step 5 ~ Fold the bias strip in half, but don’t press it in half – we’ll do that later. Just fold it in half, wrong sides together, for now. Now we’re going to take our folded bias strip and with the small strip in center, we’re going to line it up with the back of the neckline so that the bias strip seamlines are about 1″ off of the shoulder seamline with the right side of the bias strip to the wrong side of your neckline. Why, you might be asking? This is to avert having the seam of the bias tape directly over the top of the shoulder seamline which will reduce bulk in the end and no one needs extra bulk anywhere do they?

Pin in place and then continue to pin the folded bias strip in place down the rest of the neckline. Again, right side of bias strip to wrong side of neckline edge, raw edges all together now. Now stitch in place with whatever amount of seamline you picked in step 2 – mine was 3/8″.

Step 6 ~ Press the bias strip away from the neckline edge, making sure that you don’t yet press the fold in the bias strip yet. Seriously, don’t press the bias strip fold yet because we’re going to turn it in the next step and we need to allow for turn of the cloth.

Step 7 ~ Fold the bias tape to the front and pin into your ironing board. Then take your steamy hot iron and steam it in place. Pretty neat trick huh?

Step 8 ~ From here, you can hand baste down the front of the garment to keep the bias binding in place or you can even use a little steam-a-seam to tack the seam down and then edgestitch along the fold of the bias binding.

Not bad, no?

So, now you just need to baste the fronts together, matching the notches. Then stitch the skirt to the bodice. I know. Now you can try on the full dress. My version is looking rather gorgeous if I do say so myself. I nearly fainted from the luxury of the silk when I tried it on today. Sigh. Ok, Ok enough! You’ve seen this version of Simplicity 1880 quite a bit lately, so its time we took a break and let you see a little of my white linen shirt dress version.

Meet me back here tomorrow!


29 thoughts on “2-in-1 Sewalong: Wrap Dress Neckline

    1. Yes it is! It’s lush to work with and when I tried on the dress today, oh man. I’m really loving my fabric choice for this dress – match made in heaven!

  1. Your tutorials are super helpful for a newbie like me. I will use your tip on a wrap bodice that I will be working on. I am confused though about the fusible stay tape that you applied on the neckline in your previous post. Did you cut 3/8″ off it?

    1. Yes. The stay tape itself is 1/2″ in width, so I had about 1/8″ left after I trimmed around the neckline. No biggie. Its super helpful to keep that seam from stretching as I’m sewing.

  2. Your timing is perfect! I am working on a V-neck dress made out of a silky fabric and I’m having a heck of time with the bias binding. I’ll have to give this a try!

  3. Thank you so much for this sewalong. I really have to try this pattern soon. I am also a huge admirer of your blog. Thanks for being awesome!

  4. I’m really learning a lot of great construction tips from this sewalong. I just wish I was actually sewing along so I could try them out! The wonderful thing is I can tell the tips are going to be helpful in a lot of different projects. So thanks!

  5. Hi Sunni,

    I never sew my bias strips on the diagonal as well, I really don’t see the point in doing this…

    Just a question, I didn’t understand that, why did you include a short strip between the two long ones? Why not get two long strips, or better yet, if you have enough fabric, a single really long strip?

    Thanks for your help,

    Tatiana Di Maio

    1. You can do that 2 long strips instead, yes, but I find that I don’t like to have the seam of the bias binding right off the center back either. It’s a little nit-picky, but I prefer to conceal them right off the shoulder seamline. And you can do that with just two strips but my pieces weren’t long enough so I just showed this way instead. No biggie though if you only do two strips instead of three! Or even one really really long strip too!

  6. Sunni, thank you so much for the time and TIME you put into these tutorials and the sew-along. They are so helpful. My dress is coming along….bodice done, ready for the sleeves!

  7. I also meant to add that this technique looks like genius. I always do my binding by sewing a single thickness of the bias strip right sides together then folding over, tucking the last edge in, then edgestitching (does that make sense?). Of course, inevitably, the tucking in part always makes the binding somewhat imprecise. Your method looks like it’ll solve all those issues.

    1. You can do that too, but yes, you are totally right about the “fold over.” I can never get it to look quite as nice, so this eliminates that! Yay!

  8. What a lovely, clean edge you have achieved! My mother always complains when I bind edges on garments. “You can see a line. You need to do a facing so there is no line at the edge.” But: I like the line at the edge; I am a grown woman, fully capable of making my own decisions; and she cannot see the edge from her house.

  9. I’ve always thought there were 2 very good reasons to sew bias strips together diagonally. First, since the strips are bias, a diagonal seamline is on the straight grain. A 90 degree seamline is on the bias and stretches, making a wide place in your bias strip. Secondly, when the bias strip is applied and folded over, diagonal joins are staggered, whereas 90 degree joins pile up on top of each other, creating a lump. Do you have a way to avoid these problems? Or am I misinterpreting your meaning?

    1. I agree with what you’ve said about the 90 degree seamline and that it stretches and when applied the diagonal joins are staggered, but I’ve always found this way to be a hot mess whenever I’m working with anything but woven cotton. When the diagonal is applied, it stretches too much and warps in the seamline area. If you trim and grade the seam right, it won’t matter too much that the seamline of the bias tape is on top of each other rather than staggered and really I’ve found that the diagonal seamline creates two lumps instead of one anyway. Personally I just feel that I’ve had a much better finish when I’ve sewn the bias tape at 90 degrees than on the diagonal. In the end though, its up to you. If you feel you get a better result with sewing the bias tape on the diagonal, go right ahead! Nothing wrong with that!

    1. I highly recommend the wrap version too! I think I might just have to whip out one more dress from this pattern. It’s SOOOOOO flattering!

  10. My neckline is so neat! Thank you for this. I learned at least 3 things at this step of construction.
    1. If I need it, my town probably doesn’t carry it. Stores have rows and rows of stitch witchery and steam a seam but no stay tape. When I finally found some, it wasn’t fusible. 2. Stay tape is probably the most itchy substance in the sewing world. Had to trim that 1/8 inch that was exposed.
    3. This binding technique left me with 7 layers of fabric all tucked into that tidy little roll. Makes for a very thick and slightly stiff neckline. My fabric is a cotton sateen (95% cotton, 5% spandex or lycra or something stretchy). Wonderful to work with, fabulously comfy to wear…but on the medium weight side.

    Can I clip out some of the encased rough edges inside that binding to reduce bulk, or will that leave a line you can see?

    1. Hi Crystal! I think that would be perfectly alright. Also, you can do this technique with one strip of bias tape instead of folding it in half like I showed here. In that case you would take the size width you want to end up with and multiple that by 4. From there, you’ll go through the same exact steps except that in the end, you’ll have a raw edge that you’ll need to fold in on itself rather than the fold of the bias strip. Does that make sense? You end up with 2 less layers in that instance and that definitely creates less bulk. I’ll admit that this was my first time giving this bias binding trick a whirl so my dress neckline was a little bulky too, but that’s alright. Sorry you couldn’t find fusible stay tape at your local fabric store! You can also use strips of tricot interfacing that you’ve cut your self (found both at Joann and Hancock) and that will work too – though its definitely nice to have the stay tape on hand.

  11. Great tutorial, thanks! This is the way I learned from Louise Cutting, she has a video that walks you through these steps too, but your photos are really clear! Have you seen her on Threads? I highly recommend all her finishing techniques.

    Offsetting the seams at the shoulder and trimming the seam allowances allow my bindings to lie really flat.

  12. I just completed a dress today and had no idea how to do a neck binding. I looked at YouTube video after video. I was able to just wing it and it doesn’t look too bad. I stumbled upon your blog by coincidence. Unfortunately I’m still confused on how to do a neck binding with reading this tutorial. Do you ever do any video tutorials?

    1. I don’t, only because I don’t have a video camera – one day I hope! What are you confused about? Maybe I can help by explaining a bit more.

  13. Great description and pictures. Thanks so much. I want to put a collar on my wrap dress AND do the bias binding. Is there a way you know of incorporating the collar into the binding?

    1. Hi Betty! Gosh, with the way that this bias binding is applied, there just isn’t a way to do that – at least not that I can think of! The bias binding is such that is wraps around the raw edge and is shown on the outside of the garment and that just won’t work with a collar. However, if you were to do a bias binding that folds to the inside – doesn’t show on the outside of the garment – and add your collar to the neckline before you attach the binding, that would work. Topstitching the binding in place would give you a similar effect to having it wrap around to the garments right side. What do you think?

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