DIY – Terry Cloth Beach Cover Up

I love reading people’s packing lists before I go on a trip – they often yield little tidbits of packing advice that I would otherwise have never known. It was during one of these packing list reading forays that I came across this packing list and the idea of a terry cloth beach cover-up.

It didn’t take much internet searching before I decided to make my own for our upcoming Mexico trip. This post served as my inspiration and this post provided a simple shirred summer dress pattern that I modified to work with a towel.

I bought a regular sized towel – approximately 50 inches long by 27 inches wide – to make my dress.

I also bought 3 spools of white elastic thread and two spools of blue cotton thread to match the towel. I used scraps fabric to make my straps so the total cost of the dress was about $15.

How to Make It

The post I followed recommended a starting fabric width of 1.5 x your bust but since the towel gathers less I went with a little less. The length of the towel ended up being the perfect size for the width of my dress (just under 1.5 x my bust measurement, no seam allowance) and the width of the towel worked for the length of my dress. This meant I didn’t have to hem as the finished sides of the towel worked for the top and bottom edges of the dress. I didn’t take a picture of my towel before we started but this shows the dimensions I used – imagine how you’d wrap a towel around your body and that is how the dress works.


I threaded my bobbin with the elastic thread – each spool made about 3 bobbins worth – and sewed about 8″ of shirring at 1/4 inch increments across the width of my dress (length of the towel). I had a little trouble with the upper thread snapping but I found that winding a little less thread on the bobbin, using a thread tension of 3 and a stitch length of 10 on my super old Singer worked best.

imageShirring along the top of the dress

After I finished the shirring I trimmed up loose threads and then washed the whole thing in hot water in the washing machine. I then dried it in the dryer in high heat – this made the shirring shrink up and the towel shrink a little.

imageShirred dress top

The dress only had one seam (the short edges of the towel) so I pinned and sewed that with about a half inch seam allowance. This became the back of the dress.

I made straps for the dress out of some scrap cotton. I planned to tie them in the middle so I made four straps. The size of my cotton fabric meant that each strap ended up being 15.5 inches, and I cut them 3 inches wide (this means the finished strap width is 3/4 inch).

imageMaking straps

I used the back seam of the dress as a reference point and pinned each strap 4.5 inches from the middle of the dress (two on the front, two on the back). I sewed these on, trying to following the stitching from the shirring so the stitching didn’t show.

The finished dress hits about mid-thigh and is easy to get on and off. It is going to be the perfect item to wear to and from the beach!



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