Xanthea as a Dress: Free Pattern Update

It’s been a long time brewing, but finally I’ve nailed a dress version of the very popular Xanthea top.

Xanthea is a zero waste, bias cut t-shirt for wovens or knits. It comes in 19 sizes, to fit up to a 117cm/70″ bust, and it’s very economical on fabric. It has a long sleeve option, too.

I originally made the pattern after taking this workshop hosted by ZWDO last year.

Original sample of Xanthea top
The very first Xanthea sample, quickly sewn post-workshop.

I really wanted to offer a dress version, but it wasn’t just a simple matter of cutting the top longer, and I tried all sorts of things before giving up.

However, a few months ago, I chanced to see this photo of the Madame Grès envelope dress from 1961 and noticed the top part was remarkably similar to Xanthea. Hmm…I did some sketches…I tried a little paper model…I took the plunge and cut out a full-size dress from fabric…my sister visited and kindly did a fit test to check my theories…I wrote a formula for the length and added some new sleeve options…

The Xanthea dress is zero waste and cut from a single rectangle. It has a seam which spirals around the body – the seam is on the straight grain and the dress hangs on the bias. It has a Y-shaped seam at the front rather than an X. The dress can be made any length.

The method of converting a rectangle to a bias dress is totally different from sewing a regular dress. If you enjoy unconventional construction you will like this.

Here’s a 1:37min video showing the concept. If you’d like to try it, the paper shape is just below.

While I’ve made bias cut clothes before, this one has pushed me to think less about “back and front” and more about how clothes can wrap around a body.

This is my neighbour Jennie wearing an Xanthea dress in purple linen, which was an excellent fabric for this dress, very drapey.

This is a quick “fit test” photo. My fab sister is wearing a sample made in a fairly firmly woven vintage cotton (the print reminded us of clothes our grandma wore!).

This pattern works really well for large busts and curvy figures.

I made one in a polished cotton with a bold print. It looks best with a belt on me.

I added some new sleeve options which look good on this dress. There’s a three-quarter length straight sleeve and a poufy gathered sleeve with elastic in the hem.

So, here is an update for making an Xanthea dress. If you’ve already bought Xanthea, I thank you sincerely and hope you enjoy making a dress. If you have yet to purchase this pattern (here), the dress update has been added to the files in the Etsy listing, so it will come to you automatically.

Note that you do need the original Xanthea pattern to make the dress, otherwise the instructions won’t make sense.

While I was there, I added the details for converting Xanthea into a fleecy top, which was previously in this blog post.

Click on the two chevrons in the right hand corner to download.



  1. Anthea Martin on November 22, 2022 at 4:33 pm

    This week’s Blog is great.
    The photos are excellent and yes the style is very flattering on your Sister.
    Jenny in the purple also looks great.
    Hope you have lots of sales!!!!
    All the best for this pattern being a huge success.
    Much love Anthea xxx

    • lizhaywood on November 22, 2022 at 6:37 pm

      Many thanks Anthea xx

      For all reading these comments, let me introduce you to Anthea. Mentor, friend, tech editor and the person who lent their name to this pattern 🙂

      • Lodi on November 22, 2022 at 8:48 pm

        Fascinating. Is there a name for the Zero Waste method/concept, such as “tessellation” for repeating patterns? I loved the video with the paper mock up. Voila!

      • lizhaywood on November 23, 2022 at 1:42 pm

        Thanks Lodi. I don’t think there’s a name for it but I’ve seen elsewhere the idea of creating a bias “bag” from a rectangle, and then either the bag is converted into a garment (top, dress etc) or pattern pieces are cut from it with low or zero waste. Something that would be a lot of fun to experiment with.

  2. Sara on November 22, 2022 at 4:51 pm

    Hi Liz, I love it! That is so very clever the way you have designed it. I can’t wait to make one. And if the belt doesn’t suit a little ‘fabric manipulation’ in the small of the back, or a half belt at the back could look great. .. Sara

    • lizhaywood on November 22, 2022 at 6:41 pm

      Thank you Sara. Surprisingly, it looked best beltless and free-hanging on everyone except me – as well as the models in the blog, I asked unsuspecting visitors to try it on. Which makes me think that it’s a good pattern for people with curves and busts.

  3. Terri Gardner on November 23, 2022 at 2:45 am

    I’m so excited about this! It’s already downloaded and put in a folder with my Xanthea top and will have to fit it in some time (only after I make my second Xanthea, though). I am so happy that you came across the Madame Grès dress.

    • lizhaywood on November 23, 2022 at 1:45 pm

      Thanks Terri, I can’t tell you how excited I was to finally do a dress!

  4. Wendy on November 23, 2022 at 7:26 am

    This reminded me of the ‘ZW bias skirt in hand woven fabric’. That is still the best bias skirt ‘pattern’ I have ever made.
    I do love a simple shift dress but, as your body double , I shall pay attention to the benefits of adding a belt! And thank you for the free download.
    Are you as pleased as I am that Y follows X alphabetically and you’ve released this on a mirror date (22-11-22)? (The two aren’t related but appeal to an inherent sense of order!)
    Perphaps you have another friend: Yanthea?

    • lizhaywood on November 23, 2022 at 1:54 pm

      Cheers, Wendy. If you liked the bias skirt, you’ll love this. Fyi, I’m wearing a size 12. Hips measure 40″ these days.
      Yes, I did consider Yanthea but not the clever Y follows X or the mirror date. However, for corduroy-wearing cricket fans, note that the date is Richie Benaud combined with Corduroy Appreciation Day!

      • Esther Stuedli-Miller on November 28, 2022 at 2:54 pm

        That is really neat! It reminds me of the process for setting up churidar salwar as demonstrated by Cloud Factory which looks a lot like an envelope when complete! She also often demonstrates her designs using paper models ;). The website is http://thecloudfactory.blogspot.com/p/free-patterns.html?m=1 . The actual instruction sheet for the churidar is near the bottom. I didn’t link it directly because it’s hard to navigate back to to her website from the Google drive file which would deprive people of being able to look through her lovely blog!

        Now an important question. Is there another way to purchase your patterns other than via Etsy? I often have issues with that site and yet, I’ve been eyeing Xanthea for a while…

      • lizhaywood on November 28, 2022 at 4:17 pm

        Thank you Esther, I just had a look at it, and then I had a happy browse through the rest of the site 🙂
        I’ll send you an email about patterns.

  5. Anna on December 10, 2022 at 1:55 am

    Hi Liz, thank you so much for this free update!!
    I’d love to try it out, but I want to do a tshirt version first. Do you think the dress would work with knit fabric or would it be too slouchy?

    • lizhaywood on December 10, 2022 at 12:20 pm

      You’re welcome, Anna. I haven’t tried the dress in knit fabric, but it works fine as a t-shirt so I don’t anticipate any issues. That is a good idea to try it as a t-shirt first.

  6. carys davies on September 18, 2023 at 4:23 am

    There’s a halter neck version of this in (my very precious copy of) Kaori O’Connor’s “Creative Dressing” – a pattern by Antony Kwok, but with a halter neck and on a very thin model so I never made it. This is much more practical, although I had to make the paper copy to work out how to get rid of the pointy bit….
    PS What a great blog. Thank you Liz for sharing.

    • lizhaywood on September 18, 2023 at 8:57 am

      Hi Cary, I know the book and the dress you mean – I have a copy bought years ago at a garage sale. The dress is the only pattern I’ve tried out, and I loved making it, although I don’t have it anymore. It was SO different to anything I’d made before. I sometimes wonder what happened to Antony Kwok.

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