J.Crew Inspired Beach Coverup (Tutorial)

Since we live about ten blocks from the beach, we plan to spend many of our days there this summer. I have one swim coverup in my closet (that I made last year when I was pregnant), and a few other tops that I’ve been using as coverups, but I wanted something that was a real coverup that I could wear to the beach regularly. 
I saw this one at j.crew a few months ago and loved it, but didn’t love the nearly $80 price tag. So I made one myself. It’s soft, comfy, and pretty — I love how it turned out. I can’t wait to wear the heck out of it this summer. 
beach coverup: made by me // beach bag: target // sandals: target // sunglasses: old navy
  • 1 1/2 – 2 yards knit fabric (I used a cotton-polyester-spandex blend that was soft and stretchy), more or less depending on your height and your desired dress length
  • matching all-purpose thread

Step 1. Fold your fabric in half, and lay it on a flat surface. Before you cut, make sure the stretch of the fabric will go across the dress, not down (as seen below).

Using a loose fitting top as a pattern (with the arms folded in as seen below), cut out the dress with a 1/2 inch seam allowance around the whole thing. When you reach the bottom of your pattern shirt, just continue down at a slight angle until you reach your desired hem length. Since the fabric was folded in half, you should have two (2) identical pieces like the one on the right, below.

Step 2. Take the front piece of your dress and fold it in half. Cut the neckline to your desired depth and then cut a slit down the middle of the scoop (as seen two photos down).

Step 3.  Now let’s cut out the sleeves. Using a 3/4 sleeve shirt as a pattern, lay it along the fold of your fabric and cut around the pattern-sleeve, adding a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Make sure the stretch of the fabric is going across the sleeve, not down the sleeve. Cut two of these.

Step 4. Lastly, cut two pieces of fabric to match up to the necklines of both the front and back of your dress, as seen below. Make sure the stretch of these fabrics go across the dress as well.

With right sides together, pin the lining pieces to both the front and the back dress pieces, as seen below, and attach with a straight seam.

*When you sew around the slit on the front neckline, make sure your stitching forms a point at the base of your slit (see note two photos below)*

Trim the seam allowance, and cut the corners at an angle to avoid bunching, as seen below.

Fold the lining over and press into place. Then with a wide straight stitch, sew around the neckline to secure the lining in place. Repeat for the back piece of the dress.

Step 5. (not pictured) With right sides together, pin the front and back dress pieces together at the shoulders. Sew the shoulders together with a straight seam and a 1/2 inch seam allowance.

Step 6. Now it’s time to attach the sleeves. Lay the dress flat on the ground with the neck hole in the middle (as seen below in the photo on the right), and, with right sides together, pin the sleeve to the arm opening, as seen below.

Sew sleeve to dress with a straight stitch and a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Repeat for the second sleeve.

Now your dress should look like this, with the neckline completed, the sleeves attached, and the sides open. 

Step 7. With right sides together, pin the dress from the end of the sleeve to the hem of the skirt, and sew with a straight stitch and a 1/2 inch seam allowance.

Step 8. (not pictured) Hem the sleeves and dress to your desired length, press all the seams, and you’re done! 
As always, comment or email me with questions! Happy sewing!


  1. Van Nguyen says:

    Nice work. It looks great! I've been wearing a knit dress that I got from PacSun as beach cover-up for 2 summers already.

  2. Kristi says:

    Looks great! Thank you so much for sharing the tutorial with us! While I don't live blocks from a beach (more like days!) I can't wait to whip one up for our summer pool runs. I have it pinned and I plan on using it.

  3. Kelli Ward says:

    It looks so awesome. I will be attempting this myself for sure.

  4. I wish I could sew as well as you! I love seeing how you transform things!

  5. Jaime Hirst says:

    Awesome tutorial! Think I will whip one up to wear while running errands as we are beach lacking.

  6. Morris says:

    This is great! I will have to make myself a few of these.

  7. WoW! I wish I had your skills! So cute! Great Job!

  8. alhsjej says:

    LOVE it but the sleeves would KILL me here WAY to hot and humid!!I would have to have little cap sleeve or something!

  9. I have to admit, a whole piece from scratch without a pattern, that's impressive. If it's not a straight line, I'm in trouble. I can take things in, but I haven't attempted a shirt from nothing. Great job girl. I'm excited that it turned out so well.

  10. Sarah S. says:

    SO cute! But that was way too many steps for me, can you just make me one…lol… You really do have great sewing skills. And I need to google video tutorial's regarding lining.

  11. HandJ Cobb says:

    Great job! P.S. you look fabulous, I can't believe you just had a baby!


  12. You are inspiring me to go out and get a sewing machine. I would love to learn how to do this. Your cover-up looks really great!

  13. Chelsea says:

    Oooo lady you are a professional! Looks great!!

  14. Chelsea says:

    Oooo lady you are a professional! Looks great!!

  15. Cara says:

    Any links to suggested fabrics pretty please?

  16. Okay this is way too cute but I can only imagine how mine would look, even with this great tutorial!!! Good job!

  17. Stacy Cruise says:

    So cute – I love your tutorials! Living in Sydney this is perfect xx

  18. Brittany M. says:

    It turned out so great! One of these would come handy in Santa Barbara, too; I LIVED in my "cover up" last summer (really just a long tunic that fully covered my butt; I'm supah classy!). maybe I'll try my hand at one like this! although…. I'm still working on mastering a neat collar lining; maybe I should start small before I tackle this one!

  19. Kim says:

    This is so cute – I must have one!! Love the look & your tutorial is awesome – thanks for sharing!

  20. Love it! And you make it look almost do-able!

  21. Adele Rivers says:

    Oh the sleeves are sure tricky! It'd help if I'd ever sewn anything beside a quilt though. I shall get this under control!

  22. Adele Rivers says:

    It's all done. A few minor issues that really aren't noticeable unless you're checking out the work.

  23. Sandra says:

    How do you sew knits on a regular sewing machine — mine keeps eating the fabric. Walking foot? Anything else I should try?

    • Try a knit needle. It's thinner and sharper than standard needles and it works wonders for me…no bunching at all! Besides using that, I dont do anything out of the ordinary. Good luck!

  24. Jillian says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this tutorial. I have been looking for a cute cover up. Also your instructions are great. I had always been afraid of making clothes without a pattern. I am surprised at how easy this was to cut out by using clothes I already have. Thanks again

  25. I love that you don't use patterns and just use shirts that you have as a pattern. Very Cool

  26. elaine says:

    nice will try but longer

  27. Sara says:

    Thank you so much!!With your tutorial I managed to sew a dress for the first time!!I can not explain well how grateful I am! ^_^ Thank You

  28. Ebs says:

    Oh my goodness – i just sewed a dress 🙂 Awesome. This was easier than i thought. I used a sleeveless shift dress i already have as a pattern and sleeves from another top to trace. It has worked out surprisingly well (tested on some thrift shop knit fabric). Sweet!

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