The Hi-Visibility Dress!

Alternative title: "Committing to the bit"

A few months ago, I got the (very funny) idea to make a dress in the style of the ubiquitous hi-vis vest.

I originally wanted to make and wear this for EMF Camp 2024, but I ran out of time, and picked up the idea again right ahead of the Helsinki Pride 2024 march.

Why is this idea so funny to me? I don't know. Maybe it's the juxtaposition between the "serious business" vibe implied by the hi-vis fabric and reflectors, and the relaxed and free vibes shown by the summery sundress shape. I noticed that opinions on this dress were roughly divided into two camps: those who didn't exactly get it, and those who found it really funny.

Regardless, my first step was to figure out whether I can even purchase that neon high-visibility fabric anywhere. It just took me about 2 minutes of searching the internet to find out that my local chain fabric store sells this stuff.

Photo of my bag, containing a folded up piece of neon high-visibility fabric

This stuff is somewhat water-resistant and tough, which was not ideal for my purposes, but we suffer for the art we make, right?


Now that I had the material, I started thinking about the general concept I want to create.

I don't usually create detailed patterns, but I do make simple sketches to visualize my ideas before making them.

I wanted a simple and short-ish dress with a circle skirt portion. I think it ends up pretty cute and funny when combined with the industrial look of hi-vis.

One very important part to me is having a massive zipper all the way down the front. This fits that “industrial” look pretty well, and in my opinion makes the contrast even more obvious and funny.

Sketch of a simple dress, knee length, no sleeves

This time around, I did use CAD to create a detailed plan for the circle dress portion.

Screenshot of CAD software showing a 2D partial circle shape


After making enough plans for now, I started making the dress according to my usual process.

First of all, I cut out the skirt pieces exactly according to that CAD drawing. I then traced a T-shirt to create the upper pieces.

I've done the "trace a T-shirt" process so many times, and it always works remarkably well. Basically I just grab a T-shirt that fits snugly, turn it inside out, trace it onto my fabric, and maybe customize the shape according to what I'm looking for that time.

Photo of me wearing half-finished dress, currently mostly sewn together

Mostly done.

Next steps: attaching the zipper to the front, sewing stylish black bands around all the edges, and adding reflector bands.

Photo of me wearing basically finished dress

Notice that attaching straight reflector bands to a circular skirt (without planning ahead) made it crumple up very badly in some places. It's fine.


It was time for Helsinki Pride 2024, and I woke up very early in the morning. The first things I noticed while on the bus to Helsinki was that this fabric smells (I had forgotten to wash it, or even check whether it's possible to wash) and that it doesn't breathe at all. It definitely wasn't too comfortable.

Things got better when I got outside. Even in the direct sunlight outside all day, it never got super warm or sweaty, despite not breathing at all. Its toughness and resistance to dirt made it pretty comfortable for sitting down on the ground!

It's me! If you pay attention during that video clip, you'll notice some of the seams are already giving up. I was definitely rushing some things during the making of this dress, but given that I want to keep it around for the future, I'll simply be repairing those.

Selfie of me wearing a dress in a neon green-yellow high-visibility style


This project was fun and quick to make, and a lot of people liked the result! I should have executed with a bit more care though.