How to Sew a Dress

Working out how to sew a dress can seem a lot like magic.

For a beginner, it’s that crazy kind of magic you have to sell your soul to obtain. How in the world do you get a square stretch of fabric into a shapely ensemble you can rock with a great pair of heels or flats? How can you get it into anything but an unflattering drape?

how to sew a dress

Photo by Kris Atomic on Unsplash

If you’ve tried your hand at dressmaking in the past and had a hard go of it, we get your pain.

That’s why we’ve broken down the process into an easy step-by-step process that takes the struggle out of sewing a dress – and gives you exciting new wardrobe options! Bonus: you can keep your soul.

Let’s get right into it.


How to Sew a Dress

Dress Sewing Patterns

Making a dress from ultra-scratch without a pattern should be saved for the wizards — or, um, professionals.

Luckily there are thousands of patterns easily found at sewing stores or craft shops, so browse through the collection and find your favorite!

Here are a few of our favorite sites for dress sewing patterns:

Careful though: when you have a pattern that is too complex, it can muddle the experience of making a dress.

Be sure all of your measurements are perfect for your pattern, that way you won’t cut anything in the wrong spot. There will always be someone at your local craft store that could help you choose these details.

Sewing a Dress: Fabrics

Any fabric can be used to make a dress, but you should try to lean towards an easy option when starting out.

You can’t go wrong with cotton, but also look for fabrics that have a good texture.

Silky and heavy fabrics are hard to work with, but thinner materials require two layers, so find a middle ground.

Once you’ve decided, you’ll need about two to three yards of fabric in total, depending on the size and length of the dress.

Tips to remember:

  • For a quick-start, use an over-sized T-shirt as the base of your dress. These are easy to find in thrift shops or you can use your own.
  • Get creative with your fabric choice by using a sheet or curtain for your dress. You can find tons of these at any thrift shop.

Wash Your Fabric

Make sure to wash the fabric to get rid of any folds, stains, or wrinkles. Use an iron to smooth out additional wrinkles.

Take Your Own Measurements

If you are using a dress pattern, follow the guides you already have.

If you’re extra skilled and don’t want to use a professional pattern, then find a dress that fits you and use it as a template for the measurements.

Fold the dress in half lengthwise. Fold your fabric lengthwise and place the folded dress on top of it.

You can change whatever you’d like to in this step: make the skirt shorter or longer, the neck open or closed – whatever you’d like!

sewing a dress

Photo by Pete Bellis on Unsplash

Lay Out Your Pattern and Double Check

The nice thing about professional patterns is they’re basically cut-by-numbers – but don’t get ahead of yourself!

Lay out the pattern, lay down the fabric, and do some double checking on the measurements to ensure it’s correct.

Here’s a good video on how to best prepare your dress sewing patterns:

Cut Your Fabric in the Pattern That You Have Laid Out

Lay the fabric flat.

Trace the pattern that you have onto the fabric.

Make sure to keep your fabric folded while you cut it out !

Add an extra half inch to allow room for seams. If you want sleeves on your dress, cut your fabric as if it were a tank top.

Sew the Dress

Follow the pattern directions in whatever way makes you most comfortable and confident.

The sides of the dress should be sewn first. Make sure the fabric is inside out.

Use an iron to get rid of any wrinkles here; having a flat surface is the only way to get a good dress.

A top stitch is a good one to use here. Follow all directions from your pattern.

Don’t Forget About the Neckline

This is often the hardest part, but don’t worry!

Fold over .25 inches of the fabric around the neckline that you want. Use a straight stitch to sew it all into place. This stitch will also help the dress from fraying.

Here you can adjust the neckline by measuring the distance from your waist to the desired area on your bust and adjust the fabric accordingly.

Hem the Bottom of the Dress

If you don’t hem the bottom of your dress, it will fray. Fold over .25 inches of the fabric on the bottom of the dress and use a straight stitch to make the hem look at clean as possible.

It’s best to use pins at this point, holding the hem in place as you’re working.

dress sewing patterns

Photo by Pete Bellis on Unsplash

Add the Finishing Touches

Here is your opportunity to finish up with some overlays, ruffles, trim, or beading. Think of it like decorating. You can also add a zipper to the back of your dress so that it fits you better. Buttons on the front of a dress make anything look casual.

Now you’re done! Try it on for size and get ready to brag.


Now you know how to sew a dress — any questions?


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