Pillowcase Dress Tutorial

Here is a basic tutorial for making a "pillowcase dress," as modeled here by my 6 1/2 year old daughter, Audrey.

You will need:

  • at least 1 yard of fabric (1-1.5 yards), depending on your desired dress size.
  • coordinating thread
  • matching (or contrasting) bias tape (or you can use your fabric)
  • 1 1/2 yards pom pom trim
  • 1-2 yards wide grosgrain ribbon (at least 1 inch wide)
Please note: There is not a picture for every step. Some things, like creating the hem and side seam, seemed pretty self-explanatory. If you are using actual pillowcases, cut off the top (closed) edge and skip to step 6.

Step 1: Fold your fabric the same way it came from the fabric shop. Line up the selvages and smooth it out. Take a measurement of the child from shoulder to desired hem length. Add 1 1/2 inches (or more for a wider hem) for the hem and 1 1/2 inches for the ribbon casing. (e.g., If you measure to her knee as 25", then cut the fabric at 28" [for a 1.5" hem]).

{If you wish to have a contrasting border fabric at the hem (like the dresses below), then cut the dress fabric shorter to accomodate your border. Lay out the border fabric the same way you did the dress fabric. My friends did 4" borders, so they cut a 6" strip of the border fabric with the hem factored in. Assuming a 25" long dress, cut the dress fabric 27" and the border fabric 6".}

{dresses with contrasting borders}

Step 2: Measure your fabric to the desired length and cut straight across from fold to selvage.

{If you are adding a contrasting border, stitch it all along the bottom of the "dress" at this point.}

Step 3: With right sides together, stitch along selvage edge to create side seam.

Step 4: Press and stitch hem.
Press hem under 1/4 inch, then fold again and press the hem at your desired width. I mentioned 1.5" at the outset. You could make your hem up to 3 or 4 inches. Press and stitch.

Step 5: Press side seam open. Turn dress right side out and fold along the center line, lengthwise.

Step 6: Cut armholes. Measure 1.5-2" in from the side and 6-8" down from the top of the dress. Cut a gentle J-shape from one point to the other, through all four layers of fabric. Unfold. You should have what look like armholes on either side of the dress. (For size 1-3, use the smaller measurements. For my daughter [size 6], I cut 2" in and 7-8" down.)

{An example of a larger armhole.}

Step 6: Bind armholes. I used single-fold bias tape for this job. Unfold the bias tape, and stitch the skinny edge of it to the edge of the armhole. Sew from the right side of the dress and be sure to catch that little edge in the back. Start at the top of the dress and stitch all the way around the U (armhole) until you get to the top back edge. You may want to enlarge these binding photos.

Let the bias tape fold over the front edge of the dress and topstitch it into place.


Step 7: Create casing for ribbon. Press front and back top edges down toward the inside of the dress 1/4 inch, then press again at 1" (or wider, depending on your ribbon width). Stitch casing, then thread ribbon through. You can either use 2 separate ribbons, 1 yard each (for a bow at each shoulder) or one ribbon 1.5 yards for a single shoulder bow (like Audrey's).

Step 8: Add pom-pom trim (if desired. Stitch it along the inside hem of the dress, starting at the side seam.

Turn the dress right-side out and slip it on that little girl. Adjust the gathers around the front so they look even. Tie the bow and voila! She'll love it and you're gonna get lots of compliments! :)

Feel free to email me (flowerchain@gmail.com) if you have any questions. I'd be glad to walk you through any problems you're having.