My favorite throw-on-and-go dress is a very simple baby doll dress that basically goes with anything. As I was studying it one day I realized, “This really IS a simple dress. I’d love to try my hand at making my own version.” So, I did.
The method I used is a great way to create your own pattern for a garment from an existing item you may have that you know fits you well. You can tweak this basic guide to create more customized looks that you feel good in. Follow along as I share how to make your own baby doll dress (and pattern).
-2 1/2 yards of lightweight to medium weight cotton fabric and 1/2 yard for lining
-iron and board
-chopstick or pencil
-self-healing mat and rotary cutter
Step One: Drafting a pattern is typically the first step in sewing your own clothes if you don’t already have a commercial pattern to use. I love doing both for different reasons. Find a top or dress that has a loose fit and silhouette that you like. Remember, it needs to be wide enough to fit over your head and bust since we aren’t inserting a zipper on this one. Fold your top/dress in half and trace. We are only drafting a pattern for the bodice right now, so you can determine your desired length. Once you have your bodice traced, add 1/2″ all the way around for seam allowance. Now, let’s do some cutting!
*Remember, your front and back necklines can be the same or different depending on your preference. If you’d like the back of your dress to be closer to the neck than the front, draft two patterns—one for the front piece and one for the back.
Step Two: This particular baby doll dress has a lined bodice, so we will be cutting a front piece and a back piece on the fold from our main fabric. Then we will cut additional front and back pieces on the fold for our lining.
Step Three: Once you have all four pieces cut, place the right sides of your front piece and your front lining piece together. Pin all the way around the sides, neckline, and underarms. You don’t need to sew the bottom. Let’s take this to the machine.
Step Four: Once you have sewn the sides, neckline, and underarms, flip the front piece right-side out and use your chopstick to push the corners out. The photo above shows the difference in pushing the corners out (left shoulder) vs. not pushing them (right shoulder).
Step Five: Press your front piece flat, and repeat steps 3-5 for the back piece.
Step Six: Once you have both front and back pieces flipped and pressed, place them together with the right sides facing each other and pin the shoulders and sides together. Take it to the sewing machine and stitch it up.
Step Seven: Flip your bodice right-side out and press with the iron. Top stitch around the neckline and armholes.
Step Eight: Now that we’ve finished up the bodice, let’s get started on the skirt. I wanted a pretty full skirt on my dress, so I cut a 72″ (2 yards) x 19″ piece of fabric for it. You can easily change this up to be longer, more full, less full or shorter, depending on your preferences and height.
Step Nine: Once you have your skirt piece cut, sew two rows of basting stitches along the top edge of the fabric. Slowly and carefully cinch the skirt, spreading the pleats as evenly as possible. I like to run two stitches on pieces this large just in case one of the basting stitches snaps. That way you don’t have to start all over.
Step Ten: Measure the width of the bottom of your bodice and make sure your skirt size matches. Add or remove pleats depending on your size adjustment. Once you have the correct width, tie off your basting stitches and sew up the side seam on your skirt. Press your seams open.
*The skirt of this dress is not lined, but feel free to add a lining if you want, just like we did for the top of the dress.
Step Eleven: Now that we have a full bodice piece and skirt piece, it’s time to attach them. Begin by pinning the side seam of the skirt to the side seam of the bodice (right sides facing each other). Repeat on the other side. Now, finish pinning around the front and back. Pinning may go a little smoother if you stuff the bodice down inside the skirt and pin from there. Just make sure your right sides are together.
Step Twelve: Take this to your sewing machine and slowly stitch all the way around, making sure your bodice doesn’t bunch. Taking your time will really pay off on this step. Try to keep your stitching right under your bottom basting stitch. Once your skirt is attached, use a zigzag stitch or an overlock stitch along the edge to finish it and trim the excess.
Step Thirteen: Okay! Now just hem the bottom, and you’re all done! Remember to store your pattern drafts so you can use them again or tweak them for other garments later. You can use a pants/skirt hanger to hang all the cut pieces of paper up in your closet or sewing room to archive them for the future (without folding).
I love this silhouette as a spring/summer dress, but it also wears well in the cooler months with a cardigan or undershirt. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to make this dress in all of my favorite fabrics! – Katie