Get Started: How to Sew a Dress & Patterns to Try
Sewing a dress may seem overwhelming, but it is actually very simple. There are many dress patterns that are easy and simple for even the beginner sewist. This guide will discuss the different dress styles, simple steps to sew a dress, tips when sewing dresses, and some favorite dress patterns. We’ll keep it simple so you can get an idea of how to think about this project – and save the detailed tutorials for a future post.
Different Sewing Styles for Dresses
Dresses can come in many different shapes and styles. Dress lengths, bodices, and sleeves can all be different to create a unique dress.
Length of Dress
Dresses come in four main lengths: long, mid-calf, knee length, and short. The length of the skirt can make the dress simple or dramatic.
Skirt of Dress
The skirt of a dress can also have different shapes. There are some skirts that are tight to the hips and legs, others that have full skirts perfect for twirling, and many in between. The skirt shape can really determine the shape of the dress.
Knit versus Woven Dresses
Dresses can come in knit fabric, which is going to have stretch, and woven, which will not have stretch. Woven dresses are usually loose or will have some type of closure like zippers or buttons.
Simple Steps to Sew a Dress
Sewing a dress is very similar to sewing a shirt. The only difference is the bodice of the dress is usually shorter than that of the shirt and a skirt is added.
- First, you will place the front bodice to the back bodice right side to right side, or pattern side to pattern side, and then sew both shoulder seams together.
- Next, you will open the front and back bodice so that the front is on one side and the back is on the other. The pattern should be facing up. Place the armpiece shoulder center with the shoulder seam of the bodice, right side to right side, and sew each arm sleeve to the bodice.
- After, bring the front bodice piece to the back bodice piece right side to right side. Sew starting at one of the wrist seams and making your way up to the armpit of the dress and down to the waist of the dress. Complete this for the other side as well.
- Next, take the neckband and fold it short side to short side and right sides together. Sew the short side together, which should create a circle. Fold the circle wrong side to wrong side to create the band. After, sew the band to the neckline of the dress.
- Take the skirt piece and if in two pieces, sew the side seams together to create a circle skirt. Sew the circle skirt to the bodice of the dress right side to right side.
- Last, hem the wrist cuffs and the bottom of the dress.
Tips for Sewing Dresses
Quartering Neckline Band and Skirt to Create an Even Neckline and Waistline
It is very important to quarter the neckband and skirt before putting each on the bodice of the dress. Without quartering, sewers will find that the neckline and skirt could be sewn on with part of the piece having more stretch than the other, which in return can make the dress look contorted.
For the neckband, start by folding it as if it was going to be sewn on the neckline. Next, place one pin or clip at the seam, then place one clip directly across. You can find the section that is across from the seam by putting one finger on the seam and the other on the other side of the band. The place that your other finger is at should be directly across from the seam. Next, line the two pins up so one is on top of the other. Then put a clip in the middle of both sides. This should have placed the band into quarters.
Quarter the neckline that the band will be sewn following the same steps.
Last, line the pins or clips from the band to the pins or clips of the neckline. This should ensure that your neckline comes out perfect every time.
You will do the same for the skirt and waistline. If the skirt was not cut as a continuous full circle, make sure that you have sewn the two skirt pieces together. After, quarter the skirt using the same method as the neckband. Next, quarter the waistline of the bodice using the same method. Line the pins together and sew the skirt onto the bodice.
Cutting a Full Skirt with a Directional Pattern
Usually, full skirts are cut as one continuous piece. However, this creates a problem if the pattern on the fabric is directional. If cut as a full piece, one side of the skirt would have the pattern the correct way while the other side would have the pattern upside down. To fix this issue, the sewer should cut two pieces that they can then sew together.
Cut two half circles that have the fabric the correct way. Once cut, sew the two pieces together, and then sew the skirt onto the waistline.
Dress Sewing Patterns
There are many places to find dress patterns. Some sewers prefer the traditional patterns found in stores like Joann’s Fabric or Walmart, while others like the digital patterns that have sewers print out the PDF of the pattern and tape it together to cut.
Bodycon Dress by Rain City Patterns
The Bodycon Dress is a super easy pattern that is just two bodice pieces and binding fabric for the neckline and armholes. The dress is sleek and form-fitting, perfect for dressing up or down.
Sahara Dress & Top by Bella Sunshine Patterns
The Sahara dress is a simple dress with a scoop neck bodice and a full circle skirt. The pattern has a lined bodice, which creates a neckline without a band.
Staycation Tiered Peplums & Dress Pattern by Ellie Mac
The Staycation Tiered Dress is an easy pattern that can either be made into a peplum top, short dress, or long dress. Sewers can choose from two tiers to three tiers to make this dress flowy and unique.
We hope this guide has given you the tips, tricks, and confidence to sew your very own dress pattern. Happy sewing!