Pinafore Dress Sewing Tutorial

Mar 27, 2020 | Handmade

This pinafore dress is easy to make and so sweet on girls of all ages. Here is a written and video tutorial with all the instructions needed for making this dress without a pattern.

I love the style of a linen pinafore dress, there is something so cute about the old fashioned feel it has. Although you could really use any fabric you like for this dress, linen has a beautiful natural quality. 

This year I wanted to sew a handmade Easter dress for my little sister. Making clothes can seem challenging, but once you have given it a try it can be a lot of fun and very rewarding. It doesn’t have to be complicated. This pinafore dress is straight forward, and can be made for a girl of any size.  

I created this dress without a pattern and am happy to share how to make it with you, so you can sew a beautiful custom, handmade dress for a special girl in your life.

Materials

  • Fabric (1-2 meters)

  • Thread to match

  • 2 Buttons

  • 1 inch elastic 

  • Sewing machine

  • Fabric scissors

  • Pins

  • Iron 

  • Measuring tape

 

Farbic Tips

There are many types of fabrics that can be used for making this dress. I used leftover fabric from my DIY curtain tutorial.    

I used linen fabric and I recommend using it since it is easy to sew and also drapes really nicely. 

Making clothes can save you money, especially if you find inexpensive fabric. One place to find deals on fabric is the discount section of your fabric store, which is usually at the back.  Also, thrift stores can be a great place to find cheap fabric.

I used less than a meter of blue linen and white linen for lining. I recommend buying 1 meter of each main fabric and lining.  If you are making this for a bigger girl you may want to get a bit more fabric.

Before starting your sewing project make sure to wash and dry your fabric so that it does all of the possible shrinking before you make your dress. The fabric may shrink when washed and/or dried therefore it is important to do this before making your dress so the size doesn’t change after going through the wash.

STEPS TO MAKE A PINAFORE DRESS

Step 1: Measure the girl

You do not need a pattern to make this dress, therefore all of the sizing and cutting is based on the measurements of the girls you are making it for. In the video I walk you through taking the measurements if you want to see how it is done. Here are all the measurements you need to take: 

  • Distance around the waist
  • Length from the waist to the bottom of the skirt
  • Length from the waist to the top of the bodice (top piece)
  • Width of the bodice
  • Length from the top of the bodice, over the shoulder and across the back to the waist. 

To begin, measure around the waist of your girl or wherever you want the waistband to lay. I found her belly button and measured the distance around her from that point.  Whatever point you choose as your waist, just remember where it is since all the other measurements are based on that point. 

For example, my sister takes a size 8 girls and these are my measurements of her for this dress:

  • Waist: 25 inches
  • Waist to bottom of skirt: 16 inches
  • Waist to top of bodice: 8 inches
  • Width of bodice: 7.5 inches
  • Top of bodice, over shoulder, to back waist: 16 inches

Step 2: Cut out fabric

All of the pieces that need cut out for this dress are rectangles, which makes it nice and simple. There are 5 pieces that need to be cut out of the main fabric, 2 straps, 1 bodice, 1 waistband, and 1 skirt. 

The size of each piece will depend on your girl’s measurements. Here are the calculations for determining the custom size of each dress piece that you need to cut out, including ¼ inch seam allowances:

  • Waistband: Length (distance around waist + 10 inches) by width (2 inches)
  • Skirt: Length (distance around waist x 2) by width (waist to bottom of skirt + 1 inch)
  • Bodice: Length (waist to top of bodice + 0.5 inches) by width (width of bodice + 0.5 inches)
  • Straps: Length ( length from top of bodice to back waist + 4 inches) by width (3.5 inches)

Based on my sister’s measurements (size 8 girls) here are the pieces I cut out:

  • Waistband: Length (25 + 10) by width (2) = 35 inches by 2 inches
  • Skirt: Length (25 x 2) by width (16 + 1) = 50 inches by 17 inches
  • Bodice: Length (8 + 0.5) by width (7.5+ 0.5) = 8.5 inches by 8 inches
  • Straps: Length ( 16 + 4) by width (3.5) = 20 inches by 3.5 inches

After you have cut out all 5 of your dress pieces also cut out the 3 lining pieces, which are 1 bodice, 1 waistband, and 1 skirt.  To cut out the lining pieces lay the dress pieces you have cut out onto the lining and use them as a template for your lining pieces.

Step 3: Cut elastic

The elastic will be used within the waistband of the dress, along the back. Here is how to determine the length of elastic you need for your dress:

Elastic length: (Distance around waist – bodice width) + 1 inch

For example I cut my elastic to be 18 inches long based on my sister’s measurements.

Elastic length: (25 – 8) + 1 = 18 inches

Step 4: Sew the dress together

Once you have all of your fabric cut out it is time to sew all of the squares into a dress. To begin make sure your sewing machine is set up.  I used a stitch length of 3, stitch width of 0, and a straight stitch for the majority of this project. 

Sew straps: 

1. Fold the strap piece in half lengthways, right sides together. Sew a seam down the open long edge and across the top, leave one end open. 

2. Clip the corner to remove bulk and turn the strap right side out. Iron down the strap so the seam is along the edge. 

3. Top stitch (a straight stitch, close to the edge, on the top side of the fabric that is visible in the end) around the 3 closed sides of the strap, leaving the one end open. The open end will be hidden within the dress. 

4. Repeat the process for the other strap.

Sew bodice: 

1. Pin the straps to the bodice lining, butting the end of the strap (open bottom edge) to the top edge of the lining. Attach the straps along the top edge, one strap on each end, ¼ inch from the side. Be sure that the length of the straps are directed into the bodice piece.

2. Pin the elastic band to the bottom of the bodice lining. Up ¼ from the bottom, pin each end of the elastic to each side of the bodice, letting the elastic stick out past the lining ¼ inch on each side. 

3. Once the elastic and straps are pinned in place, put the main bodice piece of fabric on top, right side down, so that everything is sandwiched in between the lining and main fabric. Pin the fabric down along both sides and the top.

4. Sew along the 3 edges with ¼ inch seam allowance, leaving the bottom edge open.

5. Clip the top corners to remove bulk and turn the bodice right side out.

6. Push out the corners so they are crisp and iron everything down. 

Sew skirt: 

1. Sew a hem on both the skirt and lining pieces. For the main fabric, along one long edge, fold the edge up ¼ inch, iron it down, fold it up another ¼ inch, iron it down and pin in place. Be sure to fold the hem in towards the bad side of the fabric. 

2. Sew a straight seam along the top edge of the hem to hold it in place. 

3. Repeat the process with the lining skirt, but fold ½ inch, press, fold another ½ inch, press, and sew. The lining should be slightly shorter than the outer skirt so that it does not show when worn. 

4. Once both skirt pieces are hemmed, sew them each into a circle loop. Individually take each skirt piece, fold them in half so the short ends meet up, right sides together, and sew a seam along the edge to form the circles. 

5. Sew a zig-zag stitch along the seams you just sewed to keep the edges from fraying. 

6. Put the lining skirt inside the outer skirt so they hang how you want them in the end. 

7. Sew the skirt and lining together with a gathering stitch. To do this, sew two straight seams close together around the top edge, with the longest stitch length possible on your machine. Be sure not to back and forward stitch and leave long thread tails. Once both seams are in, pull the threads to gather up the skirt to the length of your waistband.

Sew waistband: 

1. Find the middle of the waistband fabric piece and pin it to the middle of the bodice piece, lining up the edge of the waistband along where the elastic is connected to the bodice. The good side of the waistband fabric should be facing in against the bodice front. 

2. Once pined in place, flip the bodice with the attached waistband over.  Now line up the lining waistband piece with the main fabric waistband and pin them together along the bottom edge. The bodice piece will be sandwiched between the two waistband pieces.

3. Sew a straight seam with ¼ inch seam allowance along the edge, connecting the waistband pieces together and to the bodice.

4. Next, pin the two ends of the waistband right sides together and sew a seam to connect them into a loop.

5. Strengthen where the elastic meets the bodice piece by sewing a box over where the elastic is enclosed in the bodice on each side. 

6. Trim off the ¼ inch of bodice fabric along the bottom, below where the elastic meets the bodice, to reduce bulk in the waistband. 

Attach together: 

1. Pin the lining part of the waistband to the inside of the skirt. The good side of the waistband lining should be in against the skirt, and the skirt should be right side out like it will be when worn. The bodice and straps will be tucked down into the skirt. Adjust the skirt gathers to fit the length of the waistband.

2. Sew a seam to connect the skirt and waistband, sewing just above the bottom gathering stitch in between the two gathering stitches. Use a ¼ inch seam allowance.

3. Pull the bodice up out of the skirt and lay it out flat. Press waistband seams with the iron if need be.

4. Take the outer fabric of the waistband, fold the rough edge in ¼  inch and iron it down. Fold the fabric of the waistband down over the elastic and pin it to the font of the skirt, on top of the bottom gathering seam. Since the elastic is smaller than the waistband you will need to stretch and adjust things as you pin. 

5. Top stitch around the waistband sewing it to the skirt, keep the seam close to the ironed edge aiming to sew on top of the bottom gathered seam on the skirt. 

Add buttons: 

1. Try the dress on the girl. Bring the straps over her shoulders, criss-crossing them, and put a pin on the straps where the buttonholes should go. Also, put a pin on the waistband where the buttons should go.

2. Follow your sewing machine’s instructions for adding buttonholes, and add one to each strap in the position you pinned.

3. Sew your buttons onto the waistband with a needle and thread.

You Are Done!

I hope you have enjoyed this pinafore dress tutorial, and that it helped you to create something unique and special for a girl in your life.  Making handmade clothing can take a bit of time, but after a few projects you will become faster and more confident. There is something so sweet about showing your sister, daughter or niece how much you love them by making them something beautiful to wear. 

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10 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Very good job Maggie

    Reply
    • Maggie

      Thank you!

      Reply
  2. Mark and Pat MacFadzen

    How adorable!! I have to get busy.

    Reply
    • Maggie

      Hey Pat, yes you should make one! Let me know how it turns out.

      Reply
  3. Frances Urquhart

    This is adorable,Maggie. You have done a great job putting this tutorial together .Well done!

    Reply
    • Maggie

      Thanks so much Frances!

      Reply
  4. Lois Clark

    Great job Maggie! The blue is very pretty and looks adorable on your sister.

    Reply
    • mbrewer3

      Thanks Lois! I am glad you like it. It helps having such a cute little one in the family.

      Reply
  5. Ava

    Thank you so much for this tutorial! I am so excited to make this for my little sister. She is also 8! Pinafore dresses are just so adorable. Im going to use a blue linen I’ve had for a while and didn’t know what to do with it! ❤️

    Reply
  6. Abbey Green

    Maggie! Just stumbled upon your blog via this post and I love it! Thanks so much for this tutorial

    Reply

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Hey, I’m Maggie. I hope you will join me and my family in getting back to the land.  Here you will learn about making things yourself, cooking homegrown food, and beginning a homesteading journey.

 

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