Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Polka Dot Dress Tutorial

Ok... I am being brave. I am going to attempt my first real tutorial...

Keep in mind that I am still very new to sewing (I just started sewing 2 months ago) so I am still working on sewing in a straight line and am working on getting my techniques down. :)

I have had a few people ask me how I made this dress- so here you go!

I originally got the idea for this dress on the Elle Apparel blog (so awesome- check her tutorials out). She has a tutorial to make a dress very similar to this one and I made it but ended up having to tweak it a little to get the fit right for me. So this is what I came up with.

Here is what you need:
1 yard of fabric
2 inch wide elastic

I started by trying on my t-shirt and figuring out where I wanted to cut it off to add the elastic and skirt. I wanted the waist band a little higher so I cut mine off high to make an empire waistline.
So lay your t-shirt out flat and use a straight edge to cut off at the desired length.

Next cut out your skirt. There really isn't a pattern for this part. It's totally up to how you want your dress to look. I will show some different variations of this at the end of the tutorial, but for now I will just show you what I did for this dress. 

So the t-shirt I was using was 15 1/2 inches wide when laid out flat. So I wanted my skirt to be that same width. So I cut the top of the skirt out at 16 1/2 inches wide (allowing for 1/2 inch seam allowance on each side)
Next- I wanted the skirt bigger at the bottom so I used a straight edge and tapered it out so that the bottom of my skirt was 10 inches wider than the top. Again- this can be whatever you want it to be- as full or not full as you want it.

Make sure you have 2 pieces for the bottom of the skirt that are the same exact size. 
(when I made my mellow yellow dress I cut the back side of the skirt in the middle of the fabric not really thinking it through and I ended up having to improvise on the front piece of the skirt to make it work)

Next turn the fabric for the skirt so that they right sides of the fabric are facing each other and pin the sides together so you can sew them.

Next it is time for the elastic. My favorite thing right now is to dye my own elastic to match my dress. (Most elastic comes in white of black so it is nice to have a color to match) I used the tutorial on the Made blog (one of my favorites- Dana is pretty much a genius in my eyes!) to dye mine. 
Here is my only tip- I have used both the Rit powder dye and the Rit liquid dye and I recommend using the liquid to get a more even dye. The first 3 times I tried the powder and I didn't get it all the way mixed up and ended up getting some dots of unmixed dye on my shirts (kinda looked like ink spots) so it was frustrating... Spend the extra dollar for the pre mixed one! I totally think it is worth it.

So with this project I used 2 scraps of leftover elastic from previous projects to make my waistband so I sewed them together on the sides- but usually I use a fresh piece of elastic so I just have one seam instead of 2.
Measure your waist and add once inch to it and cut the elastic to that measurement (this allows for 1/2 inch seam allowance on each end of the elastic. If you are using 2 pieces of elastic like I did, you will have to allow for seam allowances on each side so cut accordingly.

Next, turn your skirt and sewn elastic waistband right side out and and pin the elastic all the way around the skirt. Line up the seam or seams with seam on the side of the skirt.

After it is all pined, sew the elastic to the skirt. I think it is easiest to sew on when the "right" sides of the of the fabric are facing up (if that makes sense) So that you can eyeball the edge of the elastic as you go to make sure you are sewing in a straight line.

Next do the exact same thing with the t-shirt. Make sure it is facing right side out and pin the elastic onto the top of the shirt. Make sure that you line up any seams in your elastic with the seams in the side of the t-shirt- it looks better and it helps you to make sure you are sewing the skirt on evenly.

Next try on the dress to make sure it fits properly and then measure where you want the hem to be and hem up the skirt.

And you are done!!!

Now you have your own version of my Polka Dot Dress!

Here are some other variations I have done with this dress...

With this dress I used seersucker fabric instead of a knit fabric like the Polka Dot Dress and I wanted the skirt to be fuller so the top of the skirt measured the same as the bottom. Then when I sewed the skirt to the elastic I had to stretch the elastic as I sewed to create the gathered skirt.

This dress has a tiered skirt on it. I made this one by skipping the first step of cutting off the t-shirt... Just leave it long for now. 
To make the skirt- I started by sewing the bottom layer of the skirt with a basting stitch at the top of the skirt so that I could pull the threads and create the gather and then pinned it evenly around the shirt and sewed it to the t-shirt. Then I followed the regular steps for the top layer of the skirt and then sewed the elastic onto the shirt just above where the bottom layer of the skirt was sewn on. After both layers of the skirt are sewn to the t-shirt, then you can cut the access of the t-shirt off from underneath the skirts to reduce the bulk. I loved the way this one turned out! The fit was so cute and I loved how puffy the skirt was! 

This dress was the same idea but I didn't use a t-shirt. It worked out because you can unbutton the buttons to put it on since it doesn't stretch like a t-shirt does. So keep that in mind when choosing a shirt to make this dress with!

There are so many variations that can be done to make this style of dress. That is what is so fun. There really aren't any rules- no pattern. Just go with the flow and see what you can come up with!

Linked up here.


  1. Very cute!! Thanks for sharing.

  2. thanks for linking to Take-A-Look tuesday - - I just featured you on my Facebook Page!!

  3. So cute! I'm a beginner when it comes ot sewing and I'm excited to try this! I'm your newest follower and would love it if you checked out my sigh to. mylilpinkpocket.blogspot.com

  4. Awesome job! I'd say your doing great for only having sewn for a couple of months! I love thrift store transformations and have done a few myself on my blog. You can check them out if you want to at secondchancesbysusan.blogspot.com

  5. I just started sewing too, although I have not been brave enough to make anything for myself really yet :)
    You did a great job on the tutorial!

  6. This is so cute! Thanks for the tutorial.

  7. Love it! I'm a new sewer too and I made my first dress using a t-shirt top recently too. So much fun and so many variations! I can't wait to try using exposed elastic like you did. - Jess (at) Oly Momma

  8. Very cute and I love that little sailor dress! Thanks for sharing!

  9. I LOVE that Elle Apparel tutorial... but oddly enough, haven't used it yet. Though I do have all the supplies. :) Your dresses are beautiful! I love them all! You've got quite some talent for only sewing for a few months!! Wow!
    I'd love for you to come link this to my summer link party!

    "Life's a Picnic!" party!

  10. Ohhhhhhhh this is SO DANG CUTE. I'll be featuring you tomorrow night on Your Whims Wednesday. I really want to try this now!!!

  11. I think you, your dresses, and your blog are adorable! Good work. I had to follow you! Please come by my blog and join my blog hop, if you have time today.

  12. I'm glad I found you, your tutorials are great and you so new at sewing, that's amazing. I hope to see many many more tutorials from you.

    kisses ikaxela (ikaxela.blogspot.com)

  13. Love all of your variations!! :)

  14. Super cute! and I have been sewing for a few years now and still sometimes can't sew in a straight line:>

  15. You seriously make the cutest clothing ever Ashley! I think I shall hire you to live in my closet :)

  16. LOVING the dyed elastic waist dresses. Thanks for the tutorials!

  17. wow, so eine Gute Idee. Danke dir :)

  18. This would be easy to turn into maternity dresses too! As I'm going to be hugely pregnant over the very hot summer months this year (baby due in August) I was looking for easy to make patterns of clothes that are comfy. I think that this is it! I might find a pattern for a maternity dress and use that for the skirt shape as I know it's a lot different than normal skirts... thanks for the idea!

  19. Very cute! I did something similar with a tank top and seersucker fabric but without a visible elastic band as i like accessorizing with belts. You can check out pics here: http://sharoncreations.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/tank-top-fabric-new-collared-dress/ By the way, I didn't think of dyeing the elastic till i read this tutorial. Thanks!

  20. Nice dress, you are really good at handmade. like your dress very much

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  22. Love the dress! What fabric did you use for the bottom of the tutorial? Thanks!


Thanks for taking the time to comment. I honestly love reading every single one! If you have a question you would like answered- be sure to include your email so that I can get back to you!

Thanks so much for stopping by! Have a great day!
xoxo, Ashley