How to sew a dress in a day – DIY dress for beginners
Make your first dress today with our step by step guide! Learn how to sew a simple dress using jersey fabric and your favourite T-shirt as a template – no fiddly pattern cutting needed.
Yes, you can make your first ever dress! Karoline Dahrling-Hughes’ easy jersey dress is a great first dressmaking project as you don’t need to worry about messing around with pattern cutting – you can make it using your favourite top as a size guide.
We’re going to talk you through how to make a dress for beginners, every step of the way. We’ve included some information on how long it will take to sew a dress as well as some fabric tips to help you feel fully comfortable with this project.
We’ve also created a handy YouTube video to help you learn how to sew a dress! You can watch our video below.
Ready? Let’s sew a dress together!
How long does it take to sew a dress?
Our how to sew a dress pattern takes one day to sew. This is because it requires no pattern cutting and so taking measurements is not needed. These steps often take a whole day to organise but the tracing method we’ve used is much speedier!
Every dressmaking pattern takes a different amount of time and it all depends on the complexity of the pattern. For example, if your dress includes ruffles or complex stitching like french seams, it will take much longer to sew.
As a general rule (if you’re using a pattern) it roughly takes three days to sew a dress.
Tips for sewing with Jersey fabric
Our how to make a dress tutorial uses jersey fabric. Jersey fabric is a brilliant, easy-sew material and is ideal for beginners.
To help you get to grips with the material, we created a how to sew jersey fabric tutorial. It includes advice on calculating stretch, what sewing machine settings you need and much more.
Feeling inspired to start sewing?
Check out Simply Sewing Magazine! It’s packed with beautiful sewing patterns to make and helpful guides from sewing experts! Check out the latest issues or subscribe today.
How to sew a dress
To make this project simple we traced directly onto the fabric so there is no paper pattern to draw, cut and trace.
We traced directly on the fabric and cut it out.
If you are unsure whether the dress will fit, then cut it with extra seam allowance all the way around so you can adjust it if necessary.
A dress up to a UK size 16 will fit on a fabric width of 140cm (45in) for larger sizes. For a longer-length dress you may need to purchase wider fabric or increase the amount needed to 2m (2¼yd).
Use a 1cm (3⁄8in) seam allowance throughout. If you’re new to sewing, read our sewing for beginners guide to learn all the basic stitches
You Will Need
- Jersey fabric (1mx140cm (1 1⁄8 x 55 in)), See notes above if you're making this in a size 16+
- T-shirt (A jersey t-shirt that fits you)
- Sewing machine
- Basic sewing kit
How to cut out your dress
Fold the fabric in half lengthways and then in half again lengthways. There will now be four layers of fabric.
Place the folded T-shirt on the fabric against the edge with two folds of fabric.
Mark around the top as shown in our image below with tailor’s chalk or an erasable fabric marker.
If the T-shirt has a wide neck opening (such as a boat neck) then mark a narrower width neckline on the fabric.
Don’t trace tightly around the sleeves, but instead follow the shape in the image below as a guide for a shallow armhole curve.
Finally, gradually curve the shape at the dress hem, again don’t make this curve too steep as it will be more difficult to sew.
When you have drawn out your markings, check the neck opening is not too wide and the hem is the correct length.
When you are happy with it, cut out the dress using sharp scissors on a flat surface.
Looking for more beginner-friendly sewing patterns?
Head over to our collection of free sewing patterns and make your new DIY dress some friends!
You will now have two pieces that are the same for the front and back of the dress.
Lay both pieces out with one folded in half and the centre fronts of both pieces aligning.
Cut the folded neckline a little lower – this will be the front piece.
Cut approx 2-3cm (¾-1¼in) lower than the curve of the neckline of the back piece.
Don’t trim any fabric away from the shoulders as the shoulders of the front and back piece need to align.
Assembling your new dress
Place the two pieces of fabric together with right sides (RS) facing.
Stitch down the sides and the armhole in one pass.
Start sewing at the sleeve hem and stitch down to the dress hem.
Also stitch both shoulder seams together with RS facing.
Finish the raw edges of all seams with a zigzag stitch or an overlocker.
Finishing off your DIY dress
Fold the bottom hem 1cm (3⁄8in) towards the wrong side (WS) and pin in place.
Stitch it in place from the RS.
If you have a twin needle, use this to stitch the hem with a double row of stitching for a professional finish.
Alternatively, use a stretch stitch on your machine (such as narrow zigzag or a specialised machine stitch) to neatly stitch the hem in place. Be sure to follow the curve of the dress hem as you topstitch the hem.
Turn the dress RS out.
Fold a raw sleeve hem over by approx 5mm (¼in) so that the WS is facing upwards.
Fold again by 5mm (¼in) for a neat finish.
The raw edge of the sleeve opening is now hidden in the fold.
Pin in place.
Stitch all the way around approx 2mm (1⁄8in) from the edge of the fold.
Sew carefully, making sure the raw edge does not emerge and get caught in the stitching.
Repeat this technique to finish the other sleeve opening and the neckline.
Stitch your own DIY dress and feel beautiful!
There’s nothing more satisfying than learning how to sew dresses. Not only do you have full control over the style, pattern, and fit, but your dress will be truly one of a kind.
Sewing a dress that suits you and your style will help to boost your confidence and leave you feeling beautiful.
We promise after stitching your own dress you’ll catch the dressmaking bug!
Start your dressmaking journey with Gathered
Now you’ve learned how to make a dress why not expand your dressmaking skills?
Head over to our how to sew section here on Gathered to learn lots of useful techniques, tips, and tricks.