How to sew a dress for beginners

Make your first dress today with our step by step guide to sewing a simple jersey dress using your favourite T-shirt as a template.

How to sew a dress for beginners

Yes you can make your first ever dress! Karoline Dahrling’s simple jersey dress is a great first dressmaking project as you don’t need to worry about fiddly pattern cutting – you can make it using your favourite top as a size guide. We’ll talk you through how to make a dress for beginners, every step of the way.

This easy dressmaking pattern was first published in Simply Sewing magazine. To make this project simple we traced directly onto the fabric so there is no paper pattern to draw, cut and trace. We have traced directly on the fabric and cut 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 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).

Notes

Use a 1cm (38in) seam allowance throughout. If you’re new to sewing, read our beginner posts to learn the basics:

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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)
  • Thread
  • Sewing machine
  • Basic sewing kit

Total time:

Cutting out

Step 1

Fold the fabric in half lengthways and then in half again lengthways. There will now be four layers of fabric.

Step 2

Place the folded T-shirt on the fabric against the edge with two folds of fabric.

Step 3

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.

How to sew a dress step 1

Step 4

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.

Step 5

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.

Step 6

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.

How to sew a dress step 2

Assembling the dress

Step 1

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. 

Step 2

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

Step 1

Fold the bottom hem 1cm (38in) 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.

How to sew a dress step 3

Step 2

Turn the dress RS out. Fold a raw sleeve hem over by approx 5mm (¼in) so that the WS is facing upwards.

How to sew a dress step 4

Step 3

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.

How to sew a dress step 5

Step 4

Stitch all the way around approx 2mm (18in) from the edge of the fold. Sew carefully, making sure the raw edge does not emerge and get caught in the stitching.

How to sew a dress step 6

Step 5

Repeat this technique to finish the other sleeve opening and the neckline.

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How to sew a dress
Get ready to sew your very own first dress