Little Girl Formal Dress Tutorial

This is the dress I made for my daughter when she got baptized & today I'm sharing the tutorial on how I made it.  Be warned that this pattern is not for the faint of heart. :)
I think it would make an adorable Easter dress in pretty spring colors too.

1. Find a dress or shirt that already fits the person you want to fit the pattern to.
2. Find some paper you can use as pattern paper.  I used packing paper from when we moved years ago.
3. Fold the dress or shirt in half and trace the back of the bodice, minus the sleeve.  This will be your back bodice piece.  I just kind of outlined the bodice and then got a ruler and drew straight lines.

4. Add 1/2" around you entire back bodice pattern piece.
5. Cut 2 back bodice pieces from dress fabric.
6.  Cut 2 back bodice pieces from dress lining fabric.

7. Use folded dress or shirt to trace the front of the bodice, minus the sleeve.  Use ruler to create straight lines.
8. Add 1/2" seam allowance around each edge except on the fold.
9. Cut 1 front bodice piece on a fold from dress fabric.
10.  Cut 1 front bodice piece on a fold from dress lining fabric.

11. Using dress or shirt & trace sleeve.

12. Use ruler to draw straight edges.  It's easiest to draw this piece on the fold, so each side is the same.

13. Add 1/2" seam allowance to each edge.  
14. Cut 2 sleeve pieces from dress fabric.

15.  Sew back bodice pieces, with right sides together, to the front bodice piece at side seams.  I sewed this entire pattern with a 1/2" seam, so I could make corrections if I needed to.
16.  Sew back bodice pieces to front bodice piece at shoulders.

17.  Check bodice on person to see if it fits the way you want it to.

18.  Repeat steps 15 & 16 with dress lining back and front pieces.
19.  Iron open all seams of dress bodice.
20.  Sew gather on curve of both sleeves.
21.  Sew bottom edge of each sleeve together.
22.  Sew each sleeve into bodice arm holes with right sides together.
23.  Cut 1 skirt piece from dress fabric.  I used a circle skirt pattern that I created myself with extra length so I could make gathers throughout the skirt.  I also left the circle open so I could sew in a zipper. (Here's a great tutorial on how to cut the circle.)

24. Sew the bodice to skirt piece at waist with right sides together.

This is what your dress should look like at this point.

25. Sew bodice dress lining to dress at the neck, with right sides together.
26.  Top stitch the dress at the neck seam.

27. With the dress lining pulled out of the way, install a blind zipper in the back of the dress.

Tip: Make sure you line up the waist seam as you're installing your zipper or you'll end up with an uneven seam. I was okay with the uneven seam because I knew I'd be adding a waist sash.

Tip: Leave a small space at the top of your zipper to install a clasp.

This is what your dress should look like at this point.

28.  Mark where you want your gathers to be on the skirt piece of your dress.  I made each of my gathers 3"  & I just spaced them in columns about 11" apart.  Then I staggered each row.  This picture shows how I marked the top & bottom of my gather & how I spaced them.  I repeated this pattern throughout the entire skirt. (This picture only shows a portion of my markings.)

29.  On underside of skirt, sew gathers.  I hand stitched the gathers.

30. Cut front & back skirt pieces from dress lining fabric.  I just measure my daughter's waist & hips & cut the fabric from those measurements.
31.  Sew both side seams of skirt lining.  I left the seam on the outside of the skirt since this was going to be underneath the dress & so the inside of the dress would have a smooth seam.

32.  Cut 9" strips of tulle, long enough to go around the skirt.  I made 5 layers, each layer with double thickness of tulle.
33.  Gather tulle & sew onto skirt, layering and overlapping tulle as you go.
34.  Hem skirt lining to length you want it.

35.  Sew skirt lining (now a petticoat skirt) to bodice lining at waist seam.  Make sure you sew the seam so it's on the outside of the petticoat & not on the inside, so you'll have a smooth seam inside the dress.

36.  Sew dress to lining along the zipper.  I hand sewed the lining to the dress on the zipper seam allowance, so the seam on the inside of the dress would be smooth and you wouldn't see the thread on the backside of the dress.
37.  Hem dress to the length you want it.

38.  Sew fabric roses for each gather on the skirt.  (Cut 1 inch strips of fabric.  Fold fabric in half lengthwise & together like picture above.  Turn fabric right side out.  Roll fabric like a rose & hand sew in place as you go until your flower is the size you want.)
39.  Sew roses onto skirt over each gather.
40.  Sew waist sash.  (This is how I sewed my sash...Cut 3 strips of fabric 6 inches wide and the length as follows--one strip the length of the front of dress at waist + enough for seam allowance on each edge & 2 strips however long you want them to be tied at the back. Sew 3 pieces together--1 front waist piece & 1 back tie piece on each side of the front waist piece.  Repeat for the other 3 pieces.  Pin both tie pieces together with right sides together.  Sew along all the edges leaving an opening along one of the back ties.  Turn fabric right side out & press sash.  Top stitch along all the edges of the waist sash.)
41.  Sew sash to dress along bodice side seams.

Now stand back and admire all your hard work!

I'm no professional seamstress and this dress was created from my own experience with sewing over the years.  If there are things that you don't understand in this tutorial, send me an email and I'll try to help you as best as I can.  This dress was definitely a labor of love for me and it's not perfect, but I'm so glad I decided to overcome my fear of sewing without a pattern because my daughter and I LOVE how it turned out.  Thanks MOM for teaching me how to sew so many years ago!

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