“The dress must follow the body of a woman, not the body following the shape of the dress.” - Hubert de Givenchy
How could you forget the magnificent black dress that Audrey Hepburn wore in her role as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s?
Did you know that it was made by Givenchy, the fashion giant?
Whether in a famous film, a magazine, or just on an evening, a good dress is unforgettable, even those we imagine but can’t find in shops.
Anyone can learn how to sew or knit a dress. You don’t need to be a famous fashion designer or an expert in dressmaking, you can learn to sew with sewing courses and then just follow a sewing pattern.
Be it an evening dress, floral sundress, sleeveless shirt dress, maxi dress, wrap dress, party dress, baby dress, shift dress, circle skirt, etc, you can now get the wardrobe you always dreamed of.
Just follow our advice below and your creativity will do the rest. Sewing and creating handmade clothes to wear isn’t as hard as you might think.
In this article, we'll be providing you with tips and resources for learning how to sew a dress and creating your own wardrobe!
How to Make a Dress: The Different Steps
Are you ready to get your needle and threads out of the drawer or your sewing machine out of the loft?
For a beginner, you might think that making a dress seam is really complicated and you'll never manage to make your own clothes. However, if you break it down into several steps, it can be one of the best sewing projects to get you started.
There are plenty of tutorials and free sewing patterns available online. You can also get books to help you learn to sew. Generally, when making dresses or skirts, these are the steps you’ll have to follow:
- Choose and wash your fabric: for your first dress, choose a natural fabric which is easy to work with like cotton or a cotton blend. Get a relatively thick fabric so that you don’t have to make a lining. Two to three metres of fabric should do the trick, depending on your size, shape, and the style of dress - long, short, with or without sleeves, etc. Wash the fabric, because it might shrink, and then iron it.
- Choose a pattern: a dress pattern is a good idea to start with since it’ll give you the specific measurements and the shapes of the different parts of the dress.
- Measure: buy a measuring tape from a haberdashery and take your time ensuring that all the measurements are perfect before you start cutting the fabric. See if someone can help you measure your size.
- Cut: lay the pattern flat on your fabric, pinning it if necessary, then follow the lines as you cut out the various pieces of your dress. If your dress has sleeves, they’ll need to be cut from a piece separate to the main part. Make sure you always leave yourself an extra centimetre along the edges of each cut.
- Sew: Take your time! You’ll quickly get to grips with which parts you have to sew, creating permanent seams rather than having to undo your stitches and redo them. Pay particular attention to the neckline and the hem.
- Finish: Once you’ve sewn your dress, you can add a zipper on the side or back of the dress or snaps to open and fasten your dress more quickly. You can customise it however you want: Add lace, frills, pearls, buttonholes, etc.
Check out how to sew on a button, too!
Find the best online sewing classes thanks to Superprof.
Easy Ways to Make a Dress
There’s no need to set your sights on complicated tasks at first. In just a few steps, without having to get lessons on sewing or knowing what a serger is, you can make a dress quite easily.
With a bit of thread and by following a few steps, anyone can make a dress.
Make a Tunic Dress in Less than an Hour
You can make a dress in less than an hour. There are blogs with step-by-step guides explaining how to and there are also different length dress you can make.
You just have to cut four identical pieces of fabric and sew them together while leaving a hem around the neck, armholes, and bottom, add a belt, and you’re finished! If you have another hour free, you could even make a pleated skirt!
Look for sewing lessons London.
Make a Dress with 4 Rectangles
There are also online blogs detailing how to make a dress with just four pieces of rectangular fabric.
You can opt for a lighter jersey fabric or customise your dress by adding pockets or gathered shoulders, for example.
Make a Strapless Dress
A strapless dress is a great style to start with. It’s very simple to make and can be worn on the beach or at a soirée, depending on fabric and clothing patterns you choose.
You basically have to cut a 1m by 1m piece of fabric, sew the edge together to make a tube, place some elastic along the top and the middle to gather the fabric, make a hem, and you’re done!
You could make yourself a bag after that!
The Best Sewing Tutorials for Making a Dress
There are passionate bloggers who’ve set up shop on the web and offer free dress patterns and tutorials. Here are some of the best:
- Tilly and the Buttons: You may remember Tilly from The Great British Sewing Bee. Her website has a great blog full of tutorials on sewing, patterns, and online classes for those wanting to learn more about sewing and making their own clothes.
- Whipstitch: This blog has tonnes of information on making clothes for both adults and children as well as explanations of sewing techniques and terms.
- Sew Over It: This blog includes plenty of tutorials (including video tutorials) and there are patterns, books, and e-books available through the site.
- Purl Soho: This website belongs to a shop in New York City but just so happens to have plenty of projects and tutorials for people interested in making their own clothes, quilting, and sewing.
If you want to take things even further, you could attend a workshop or private tutorials. You’ll learn techniques like canvas mounting, which can be used to strengthen parts of a garment or a stitch, creating patterns, designing patterns on a fashion model, overcasting, etc.
You’ll also learn about the different types of fabric, accessories, and piping, for example. You’ll be able to work with different types of materials and patterns: fleece, viscose, satin, velvet, patchwork, etc.
How to Make a Dress without a Pattern
Does the word “pattern” make you feel uneasy?
Don’t worry! Working without a pattern can make you feel free!
There are also blogs and videos online showing you how to do this. The main things you have to do:
- Grab a tank top that fits you well
- Take three measurements of it
- Cut the length of the dress +3cm
- Put the tank top on the fabric with the top of the traps lined up with the top of the fabric, and trace the outline of the top onto the fabric.
- Measure the bottom of the fabric (around the buttocks) under the top
- Draw the bottom of the dress as a circle arc
An elastic skirt is also really easy to make. Without a pattern, you can make a nice pleated skirt for either summer or winter, depending on the fabric you choose.
To do this:
- Cut a rectangle twice the size you want and +4cm longer than you want.
- Measure the elastic to get the ideal length
- Sew the sides
- Sew the hem where you’re going to insert the elastic
- Insert the elastic
- Sew the other hem
What about making your own trousers?
The Best YouTube Channels for Learning to Make a Dress
There are a lot of passionate YouTubers offering advice and tips on how to sew and make dresses. Whether you want to make a dress, blouse, tote bag, quilt, pillowcase, or doll clothes, here are a few of the best YouTube channels around:
It doesn't take a genius to work out what this channel is about (it's crafts, by the way!). You can learn about quilting, knitting tops, sewing, as well as kitchen crafts like cooking and baking.
Pink Chocolate Break
This channel has playlists on different types of garments and different levels of abilities. Once you've got the hang of the easier projects, why not move onto more advanced stuff?
This is a good channel for beginners. In fact, this is the main focus of the channel. If you're an absolute novice, looking for a skirt pattern or information on stylish projects, or wanting to make a summer dress, this is the place to go!
All Free Sewing
If you're on a budget, you probably enjoyed seeing the word “free” in this channel's name. There are loads of great projects and sewing tips on this channel. There are tutorials for beginners, projects for children (like making clothes for a doll), and how to recycle old clothes.
This is a channel that's worth checking out once you've got to grips with sewing as there are plenty of advanced sewing techniques explained in great detail. However, the delivery is very clear and the methods are explained step-by-step so you might be checking out this channel sooner than you think. If you're looking for tutorials on embroidery, embellishment, ruffles, or pleats, this is the place to go!
Now you can make your own original dresses... It's sew easy!
See our guide on sewing trousers.
Find out how to sew on a button.
Discover how you can make a bag.