Even for the novice sewer, creating dresses without a dress pattern is a snap when you stitch your favorite fabrics into breezy dresses for your little girl. Learn how to make a pillowcase dress from your favorite fabric, some ribbon and a few simple swipes of the sewing machine.

allParenting homemade pillowcase dress materials


  • Cotton fabric, pre-washed and dried
  • Measuring tape
  • Sewing scissors
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Sewing machine
  • White thread
  • Straight pins
  • 5/8-inch ribbon
  • Flame like a lighter
  • Sewing needle


First, determine the length of the dress you want by measuring your daughter from her collar bone to right above her knees and adding 4 inches to the length to allow for seams. For a size 6 dress, I measured 25 inches long, so I need 2 pieces of fabric 29 inches long each.

For the width, for size 2T and up you can usually just use the existing width of the original fabric, often 42 inches wide, and fold it in half to yield 2 pieces of 21-inch wide panels. But, babies and toddlers size 24 months and younger can run as narrow as 15 inches, depending on the size of your bundle of joy. Now cut your fabric to size. Note: Remember, you need 2 matching pieces of fabric measuring 29 inches long and 21 inches wide each.

allParenting homemade pillowcase dress step 1

Next, fold your fabric in half lengthwise and cut up along the side to make 2 equal pieces for the front and back of your dress, with a finished width of 21 inches wide each.
Then, fold over the side of 1 piece of fabric about 1/2 inch, along the long side of the dress and iron it down so you have a crisp edge. Fold it over a second time on itself and iron again. Make sure you're folding it toward the back side of the fabric. Repeat with the fabric's opposite edge so you have 2 parallel finished edges. Do the same with the other matching piece of fabric.

allParenting homemade pillowcase dress step 2

Now, sew the crisp, folded edge of your fabric with your sewing machine to keep the finished edges in place, repeating with the sister piece, but keep the 2 pieces of fabric separate because you don't want to sew them together just yet!

allParenting homemade pillowcase dress step 3

Next, fold over the tops and bottoms — or short ends of your fabric — twice each so you end up with a 1-inch pocket in which your ribbon will run through. Although the ribbon only runs through the top of your pillowcase dress it's easier to just make the seams the same. Iron and stitch in place with your sewing machine. Repeat with the other matching piece of fabric.

allParenting homemade pillowcase dress step 4

Now it's time to sew your 2 pieces together, so put the 2 right sides of your fabric together making sure the short sides and the long sides match up. You'll also want to ensure the bottom hems of your pillowcase dress pattern line up, too.

allParenting homemade pillowcase dress step 5

Then grab a loose T-shirt in the size you're sewing for and measure the distance from the shoulder of the shirt to the bottom of the armpit; for a size 6 dress it is 6 inches. Measure the same distance down from the top of your fabric where the ribbon will run and mark it with a pin; this is where the arm hole of your DIY pillowcase dress will end. Continue pinning down the length of the dress and repeat on the opposite side leaving the tops and bottoms of your fabrics unpinned.

allParenting homemade pillowcase dress step 6

Next, head back to your sewing machine and start stitching the 2 pieces together from the bottom of your arm hole down to the bottom of the dress, keeping just along the inside of your finished edge. Repeat on the opposite side.

allParenting homemade pillowcase dress step 7

Then it's time to turn your dress right-side-out and run the ribbon through each of the pockets in the top of the pillowcase dress. Cut a single length of ribbon a little more than 2 times the width each — in this case about 42 inches long — and carefully finish the edge of each ribbon by melting it lightly with a flame. Attach a safety pin to 1 end of the ribbon to help you run it through the front of your ribbon pocket and through the back ribbon pocket, meeting on the same side.

Now tie the 2 ends of the ribbon into a bow at your little one's shoulder and let her model your fantastic finished pillowcase dress. Once you have it scrunched in all the right places, use a safety pin through the ribbon and the ribbon pocket at about the center of the front of the dress. Repeat with the back.

Finally, remove the dress from your youngster and sew a small stitch through the inside of the pocket, through the ribbon, and back out the inside of the dress and tie. Repeat with the ribbon on the back panel to ensure the ribbon doesn't slip out and she'll be ready for the runway... or at least the playground.

Tip^ You can shorten the length of the finished pillowcase dress if needed even after you've completed the dress tutorial by turning inside-out and folding it up and sewing a new hem.

allParenting How to make a pillowcase dress

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