the sweet & sassy dress: a tutorial

This dress pretty much named itself because Miss Sadie was being super sassy during this photo shoot! I couldn’t believe the smiles I was getting out of her! Surprisingly it only cost me a leftover piece of saltwater taffy from her party….I was all ready with Squinkies and such nonsense. I think it’s a fluke…pretty sure next time she’ll be as demanding as ever. She’ll want spring water from Antarctica and fancy chocolates from….somewhere fancy, I guess.

I had to make this yard of fabric stretch, so I did a cream bodice to match the cream in the houndstooth. (fabric is Houndstooth in Melon from Lily Bella Fabrics!) I love the flutter sleeves and little tie in front.

I haven’t done a pleated skirt in awhile so I went for it-winging it is my middle name!

Here’s how I made it!

See below for the full tutorial!

 You’ll need:

main fabric & coordinating fabric (yardage depends on the size. I had just enough for a 3T size with a yard, but the skirt wasn’t very full)
thread, basic sewing stuff (ie machine, scissors, button maker, etc)
iron on interfacing

First I made a simple bodice pattern by tracing a tee folded in half. Make sure to add seam allowances!

Using the armhole I created a flutter sleeve pattern by tracing the curve and adding seam allowance. The top is the fold, and I add length to it so you could add it to the pattern, or just later when you cut it out.

For the front bodice pieces, make sure to cut extra on the inside line-I marked 1.5″ here, but ended up with 1″. This is where the button flaps will overlap in front.

For the skirt, I cut out a piece of fabric selvage to selvage that was 17″ long. I wanted a big fat hem-those are my favorites lately!

When I cut out the sleeve I folded the piece in half like so…

…and then folded it again, then added about 2″ to the top fold line to be able to gather it in.

So I cut two flutter sleeve pieces, 4 front bodice pieces, and two back bodice pieces on the fold. Also 2 strips of fabric 2″ wide cut on the bias for the tie. You can make it wider if you want and as long as you want!

First off for the bodice-sew the two sets of pieces right sides together at the shoulder seams, then press the seams open with your iron.

Then cut two pieces of interfacing 1″ wide x as wide as your bodice front aka button placket.

Then iron them bad boys on to the wrong side of one of the bodice pieces. (doesn’t really matter if it’s the outer piece or lining)

For the sleeves, open up the piece like so…

Then fold over and press with your iron.

Next sew a gathering stitch along the curved side and pull the top thread to gather.

Fit it to your armhole, leaving about 1/2″ on either end like so.

Baste the flutter sleeve in along the gathering stitch to keep it in place. Repeat for other sleeve.

Pin other bodice piece on top like so and pin and sew along the armholes.

Also sew the  front button placket sides together.

Turn it right sides out and press the seams you just made.

Next sew the side seams together-match them up right under the armholes and pin.

Then sew them together! Repeat for the other side.

Now’s a good time to put in those button holes!

Next take those bias pieces-if you need to, piece them together to make a long piece. Fold in half lengthwise and iron, then press in either side 1/4″.

To make the ends angled-fold over the edge of the tape 1/4″….

Then fold in one of the points to make a slanted side.

And then the other one too.

Match them up and pin! repeat for other end.

Then pin the tie around the neckline making sure to catch the raw edges.

Then sew it on starting at one end of the tie, topstitching along the edge like so.

For the skirt, I sewed it into a tube, then put some pleats in til it fit the bodice. You could also gather it-sorry I don’t have more instruction for this part, but I was really winging it and it would be different for every size.

Once it fit the bodice, I pinned and sewed them right sides together.

Hemmed up the bottom with a big ol hem and double stitches. (nothing fancy, just followed the first row as best I could)

 The dress was lacking definition at the waist, so I added some ruching with elastic on the sides. I simply sewed some 1/4″ elastic with a large stitch, sewing on the seam allowance where the bodice and skirt were joined. This made it pucker up and fit a little more closely.

Tada! All done!


  1. Very cute! Thank you for the tutorial.

  2. Jess,

    I LOVE this dress…..I really need to sew some cute dresses again. It’s time!!!!! LOVE the houndstooth with the white–so cute.

  3. Jess,

    I LOVE this dress…..I really need to sew some cute dresses again. It’s time!!!!! LOVE the houndstooth with the white–so cute.

  4. Jess,

    I LOVE this dress…..I really need to sew some cute dresses again. It’s time!!!!! LOVE the houndstooth with the white–so cute.

  5. Just had to say how inspiring your tutorials are! My little girl (almost 3) was sitting in my lap as I read your post and kept asking what your girls name was and asked if they could be friends, to quote her ” please mama, please, please, we be friends?” haha

  6. I love, love, love this! I’ve been busy with nursery projects and haven’t made anything for my daughter in a while – this makes me want to stop what I’m doing and make this right now!!

  7. I love your tutorials! They are helping me get over my fear of sewing. Thanks!

  8. OMG, this fabric is SO cute! I also love the design of the dress. You are SEW talented! 🙂

  9. Very Cute Little Dress – you’re so talented!

  10. Soo totally darling!

  11. Such a sweet dress and pretty fabric! Love the tie and buttons too! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  12. I love that she now poses with her hands on her hips!

  13. Adorable as usual! I love the fabric and the flutter sleeves. =)

  14. Oh I love that little Sadie! She’s co cute. This dress is pretty similar to how I made the Amelie dress…except I did facings instead of bias and short sleeves instead of flutter. Otherise, pretty darn close! I’ll just refer people to you if they ask me for a tute. 😉

  15. Well the sweet little girl have awesome expressions in beautiful photos…the dress designing is very creative…I am going to see this blog again and again so that I can make this dress for myself…

    reflective essay

  16. Thank you so much for this post. I want to let you know that I posted a link to your blog in Creative Busy Bee Craft Inspirations, under the Page 1 post on Aug. 31, 2012. Thanks again.

  17. Oh my…she is adorable. Love her sass.

  18. Love this!

  19. Very Cute Little Dress – you’re so talented!

  20. 我很喜歡你得作品

  21. What a sweet little model you have! 😀

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