Thursday 30 August 2012

How to Sew a Simple Princess Dress with Frill and Sash

How to Sew a Simple Princess Dress with Frill and Sash
(With no button or zip)

This tutorial is for a regular girl’s dress, made simple. I am making this princess dress in denim, with three layers in all, and a sash. It is a size 4-5T. This is a free-hand sewing project, without pattern, zips or buttons, so the garment has to be big enough to fit the princess as a slip over (hands up over the head to put on and take off works best). This pattern is a basic template that can be embellished with a collar, embroidery and pockets– the type of fabric will also dress-up or down the style.
Here are the basic math and measurements needed to make a no-zip/button dress so it can still have room. Always use a dress that is similar to find out collar and armpit measurements and compare to your child’s.
My daughter’s measurements will work for a lean 4T-5T.
 Chest 20 ½
Waist = 20
Hips = 23
Collar width = 5 ½
Collar depth = 3
shoulder to under armpit = 5 ¼

The basic formula when making a no zip garment needs these measurements. This is how to calculate the sizes of your panels and cut outs:
Add 3 to your measurement (only bust, waist and hip usually), then divide by 2.
Add 1 more for seam allowance (that would be a ½ inch seam allowance on both sides).
This is the measurement you mark out and cut.

The length of the dress, skirt or shirt must add seam allowance about 1-2 inches. This is for shoulder and hemline and any other waist or skirt seams.
If you want to add a gathered skirt attachment to a project, or make a frill at the hem of a skirt, take the formula width of the skirt and x 1.5 (you can also x 2 or double).  This will provide the width. This tutorial does both.
For this 4T-5T dress I used the hip formula for the top part, because I wanted it to have enough space to slide on and off, and to last a little while. I used that measurement to calculate what the gathered skirt portion would be also. If making a shirt of kaftan or simple straight dress, then the bust and hip are the most important to have so that garment can slide on and off. I mostly use the hip size for the entire width of shirts, skirts and dresses once the garment comes to rest in that region.
To calculate the measurements to mark and cut at:

Formula for width of top piece (shirt part): 23 + 3 = 26    26/2 = 13   13 + 1 = 14

Length of dress (shoulder to desired length) = 24 with seam allowance 24 + 2 = 26 

For the collar use the circumference of the child’s head and divide by 4.  21/4 = 5 ¼ 

Add on another ¼ inch to your answer for good measure making it 5 1/2 inches.
(When I make the one fold hem it ends up a 7 inch wide space.)

Collar depth is 3 inches, when hemmed, about 3 ½ inches.

Shoulder to Arm pit for this age is 5 inches. Add ¼  to that for shoulder seam allowance (if you cut garments on the fold at the shoulder you don’t need the seam allowance)

To make a dress with 3 layers you need to use a tape measure to determine how long each part will be, and add on the necessary seam allowances to each section of the dress (shoulder, waist, frill plus final hemline). My top piece was 9 inches long, my middle 14.5 and my frill 5 inches. So in all the dress is 28.5 but the final length is 27 and some. I used ½ inch seam lines and made no hemline.

Measurements that should read flat on the fabric, right sides together. All measurements are inches.:
Width of top piece = 14
Length of top piece = 9
Width of skirt piece = 21
Length of skirt piece = 14.5
Width of sash = 60
Length of sash = 4
Width of frill = 31
Length of frill = 5
Collar width = 5 ½
Collar depth = 3
Shoulder to under armpit = 5 ¼

Materials to make this project
1 yard -1 ½ yards fabric I used denim and cotton
Sewing machine
Tape measure
Yard rule


1. Cut out the top, skirt, sash and frill rectangles of the dress.

2. Take all the pieces to the sewing machine and Zigzag stitch the raw edges. Join together the two panels for the top piece, right sides together and pin three sides of it together

3. Place your neckline and side seam markings in chalk on the top now:
For the neckline, fold the rectangle in half, make a crease.

Unfold. This is the centre line.
Using the ruler make 2 ¾ on each side of the centre line which is the 5 ½ collar measurement. Next put a wide dash where the 3 inch depth belongs.

Using the rule, Draw a 1/2 inch seam across the top as well, passing through the collar marks.
Next mark the sides which will make the arm holes. Use the rule and measure 5 ¼ down from the top of the fabric and make a dash. Then draw the line going the rest of the way down. Do the same for the opposite side.

5. Join together the pieces for the skirt, right sides together and pin the left and right sides. Draw a ½ inch seam line on both sides using rule and chalk.

6. Back to the machine to sew the pieces together.
First make the two side seams of the skirt using a straight stitch.
Next, sew up the two short sides of the top piece or shirt piece.
Sew with straight stitch, the 1/2 inch top seam, making sure to reverse stitch over the marking for the collars this is so it can cut easily without unraveling. (This seam will be secured when the collar is zig zagged).

The top piece should look like this:

7. Fold the top in half matching up the two markings for the collar width.
Pin together.

Draw a curve to the 3 inch depth line.

Cut that semi-circle out – you should be cutting over the reverse stitch part of the seam.

Zigzag stitch the raw edge of the collar. Make sure to lay the top seam flat so that it is zigzagged in place lying flat.

8. Iron out the seams made on the sides of the top and the skirt, and on the top of the top piece as well.
Fold, press and pin the armholes and neckline one time with a ½ inch fold – twice if you care to but I find it tedious.

Note there is no hem at the bottom of the skirt, only a zigzag edge (or you can use your selvedge edge which needs no zigzag) because I am going to attach it to the frill.

9. Sew with straight stitch, the armholes and neckline. Iron out seams.

10. Turn top piece right side out and slip inside of skirt so the right sides of both pieces touch.
Match them up at the sides, seam to seam and pin in place.

Make small uniform little folds (folded to the right) going from corner pin to corner pin on one side, and continue to the other side. I usually go from left to right in pinning. Make sure pins are vertical so the machine can pass over them easily.

11. Sew together with a straight stitch using a ½ inch seam.

12. Unpin and iron the seam flat.

How To add a Frill to a Princess Skirt

I usually always make my frill 5 inches tall which includes which includes a selvedge edge and a ½ inch seam allowance at the top to attach the frill to the skirt. I don’t hem once the selvedge edge has no holes or writing. But if my edges end up uneven when I make my side seam then I make a small ¼ inch hem.  If you have to hem with no selvedge add 1-2 inches to the frill making it a 6-7 inch tall or long rectangle.
To calculate the width of the frill, the same formula applies where the width of the skirt is multiplied by 1.5 or 2 inches. I use 1.5. If you have 1.3  you can still make a gathered frill.
The width of my skirt is 21 so the frill I am using is 21 x 1.5 = 31.5.
The frill is 5 inches long by 31.5 inches wide. I often round up or down when I get point-something numbers.
The frill to be cut is 5 x 31 inches (or 6 x 31 if making a hem). The frill can be cut using a fold to make one seam, or it can have two side seams, just make sure that when it lies flat folded, it measures  5 x 31 of whatever your measurement is.
13. Zigzag the raw edges of the frill. Don’t zigzag the selvedge.
14. If you have two pieces, put right sides together and sew up the sides using a  ½ inch seam allowance.  I start from the selvedge and go up so that if I get any unevenness it’s at the top where it won’t show. Press out the seam.
If you have one piece on the fold, join the one seam and sew up using a ½ inch seam. Starting with selvedge edge again. Iron out the seam. This is what it will look like with one seam:

15. If you don’t have selvedge then make a hemline making two 1/2  folds; pressing and pinning. Sew using a straight stitch. Iron out the hem of frill.
To attach the frill to the skirt:
16. With the skirt on the right side, turn the frill on the wrong side. Matching up seam to seam, pin the frill at one corner of the skirt. Extend the frill out flat to find the opposite end and pin that to the other side of the skirt. It doesn’t matter if your skirt or frill has 1 or 2 seams, still attach the frill seam to skirt seam at least on one side.

 (Note this is the same method used to attach the skirt piece to the top piece of the dress.)


Pin the remaining fabric all around on both sides, making small pleats folded to the right. Insert the pins with the head to the bottom and sharp edge pointing up where the machine will sew. 

If you want to use the machine to gather, do that now instead (though I think it would require a wider frill measurement).  I don’t do it because I don’t have the correct foot –  so I do it by hand.

18. After pinning, using a straight stitch and another  ½ inch seam, sew the frill and skirt together.
Iron out seams flat on the wrong side.

Finished the dress! But you still have to make a sash – which you can do first before you start the dress, that’s what I do.

How to make a sash
There are three different ways to make a sash or belt that I use. I will just outline them – don’t really have pictures but it’s simple enough to figure out.
a) Fold the sash in half right sides together and match edges together, pin and iron in place. Iron it as flat and even as possible. Sew a straight line down the joined ends. Flip over to the other side, iron again. Tuck in and zigzag closed the two open ends separately.
b) Wrong side facing up, fold one edge of the sash about ¼ inch in and iron the fold,
Flip the sash around so the fold just made is on the top, and make another ¼ fold and iron. Match the two folded edges together, pin and iron the entire lengt. this is a picture of two ties which can also go on the top/shirt piece 1 inch up from the bottom.

c) You can also do the lazy way which I did. Start the same way, which is to press the ends together with the right side facing up. Iron that flat as possible and pin. Use a zigzag stitch all around the perimeter. Use a 4 zigzag stitch and go all around the sash. You can go twice instead of once. Or use a serger!

Now you are really finished!
Let the little princess get all dolled up! Wear with or without the sash:

Here's the princess dress with the hemline and no frill, and with ties to the side:

 Happy sewing!



  1. I like this... you are very talented

  2. Hi, thank you for these beautiful instructions. I am trying to make this dress but I am a beginner sewer. I have one question - how do you make the small uniform folds on the skirt? I mean how do you make them so that the final width of the skirt is the same as the width of the top part? Thank you! Eva

  3. Rastafari forever! I am so happy to come across another sistern who is standing strong. This is Asantewaa from Chicago.


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