How to Cut & Sew a Dress

By Debra Rigas ; Updated September 15, 2017

Things Needed

  • Sewing pattern
  • Fabric
  • Interfacing
  • Sewing machine
  • Needles
  • Thread
  • Bobbins
  • Sewing pins
  • Pin cushion
  • Tape measure
  • Sharp sewing scissors
  • Seam ripper
  • Zipper
  • Sewing or fabric tape (optional)
  • Other sewing tools and notions (optional)
  • Trim (optional)
Sewing a dress is best done with a quality sewing machine.

Making your own clothing items isn't at hard as it might seem to those who haven't done it before. It's also very satisfying to see the completed product. From choosing patterns at a sewing store to dancing in front of the mirror wearing your new dress, the process of making clothes is a bit like putting together a puzzle. The complexity of the "puzzle" in dress making only depends on how fancy an item you're willing to make. For great and fast results, keep it simple when you try your first one.

Visit your favorite sewing or fabric shop to select the dress pattern in the appropriate size. Start with a simple, basic, unlined dress without ornate details.

Gather all your sewing items together when you're ready to begin. Set up the machine by following its directions for threading the needle and filling the bobbin. Pre-wash and iron your fabric.

Lay out the pattern pieces over the fabric and pin together. The pattern itself often has directions for how to lay out the fabric. Carefully cut the fabric by following around the edges of the pattern pieces.

Arrange the pieces to sew according to the pattern's steps. Often, the first part to sew is the front, which seldom has seams, unless there's a "v-piece" or bib type area. Next is the back, often in two parts with the zipper between. The sleeves and a collar or neckpiece follow. And hemming and trim are done last.

Match the seams that join together and secure with straight pins. You sew over the pins as you work. Seams are made by sewing the fabric pieces inside out. Seams are usually about an inch wide.

Baste the parts together with the machine. The basting stitch is temporary, and is much wider than the common final stitching to give you a general idea of fit. Some patterns call for the zipper going into the back or side pieces first for simplicity. Next sew the front, back and any sides together. Attach any collar or neck pieces. Try on the dress for size. Adjust any places that don't quite fit by ripping out the thread and re-basting.

Attach the sleeves. There are two different ways to do this and your pattern will offer the best option for your dress. You either seam the sleeve and then attach to the body of the dress, or you will attach the upper arm to the dress and then seam the remaining length together.

Wear the dress again to check the fit. Adjust any too-tight areas. Then hem the bottom edge of the main body and hem the sleeves. Add any trim to your piece such as decorative cording, applique embellishments or other details for flashy final touches. These are typically done by hand rather than the machine for better control.

Tip

Keep a magnifying glass that has a stand handy-- it helps to see more easily when threading needles.

Have fun when selecting fabrics, and shop during sale or off-season periods for good bargains.

Once you get the hang for making a dress with a pattern, you'll soon be able to just take measurements and either make your own pattern or just start cutting.

Use a sewing basket to store all your notions and threads. It makes it much easier to find what you need.

Warning

Use care when working with scissors and with needles. Thumb guards can help prevent accidental poking.

About the Author

Debra J. Rigas, a professional writing coach, has been a writer and editor since 1975. She is the author of the nonfiction book "Everyone's A Guru" and has edited novels ("The Woman Pope") and worked in arts and sciences as a filmmaker, boat captain, landscaper, counselor, theater administrator and licensed midwife.