When Una was little she received a cute red and blue pillowcase sundress in a bag of hand-me-down clothes. It was such a favourite that I decided to sew a slightly larger version when she grew out of it.
Four years later, I brought Una with me when I went shopping for some fabric for a baby quilt. She chose two really bright colours for the main pieces of the quilt, then asked if she could also have a sundress made out of the fabric.
We searched Pinterest for some inspiration, and she was drawn to this dress. Which is basically the same design as that favourite blue and red toddler dress.
A Simple Pillowcase Sundress
The first time I made this pillowcase sundress, I roughly “remade” Uliana’s favourite sundress using simple block pieces. I’m a pretty lazy seamstress. so there’s nothing tricky about this dress beyond creating a few pressed tucks to connect the top band to the body.
These instructions are written assuming some basic sewing knowledge. There are no measurements or pattern pieces. However, anyone with some sewing experience should easily be able to make their own pillowcase sundress!
- Fabric: The dress can either be made from a single fabric or two contrasting fabrics. I recommend using cotton and prewashing for shrinkage. The exact amount needed will depend on the size of your child (roughly 1 yard for a 3-year-old, and 2 yards for a 7-year-old).
- Notions: Thread (obviously!) 2-inches of elastic and two large buttons for the straps.
- Equipment: A sewing machine and iron are pretty necessary.
- The width of the body fabric needs to be at least 2x your child’s chest measurement. Una wanted a very long dress, so the length is from her armpit to just below her knee.
- Cut out two long rectangles for the straps. I made mine pretty wide (4.5″ wide) but you could make thin straps if you want.
- The top band needs to be 2″ longer than your child’s chest measurement and about 4.5″ wide.
- If you want to make a contrasting hem, then cut out a strip that is the same length as the width of the main body fabric.
- Straps: Fold the straps with the right sides together and sew down the length. Turn right-side out and press flat. Tuck in one end for a nice edge. Sew across the top. Make a buttonhole in each of the finished ends.
- Body: With the right sides together, sew the body fabric into a large tube. The seam will be the centre of the back of the dress. Hem the bottom either with a simple hem or a contrasting fabric hem. I’m not giving instructions for the contrasting fabric hem because I absolutely didn’t know what I was doing, and you’re better off following these instructions.
- Top band: Sew the short sides of the top band together and iron flat. Turn down the top and bottom edges of the long sides and iron flat. Fold the top band in half so the top and bottom edges meet and iron flat. It’s a good idea to check that the top band can easily be pulled over your child’s arms and head. If it’s too tight, then rip and resew.
- Make tucks: Measure the difference between the length of the top band and the body fabric. Make four knife pleats towards the centre on the front and back for a total of 8 pleats. The pleats should take in the excess fabric.
- Attach the straps: Have your child try on the dress and position the straps with safety pins. Decide whether the buttons will be on the front or back.
- Attach the top band: Sew the top band to the body, attaching the straps at the same time. I did this by tucking the straps into the bottom of the top band before I sewed it on. Then topstitching them in place. At this point, you can add a bit of elastic to tighten the top band. Just sew in 1-inch of elastic under each arm to cinch in the top band.
- Buttons: Hand stitch the buttons to the top band.
And you’re done! Phew! Hopefully this all makes sense. It’s my first time writing a complex pattern.