Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mod 60s A-line Dress Tutorial

I hope you're feelin' groovy because it's time to make a very 60s style dress! 

I loved designing and making this look for the Project Run & Play sew-along!  It has several cute details, but really comes together pretty easily.  There are a lot of photos, but don't be intimidated!  I just like to be as detailed as possible so there is no confusion!  Ready to get started? 

To make this dress, you will need:

Main fabric (about a yard for most toddler sizes)
Lining fabric (a little less than a yard)
A basic bodice pattern that fits your child, or a well-fitting t-shirt to trace make your pattern
Coordinating buttons (3 smaller ones for the front placket and 1 larger one for the back closure)
Sewing stuff (machine, coordinating thread, scissors or rotary cutter/mat, hand sewing needle)

First, you'll want to make your dress pattern pieces.  All you need is a basic bodice pattern and we'll draw the skirt using your own child's measurements.  I used an existing pattern I had already drafted.  If you don't have any sort of bodice pattern already, you can read a great tutorial on how to make a pattern here on Dana's site.  Basically you will just fold a t-shirt in half and trace around it.  Since this dress is sleeveless, you don't have to worry about sleeves!  First, take your bodice pattern (or your t-shirt) and place it on the fold of your fabric.  I traced around the pattern top or you'll want to trace around the neckline and armhole of your t-shirt.

Next I measured my daughters to see how long I wanted the dress to be.  I took that measurement and added about 2-3" to allow for hemming and some extra (just in case) and marked it on my fabric on the fold.  I drew a straight line from that mark out towards the unfolded edge of my fabric, then took my straight edge and made a simple A-line shape from my bodice to the hemline.  Make sense?  The picture will help so you can see where I marked it out.

Next, I simply cut around all my markings.  You will need to make a front piece and a back piece.  The front and back can be the same, only you will want to cut the front neckline a little lower, just like in a factory made dress or shirt.  If you are tracing a t-shirt, you can just trace the back neckline and front neckline.  If you are using a pattern piece, it should have a front and back piece marked. 

Make sure you cut a front piece and back piece from your main fabric and your lining!

This is my cut out back piece.

And here is the front.  You can see the neckline is a couple inches lower than the back neckline.

Okay, once you have cut a dress front and back from both your main fabric and your lining, it's time to make some of the details.  Let's start with the collar.  To get the basic shape, I folded my dress front in half and placed a piece of copy paper behind the neckline.

I wanted the collar to be about 1.5" wide, so I first traced from the inside top of the shoulder to the center fold of the dress (see the marked white line in the above photo).

Then I made marked about 2" away from my traced line (to allow for seam allowance) and connected those dots to make the bottom cutting line.  The upper edge basically follows the shoulder seam and the inside edge has a slant to it, although you can make it curved if you like so it would be more like a Peter Pan collar.  It's up to you!  Here is a photo of my collar pattern piece to help you see how to make it.

You will need to cut 4 collar pieces, 2 each that match.  Fold your fabric in half, wrong sides together, and place your pattern on top and cut the pieces.  Then do that once more so you have 4 pieces that form a left collar and right collar.

For the pockets, I simply drew a little "U" shape and cut out two little pockets.

For the final detail, the faux button placket, you will just need two rectangles of fabric (you can use your main fabric, although I prefer the look of the contrasting fabric).  I cut mine about 5.5" long by 2" wide.

Okay, lots of cutting done!  If you're keeping track, here is what you should have:

That's a dress front (main fabric), dress front (lining fabric), dress back (main fabric), dress back (lining fabric), four collar pieces (main fabric), two pockets (main fabric) and two placket pieces (main OR lining fabric).  Let's get sewing!

As I've said before, I like to get all the "housekeeping" sewing out of the way first.  When I started putting this tute together, I realized I did a few steps at once and only took one picture, so bear with me!  First we'll get our collar ready to go.  Take two of your collar pieces (you can start with the left or the right...I'll let you decide, haha!) and place them right sides together.  Stitch around the two sides and the bottom, leaving the top open.  Do this for both the left and the right collar.  You can also serge around your entire pocket (or do a double folded hem) and also stitch your two placket pieces together along the two sides and the bottom.

Now take your collar pieces and turn them right sides out and press well.  Then do the same for the button placket.  For the pocket, if you serged the edges, turn them under and press.  If you did a double hem, you're all set!  Topstitch along the top edge of the pocket (trust me, if you forget to do this now, you will not want to try it once you've sewn the pocket to the dress!!).  

Yes, I arranged the pieces like a smiley face just for you all.  I'm weird like that.

Next we're going to place the pieces you just prepped onto the dress!  Find the center of your dress front and pin the faux placket on with the open, unstitched side along your neckline.

Stitch around the two sides and the bottom, securing it to your dress front.

Next, line up your two collar pieces and pin them to the dress front.

Baste the collar onto the dress front, 1/8" away from the top edge.

Now place and sew down your pockets and also sew your buttons onto the faux placket.  You can do this at the end if you prefer, but I like to do it now so it hides your button stitching inside the lining.  Your dress front is ready!

To line the dress front, place your main dress front and lining dress front right sides together.  I recommend folding down the top edge of your collar a little bit to make sure you don't catch it as you sew.  Sew around the armholes and neckline as marked in the photo below.  Leave the shoulder seams open and we'll close those up later!

Turn the pieces right side out and press well.  Your dress front should now look like this.

For the back, we need to make the button closure as we sew on the lining.  Cut a scrap of 1/8" elastic about 2" long.  Find the center of your back piece and draw a line straight down about 5".  For an older child, you may want to make it longer, but 5" should fit over a toddler's head with no problem.  Place your main back dress piece and lining back dress piece right sides together.  You will want to sandwich your elastic in between the two pieces about 1.5" down from the top.  PLEASE NOTE!  In the photo below I have laid the elastic out on top so you can see where I placed it and how to orient it, but you need to place it in between your main piece and lining piece or it won't show when you turn the dress right side out!!

With your elastic IN BETWEEN the two pieces, stitch 1/4" away from your marked line straight down one side, across the bottom, and then 1/8" away up the other side.  You might want to back and forth stitch a few times over your elastic for security.

Now sew the back main and lining pieces together in the same way you did the front - around the armholes, shoulders and neckline.  Next is the scary part, but I promise it will work!  Cut straight down your line!  You may want to clip into the corners as well to help it lay flatter once you turn the dress.

Turn the back piece right sides out and press.  See?  You have a nice finished opening with elastic sticking out to button up the dress!  Sew on your closure button in line with your elastic.

We're in the home stretch here!  We just need to stitch the dress together.  Start with the shoulders.  You can do this two ways.  The lazy easy way is just to stitch the dress front and back together and finish the seams with a serger or zig zag.  I wanted this dress to be finished a little more nicely, though, especially since my seams might show (gasp!) with my squirmy toddlers movin' and shakin' in their dresses.  So, here's what I did.  Place the dress right sides together, matching up the shoulder seams.  If you need to move the collar a little out of the way again, go ahead and do that.  Taking only the main fabric of the shoulders, stitch right sides together.

Now when you turn the dress right sides out, the top main fabric of your shoulder seam should be finished nicely, like this.

The lining fabric is still unsewn and unfinished!  Now's the time to brush up on those hand sewing skills.  Using a ladder stitch (great tutorial here), stitch your lining pieces together.  You may need to go down the sides a little bit just to catch any unfinished edges, but once you are done, your shoulder seams will be completely encased and look oh-so-pretty!  In case anyone cares to look, right??

Now just stitch up the sides, hem the bottom and you are done!  Great job!  Grab some go-go boots (or upcycle some old tights into knee socks!) and you are ready to party!  Or play...whatever the case may be :)  Enjoy!


  1. This is the cutest little retro dress ever! I love the big yellow flowers and daisies. And the matching knee socks are ADORABLE! I think my little girl will be getting a retro dress in the near future :o)
    Visiting for make it Wear it!

  2. Gorgeous! I'm loving vintage stuff right now!

  3. Love it. It might just be my next project :)

  4. Wow! So cute and so easy. Love the retro look.

  5. Oh my!! Soo darling! So retro and cute! Great tutorial! Wish my little one wasn't all grown up! I'd make this in a heartbeat!

  6. love this dress.... think I will make my girls one... only a bunch of sizes bigger....

  7. Oh my goodness... This is beyond gorgeous!!!! I LOVE vintage/retro and the fabric you used is just perfect for the dress... this would have to be one of the cutest dresses I've seen! Pinning now!!!!
    The SpaNGler
    @The Quick Unpick

  8. Absolutely gorgeous! You've inspired me to get out some very similar fabric and do one of these cuties for my little princess. Thanks for a great tute!

  9. gorgeous - this is on my project list :)

  10. love this dress.... think I will make my girls one... only a bunch of sizes bigger....
    cute a line dress

  11. Great dress.. how would I make it in a size 8??

    1. I am not Amanda (obviously) but I'm thinking your best bet to make the same style dress in an 8 would be to use a size 8 tee to make your pattern, Nina.
      By the way, my grandson calls me Nina because he couldn't say Nana at one time. Nina is what came out so it kinda just stuck. =)
      Good luck on your project!

  12. I made a version of this dress yesterday for my little one's first day of kindergarten! Thank you for sharing this tutorial!

    1. Here is the link showing my little one wearing a different version of this dress if you would like to see it Amanda, and/or her followers. =)


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