Rectangle Dress Sewing Tutorial

So, obviously, when you have a 3 1/2 month old baby and you are about to leave town for the weekend in 2 days to see family and attend the wedding of great friends (and former roommates,) the thing to do is decide to make yourself a new dress to wear to the wedding, without a pattern.

     I blame Pinterest.

     I saw a super cute dress on Pinterest, got super excited to make it, bought the pattern, bought the fabric, waited for the fabric to come in the mail, washed it, dried it, ironed it, then looked at the pattern. I measured myself and checked out the size chart and realized that at this point in time, with baby weight (aka Thanksgiving, Christmas and general January overindulgence because "in a few weeks she will be born and I will have to get serious and won't be able to eat ______ anymore" weight) still to be lost, I would have to make the largest size of the pattern, and actually make it a little bigger than the largest size.  I absolutely did not want to do all that work and use all that fabric and have it still not fit, and I will admit, just the whole situation made me mad and frustrated and like, ugh, screw this pattern!

     I now take back this sentiment.  This is just further motivation for me to get serious and get back in control and making myself the beautiful dress will be motivation and reward as I get closer to goal again.

    So this brings us to 3 days before the trip, 4 days before the wedding.  It is Annie's dessert time, almost time for bed and I am aimlessly trolling pinterest, when, suddenly! I see a cute and simple looking maxi dress! It looks comfy! It looks easy to make! It looks like I could breastfeed while wearing it! All the good things!  So I click the link and...


    Nothing! People!  Check your pins before pinning them! You get me all excited about something and then I have no tutorial or clues on what to do. My life is so hard!

    Fine, I will just go to bed, I'll bring a dress from my closet, no big deal... Hahaha! Yeah, right.

    So I start to look at the picture, and look at the fabric, I start sketching some pictures on the back of junk mail sitting around on my coffee table, I measure myself and do some math.  I am inspired!

    But at this point it really is bed time, so tomorrow it is!  Now I will admit, making a dress without a pattern while holding/feeding/playing with/reading to a small baby does not really allow for taking detailed pictures of the steps for blogging an excellent tutorial in the future.  So here it is, my tutorial with some pictures and some amazing works of art I drew on a drawing pad app on the iPad.  Be prepared to be blown away by my fingertip drawing skills!

Rectangle Dress Tutorial!
  • 3 or 3 1/2 yards primary dress fabric (depending on how tall you are/ how long you want this dress to be.  
  • 1/2 yard sash fabric
  • Thread (It will show on the finished edges at sleeve, neckline and hem, and on the top stitching on sash, so choose if you want something that will blend in, something that will provide an interesting accent color or you are too lazy to go back to the store so it will just be white!)


  1. Measure yourself from shoulder to ankle (or wherever you want the bottom of the dress to hit).  Add about 2 inches for the seam and the hem.  This will be how long you will cut the long side of each rectangle. 
2.  Measure yourself around wherever is your widest point.  This will obviously be different for different people, for me it was the hips.  

3. Take the number from around your widest point, and divide it by 4, then add 1.  This will be the width of each rectangle of fabric you will cut. 
4. Cut 4 rectangles of fabric using the dimensions you just measured (and calculated).  If your fabric has a pattern that has a specific direction, pay attention to that!  The first bibs I ever made were Dia de los Muertos bibs for the new son of some friends, and as soon as I finished sewing and turned them right sides out, I realized that on one bib, the skulls were sideways and on the other, they were completely upside down.  I still gave them the bibs, but just trying to save you having to make up some excuse for why the birds on your dress are all flying sideways!

5.   Line all 4 rectangles up, right sides together, and pin and sew them into basically a big tube with arm and neck holes.  On the front and back seams, leave however long you want the V at the neck and behind the neck to be.  

6.  Carefully (because it is full of pins!) turn the dress right sides out and (carefully!) try it on.  Find a sash/belt/scrap of fabric to tie around your natural waist line or right under the bust for an empire waist. This will allow you to see how the dress will look/ fit once you make the pretty sash.  Y'know, if you really wanted to be on top of it I guess you could make the sash first, then use it now, but that part isn't coming till the end of the tutorial, so you will have to do some scrolling up and down!

7. Turn in the edges (twice so there will be finished edges and you will be able to wash this dress, and so you wont look like a pirate with fringed clothing!) how and where you want the neckline to be, and the same with the armholes.  I made the shoulder significantly narrower and had to cut out some fabric.  You could also leave them wide and they could be kind of little cap sleeves.  Just play around with the pins and the fabric.  Find what looks and feels right to you!  I also pinned in a little at the waist line to make a smoother curve from armhole to waist.
8.  Now this part is tricky...

Take off the dress! Carefully because now it is really full of pins!  Turn it inside out again carefully transferring the pins as needed from the outside to the inside.

9.  Fold and press the edges you have pinned.  Sew them.  It will look something like this!

This big triangle of fabric is what I cut out in shaping the arm holes.
Don't ask me why I remembered to take pictures of this step and nothing else.
10.  Flip it and try it on again.  You should be able to take the pins out at this point, making things a little easier.  Make any adjustments you need to, pin and sew again, unless you are way more awesome than me and were able to pin it perfectly the first time.  Be sure to have something tied around your waist so you will know how the finished dress will look.
11.  Hem! Hopefully a friend will help with this step.  You need to be wearing it and if you try to bend over to hem,whichever direction you bend will get longer.  Its not impossible, just tricky and requires lots more adjustment.  
Fold it up and in where you want the bottom of the dress to hit and pin in place.  Using an iron, press the bottom edge, then double fold the fabric to finish the edges (again, to avoid looking like a pirate after washing the dress.
The Sash
1.  Using the sash fabric, cut a rectangle of fabric as long as you can/want to!  It has to be long enough to go around you, tie, and do some cute bow thing at the end Plus 1 inch to finish the edges!  The width of the rectangle will be double the width you want the belt to be Plus 1 inch for seams!
2.  Fold the long rectangle in half lengthwise, right sides together.
3. Sew a straight line!
4.  Turn the tube right side out.
5.  Fold in the ends, press flat, top sew all the way around ( I did a zigzag stitch because I LOVE zigzag stitch!
That is it! Easy breezy!  
Sorry about the dark picture,
taken with my phone with no flash because baby girl
was sound asleep right behind me! 
     I loved this dress because I learned so much while making it.  I saw a picture, got inspired and made it happen.  The whole reason I started this business was because I love the excitement that comes with being actually creative, having an idea in my mind and making it happen.  I spend a lot of "work time" thinking about blogging, promoting the shop, pricing, costs and making lots and lots of bibs.  I love making bibs, they are adorable and the repetition of steps is soothing and it allows me to play with so many beautiful and unique fabrics.  But I don't really have to grow and stretch my brain in making them anymore.  Making this dress, I did.
     But there are also things I would change.  I am not going to put this dress in my shop (but if anyone out there really wants me to make them one, get in touch and we will make it happen, Margeaux: dress for hair?).  It is not super fabulous and amazing.  It is quick.  It is fun.  It is comfy.  It really highlights the beautiful fabric you are using.  
     I sewed this with quilting cotton.  Anna Maria Horner has an amazing way with pattern and color that always blows me away and inspires me to create things of beauty (look for some of those things to come to the shop soon!).  I could not resist using this fabric for this dress.  BUT I want to make the dress again in a soft and stretchy knit fabric.  I think it will drape more smoothly on the sides.  I will most likely use the same sash, because it is cute and I love it! It has narwhales, and seals, and walruses and little waves, and it is a beautiful shade of blue.  Plus it has a zigzag top stitch.  What could be better than that?  With the knit fabric it will also be even more soft and comfy, and I think if I actually make it in time I will wear it all summer!

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