A local mom reached out to me this past October and asked if I could make a pillowcase dress. She had an old Halloween pillowcase she was no longer using and wanted to re-purpose it. I had never heard of a pillowcase dress before, but since I love a new challenge, I was intrigued. She is also one of my best returning customers so I didn’t want to let her down. I quickly took to Pinterest to find out what it was exactly and how I could make one.
I was happy to find that it was a pretty simple construction. Basically two panels of fabric are sewn together, a coordinating band is added at the bottom, and then it gets cinched at the top with a ribbon drawstring. The hardest part is attaching the bias tape around the arm cutouts.
My mind ran wild after my search on Pinterest returned so many tutorials on how to make these. I immediately wanted to make one! I thought it would be so fun to mix different prints for the top and band. To try different ribbon textures and thicknesses. To vary where the placement of the bow would tie. And to get creative with adding trims or buttons…Can you tell that my favorite part is in the planning? I love to design and chose all the materials!
My favorite tutorial that I found was the one above by The Polka Dot Chair. I had trouble determining what the actual length of fabric I needed for each dress was based on her size chart. I don’t think it’s completely clear how her chart lengths for the top piece, bottom band and total fabric add up. So, I just played around with how much fabric I had and what the age of each girl was based on her chart. In the end, I tried a few different length variations in the handful that I made. But overall, this is a very easy-to-follow tutorial.
Also, to be sure, you could always measure where you want the dress to fall on your little princess. Then back into the band length and top length so you get the exact lengths that you need for each. I was just making mine as a surprise so I didn’t want to ask for the exact measurements.
This tutorial by 402 Center Street Designs shows you how to use an actual pillowcase to make the dress. I referenced this version to bounce off measurements and construction ideas.
For the Halloween dress, I added a pink print from my stash, a gorgeous black lace trim, and a thick orange polka dot grosgrain ribbon. I thought the orange gave this dress a fun pop of color. I think these additions tied into the Halloween print, while keeping it feminine and cute.
For the record, you do not need to use a pillowcase to make this dress. You can use any type of fabric, really. I believe the pattern originated with the idea of using old vintage pillowcases and turning them into something useful and beautiful. A pillowcase’s width happens to be just the right width of fabric you need to fit just about any little girl. But with about 2 fat quarters of any fabric, you can achieve the same look.
I also loved this gorgeous dress made by Candice Ayala that I found on Pinterest too. She used a purchased pattern that is linked on her site. I copied the peep hole cutout on the back with the bow tying above it in some of my versions
Livia, my Halloween dress customer, asked if I could make a little trick-or-treat bag out of the same pillowcase to match the dress. I had just enough to make a small little carrying sack. I used this wonderful, and also easy enough, free pattern by Fat Quarter Shop.
For being my first attempts, both pieces came out pretty adorable, if I do say so myself! I never like to cut and sew with a customer’s materials before I’ve tried the pattern I’m going to use at least once. But I was short on time to get this done by the holiday. The construction was simple and straight-forward enough that I went ahead with it. Luckily, I was able to make both pieces fairly quickly and easily, so it worked out. And I immediately wanted to make more!
One thing I want to mention is that you need bias tape to sew around the arm holes of the dress. Bias tape is made by cutting fabric on the bias and then joining the pieces together at a 90 degree angle, like any other binding, to create one long continuous strip of fabric.
The difference between regular binding and binding cut on the bias, is the bias fabric is stretchier and more flexible for sewing around curves, like an arm hole. It lays flatter, looks prettier and is just easier to manipulate around the bends. Especially for tiny arm holes like these dresses have.
I found this fabulous tutorial below (with a video! that I watched like 50 times!) showing you how to make your own bias tape. I will admit, it’s not all that easy at first. And it definitely adds time to any project if you are going to make your own. But from my experience, after making it a few times, it has gotten easier.
You can also buy bias tape. But after needing it for a few projects already, I knew it was best for me to learn how to make my own. This way, I can use fabrics from my stash or order any print I want. I’m not just limited to what bias binding my local sewing shop has in stock.
And there are tools you can get to make it faster. The tutorial above is great because it shows you how to make bias tape without any special tools. You just need straight pins and an ironing board and iron. This is how I’ve been making mine to-date.
I did recently bite the bullet and buy my own bias tape maker on Amazon. I haven’t used it yet, but I’m hoping it will make my ‘making’ go even faster next time.
After I made the Halloween dress, I decided to make 2 more as gifts for a special little friend, Annabelle, who’s birthday was approaching. Annabelle is a little fashionista and loves unicorns. So, I knew I had to find the perfect unicorn print, which I did on Spoonflower. I also went out and bought this pink ruffly trim, which I totally think elevated this dress to unicorn-loving-girly-girl-princess status.
How cute is this little model?
For her second version, I wanted to use this purple ballerina fabric that I had. I didn’t have enough to make this one very long though. So, I added a longer black band at the bottom. And how cute are those silver stars?! Just love the shine those add to the dress.
Because the purple version was a little short, and partly because it was winter and I wanted her to be able to wear both dresses right away, I gave her two long-sleeved tops that coordinated and could be worn underneath. Then she just had to add leggings or tights and she’d have a whole outfit that wasn’t too short or cold. You can see her modeling with the pink top under the unicorn dress above. I think it works nicely together.
Also, because Christmas was just around the corner, I decided to make my two newest (baby) nieces velvet versions. But of course, since we were right around the holidays, I was waaayy busy putting too many projects on my plate and didn’t take any pictures of them before they got gifted. Well, actually, I should rephrase that….I had professional (and gorgeous) photos taken of them in November, so I was probably thinking I didn’t need to take any pictures of them myself. But I haven’t ordered those professional photos yet so I can’t show them to you. I can tell you I will be adding them to my website once I get them and will update this post.
For now, you can just check out one of the most adorable little girls you ever did see, Miss Paige, wearing hers on Christmas…and me, the not-so-adorable one, holding her in it.
I mean look at that smile!
For paige’s green velvet dress, I added pom pom trim and a coordinating print for the bottom band. I made a matching headband and found a red onesie at Old Navy and white tights that I gifted with it. I voted her best-dressed at our Christmas party!
And for more on the other handmade Christmas gifts I made this past season check out my post here. There are even more tutorials and great gift-giving ideas!
I’m thinking about making some more of these dresses and listing them in my Shoppe…what do you think?