How to Sew a Dress 

Once you have a basic knowledge of how to draft a simple pattern and how to draft variations of design for any part of the pattern, you can begin to think of how to sew a dress. In choosing your material you must keep several things in mind. Keep the style you have designed in mind. Remember to judge the material for its suitability as far as season, occasion, and the individual who will wear it is concerned.


The dress has been designed, the pattern drafted and cut – every necessary part, facings, bias bindings, pockets, trimmings, etc., have all been cut and marked.

First decide on width of material to be used, then lay all your pattern pieces on the same width muslin or paper exactly as it will be laid out for the final cutting. Make sure to place all your pattern pieces parallel with the straight of the goods. The amount of material you will need is exactly the amount you have used for laying out your pattern.

Special planning is required for stripes, plaids, prints, and material with nap. The additional amount of material needed will depend on the style and amount of matching required, and on the size and spacing of the fabric design. Generally fabrics with small designs will require 1/8th yard extra.

Medium designs, stripes, and small plaids -1/4 yard extra.

Napped materials, large plaids and large spaced prints will require 1/2 yard or more extra depending on the design and style.


Before any cutting is to be done the material must be checked for shrinkage control. It is always best to shrink all cottons and woolens whether they have been preshrunk or not. This is best accomplished by immersion in tepid water and pressing dry through a cloth or by pressing the dry material with a damp cloth and steam iron. When pressing be sure to just press and not push the iron back and forth over the material – the latter will only stretch it out of shape.

Another important thing to know about how to sew a dress is to straighten edges of the material you are going to use. Firm materials can be straightened by clipping selvage and tearing.

Delicate materials require delicate handling. Some materials are impossible to tear – with these you will have to draw a thread across the material and cut along this guide. Determine which side of the material you want to use as the right side: Washable materials usually come with the right side folded out. Silks and wools usually come with the right side folded in to prevent soiling. Some materials may be used either side – use your own judgment as to which side is more attractive in finish, pattern, weave, etc. Straighten grain of material by stretching on the bias from selvage to selvage. Press out all creases and wrinkles.

Pin selvages together to make certain the center fold will be directly on the straight of the material. Always fold your right side in. Extra pinning is required for plaids, checks, stripes, and smooth slippery materials to prevent material from crawling and the design from creeping out of alignment.

When you lay out your material for cutting use a large table. Special cutting boards (folding) are available – these are especially good because they are marked for straight lines and right angles and fabric can be pinned to it to keep it in place.


Have all pattern pieces properly marked for straight of goods and for joining points. Place all pattern pieces on your material making certain that the straight of goods marking matches the grain of the material.

Use sharp, long scissors. Keep material and pattern flat on table. Don’t pick up the material. Let the blade of the scissors lift only enough to enable cutting. Take long, clean strokes.

Before removing pattern from material, make sure that you have transferred all the markings to the material.

The first steps in how to make a dress have been taken. Now begins the actual start of your garment making. Good luck!

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