Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom


How to Sew a Tiered Pillowcase-Style Dress

(Looking for more free patterns? Be sure to check out my free patterns and tutorials page here.)

One day last week, the kids and I were in a rush to get out the door.  I was trying to get myself ready along with everyone else, so I sent my 6 year old son upstairs and told him to pick out a pretty dress for his sister to wear.

I have to say, the kid did a great job.  He came down with one of my favorite dresses.  It was a pretty little tiered pillowcase-style dress that I had made this past Spring.  I have always loved the fabric combination used in it, pinks, greens and browns.  The dress had been hung up in her closet and she had not worn it all summer.

I have a great stash of summery fabrics, so I decided I should make just one more.  And why not create a tutorial while I am sewing it up?  So without further ado, here is a tutorial on how to make a Tiered Pillowcase-Style Dress.  (**update**I have actually made an additional tiered dress, yo can see how that one came out here.)

Materials needed:
Sewing machine
    1/4 yard for bodice
    1/2 yard for the 2nd tier
    5/8 yard for the 3rd tier
    1/8 yard for the tie
+/-28 inches of coordinating single fold bias tape
coordinating thread

***  Update 7/7/13***  I have made the pattern even better and uploaded it for printing here:  Pillowcase dress bodice pattern.  Be sure and turn off all scaling when you print.

 *** Important pattern printing tip***  When printing the patterns, do not print directly from Google docs.  Download the pattern to your computer and open it in your adobe acrobat reader.  Choose actual size and the landscape option.  (I just printed a pattern directly off Google docs and notice it printed slightly smaller.)

The pattern now comes in two sizes 2 to 5 and 6 to 8.

Step 1:  Print bodice pattern and cut pattern pieces.

Print, cut out and assemble the pattern.

Fold bodice fabric in half, put the long side on the fabric fold and cut 2 pieces for the bodice.

Cut the two tiers:

Fold middle tier fabric in half fabric in half.  The middle tier measurement is:

2/3: 13.5 inches wide by 7.5 inches tall.  Cut 2, and when you open it, your fabric pieces will be 27 inches wide.
4/5: 13.5 inches wide by 8.5 inches tall.
6: 13.5 inches wide by 9.5 inches tall.
7/8:  13.5 wide by 10.5 tall

For the bottom tier, fold the fabric in half and cut 2 pieces:

2/3:  21 1/4  inches wide and 91/4 tall.  (you will have 2 pieces 42.5 wide)
4/5: 21 1/4  inches wide and 10 1/4 tall.
6:  21 1/4  inches wide and 11 1/4 tall.
7/8:  21 1/4  inches wide and 12 1/4 tall.

Fabric ties: Cut fabric pieces to 3.5 inches tall by 62 inches wide.  Depending on your fabric width, you will probably have to sew 2 pieces together.  (I had to piece together scraps for mine, so I sewed together 4 pieces to get the length I needed.)

Here is what you will have.  (ties not shown)

Step 2:  Assembling bodice and finishing armholes:

Lets start sewing...  Right sides together, sew up the side seams of the bodice.  All seam allowances are 3/8 of an inch.  Finish the seams with your preferred method. (Pinking shears, serger, or zig zag stitch on your sewing machine.)  Press the seams flat.

I like to finish my armholes with single fold bias tape, so I am going to show you how to use it.

Cut 2 pieces of single fold bias tape 13 1/2 inches long each.  Turn fabric right side out and open bias tape up.  Align the edge of the bias tape up with the edge of the armhole like this:

Pin securely.

Sew along the crease removing pins as you go.  Do the same for the second armhole.

Fold bias tape over to the inside of the bodice, iron down and sew.

Step 3:  Create casing.

Trim away any uneven bias tape.  Fold the top edge over 1/4 inch and press.  Fold over one more inch and press again.  Sew as close to the folded edge as you can, creating about a 1 inch casing.  This is where the tie will go.

Step 4:  Assemble and add tiers.

Sew the short sides of the 2nd tier together to make a circle and finish the seam edges.  Do this for the 3rd tier as well.  Press the seams.

Time to gather the tiers.  Set your sewing machine to the longest stitch length.  (Mine goes to 7.)  Sew a straight stitch all the way around, 1/4 inch from the edge.  Leave the ends loose, no backstitching.  Do this on both tiers.  Go ahead and move the stitch length back to the normal length.

To gather the tier pull on the top thread while holding the fabric, you should see the fabric start to gather up.

Gather the 2nd tier to approximately 16 inches.  (That is how wide the bottom of the bodice is.)   And Gather the 3rd tier to about 23 inches.

Hold the 2nd tier to the bottom of the bodice and make any adjustments in the width of the gather.

Then, right sides of the fabric together, match up the side seams and pin the gathered part of the 2nd tier to the bottom of the bodice.  When you are done it will look like this.  You can lift up the 2nd tier to see how it will look...

Place the gathered edge under your sewing foot and sew just to the left of the gathering stitch.  When I sew gathers, I usually leave my pins in, but you are risking broken needles and pins...

Remove the pins and finish the seams.  Repeat for the third tier, lining up the bottom of the 2nd tier to the gathered edge of the 3rd tier.  This takes a while...  sorry!

Step 5:  Create tie.

Fold the fabric in half lengthwise and iron.

Then open up and fold both edges to the middle crease and iron,

Then fold in half and iron again.

Sew along all the edges.

Now, the only thing left is to hem the bottom.  Fold the bottom edge over 1/4 inch and press, then fold over another 1/4 inch and press again.  Pin if needed and sew along the edge.

Using a safety pin, pull the tie through the bodice casing.

Now sit back and admire your work!

how to sew a tiered dress

It is even more satisfying to find a sweet little princess to model your outfit...

I hope you are inspired to make something pretty!  If you do create something based on this tutorial, I would love to see it!  I have created a new Flickr Group for you to share your creations.  Here is the link: Creations inspired by Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom.  (Please share, you might get featured!)

If you like this project and want to see more, please consider becoming a follower.  You can subscribe using the Google Friend Connect widget, through a reader, or signing up via email.  Just click on one of the icons below:

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  1. so cute! gorgeous colours! thanks for sharing!

  2. This is beautiful! What a great tutorial (and a lovely model)! I'd love for you to come link this up at my Freestyle Friday link party!
    Happy to be your newest follower ~ Adrianne

  3. Love the dress! (and the model is super cute...wink,wink) I found this on Whipperberry's link up, but I already follow your blog :)

  4. That dress is so cute! I noticed that you wanted to get all your sewing posts under your sewing tab using labels. To do that:
    1. Delete Pages
    2. Move the "label gadgets"(which are currently on the sidebar) to the place where your "Pages" gadget used to be.
    3.Click edit.
    4. Click the button "Selected Labels" and then click the labels you want to show, such as "sewing".
    5. Un-click "Display as Cloud." Click "Display as List."
    6.Un Check "Show number of posts per label".
    7. Enjoy your new tabs!

  5. So cute! She is precious! I need to find a little girl to make this for!

  6. Now that is a great dress! Thank you for the link. I am going to have to pin this one to my Crafts board on Pinterest.

    I found you via another Pinterest hop you linked up to. Nice to "meet" you. I can't wait to peek around at other tutorials you have.

    Stop by and say hi anytime. I also have a new Pinterest hop that I'd love if you linked up to.

    LaVonne @ Long Wait For Isabella

  7. Thanks for the tutorial, I just LOVE tiered dresses! The colors are so much, thanks for showing off!


  8. How cute is this! I'm really wanting to learn to sew dresses, so I may have to try this!

  9. GORGEOUS dress! And such a lovely clear tutorial too!

    Thanks for linking to a Round Tuit!
    Hope you have a great week!
    Jill @ Creating my way to Success

  10. This is so adorable! I love those fabrics together.

  11. Soo adorable! And what an amazing tutorial.. hopefully helpful to me the sewing challenged! Hope you will share with my Pink Hippo party @
    I am your newest follower!

  12. AW!! SO PRETTY! I love the last picture of her twirling in it barefoot!! Just adorable! Thanks for these great instructions :) I have 3 boys but I this would be so much fun to make for one of my nieces. I love how girly it is!!!

  13. Really cute, Jamie! I love the fabric combo... the polka dots look fantastic sandwiched between the florals.

  14. I love the fabric combo that you used! I have made Pillowcase dresses, but never a tiered one. This is a great dress, thanks for sharing!

  15. This is so cute! Thanks for the tutorial. I love making clothes for little girls.

  16. LOVE this! Def. gonna try it, thanks!!!

    Visiting from-

  17. Adorable! And the dress too =) Come link up to Make It Wear It!

  18. So sweet! And you did a great job on the tutorial too. Thanks for showing my readers by linking up to Fab Friday.

    Warmly, Michelle

  19. Thanks for sharing @'Sew Cute Tuesday'!

  20. This is so sweet! I made a few pillowcase dresses this summer, but never a tiered one. I love it!

    By the way, I have having my first link party now, and would love to have you link this up to it.

  21. Featuring YOU over on my blog today. :) Feel free to drop by & grab a button. Thank you so much for linking up to my {wow me} wednesday link party last week. :)


  22. LOVE this! The dress is adorable (as is the model:)) and this is a super easy-to-follow tutorial! Thank so much for linking this up to my weekend Soiree! Have a wonderful weekend! :)
    Homemaker in Heels

  23. Adorei o tutorial, fácil e prático de fazer. Parabéns e obrigada por compartilhar.

  24. Oh my goodness!

    That is such a sweet dress! Once I get back to sewing again I may have to make one of those for a little girl I know. =)

    Thanks for sharing!

  25. i cant find the pattern? i clicked on the link but it took me to Goggle drive?? pls help. thanks!

    1. Hi, try this link:

      If it doesnt work, I can email it to you. Either leave me your email address or you can email me directly on my contact page.

      Good luck, Jamie

  26. Lindo vestido.
    Puro capricho de mãe.

  27. That is adorable, thank you for the tutorial! I was looking for a really cute pillow case dress for a granddaughter's birthday, and I've found it now!

  28. This is beautiful! However, I am having trouble getting to the Pillowcase dress bodice pattern and the Simple Shirred Sundress Tutorial with the links that you have provided. They go to a google page for storage.
    Could you pleae email them to me at

    Thank you!


  29. Such an adorable dress shouldn't be reserved for children alone. Why not make larger versions for her big sister and mom as well? This dress is ideal for those casual late summer outings. Use a heaver fabric and put a blouse underneath and it's a jumper that can be worn year round.

  30. I love this dress.

    Do you think if someone were lazy/pressed for time they might skip fiddling with bias tape and armholes and cut the top off an old shirt of suitable size and sew the tiers onto that? If so, would a knit (like a tshirt or tank top) work? I'm not sure about sewing woven fabric onto a knit.

    1. You could definitely do that. Just be careful as the t-shirt will stretch a tiny bit as you are sewing. You could try ironing on a strip of interfacing or stabilizer to the inside/bottom of the tee before you attach the tiers. It will help the t-shirt hold it's shape.

      Good luck,

    2. Thank you! I'll give it a try and let you know how it goes.

  31. hi, when I click on the link for the pattern pdf, the pdf appears to be empty. can you help please? thank you :)

    1. hmm.. that's strange. Try pasting this link into your browser.

      It is there. Possibly you have to be logged into a google account to see it? Let me know if you are able to get to it.


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