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The Boho-Maxi Dress Tutorial and Pattern

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

My little missy has been requesting a maxi dress for a while.  Of course she doesn't call it a maxi dress, she just says she wants a dress "down to here" and points to her ankles.  

I came across this gorgeous tie dyed paisley cotton fabric a few weeks ago at Hancock Fabrics and knew it would make a perfect summer maxi dress. (So perfect, that I am thinking about picking up a few more yards and making myself one.)

Free Child's Maxi Dress Sewing Pattern and Tutorial

The design of this dress is very simple and I was able to make it in just a few hours.  I had originally intended to do a three tiered skirt, but I'm glad I went with only 2 tiers.  (It saved a lot of time and fabric and gives the dress a summery casual look.)

Free Child's Maxi Dress Sewing Pattern and Tutorial

How cute is she in these little sunglasses?

I finished the dress right before she got home from school and immediately had her try it on. I took her to see how she looked in my full length mirror.  Oh my, what a reaction!  She was in love and immediately started blowing kisses to herself in the mirror.

The first thing she asked, was if she could take the dress to Port Aransas this weekend (she is visiting with Nana, Papa and her cousins...)  Then she asked it she could wear it to the beach, I told her I didn't think it was a very good dress for the beach, it was so long, she would get it wet and sandy.  She asked, what if she took it off when she got there and folded it up nicely?  I said that would be ok... (I'm not too worried though, I doubt Nana will let her wear the dress down to the beach...  ha ha.)

For this tutorial, I have included a pattern for the bodice in sizes 3/4, 5/6 and 7/8, but you will need to measure your child so you can adjust the length of the dress to what works for you...  (If you need a different size, I will show you how easy it is to make your own bodice pattern for this dress in step 1.)

The Boho Maxi Dress Tutorial:

Materials needed:
  • 2 yards of fabric (sizes 8 and under) (If your fabric has a pattern repeat that can't turn sideways, you will need an additional 3/4 yard of fabric)
  • 12 inch piece of 3/4 inch elastic 
  • pattern (or a well fitting tee to make your own) (Do not print directly from google docs. For the pattern to print properly, you must download it to your pc and print from adobe reader.)
  • measuring tape, rulers, iron and other basic sewing supplies
Seam allowances are 1/4 inch unless otherwise stated.

Step 1: Bodice Pattern 

Print the bodice pattern and cut out the size needed (or follow the directions below to make your own - click the images to make them bigger.)

Lay your bodice pattern on the fold of your fabric and cut out the front bodice piece and bodice lining.

Step 2: Measurements and cutting out the rest of the pattern.

Hold the front bodice piece up to your child and measure from the bottom of the fabric to where you want the skirt to end.

(Our measurement was 28.)

The top tier should be approximately two times as tall at the bottom tier.  Take your measurement and divide by 3.  That number is your bottom tier and double it to get the top tier.  (Technically this would make my tiers 18.6 and 9.3, but I just rounded the number to 19 and 9 - just make sure when they are added together it equals your original measurements.)

To accommodate seam allowances and hem, add 1/2 inch to the height of the top tier and 3/4 inch to the bottom tier.

Cut theses pieces:

Top tier: your height measurement X 45 inches.

Bottom tier: your height measurement X 67 inches.
If the pattern repeat on your fabric can be cut in any direction, you can cut the tiers in 1 piece. If not, you will need to cut the tiers in 2 pieces. (22.75 wide for the top tier and 33.75 for the bottom tier.)

(For sizes larger than a girls size 12, I recommend adding at least 10 inches to the width of each tier.)

Cut out the back bodice piece.

Cut two strips, 3 inches wide by 20 inches long for the straps.

You will have:

Step 3: Assembling the bodice.

Right sides together fold the strap piece in half and sew down the long side and one short side.  Turn the strap right side out and press flat.

Lay out the front bodice piece right side up.  Measure over 3/8 inch from the arm edge and pin the straps in place as shown below.

Place the bodice lining on top, right side down, pinning in place.  Sew along the top and as shown below.

Trim the corner and clip a few notches in the arm curve on both sides.

Turn the bodice front right side out and press.

Reopen the bodice.  Iron both side edges over, 1/4 inch. 

To make the the casing on the back bottom piece, fold the fabric in half right, side facing out, and iron flat. Mark 3/8 inch from the top and draw a line side to side. Make another mark 1 inch down from the 1st mark and draw a 2nd line.  Sew along these lines.

Use a safety pin and thread the elastic through the casing.  Pin the elastic in place on both sides, but sew it in place on one side only.

Open the front bodice piece and fold over the the side of the back bodice piece and sew along the edge. as shown below.

To determine how long the elastic piece needs to be, try the bodice piece on your daughter.

Adjust the elastic and casing so you have a snug fit around her chest. (You can also just guesstimate based on her chest measurement and subtract 3/4 inch.) Pin the other side of the bodice in place, trimming off any excess elastic. Sew along the edge where the two pieces meet up. (Like you did on the other side.)

Step 4: Attaching the skirt.

Fold the two skirt/tiers right sides together and sew along the sides.  Finish these seams with pinking shears, zigzag on the sewing machine or serger.

Sew a basting stitch along the the top edge of the top tier and gather it up so it is the same width as the bottom of the bodice. (Width of the bodice stretched out.) (If you would like to see a more in-depth description of gathering and attaching a skirt, visit my sweet spring sundress tutorial.)

Right sides together, pin the skirt/top tier to the bodice.

Sew along the pinned edge using a 1/4 inch seam allowance.

Gather the bottom tier until it is the same with as the top tier and right sides together, pin the top tier to the bottom tier and sew together.

Finish the edges of these seams with pinking shears, zigzag on the sewing machine or serger. 

Press the seams of the tiers flat, with the finished edges facing up.  You can choose to topstitch along the top and bottom tier if you want, though I skipped this step...

Before hemming the bottom, it would be a good idea to have your little one try the dress on again and confirm the length. (Make any adjustments as needed.)  Hem the bottom edge by folding over 1/4 inch, press and fold over another 1/4 inch. Press again and sew along the edge.

You're done!  Now have your little princess try on the dress and take a few pictures...  Be sure to come back and show off your creations on my facebook page or Flickr group.

Here are a few more tutorials you may enjoy (plus you can find a lot more tutorials and patterns in the drop down menu bar at the top of the page.)

Make a Flutter Sleeve Peasant Top
Make a Flutter Sleeve
 Peasant Top plus Pattern
Cascading Ruffles Peasant Top
Cascading Ruffles
Peasant Top
Split Neck Peasant Dress
Peasant Dress w/ Free
Apron Top Pattern and Tutorial
Apron Top Pattern
 and Tutorial
Simple Summer Sundress
Simple Summer

If you like this type of project and want to see more, you can follow along 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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I will be linking up to some of the linky parties listed here.


  1. She is absolutely cute.. of course the dress is beautiful too!!! Awesome Tutorial!!! Would you like to join my party tomorrow? It would be great to have you there with this!!!

    Hope you are having a lovely day

    Cami @ TitiCrafty by Camila

  2. Beautiful Dress. I think I may have to make my Little miss one of these for the summer. Thanks you for sharing your tutorial. I know how much work they can be.
    Adrienne @ free Time frolics


  3. Love that fabric. She looks adorable. My girls have requested "long dresses" for the summer as well.

  4. How adorable is this dress? I am so impressed! It's a great tutorial too.

  5. Visiting from twigg studios. What a great outfit and fantastic details in your tutorial

  6. Gorgeous!!! Everything! Thank you so much for sharing...have definitely pinned! :)

  7. I love it! Such a pretty dress!!

    -Ash P

  8. SO pretty! I love the fabric you picked!

  9. Hey, I'm a new follower from the weekend hop. I love the fabric's design and the photo of your little girl in those colorful sunnies! So adorable!

    I'd love it if you can follow me back :)


  10. OK seriously adorable and she is beautiful! You have some mad sewing skills! Thanks for sharing the pattern with us at MOnday Funday! ;)

  11. What a beautiful dress! Such gorgeous fabric - and great photos to show it all off!

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

  12. Gorgeous dress and daughter! I have sewn for our American Girl Dolls plenty but haven't sewn for my daughters yet. I bet they would love this dress if I made it for them.

  13. Really beautiful dress and tutorial! lovely!
    I'm an enthusiastic DIYer from Barcelona, would you like to follow each other on bloglovin'?
    Big kisses

  14. This is such a cute dress. I love your complete tutorial. I am visiting you from Not Just a Housewife. You may like my series on teaching your children to sew in the form of a Summer Sewing Camp:

  15. Oh my that is adorable! Thanks for such a great tutorial too. Pinning

  16. Oh goodness! Can you make me one? I love this! Thank you for sharing! I’d love to have you visit me at Get Your Crap Together! We have a Pattern Party from the 1st of the month to the 10th and would love you to check it out. See you soon!

  17. Very cute dress!! I love how it looks with the little sweater to!


  18. I love little girl in Maxi cute. Your little model is lovely!

    We've love for you to show your posts with our readers at our Finished Friday Link-up.

  19. She's too cute and the dress looks great!Thank You so much for sharing at A Bouquet of Talent this week! Happy Friday!

  20. Visiting from Monday Funday. I'd like to invite you to my Friday Flash Blog, where you can share your best blog entry of the week! The party goes on ALL weekend at And who knows, you may just get featured next week.


  21. Gorgeous and great, easy-to-follow tutorial!! Love it!

  22. This dress is gorgeous! Your directions are awesome too. I don't even sew but I bet I could make this dress with your directions.
    Thanks so much for linking this up to the Pinworthy Projects Party!

  23. Love this! I've been looking for a maxi dress tutorial just like this- can't wait to give it a try!


  24. Thank you for taking the time to make this awesome tutorial! Really! I can't wait to try one for each of my 3 girls!!

  25. You are just so unbelievably talented, my friend!! This is gorgeous!!

  26. Just found your blog via "I Should Be Mopping the Floor". I am pinning and following you on facebook now! Great site!

  27. I am making this dress for the first time and I just have a question that I need clarification. On this part :

    Top tier: your height measurement X 45 inches.

    Bottom tier: your height measurement X 67 inches.
    If the pattern repeat on your fabric can be cut in any direction, you can cut the tiers in 1 piece. If not, you will need to cut the tiers in 2 pieces. (22.75 wide for the top tier and 33.75 for the bottom tier.)

    My top tier for my 18 month old is 10 inches and my bottom tier is 4 inches from the math we did right before.

    Do i take these numbers and times them x 46 and x67? Because if so, I need 246 inches of fabric for my 18 month old which is WAY more than a yard. Can you explain how you got your numbers?


    1. Amanda, I think you are confused by my use of the "X" instead of the word "by". I will correct that in my tutorial so it it does not confuse anyone else...

      According to the instructions, your tiers should be: 10 inches tall by 45 inches wide and 4 inches tall by 67 inches wide.

      These measurements were designed with size 3 to 8 in mind. Since you are making a size 18 month, I think you might want to subtract a few inches from the width of the tiers. I would guess 4 to 5 inches at least from the top tier and around 6 from the bottom tier. (I have thrown away the scrap paper I used to figure out these numbers, but I think I multiplied the circumference of the bottom of the bodice by 1.75 to get the width of the top tier and multiplied the circumference of the middle tier by 1.5 to get the width of the bottom tier.

      I hope this helps more than it confuses. Feel free to message me to facebook if you need more help. (I would have emailed you directly with this answer, but your comment/email settings are set to no-reply.)

  28. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for sharing this tutorial! My daughter fell in love with this maxi dress we saw online -- -- but now maybe we can make it ourselves. Maybe. Let's hope I don't sew my fingers together!

  29. I made this today (minus the tiers) for a "Dress a Girl Around the World" donation - it's a great pattern, I LOVE how it turned out! Thank you so much for sharing. :D

  30. I made this tonight! I made some silly mistakes, but it's just so forgiving. I'd like to thank you for such clear and simple instructions. It's my first time doing anything like this, and I loved it! I think I may make something similar to put in my operation christmas child box! Now that I know what I'm doing! THANKS THANKS THANKS! I mentioned you and your page on my blog. I hope that is okay. And I hope you get a tad more traffic because of it! (

  31. This is stinking cute! I have twin girls who would ADORE a couple of these for next summer!


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