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How to Sew a Tiered Pillowcase Dress (includes free bodice pattern)

How to sew a Tiered Pillowcase Dress (tutorial includes a free printable pattern in sizes 2 to 8.) I love pillowcase dresses! No buttons no zippers, just straight stitches. This Tiered Pillowcase Dress tutorial will elevate your simple pillowcase dress to the next level.

Even better: you get to show off multiple gorgeous, girly fabrics!

How to sew a Tiered Pillowcase Dress (tutorial includes a free printable pattern in sizes 2 to 8.) Pillowcase dresses are one of my favorite patterns to sew

Pillowcase dresses are one of my favorite patterns to sew. They’re just so quick and easy! (My favorite type of sewing project, lol.)

A bonus aspect of a pillowcase dress is since they’re designed to be fairly loose and are put together with a tie and casing, they can grow with your little one to go from a dress to a top as they get older!

How to make a tiered pillowcase dress

Today’s tiered pillowcase dress tutorial takes on the standard pillowcase dress pattern and shows you how to add “tiers” of fabric to take your pillowcase dress-making skills up a notch!

The added tiers make the dress extra twirly! (and little girls do love to twirl.)

(**update 1 ** – I made an adorable patriotic tiered pillowcase dress for the 4th of July. See that one here.)

(**update 2 ** – I made the cutest little free Pillowcase Dress Pattern for girls, in sizes 2 to 8.  I call it the “Polished Pillowcase Dress.” The tutorial includes even more options on how to customize a pillowcase dress.)  You can see the full post about that dress here.

More beginner-friendly sewing patterns for girls

So without further ado:

How to Make a Tiered Pillowcase-Style Dress:

Skill level: Beginner-friendly 

Time needed: 2 to 4 hours (the ruffling and pinning of the tiers takes the longest)

Fits sizes: The tutorial includes tier measurements to fit a 2 to 8-year-old.  If you want to make a slightly larger dress, just add an inch or so from each tier for a longer/shorter dress.

Made this pattern/project?

Please leave a star ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and/or a review in the comments section below. If you share an image on Instagram, be sure to tag me and use #scatteredmompatterns! You can also share an image to my private Facebook sewing group!

Sewing Instructions for the Tiered Pillowcase Dress Tutorial

Materials needed:

  • Pattern (free pillowcase bodice pattern here)  (add the pattern to your cart and check out <its free> and navigate back to this tutorial) *note, the bodice pattern goes up to size 16, but I have only provided the cut info for up to size 8 in the tiered version. Someday, I will figure out the dimensions needed and add more sizes.
  • Fabric: (amount listed below is based on 42-inch wide fabric and will make up to a size 8 dress.)
  • 1/4 yard for the bodice, 5/8 yard for the 2nd tier, 3/4 yard for the 3rd tier, 1/8 yard for the tie)
  • +/-28 inches of coordinating single fold bias tape
  • coordinating thread
  • Basic sewing supplies (scissors, paper, pen, ruler, iron)

 *** Important pattern printing tip***  When printing the patterns, download the pattern to your computer and open it in your adobe acrobat reader.  Choose actual size and the auto portrait/landscape option. (If you use any other pdf printing program, I can’t guarantee your pattern will print to the correct size.)

Seam allowances are 3/8 inch unless otherwise stated.

Step 1:  Print bodice pattern and cut pattern pieces.

Print, cut out and assemble the pattern.  (Ignore the contrasting fabric cut line on the printed pattern- that is for the polished pillowcase tutorial.)

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

free tiered pillowcase dress pattern

Cut the two tiers:

Middle tier: fold fabric in half fabric in half.  The middle tier measurement is:

  • 2/3: 13.5 inches wide by 7.5 inches tall.  (Cut 2 on the fold, 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

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)

free tiered pillowcase dress

Step 2:  Assembling bodice and finishing armholes.

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.

how to finish armholes on pillowcase dress

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:

how to add bias tape to an armscye

Pin securely.

how to finish armholes on pillowcase dress

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

how to finish armholes on pillowcase dress

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

how to sew a tiered pillowcase dress

Step 3: Create the casing for the tiered pillowcase dress.

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.

create casing for pillowcase dress
how to sew a tiered pillow case dress
how to make a casing

Step 4:  Assemble boddice and add tiers to dress.

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 of the tiered pillowcase dress.

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.

how to gather tiers

Gather the 2nd tier to approximately 16 inches.  (That is how wide the bottom of the bodice is.)

Gather the 3rd tier to about 23 inches.

tiered pillowcase dress tutorial - adding the tiers

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:

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 if you opt to leave the pins in, take care as 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 the tie for your dress

Fold the fabric in half lengthwise and iron.

creating the tie for the tiered pillowcase dress

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.

Step 6: Hem the bottom of your last tier.  

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…

how to sew a tiered pillowcase dress with a free pattern

I hope you are inspired to make something pretty!

If you do create something based on this tutorial, I would love for you to share it on my facebook page or tag me on Instagram using #scatteredmompatterns!

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Yield: 1 tiered pillowcase dress

How to Sew a Tiered Pillowcase Dress

How to sew a Tiered Pillowcase Dress (tutorial includes a free printable pattern in sizes 2 to 8.) Pillowcase dresses are one of my favorite patterns to sew

Learn how to sew a tiered Pillowcase Dress with this free pattern and tutorial! This beginer-friendly sewing tutorial will elevate your simple pillowcase dress to the next level. Even better: you get to show off multiple gorgeous, girly fabrics!

Prep Time 45 minutes
Active Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 45 minutes
Difficulty easy/intermediate
Estimated Cost $15

Materials

  • *Pattern (free pillowcase bodice pattern linked above - add the pattern to your cart and check out and navigate back to this tutorial)
  • *Fabric: (amount listed is based on 42-inch wide fabric and will make up to a size 8 dress.) 1/4 yard for the bodice, 5/8 yard for the 2nd tier, 3/4 yard for the 3rd tier, 1/8 yard for the tie
  • * 28 inches +/- of coordinating single fold bias tape
  • *coordinating thread

Tools

  • Basic sewing supplies (scissors, paper, pen, ruler, iron)

Instructions

Step 1:  Print bodice pattern and cut pattern pieces.

  1. Print, cut out and assemble the pattern.  (Ignore the contrasting fabric cut line on the printed pattern- that is for the polished pillowcase tutorial.)
  2. Fold bodice fabric in half, put the long side on the fabric fold and cut 2 pieces for the bodice.

Cut the two tiers:

  1. Middle tier: fold fabric in half fabric in half.  The middle tier measurement is:
  2. 2/3: 13.5 inches wide by 7.5 inches tall.  (Cut 2 on the fold, and when you open it, your fabric pieces will be 27 inches wide.)
  3. 4/5: 13.5 inches wide by 8.5 inches tall.
  4. 6: 13.5 inches wide by 9.5 inches tall.
  5. 7/8:  13.5 wide by 10.5 tall
  6. Bottom tier, fold the fabric in half and cut 2 pieces:
  7. 2/3:  21 1/4  inches wide and 91/4 tall.  (you will have 2 pieces 42.5 wide)
  8. 4/5: 21 1/4  inches wide and 10 1/4 tall.
  9. 6:  21 1/4  inches wide and 11 1/4 tall.
  10. 7/8:  21 1/4  inches wide and 12 1/4 tall.

Fabric ties:

  1. 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.)

Step 2:  Assembling bodice and finishing armholes.

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

    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. (images in the tutorial above)
  3. Pin securely.
  4. Sew along the crease removing pins as you go.  Do the same for the second armhole.
  5. Fold bias tape over to the inside of the bodice, iron down and sew.for the tiered pillowcase dress.
  6. 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 boddice and add tiers to dress.

  1. 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 of the tiered pillowcase dress.
  2. 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.
  3. To gather the tier pull on the top thread while holding the fabric, you should see the fabric start to gather up.
  4. Gather the 2nd tier to approximately 16 inches.  (That is how wide the bottom of the bodice is.)
  5. Gather the 3rd tier to about 23 inches.
  6. Hold the 2nd tier to the bottom of the bodice and make any adjustments in the width of the gather.
  7. 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.
  8. (Demonstrative images can be found in the tutorial above)
  9. 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 if you opt to leave the pins in, take care as you are risking broken needles and pins.)
  10. Remove the pins and finish the seams.
  11. 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 the tie for your dress

  1. Fold the fabric in half lengthwise and iron.
  2. Then open up and fold both edges to the middle crease and iron.
  3. Then fold in half and iron again.
  4. Sew along all the edges.

Step 6: Hem the bottom of your last tier.  

  1. 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.
  2. Using a safety pin, pull the tie through the bodice casing.
  3. Now sit back and admire your work because you are done!

36 Comments

  1. What is the brand of the fabric &/or where can I find it – Thanks so much!!

    1. I agree, isn’t it pretty! Unfortunately it was just a bunch of random premium quilting cotton that I had picked up online back in 2010, 2011 and 2012. So I don’t have it anymore nor do I remember where it came from, sorry!

  2. I have two young granddaughters and want to attempt this pattern. Thanks for sharing :).

    1. You’ll love it. The fabric pattern combos are endless and they’ll look so cute!

      1. Very cute dress & fabric combo – can’t wait to make it for my granddaughter!! Having an issue printing the bodice pattern – I see that the width of the bodice is 8-3/4″ – could you possibly let me know the height measurement – hoping to be able to sketch out the pattern myself!!
        Thanks so much!!

  3. Thank you so much for the detailed tutorial!! Right when I’m thinking about sewing a dress for my little cousin, this is perfect because I don’t live with her so I don’t know exactly her size.

  4. I am just finishing up sewing one of these — your tutorial is great and I've shared it with several sewing friends. Thanks!

  5. 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,
      Jamie

  6. 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.

    http://www.sewinginsight.com

  7. 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!

  8. 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!

  9. 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! 🙂
    Crystal
    Homemaker in Heels

  10. 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. 🙂

    Ginger

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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!!!

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

  15. 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.

    Blessings!
    LaVonne

  16. 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 🙂

  17. 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!
    happyhourprojects.blogspot.com
    Happy to be your newest follower ~ Adrianne

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