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

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How to sew a Tiered Pillowcase Dress (tutorial includes a free printable bodice pattern and cutting instructions for the tiers.)

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

Tiered Pillowcase Dress

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

A bonus aspect of a pillowcase dress is that since it’s designed to be fairly loose and is put together with a tie and casing, it can grow with your little one, going from a dress to a top as they age!

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 use a lot of fabric, but they make the dress extra twirly! (Little girls 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 16. I call it the “Polished Pillowcase Dress.” The tutorial includes even more options for customizing a pillowcase dress.)  You can see the full post about that dress here.

More beginner-friendly sewing patterns for girls

So, without further ado:

Where Do I Get the Pattern?

Look under the materials section needed for the pattern link. Click the link, and you will be taken to my pattern shop. Add the pattern to your cart and check out. (No payment is needed, and the system needs about 15 seconds to process your order.)

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.

Fabric usage note: to calculate the width of the fabric needed for the tiers, I multiplied the width of the bodice by 1.75 and then the width of the 2nd tier, multiplied by 1.75 for the width of the 3rd. This uses A LOT of fabric but makes a wonderfully twirly dress. To save on the amount of fabric used, you could multiply the widths by 1.65 or 1.5. Less full, but still very cute.

 *** Important pattern printing tip*** When printing the patterns, save the pattern to your computer and open it in the free Adobe Acrobat reader program.  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.

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: (The amount listed below is based on 42-inch wide fabric and will make up to a size 8 dress.)
    • Bodice: size 2 to 5: 1/4 yard, size 6 to 8: 3/8
    • Middle tier, size 2 to 5: 1/2 yard, size 6 to 8: 5/8 yard
    • Third tier: sizes 2 to 6: 1 yard, size 7/8 1 1/8 yard
    • Tie: 1/8 yard
  • +/-28 inches of coordinating single-fold bias tape
  • coordinating thread
  • Basic sewing supplies (scissors, paper, pen, ruler, iron)

Sewing Instructions For The Tiered Pillowcase Dress Tutorial

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 the 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:

You will need to piece together two strips for the larger sizes/tiers.

Middle tier: 

  • 2/3: Cut 2 strips of fabric, 27 inches wide by 7.5 inches tall. 
  • 4/5: Cut 2 strips of fabric, 28 inches wide by 8.5 inches tall.
  • 6: Cut 2 strips of fabric, 29 inches wide by 9.5 inches tall.
  • 7/8: Cut 2 strips of fabric, 30 inches wide by 10.5 tall

Bottom tier:

  • 2/3:  Cut 2 strips of fabric, 46 inches wide and 9 1/4 tall.  
  • 4/5: Cut 2 strips of fabric, 49 inches wide and 10 1/4 tall.
  • 6:  Cut 2 strips of fabric, 51 inches wide and 11 1/4 tall.
  • 7/8: Cut 2 strips of fabric, 52 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.

With the 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. (For example, you can use Pinking shears, a serger, or a 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, and I will show you how to use it.

Cut 2 pieces of single-fold bias tape 13 1/2 inches long each.  Turn the fabric right side out and open the bias tape up.  Align the edge of the bias tape 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 the 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 the bodice and add tiers to the dress.

Sew the short sides of the 2nd tier together to make a circle and finish the seam edges.  Reapeat 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!

Did you Make this Pattern?

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! We love seeing what you have made/

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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!

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47 Comments

  1. Vernelle Nelson says:

    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

  2. ursulamargrit says:

    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!

  3. Sarah Dawneé says:

    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!

  4. * ROSITA * says:

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

  5. 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

  6. Ginger@gingersnapcrafts says:

    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

  7. 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.

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

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

  10. 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!

  11. Gwen @ Gwenny Penny says:

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

  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. Christine @ craftygeordi.blogspot.com says:

    This is so adorable! I love those fabrics together.

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

  15. Ladybird Ln says:

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

  16. LaVonne @ Long Wait says:

    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

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

  18. 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 🙂

  19. 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

  20. bec @ smallbirdie.com says:

    so cute! gorgeous colours! thanks for sharing!