Every once in a while I peruse the kids section at J. Crew to get sewing ideas. I’m not likely to spend $40 on a sweater or $70 on a dress for my six-year-old, but I do love the look of their clothes. I especially liked this tulle skirted sweatshirt dress I saw recently and decided to figure out how to make something similar for my daughter. I started with a $5 clearance sweatshirt from Target and added a skirt for an easy tulle sweatshirt dress that didn’t cost anywhere near 70 bucks.
I put it together while my daughter was at kindergarten one day, and she was thrilled to try it on when she got home.
She loves wearing dresses, and I love outfits that are casual enough for her to be comfortable in. And easy for me to wash!
With this dress, everyone’s happy.
Here’s how I made it. I started with a sweatshirt, 1/2 a yard of inexpensive knit fabric, and 1 full yard of English tulle (also called English net or English netting). English net is MUCH softer than the cheap tulle you’ll find at craft or fabric stores. It hangs nicely and doesn’t get bunched up when you use multiple layers of it. So far it’s washing up well too. I ordered this English net on Etsy, because my local fabric store doesn’t sell it. If you’re making a dress for a taller girl than a size 6, you’ll need more than 1 yard of net or tulle.
I started by having my daughter try on the sweatshirt and measuring from the hem seam down to the middle of her knee. That was 11 inches. I added 1 inch to account for the hem, making the length I’m using for the skirt pieces 12 inches.
I also measured the width of the sweatshirt at the hemline. I used the 1/2 yard of knit fabric to create an underskirt. I cut two underskirt pieces: they are each 12 inches long, and as wide at the top as the sweatshirt is at the hem, + 1 inch for seam allowance. I angled out the sides slightly so the bottom of the underskirt is a couple inches wider than the top, to allow for easier movement.
Lay the underskirt pieces right sides together and sew down each side using 1/2 inch seam allowance, as shown above. Also, turn up the bottom of the underskirt and hem.
Next, you’ll use the English net to create 3 layers of overskirt. The net I used came 60 inches wide, so I cut 3 panels that were each 12 inches tall by the full 60 inches wide. Sewing each panel separately, fold it in half so the selvedge edges meet and sew them together, then press the seam allowance to one side.
When sewing on tulle or english net you’ll want to go slowly and lower your machine tension a bit. I even had to pull the net a smidge as I sewed it so that it didn’t get bunched up in my machine.
Once you’ve done that, you’ll have one underskirt and three overskirt layers. Slide the overskirt layers inside of each other and pin them together all along the top to secure them together.
Now we need to gather the top of the overskirts until they are the same width as the underskirt. So sew a gathering stitch (long stitch length and low stitch tension) all the way around the top of the overskirts (through all three at once), about half and inch from the edge. Pull on the bobbin thread to gather up the top of the overskirt until it is the same width as the underskirt, distributing the gathers evenly. Place the underskirt, right side out, inside the overskirts, also right side out, and pin the together at the top as shown:
Then sew all the way around the top with a stitch that has some stretch, like a zig zag. I used a serger, which is the best option if you have one because it makes the edge very tidy.
Now you have a finished skirt, and you just need to attach it to the sweatshirt. Slide the skirt inside the sweatshirt as shown, pinning the top edge of the skirt to the hemline of the sweatshirt.
Sew the skirt to the sweatshirt. You can either use a machine stitch right over the hemstitching, or you can hand sew it inside the sweatshirt, which is what I did:
Finished! Because I hemmed the underskirt and not the overskirt, the tulle/net layer is a bit longer than the underskirt. I like how that looks, but you could certainly trim it up if you’d prefer.