In today’s post: Learn how to make a dress with 25 different dress patterns for girls + women that you can download absolutely free!
Dresses are definitely my favorite item of clothing to sew, and they are a great place for a beginning sewist to start. Obviously there is a range of difficulty when sewing a dress, but LOTS of simple dress patterns are easy for a beginner to tackle. And even if you’re not a beginner, dresses are fun to sew because you get a big return on your time investment. You can make a full outfit with none of the tricky fitting and fiddly sewing that making pants often requires.
Today I’ll give you a quick overview of the easiest way to make a dress, and then links to 25 different dress patterns for girls and women that you can download for free. These are actual printable patterns, not just tutorials, and most of them come in multiple sizes.
One more note before we get started: Many of these dress patterns are suitable for charity sewing. If you’re interested in sewing dresses to donate, I’ve linked a few options at the end of the post.
Photo credit: ID 141502060 © Natalia Kuzina | Dreamstime.com
How to Make a Dress
The easiest way to make a dress is to start with a purchased shirt (t-shirt, tank, sweatshirt, etc.) and add a skirt to it. This is super easy because when you add a skirt you’re mostly just sewing straight lines – all the difficult parts of construction (sleeves, neckline, etc.) are already done. Even if you’re not a beginner, making a dress out of an existing shirt is a great way to give new life to a tee that’s too short or change up a thrift store find. Here are a couple tutorials that show you how to make a dress from a shirt:
This shirt to dress tutorial shows you how to take any existing t-shirt or tank and add on fabric to make a dress. The skirt is super easy to sew because it’s made with one rectangle of fabric. The tutorial teaches you how to gather the skirt fabric and attach it to the shirt. Additionally, you’ll learn how to add elastic at the waist for a professional looking finish. The post shows how to make a girls’ dress, but you can use this same technique for any size.
This sweatshirt dress turns out so cute you’d never know how easy it is! Start with an existing sweatshirt and add layers of stretchy knit fabric and tulle to turn it into an adorable dress. Step by step photo instructions included.
It’s easy to make an adorable baby dress from a onesie using this baby wrap dress tutorial from Bugaboo City. This tutorial will teach you how to gather a skirt and sew bias tape across the top to turn a onesie into a wrap dress.
How to Make a Dress: Pillowcase Dress
If you’d like to make a dress from scratch without using a purchased shirt, the best beginner project is a pillowcase dress for a little girl. Pillowcase dresses aren’t actually made from pillowcases – but they are made from a rectangle of fabric that has a pillowcase shape. You don’t need to print out a pattern to make a pillowcase dress; you just need to know how big to cut your pattern pieces. This pillowcase dress tutorial from Polka Dot Chair provides a cutting chart for sizes 3 months up through 5 years as well as a thorough explanation of how to sew the dress.
You can also find a great chart for making pillowcase dresses with fabric amounts and sizes up to 14 here and instructions here.
Free Dress Patterns
If you’d like something a bit more involved than the options I’ve mentioned, the best way to learn how to make a dress is to use a pattern. The following dress patterns for girls + women will each walk you through the process of making a dress, from cutting out your pieces to sewing them together.
One thing to be aware of is that there are two main types of fabric you’d use to make a dress, and you’ll need to know which one you want to use. The first type of fabric is called knit fabric, and the second type is called woven fabric. Knit fabrics are stretchy, whereas woven fabrics are not. T-shirts are generally made from knit fabrics, whereas button-down dress shirts are made from wovens. There are many different kinds of knit and woven fabrics, but before you choose a pattern you’ll need to know if you want a dress made with stretchy fabric or not. Knits and wovens are not interchangeable.
I like using knits to make dresses because stretchy knit fabric is super comfortable to wear. It can also be easy to sew with because your pattern pieces don’t need to be as precise and exact fit is not as important (stretch is very forgiving). Also, knit patterns often don’t require closures such as buttons or zippers, which makes them faster and easier to sew. Click here to learn more about different types of knits.
Keep reading for lots of free dress patterns! I list dress patterns for girls first, followed by dress patterns for women.
Dress Patterns for Girls: Knit Fabrics
I created the The Play All Day dress pattern to be the easiest dress you’ll ever make. The printable pattern comes in girls sizes 4-14, and there’s only one pattern piece! You’ll learn how to sew a dress together, hem the bottom and the sleeves, and add in an easy elastic waistline. This dress pattern works great for making dress to donate, and also works well for easy nightgowns.
This Racerback dress pattern by Crafterhours is very easy to sew: no buttons, zippers, or sleeves to mess with. It comes in sizes 12/18 mo to 7/8, and uses about one yard of knit fabric. You’ll learn how to print and cut pattern pieces as well as how to bind a knit neckline.
Another easy option is this Babydoll Dress Pattern for girls, from Me Sew Crazy. You’ll learn how to sew a gathered skirt onto a bodice and how to finish sleeves with a sleeve cuff instead of a hem. The pattern also includes instructions for adding a pocket in a contrast fabric. This pattern comes in girls’ sizes 2T – 10.
Scattered Thoughts of a Craft Mom offers two different t-shirt dress patterns, both in sizes 3-12. T-shirt dresses are super comfy and versatile: basically it’s a t-shirt that’s been extended to dress length. This free dress pattern will teach you how to make a dress with set in sleeves, as well as giving you lots of other good sewing tips and resources. Click here for the short sleeve t-shirt dress pattern.
The long sleeve version of the t-shirt dress pattern (also from Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom) adds a pretty ruffled bell sleeve.
For a variation on the t-shirt dress, check out the Bubble Sleeve Dress Pattern by Elegance and Elephants. The dress itself is similar to the versions I listed above, but with cute bubble sleeves. It also comes in baby sizes! Size range is 6 months – 9 years.
If you’re a more experiences sewist, you can begin sewing dresses without using a printed pattern. This opens up lots of options and allows you to make a dress in any size! This tutorial will show you how to make a midi dress in any size using a t-shirt you already own to create your pattern. The post shows a girls’ dress, but you could use the exact same technique to make dresses in women’s sizes.
Dress Patterns for Girls: Woven Fabrics
Woven fabrics can be a little harder to sew than knit fabrics, just because the lack of stretch means everything has to line up correctly. So it you’re looking for an easy dress option to sew in a woven, choose one without sleeves, like this this Vintage Sundress from Simple Simon and Co. The pattern comes in sizes 3-8.
The Party Dress by The Cottage Mama has a lined bodice and encased seams so it’s comfortable for little ones to wear. But it’s still easy to sew thanks to the lack of buttonholes, zipper, or sleeves. This would be a great dress pattern for a beginner.
Here’s another sewing pattern for girls that’s easy to sew because there are no sleeves: the Sewing Rabbit Knot Dress. This free pattern features a cute cut-out in the back, and comes in sizes 2T to 6 plus a doll size.
If you want an easy to sew dress pattern that includes sleeves, a peasant dress is the way to go! Peasant dresses are very easy to sew and the generous fit means girls can wear them for a long time. Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom shares a simple Simple Peasant dress pattern in a huge range of sizes – from 1 year to 14. There is both a long and a short sleeve version.
The Sweet Rose dress pattern is a great way to learn how to set in sleeves on a dress made from woven fabric. This dress is especially nice made up in a flannel for fall or winter, with cozy long sleeves that are gathered at the wrist. Pattern goes up to size 10.
Dress Patterns for Women: Knit Fabrics
The “Wear Everywhere” knit dress pattern by So Sew Easy is an extremely simple dress pattern for women. There are only two pattern pieces and the sleeves are not a separate piece, making this figure hugging knit dress very quick to sew. It’s available in bust sizes 31-40 inches.
For a super comfortable dress for women, check out this easy swing dress pattern. This pattern will teach you how to set in sleeves, bind a neckline, and hem stretchy knit fabric. This free pattern is in women’s size L only; however since it’s made from stretchy fabric and has a roomy fit it should fit XL as well.
If you already have a t-shirt pattern that fits, or you’re comfortable tracing a t-shirt to make a pattern, you’ll be able to use this tutorial to make a t-shirt maxi dress. (The post uses a free printable t-shirt pattern in size L.)
Here’s another free dress pattern from So Sew Easy: a wrap dress. This dress pattern is a bit more advanced, but detailed instructions and lots of photos will help you through the process. It’s available in women’s sizes S-XL.
Dress Patterns for Women: Woven Fabrics
What if I told you that you could make a dress by sewing just one seam? Sound too good to be true? It’s not. Check your local fabric store for shirred fabric, and then read this tutorial to learn how to turn it into a dress by sewing one straight line: One Seam Maxi Dress Tutorial
For another easy maxi dress option, download the Summer Lounge Dress pattern from Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom. This dress pattern comes in two sizes that will fit S-XL and it’s fairly easy to make.
Another easy dress pattern for women is this cute corduroy overall dress from Merrick’s Art. There is no printable pattern, but she shows you how to use a tank to create the basic pattern in any size. The sewing is straightforward enough for a beginner and the end result is adorable.
For more advanced sewists, visit the Mood Fabrics blog for tons of gorgeous free dress patterns, like this beautiful wrap dress. These patterns come in a large variety of sizes (the wrap dress comes in sizes 2-22!) and include fantastic step by step instructions.
For even more women’s dress patterns, visit this post: the best free Maxi Dress Patterns
Places to Donate Dresses
If you’re looking for somewhere to donate dresses you’ve made, consider these options:
Please note that these some of the organizations below have guidelines for the dresses they distribute, so pay attention and choose your pattern accordingly. Also, I have not done extensive research on any of these organizations so I cannot vouch for them – do your research and donate where you feel comfortable.
Little Dresses for Africa: Simple dresses are distributed through the orphanages, churches and schools in Africa to plant in the hearts of little girls that they are worthy!
Dress a Girl Around the World: Dresses distributed include a “Dress a Girl” label on the outside of the dress to indicate to predators that an organization is looking after that child.
Dresses for Haiti: This organization looks for beautiful handmade dresses that are not pillowcase style. “We are more concerned about making the young girls happy and instilled with a sense of dignity and pride and if we can do that with a dress then our goal has been accomplished.”