Making a Simple Sun Dress

Finished!  The Michael Miller fairy fabric -  now a sun dress!  Which I made just for a sweet little someone whose Mommy provided measurements for toddler size!

Too bad I had to photograph her sun dress in this gloomy PNW weather - but where she lives, I am told there is sunshine -  and her mommy is already making desserts with cherries and peaches because they are ripe!

This is a companion post to Design Your Very Own Sun Dress Fabric. That post was all about making your very own fabrics and this one is all about how to make this simple little sun dress.

First the pattern!

I am providing a pattern for both an adult size and a toddler size

The adult size especially is pretty much one size fits most!  Toddler to child will require a bit of tweaking! 

But the beauty of this little dress is that the fit can be adjusted easily simply by how tightly you scrunch the gathers and how short or long you make the ties.  For instance if your daughter has grown a size next summer - the dress will probably still fit if you loosen the gathers a bit and tie the straps a little longer.

This is the pattern I used for the toddler size dress made with the fairy fabric.  Our model is two years old and is about 34" tall.

The toddler dress is designed to be made from 2/3 yard* of 45" wide fabric. If you like it fuller, either use 60" wide fabric or get 1 1/3" yards of fabric and cut each panel anywhere from 30" to 45" wide. (45" might be too full for a toddler, but great for a young teen.)

And of course, you can shorten or lengthen the dress as needed.  If you lengthen, be sure to get more fabric!!

Seam allowances specified in the instructions are included in the pattern dimensions.


The adult version will work for most adults.  I am 5'8" and Diane is 5'6" and the dress comes to about our knees.

For the adult version, you will need 2 yards** of 45" wide fabric. 

As with the smaller size, the width can be adjusted and probably the easiest way would be to use 60" wide fabric. 

The dress can be as short or long as you wish - I've even made them nearly floor length - just be sure to determine the difference between the length given here and the desired length and make the adjustment in your fabric purchase. For instance, if you want your dress 12" longer than the pattern,  you will need 2 2/3 yards of fabric - 2x36" plus 2 x 12".  You will then have two panels measuring 48" long.

Again seam allowances specified in the instructions are included in the pattern.

If you are making a dress for a pre-teen or teen, use the adult pattern and in addition to adjusting the length, change the 6" measurement at the arm to 41/2" to 5".

Making the Sun Dres

Cutting out the dress

Cutting method #1

Make a paper pattern using the dimensions given or using your adjusted dimensions.

Place your pattern on your lovely fabric and cut following the contour of the pattern.

Cutting method #2

Since most of the cuts are straight lines, you can use your rotary cutter and straight edge to cut the basic rectangle.

Mark the measurements for the curve at the arm holes. (See tiny blue lines)

And cut in a slightly curved line.  Cut straight down for about an inch and then start the slight curve.

I could not resist these little kitties! Adorable! Perfect fall dress for my teddy, don't you think?

For larger sizes, it is easier to fold the fabric before cutting.  If you are careful, and use the guidlines on the cutting board and the straight edge, your basic rectangle should come out perfect!

If you are not accustomed to using these tools, however, a paper pattern would be your best option.

Create the curves at the arm hole the same as above.


Assembling the dress

Assembly is as easy as 1, 2, 3  ... oh! and 4!

Just follow the diagram as you go along!

I apologize in advance for using a white fabric for my demonstration.  But you have to understand - I couldn't help myself!  I absolutely love Alison's  little bug fabric from Spoonflower and I love showing it off! Purely and emotional decision. (See yesterday's post for where to get it!)

STEP #1 Side seams

With right sides of fabric together, sew the two panels together at the side seams.  Use a 1/4" seam.  I usually finish my seams with a zig zag stitch but you might prefer one of the methods offered by Sewing Support in this excellent tutorial on seam finishes.

STEP #2  Curve at the arm hole

Finishing the arm hole curve with bias tape is simple and neat and recommended.  My diagram clearly states "shirt tail hem" which I sometimes, in a fit of laziness have been known to use.  But Craftstylish provides an excellent tutorial for finishing a curved edge with bias tape. Do it this way.:-)

Just be certain you purchase BIAS TAPE.  Don't confuse bias tape with seam binding.  They come in nearly identical packages. 

My stock of bias tape and seam binding must now be "vintage"!  I noticed when I purchased a package for the fairy dress that the package design has changed! Sigh.

STEP #3  Making the Casings for the ties

Press a 1/4" fold at the top edge of the dress. Fold is to the wrong side.

Fold and press again to form a casing about 1/2" wide.

Stitch close to both folds leaving the ends open.  Usually, due to the angle of the arm hole curve, the casing ends will look like the end in the photo.

STEP #4  Hem

Fold the bottom edge of your dress over toward the wrong side 1/4" to 1/2". Press.  Fold again. Pin to hold in place.  Stitch close to the edge of the first fold.

Craftstylish suggests another method here!

 Almost finished!

On thing I love about this dress is that there is very little stitching involved so that most of the fabric can later be used for another purpose - like a skirt or a pillow or a hat!

Now all that is left to do is to draw your ribbon or tie through the casing.  For a tiny dress like this one, I simply thread my ribbon through the eye of a tapestry needle and slide it through the casing!  A small safety pin also works well to guide the tie through the casing.

There are a couple little tutorials for ties at the end of the post.  But if you use ribbon or a purchased cord as your tie - you are done!

Love Alison's bugs!  They never fail to bring a smile.


A couple ideas for ties.

1. "Spaghetti straps"  *   **  if you use spaghetti straps, purchase an extra 1/8 yard of fabric.  You won't need it all but I doubt most stores will sell you less.

First - no need to cut on the bias.  Cut on the grain.

Cut your fabric the length you need for straps that are long enough to go across the gathered area of the dress and then make a bow (or a simple tie) on each shoulder. For an adult that would be two straps 36" long each.

Strap width can vary but for spaghetti straps the width should be 1 inch. Wider straps will require a wider casing allowance.

Fold the strap in half as shown, pressing as you go.

Now fold both edges toward the fold line in the middle, pressing as you go. Try to get the edges as close together as possible without overlapping. 

Folding one side at a time makes it easier.

Now fold the strap in half so that the raw edges are completely encased in the original fold.  Pin to hold during stitching.

Stitch close to the open edge of the fold.

Attach a small safety pin to the end of the strap and guide it through the casing.

Tie a knot in both ends of the strap, pull up your gathers to fit and you are done!

2. Braided  straps

A great tutorial for making the braids right here on Smile and Wave!  I think one of her matching headbands would look great too.

Just be sure your braid will fit through your casing!  The best way to do that is to make the braided tie first and then fold the fabric over the braid to determine the width of the casing.

If you decide to use a braided tie, I suggest adding an extra 1/2" to the length of the arm hole curve.

Only a couple more things to say!

Keep in mind this is a quick, easy, down and dirty little dress so no accomodation has been made to even out the hem line.  I don't particularly have a problem with this - especially in this age of stylishly uneven hem lines! But - just so you know!

Part of the beauty of this little dress is that as you put it on, you adjust the gathers and tie the straps so that it fits you the way you want it to!  You can have a deeply scooped neckline - or not!  Tight gathers or loose ones. If you want to keep your gathers in one place forever, tack them once you have decided where you want them to be.  You should also be able to leave the bows tied - even when you wash it.  From then on just toss it on over your head! 

This is a great bathing suit cover-up - especially in gauzy fabrics!

It is also a great little dress for showing off some of those lovely designer fabrics we all love.  And as I said before, most of the fabric remains in tact so that it can be used again in another way!  Repurposed!

Hope you enjoy!

July 2nd update! As I was catching up with my One Pretty Thing posts, I ran smack dab into this and just had to add it!  Samster Mommy posted this adorable sun dress tutorial.  It is very similar to this one but it  is made using a tee!  AND she added a ruffle to the bottom which I love!

Go check it out!  A great idea for using cute, no longer worn tees laying around in the closet! Her kids have some of the cooest things to wear and play in in the world!  When I was a little girl - I would have gone mad for the tutu!






Wanting this pattern in PDF

Wanting this pattern in PDF format so it is easier to print

So sorry.  No pattern is

So sorry.  No pattern is available.  That is the beauty of this simple dress.  Just a bit of measuring to fit a small child or tall adult!  No pattern is needed.  Seriously.

All of the detail in this

All of the detail in this post is so wonderful Pam. Thanks for sharing this- it's so summer perfect! I love that as I'm catching up on your posts you post that you're catching up on mine! =) I'll be linking!

How cute! My girls got

How cute! My girls got matching dresses like this once, years ago from my Mother In Law! So sweet. I am hopefully going to be sewing up quite a few things with my girls this summer. I'm actually thinking this would be fun to make for their My Twin dolls and their Build A Bears. My kids love the accessories parts of these dolls! Fun!