How to Measure for a Smocked Sundress

Written by kelli nottingham
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How to Measure for a Smocked Sundress
Purchase a flexible plastic or fibreglass measuring tape, which will not stretch with use like cloth tapes. (measuring tape image by Alison Bowden from

Smocked sundresses are among the most comfortable and flattering of summer clothing. The elasticated top, gathered into pleats, creates a snug fit for the bodice of the dress. While previous generations had to use pleater machines in order to achieve this look, modern fabric shops sell sundress fabrics with the top 8 to 12 inches already gathered and sewn. This eliminates a time-consuming task for seamstresses, making it possible for those with beginning sewing skills to make their own smocked sundresses. Careful measurements are required, however, to work with these special fabrics.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Measuring tape
  • Pre-gathered fabric
  • Sewing pins
  • Scissors

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  1. 1

    Put on the undergarments you plan to wear with the sundress. Undergarments can dramatically change your measurements and the fit of your clothing.

  2. 2

    Wrap the measuring tape around the fullest part of the bust. The measuring tape should be snug against the skin and parallel to the floor all the way around. Be careful not to let the measuring tape droop in the back. You can check this by looking in a mirror or having a friend assist you with the measuring process.

  3. 3

    Measure the stretch in your pre-gathered fabric by placing your measuring tape on a flat surface and grasping the fabric between your thumbs and forefingers, leaving four inches of fabric between your hands. Measure to be sure that you have exactly four inches of fabric.

  4. 4

    Stretch the four inches of fabric as far as it will expand, and measure this length by holding the stretched fabric to your measuring tape. Many fabrics will stretch to a total length of 6 to 8 inches.

  5. 5

    Calculate how much pre-gathered fabric you will need by dividing the stretched length into your original four inches. For example, if your stretched measurement was six inches, divide that by four inches to get .66. Multiply that decimal number by your bust measurement. For example, if your bust measurement is 40 inches, you would multiply 40 by .66 to get 26.4 inches. Round your number up to the nearest whole number, in this case 27 inches.

  6. 6

    Add a ½ inch seam allowance on each side of your new inch measurement so that you can sew the fabric into a tube or dress shape. For this example, the final measurement is 28 inches. This 28 inches of fabric will stretch to snugly fit a 40 inch bust.

  7. 7

    Fold your measured fabric in half and pin the entire gathered section down the seam line. For our example dress, the folded section inside the seam allowance would be 13.5 inches wide.

  8. 8

    Try on your dress inside-out, being very careful not to scratch yourself with the pins. If the gathering seems too tight or the bodice of the dress is too snug, you can take the dress off and move the seam line pins ¼ inch further out, or further in if the dress is too loose. Continue to fit the dress by trying it on and moving the pins until you are satisfied with the fit of the dress.

  9. 9

    Cut your fabric according to your final measurement, being sure to leave the ½ inch seam allowance past your pins.

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