How to Sew Simple Dresses

Updated April 17, 2017

Sew a sleeveless dress that has no waist and no zipper. Look for a pattern that has four pieces: dress front, dress back, neck facing and armhole facing. Cut the dress front and neck facing on the fold of the fabric, while the dress back and armhole facings are not cut on the fold resulting in two fabric pieces of each. If you wish, you can add sleeves by substituting them for facings in the finishing section. Unless the instructions say differently, make all the seams 5/8-inch wide.

Pin the pattern to the fabric, following the instructions. Cut out the dress pieces using pinking shears so the fabric does not ravel. Remove each pattern piece from the fabric as you begin to work with that part of the dress.

Put the two back pieces together with right-sides together. Match them so all sides are even. Sew the edges of the middle seam together, starting at the bottom and stopping 3 inches from the neck.

Lay the dress back on the ironing board with the right-side down. Press the seam open, continuing beyond the seam to the neckline.

Lay the front of the dress on the back side of the dress with the right-sides together and pin them together along the edges. Sew the sides and shoulders. Press the seams open.

Fold each facing in half, right sides together and sew the ends to form a seam. Press the seams open.

To keep the edge from unravelling, make a small hem by folding over the outer edge of each facing to the wrong side and sew the fold in place.

Turn the dress right-side-out and pin the centre of the neck facing to the centre of the front edge, with right-sides together. The end of the facing should extend to the edge of the fabric and doesn't stop at the fold where you pressed the middle seam. Sew the facing to the dress.

Sew the armhole facings to the armhole, using the technique described in Step 3.

Turn the dress wrong-side out. To form a bottom hem, fold up the bottom edge 1/2-inch and pin it in place, using a tape measure to ensure it is even. Press the fold, then fold it up again so that the raw edge is inside the fold. Hem the dress by hand using a slip stitch or use the hemming function on your sewing machine.


When preparing to sew a seam, attach the two pieces by placing the pins no more than two inches apart. This ensures the fabric doesn't slip. Most sewing machines have scored lines on the pressure plate that are marked with the measurements to indicate the width of the seam. Just align the edge of the fabric with one of those lines (usually 5/8-inch) to sew even seams.


When you lay the pattern on the fabric, place the pieces following the arrows on the pattern, as shown in the instructions; otherwise, the fabric may stretch in undesirable ways. Align the edges of the fabric, or your finished dress will not hang straight on the wearer.

Things You'll Need

  • Straight pins
  • Pattern
  • Fabric
  • Pinking shears
  • Sewing machine
  • Ironing board
  • Iron
  • Tape measure
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About the Author

Phee Paradise began writing professionally in 1996 when she covered town government for "The Sentinel," a weekly newspaper in Belchertown, Mass. She has written how-to manuals for student leaders and currently writes book reviews for a writers' blog. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from San Diego State University and a Master of Arts in communication from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.