Step-by-step instructions on how to make a summer dress

Updated April 17, 2017

There's nothing like staying cool on a hot summer day in a great summer dress. Possibly the only thing better than that perfect summer dress is knowing that you made it yourself. With easy-to-follow steps, you can make your own summer dress even if you're not an expert in sewing clothes. In fact, the pattern is so simple and inexpensive, you can have a different dress for every day of summer if you want.

Create the dress pattern. The pattern is a simple rectangle that will use your bust measurement for the width, and the length will be the distance between your armpit and 5 cm (2 inches) below your knee. You can adjust the length depending on how long you want the dress to be.

Pin the pattern to the material so that the top of the pattern (the width) is parallel to the crosswise grain. The crosswise grain, or weft, is the side of the material that can be pulled and stretched. When selecting your material, go for bright colours, which work well on summer garments. Material with a floral design is good for summer as well.

Cut the pattern out twice. Pin the two pieces of the rectangular fabric together so that they are on top of each other and the right (or brighter) sides are facing in.

Sew down the side that you just pinned using a basic straigth stitch on your sewing machine. Make sure you have regular thread on the bobbin and leave about 1.5 cm (1/2 inch) seam allowance.

Iron the seam flat and sew down both sides of the seam.

Add a hem to the top and bottom of the dress. To create the hem, fold the material over approximately 1.5 cm (1/2 inch) and then fold again the same width and stitch.

Create the shirring on the summer dress. Wind the elastic thread around a bobbin like you would an ordinary thread. Use a regular cotton for the top thread.To insert the bobbin, pull up the presser foot with your hand, move the needle up as far as you can with the handle/knob, remove the cover and place the bobbin in position. You'll want to pull a few inches of the elastic thread out before placing the bobbin in position an hold it facing toward you. Pull the thread back through the notches on the bobbin and hold to the back of the machine. Use the handle/knob to lower the needle so that it can grab the thread and then raise it again. This will thread the needle with the elastic thread.

Run approximately 20 rows of elastic thread across the top of the material. Leave approximately 1.5cm (1/2-inch) interval between each row. Make sure that your sewing machine is set to a straight stitch as well as to the longest length possible. Also be sure to lock your stitches so that the elastic doesn't pull out.

Place the right sides of the fabric together and sew the other side of the material closed. Press the seam flat and sew down both sides of the seam.

Turn the summer dress inside out.

Cut a 4cm (1 ½-inch) wide strip of the same material. (You can also use a different material if you want.) Fold all the edges in about 1/2 cm (1/4 inch). This strip will need to wrap around your neck so measure the distance from your armpit to the back of your neck and double it to determine the length you will need to cut.

Fold the two ends in and fold each long side lengthwise toward the middle so that the two edges meet in the centre. Sew around the edges.

Fold the strip of fabric in half so that it creates a loop at the top. Sew the loop part to the front of your dress. Sew it in the middle and at the top of your summer dress as this is the tie that will go around your neck. You can also make two strips of fabric and attach them to the dress as straps.


Iron your material before you begin to work with it. It is easier to work with smooth, wrinkle-free fabric.

Things You'll Need

  • Cotton material
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread to match material
  • Elastic thread
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About the Author

Lindsey Salloway started writing professionally in 2005. She has worked for various publications including the "Calgary Sun," "Calgary Journal" and "Penticton Western News." She also completed major journalism projects for various organizations such as the Foothills Country Hospice. Salloway holds a Bachelor of Communications in journalism from Mount Royal University.