Pinafores were originally a sleeveless overdress or apron worn to protect less washable clothing, such as dresses made of wool. Pinafores were made of cotton or linen. A more modern type of pinafore is a dress that has no sleeves or that has wide straps, although it can still be a dressy apron or overdress. There are several ways to make a pinafore. The easiest is a simple sandwich-style garment; next easiest is a wide-strapped A-line dress.
Select a dress or shirt that fits the child well. Lay it on newspaper, wrapping paper or large piece of butcher paper. Make a 5 cm (2 inch) mark over each shoulder of the dress or shirt, and mark the underarm location. Remove the garment. Draw a scoop neckline from the inside edges of your two marks.
Measure the child from shoulder to knee or from shoulder to ankle if the pinafore will go over a long dress. Measure down from the shoulder marks on the paper, and mark the correct length. Starting from the outside edge of the shoulder mark, draw a sloping line out to the underarm mark then down to the desired length, and across to form the bottom edge of the pattern. When one side is drawn, fold the paper in half, and cut along the lines, creating a symmetrical pattern.
Pin the pattern to the fabric. Cut two pieces of fabric using the pattern. Sew the pieces together at the shoulder seams. Check to make sure the neck hole will fit over the child's head, and adjust the size by cutting away fabric from the front or back inside the neckline, as needed. Hem all raw edges, using a simple shirttail hem. A shirttail hem is created by folding 6 mm (1/4 inch) of fabric back from the edge, then folding it over again so that the raw edge rests on the inside of the crease of the second fold. It is the same kind of hem that can be found on the tails of a man's dress shirt, hence the name.
Cut a 10 x 30 cm (4 x 12 inch) strip of cloth. Fold it in half with wrong sides together. Sew up the long edge. Turn the resultant tube of cloth right side out, and cut it into two 15 cm (6 inch) pieces. On each piece, tuck one end in to form a hem and stitch it closed; sew the other end to the back piece of the pinafore 2.5 cm (1 inch) below the underarm location. Make a button hole in the other end. Sew a matching button on the front edge of the pinafore, in an underarm location corresponding to the strap on the back.
Place the garment over the child's head, and button the two buttons to create a simple cover for her dress. Add lace or other trim to turn it into a decorative cover for a party dress.
Easy A-line pinafore
Select a shirt or dress that fits the child well and place it on a sheet of pattern paper. Mark the shoulders with a 5 cm (2 inch) line on each side. Measure the child; measure down from the shoulders to the desired length and mark the bottom edge location. Mark the underarm location. Remove the pattern garment from the paper.
Back pattern: Fold the paper in half. Draw a curved line from the outer end of the shoulder mark to the underarm mark. Draw an "A" shaped sloping line from the underarm mark to the hemline length. Draw a line across the bottom of the pattern for the bottom of the pinafore. About one third of the way down the curved sleeve line, draw a line from one side of the pattern to the other to mark the top of the back pattern. Repeat for the front of the dress, but adjust the front edge to go across the front above the bust line, but low enough to be a comfortable distance below the neck.
Cut a strip of fabric 10 cm (4 inches) wide and 60 cm (24 inches) long. Fold it wrong sides together, and sew up the long edge. Turn it right side out. Cut it in half to form two straps.
Pin the front and back pieces together. Sew the sides together from the underarm points to the hem, using either a running stitch or a sewing machine. Hem all raw edges using a shirttail hem. Sew the straps to the top of the back piece, positioning them at each end of the top. Sew a button to the other end of the straps. Make a button hole in the top corners of the front of the pinafore. It can be worn as an overdress, a jumper or as a summer sun dress.