DIY FRIDAY: PLEATED FIT + FLARE DRESS TUTORIAL

dress made by me, similar herehere, and here (25% off with code HAPPY)
lulu’s clutch, sold out — similar clutch here and here

PHOTOGRAPHY BY JANA LAURENE 
This dress has seriously been the longest time coming. I started it back in May and then didn’t touch it for the entire summer. Finally, a month ago, I busted it out and finished it in one night, photographed it that week, aaaand then I had a million other projects lined up for DIY Friday so it’s tutorial kept getting pushed back. But here we are. Finally. You guys, go make this dress right now — it’s THE BEST.
It’s one of those dresses that is not only flattering on nearly every body type, it’s also great for dressing up and dressing down, and it’s perfect for all seasons. This is how I wore it during the summer (and a casual summer version here and here), but during the Fall it’s great with a scarf, jacket, and booties, and during the winter it would look amazing with tights and a colorful wool coat. 
click through to find the tutorial!

Materials: 
2 yards jersey knit fabric
matching thread
20-22″ invisible zipper

1. First cut your pattern pieces. You’ll need a BODICE FRONT (cut on the folded edge), 2 BODICE BACK pieces, NECKLINE LINING (cut 2), 2 SLEEVES (cut along the folded edge), and a big rectangular piece for the skirt (the measurements for the skirt are so individual since it depends on how big you want your pleats as well as your size. So measure and cut accordingly).

2. Sew darts into your BODICE FRONT piece.

3. Sew the BODICE FRONT and two BODICE BACK pieces together at the shoulder seams (with right sides together).

4. Now it’s time to attach the sleeves. Line up the top of the sleeve with the bodice shoulder seam (as shown) with right sides together. Pin in place.

5. Continue pinning the sleeve to the bodice, and then sew along the arm hole with a straight stitch. Repeat for the second sleeve.

6. With right sides together, sew the sides of the bodice up with a straight stitch.

7. Sew the two neckline pieces together to form an “O,” and then attach the NECKLINE LINING to the BODICE neckline with a straight stitch (there’s a more detailed illustration and instruction for this step over here).

8. Tuck the LINING inside the dress, pin in place, and then sew around the entire neckline with a straight stitch to secure the lining in place. Then cut the back of the BODICE open with a nice straight cut.

9. Pleat your skirt to your desired width. My pleats were about 2 1/2 inches wide. Use a basting stitch to hold the pleats in place.

10. Take your pleated skirt (which should just be a big rectangle of fabric that is pleated) and pin it to the bodice with right sides together, as shown. Sew across the entire waistline, attaching the skirt to the bodice.

11. Insert your zipper following the instructions on the package, and then sew up the remaining opening of the dress. Finally, hem the bottom of the dress and the sleeves to your desired length, press all your seams, and you’re done!


84 Comments

  1. Stefanie says:

    Great tutorial! I feel like I can really follow this! Do you think this would work as a maternity dress if I shorten the bodice and extend the skirt length?

  2. Christina Storm says:

    I love that dress!! It looks amazing on you! Thanks for the tutorial- maybe I will get ambitious enough one day to try! Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

    The Style Storm

    <3, Christina

  3. Natali says:

    Simple and lovely outfit! Your dress is such a gorgeous piece!

    http://lartoffashion.blogspot.com

  4. Emily Wallace says:

    So pretty! A perfect church dress. Too bad my sewing skills are lacking… non-existent! Make it for me? πŸ˜‰ JK. I need to get on board with sewing!

    mommysizedheart.blogspot.com

  5. Roxanne says:

    This is so beautifully done. It’s something I have to try. My poor old sewing machine has been collection dust for years now!

    Daniel Wellington giveaway | http://www.head2heels.co

  6. yay! I just bought some pretty red knit fabric and the dress I had imagined in my head that it would be made out of is almost exactly what you have just put up!! great minds think alike? lol

    http://www.allthingsbritneylee.wordpress.com

  7. 204park says:

    You’re so talented… I wish I had your skills! Love the dress! XO, Sarah

  8. Love that clutch! Wish I could sew like you. So cute.

    Nightchayde

  9. Your blog is seriously my one stop visit for the best outfit tutorials – amazing every time! πŸ™‚ Xo, Alison

    http://www.simplyfairbyalisonjeanine.com

  10. Hannah says:

    Hi! I lovee this dress! I need one, like now. But a few questions — how long and wide did you make the bottom? And did you do the cut it to a width before or after you made the pleats?
    Andd (sorry for driving you crazy), HOW DO YOU MAKE DARTS? That terrifies mee!

    • Merrick says:

      Honestly I have no idea how long and wide I made it — I should have written it down. But I always make my pleats before I cut it to width, so try that! And I’ll do a tutorial for darts soon, but I’m sure you can find one online somewhere if you google it πŸ™‚

  11. Monica Packer says:

    OK, this dress might actually make me get over my fears and try to sew a dress. I still have nightmares about my last attempt, but this is just too good.

  12. kim says:

    Love this dress so much! have you shared the pattern pieces somewhere?

  13. I am in love with this dress! <3 And your hair is lovely! Xx

    http://oliviacherylx.blogspot.co.uk/

  14. Carole Gates says:

    Those are some mighty impressive pleats! Well done!

  15. Stef says:

    Wow!! Have not sewn a garment in awhile but this makes me want to get back to it! What an awesome dress! I have a whole bunch of brown-grey ponte that would be perfect! Ok, but…measurements??? Would you use an existing dress or tee for top measurements or would you measure yourself, divide by half, add seam allowances, etc.? Also – since it’s knit fabric, could you go without the zipper?

    • Merrick says:

      I use an existing dress or top, rather than measure myself. Lay your existing dress or top flat on pattern paper and trace around it to make each piece. Then cut those pieces out and use those as the patterns when cutting your fabric. And yes, you could go without the zipper, but you’d have to add elastic into the waistband so it stretches, and do a double seam on the neckline so it stretches. Hope that helps!

  16. Brynn says:

    Oh my gosh, this is so cute! I feel like this is a dress that I would be able to make for myself…and since I live in fit & flare dresses, I am feeling very motivated to try this out for myself! Thank you for the instructions!!

  17. Karina says:

    Thanks, love it! I have a similar project but is also in the to-do list. Where do I get the pattern? Did I miss something?

  18. Megan Fox says:

    Can you make me one?!

  19. Kraileen says:

    Did you use a serger to make this dress? I have a maxi dress made of stretch jersey and I have been toying with the idea of cutting it up and trying this… But no serger!

  20. Sarah says:

    Ok so I’m in middle of attempting this, but I’m a little stuck – do you mind telling me the length of your bodice from neckline to seam of skirt? I’m scared that I’m gonna put the skirt too high or too low (and I hate unpicking stitches)!
    Also, does the dress need darts because its knit, so it’ll stretch anyways?

    • Merrick says:

      The dress definitely needs darts, like I show in step two. And it’s 41 or 42″ long, but the skirt can really go at any height, just depending on your preference! Good luck!

  21. Katie M says:

    This is a great idea, and I love your choice of fabric. This is totally something I would try to make. On a pattern drafting note, I can’t help noticing that your shoulder point (joint where the top of the arm meets the shoulder) seems to jut out into the top of your sleeve head. If you were to widen your bodice shoulder seam and set your sleeve in a bit lower down, I think you’d achieve an even more perfect fit. It’s only a minor suggestion, and I really like what you’ve made.

  22. Lizzie Holmes says:

    if their a link to the pattern?

  23. Riarna Toa says:

    This is gorgeous! So wish I could make this! Love it lovely dress! thanks for sharing!

  24. Shoshana says:

    I’m confused about step # 8. Why do you need to cut open center of back bodice when it is already two pieces? Am I missing something? Otherwise this looks great and I would definitely try it for my daughter.

  25. Sheridan Anne says:

    So does your zipper go right from the top to the bottom of the dress at the back, or from the top to the start of the skirt?
    I cannot wait until I get my new sewing machine for Christmas so I can give this a go. I have a beautiful watermelon jersey knit that is dying to become this dress!

    • Merrick says:

      Neither — it goes about 6 inches below the waist. It has to go at least a few inches below the tightest part so you can actually get the dress on. Does that make sense?? Good luck — watermelon jersey knit sounds insanely gorgeous!!

  26. Colleen says:

    Really want to make this for daughters. If I use a tshirt and have them mark their waist on the tshirt then that can be the front and back, slicing back and adding seam allow….. do I still need the bust darts? I think so, just to make sure its a clean fit.

    • Merrick says:

      I’d recommend keeping the bust darts — that will help it fit smoothly over the bodice so it’s not too tight or bunchy. Hope that helps, and sorry for my late response!

  27. carolina says:

    Hi, im a little confused.. what are the measures? i know itss depending of my body but im worried that the cut i make will not be the same as the picture

  28. camillethery says:

    hi, thanks for your brilliant ideas & tutorials on your blog, always very tasteful & feminine ! I’ve been trying to do this dress but am really stuck on the jersey knit fabric, it keeps bunching up and I can’t seem to get the seams flat & nice. I’ve tried playing with the tension, stitch length & width, have a jersey needle, but nothing seems to help. any tips?

    • Merrick says:

      Shoot…those three things would be my first pieces of advice. The only other thing I can think of is that your fabric might be too thin…super thin knits often get bunched up when they’re sewn on. Have you tried a heavier weight knit??

      • camillethery says:

        Thx for your prompt response. Haven’t tried any other knit yet, will do & keep you posted πŸ™‚

      • camillethery says:

        Hi Merrick,
        just to give you an update, finally got around to that piece of jersey – I think sewing in the evening, exhausted, with little light, didn’t help! Got around to it on a chilled out WE with a nice zigzag, my top looks brill and I’m now going to try out your dress. I even made a cushion with the leftovers, it’s so soft my girl loves it! Jersey can be dauting but just requires a bit of perseverance & patience. Thx a million for your help πŸ™‚

  29. Maria says:

    Can you use a different kind of fabric besides jersey? Such as cotton?

  30. lilly says:

    could i do this with cotton? not stretchable just regular cotton?

  31. Natasha says:

    I am currently working on a year long project where I am making a dress that is influenced by dutch culture and therefore their dutch fabric design.

    I came across your flare dress tutorial 2014 and I really like the design and got inspired.
    I am not a professional seamstress, I am only 15 but the point of this project is to learn to sew better.
    I already have a fabric that I am interested in using to make your dress design, it is 100% cotton, and therefor not stretchy.
    I was wondering if you could give me some tips about the making of the dress.

    • Jennifer Jeremiah says:

      Hi Natasha! I’m not the creator of this post, but I’d be happy to offer insight into dresses that I’ve made similar to this with 100% cotton (no stretch). I’d suggest adding a zipper (not complicated; trust me!). Here is a child’s dress that I used as inspiration for many fit-and-flare dresses. There are good tips here about stitching, zipper, and necklines. Be sure to lower the bodice so you don’t have a baby doll style. http://shwinandshwin.com/2014/09/modern-baby-doll-top.html Happy sewing!

  32. Braiden says:

    Hi, I really love this dress but am not a sewer. Is there anywhere I can purchase this dress? Or a dress like it? Thanks! (:

  33. Hilary Hansen says:

    Hello! Love this dress! Where can I find the fabric you used?

  34. Mical McKean says:

    How do I get the pattern?

  35. Lottie says:

    Beyond excited to try this! What an amazing dress, as are they all on here. Every time I buy jersey it turns up and is really thin and flimsy though, this fabric looks much sturdier and holds its shape better than any jersey I’ve ever bought. What do I need to look for to make sure its suitable? Ps, if you ever sell pattern templates I’d buy them… All of them!! πŸ˜€

    • Merrick says:

      Honestly the feel of the fabric is what always sells me. Buying fabric online is so scary cause you don’t know the drape or the weight. I’d look for a slightly heavier weight fabric, and one with an amazing drape. Stay away from anything sheer, since that’s going to be too flimsy, and sty away from anything too thin because it’s really hard to work with and your machine usually hates it. Good luck!

  36. ChelseaaMarie says:

    Hey ! Love your website and your clothes !!! Completely my taste ! But i was wondering if you do videos for your tutorials ? Again i love everything lol !

  37. misslady304 says:

    Hi just found this site. Where can I find the pattern of the dress? Links don’t seem to be working?

  38. Renee says:

    Hi this is so pretty and I would love to do it for my fabric project at school (I’m 16) I was wondering how do I cut the pattern pieces so they would be is my size? Like how big should they be?

  39. Meghan Jenson says:

    So, I made this dress for my daughter (except I used a plaid not a jersey fabric). I loved how it turned out thank you.

  40. Avrila Klaus says:

    Sorry if this is a clueless-newbie question, but is there a particular way we should come up with the bodice front and back and sleeve patterns? Or will anything sensible do, like borrowing from another pattern or tracing a shirt that fits and is similar in fabric type?

  41. Peps says:

    Hi sorry to seem stupid but how do you know how to put in the bust darts when you make the pattern? Im utterly lost!
    Peps x

  42. Emily says:

    This is sooo great! I adore this general style of dress (I have like 3 in my closet already and never get sick of wearing them) and had been thinking about trying to draft one on my own, but this will be such a huge help! I used your swing dress tutorial to make a dress out of a lace tablecloth and it came out pretty awesome even though I messed some things up:

    http://blog.breadandrosesvintage.com/2015/06/winning-at-sewing-diy-lace-tablecloth.html

  43. Chloe says:

    Hi! I was wondering how I could adjust it so that the dress is my size and my measuremants?

  44. Charlotte says:

    Hey, where can I find the pattern? I love this dress!

  45. Diana Sokoloff says:

    Hey Merrick, I love following your blog! A few months ago I used your turtorial to make my own version of this dress and I love how it turned out (except for the fact that I’m still working on learning how to properly fit things and I made the bust a bit tight and the waist a bit loose). Thanks for your creativity! I’m just starting to give blogging a try and love seeing the new things you post.

    topknotlife.wordpress.com

  46. Jackie Scalzi says:

    Do you have a tutorial on how to do step 2?

  47. Farrah Beck says:

    Where are the darts sewn in? I see them on the diagram, but not on the actual garment.

  48. Carli Ann McClure says:

    Do you have the PDF pattern for this?

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