Tuesday Tutorial: Tiered Pillowcase Dress

Here’s another variation on the Pillowcase Dress.  This all started a few weeks ago when I wanted to make a simple pillowcase dress for a friends baby. Then I couldn’t find a tutorial for one like I wanted, then while I was sewing it I kept thinking of ways to change it.

This idea got stuck in my head this week… so stuck in fact that I could not rest until I finished it.  While sewing this dress, I got another idea for another variation… so guess what you’ll be seeing in a few weeks time???

Thanks for all the pillowcase dress links! I’m going to compile them and do a post with the links and my tutorials at the end of the summer. Last summer I was on a skirt “kick” .. I guess this summer it’s a pillowcase dress kick!

Fabric Requirements: (up to size 8, larger than that and you may need more fabric)

1/2″ yard for tier 1
1/2″ yard for tier 2
3/4″ yard for tier 3
1/4″ yard for sash
1/2″ yard for ruffle
double fold bias tape

To begin you will need to do some math. I will include the measurements that I used if you want to recreate a size 8 dress. Otherwise adjust accordingly.

1- Measure from the shoulder of your model down to mid calf. This is the overall length of the dress.  My daughters was 34″. Take this measurement and divide by 3″ (just round).. I came up with 11″.  This is the height of your bottom 2 tiers of your dress.  For the top tier take your measurement and subtract 2″.    I came up with 9″ tall for my top tier.

2- For the width of your fabric, take your models chest measurement. Just put the measuring tape right under her arms.  Take this measurement and multiply it by 1.25. Round to an even number.  My daughter was 23″.. so it came to 28″ (rounded).  Take this number (28 in my case) and divide it by 2. This will give you the width of your top tier.

So the top tier of my dress was 14″ wide by 9″ tall.

3- Take the width of your top tier and times it by 1.5. This will give you the width of your 2nd tier.

The 2nd tier of my dress was 21″ wide by 11″ tall.

4- Take the width of your 2nd tier (21) and times it by 1.5″ This is the width of your 3rd tier.

The 3rd tier of my dress was 32″ wide by 11″ tall.

5- For your ruffle measurement, take the width of your 3 tier (32) and double it.

My ruffle piece was 3″ wide x 64″ long.

Now cut your sash pieces, 2 pieces, 5″ wide by 42″ long. (you will cut some of it off)

You will need the following pieces:

2 pieces for tier one (use your measurements from above)
**for example: I cut two pieces EACH 9″x14″ for tier one of my dress, one for the front and one for the back**
2 pieces for tier two
2 pieces for tier three
2 pieces for ruffle

To begin:
To sew dress front:
Run 2 rows of gathering stitches on the TOP only of your tier 2 piece. Pull on threads to gather fabric. Make sure your gathers are evenly spaced and pin to the BOTTOM of your tier 1 piece. Sew.

Run 2 rows of gathering stitches on the TOP only of your tier 3 piece. Pull on threads to gather fabric. Make sure your gathers are evenly spaced. Pin to the BOTTOM of your tier 2 piece.

Press & serge or zig zag seams.

Repeat for back of dress.

To make arm holes in dress.  Measure in 2″ from the edge and place a mark. Measure down 5″ (or use your own measurement,  an inch or 2 less than 1/2 way down).  Draw a J shape and cut out.  Do this for both the front and back pieces.

Sew front and back pieces together. Match seams.

Press and serge or zig zag seams.

Finish the unfinished arm holes by sewing on bias tape. I made my own, but you could use store bought for sure.

Turn under top of dress 1/4″ and stitch. Press.
Turn under again 3/4″ and stitch. This will create the casing for your sash.

Sew your 2 5″x 42″ sash pieces together at 5″ edge.
Fold in half lengthwise and stitch with 1/4″ seam.
Turn right side out. Move seam to center of sash and press well.

Feed sash though dress.

Gather up the dress so that it looks good to you. Then tie a bow.

Cut off the extra sash length at a 45 degree angle.

To finish sash edge, turn under 1/4″ and use steam a seam to close.

I used some cream textured cotton fabric for my ruffle.  I wanted a more “organic” feel to it so I did not hem it !! (yes, I know! I was thinking of Nina Garcia on Project Runway going “you didn’t finish the HEM!!). Instead I just zig zagged it. I was really happy with how it turned out.

There is a good ruffle tutorial here on my Sydney Skirt.. you can refer to it to attach your ruffle.

You’re done!! A summer dress! Perfect for twirling!!


* I have made a few other pillowcase dresses (not good enough to share here). Each one I thought had a TOO BIG arm hole. Making it hard to wear.  I cut this arm hole tighter.

* The other problem I noticed is the ribbon slipping and not holding the gathers around the neck. I made the sash MUCH wider than my casing. Now the gathers stay in place.

*All of the tutorials/projects on this blog are protected under a Creative Commons license. Including this one. My patters for sale DO come with permission for sales of hand made items. If you would like to make this item to sell, please contact me about purchasing a license to do it.


  1. says

    Cute!!! Glad you tried the bias tape for the arm holes…so easy!!! Can’t wait to see more :) I am thinking of making a pillowcase shirt for myself….just haven’t sat down and figured out the measurements since I would like it to more of an a-line shape then a square.

  2. says

    Love the details you added! And I just want to say THANK YOU for giving measurements for a size 8. My daughter is a size 7, and it seems like all of the tutorials I find are for size 4 and below. I can usually figure out the larger measurements on my own, but it’s nice to not have to do the math for once!

  3. says

    Very cute! I think it would look darling, too, if you could make an opening along the casing in the back for the sash to tie at the center of her back. Not that you need more ideas!

  4. says

    So cute Love it!The fabric combo is beautiful. Also, thanks for some inspiration for an Alice Party, I just did one for my little girl! I loved those hats you found!

  5. says

    Hi there!

    I made 3 of these for my daughter a year or so ago.

    For me, the answer to the shoulder sash part turned out to be ELASTIC!!

    Rather than threading the sash through the casing, I put elastic in the casing, sewed the sashes in place and let the elastic softly gather the front and back…

    I find it easier to iron the elastic dresses than the sashed one. And they are easier to get on and off – the bows stay tied, no neede to continue retyingafter a swim etc.

    Kathryn Miller
    Gold Coast, Australia

  6. says

    I made the dress today for my 16 month old! it turned out great! Your measurement were just perfect! Thanks for sharing your creativity!

  7. says

    I made this dress yesterday, with a few small changes. I absolutely love it, it’s adorable! Thanks for sharing this! I posted a picture on my blog :)

  8. says

    I’ve made two of these now for my little niece and I just adore them… too cute! I’ve added pics of both to your flikr group. Thankyou so much for the great tutorial.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>