Make Your Own Dress Pattern

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You don’t have to be a sewing genius to make your own dress pattern. If you can trace, do a little math and have basic to medium understanding of how to sew, you can totally make your own pattern and pocket that $20 or save it to splurge on a little fringe or ribbon.

The players: scissors, pen, paper, yardstick and a dress that fits well.

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First, lay the clothing down on the paper. I usually use the back of old wrapping paper for longer pieces and sometimes the inside of an opened and flattened brown paper bag for smaller pieces. Fold the clothing on the seams around one section of the dress. Draw around that section giving yourself about 1/4″ to 1/2″. You don’t want to accidentally get pen on the dress and you also want about that much for a seam allowance. Repeat for all dress sections. Make sure you leave at least 1″ above the seam allowance for the hem around the bottom. I usually leave 2″ just to be safe.

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Next, use the yardstick to straighten up the long lines. I leave myself notes on the paper where the front is different than the back. That way, I usually only have to measure the front pieces instead of the front and back.

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What you’ve just created is your pattern draft. Make sure to mark where the zipper fits. You’ll need to make a 2″ pattern strip the length of the zipper (plus the seam allowance of 1/4″) so you can reinforce the area where the zipper gets sewn in.

Using your notes and the yardstick, draw both the front and back final patterns and cut them out.

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The last thing to do before cutting the fabric is to check and make sure the pattern pieces are the right size. Lay the dress out flat on the floor and lay the pattern pieces on top of the sections. If you can see the seams around the sides of the pattern section, you don’t have enough for the seam allowance. No worries! Just measure how much you need to add and make a new section. Then check again.

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Once you are satisfied that the pattern pieces match the dress sections and you’ve double checked to make sure you have all the sections, including reinforcement pieces for where the zipper or buttons go, you are ready to cut and sew!

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You can use this basic pattern and improvise new lengths, tops sections and back treatments. In this case, I’m planning on using a strapless top and D-rings with a ribbon instead of a zipper. But, that’s for next time.

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17 Responses

  1. I used to find clothing second-hand that fit well, but if the material was awful, I would simply rip out all the seams and use the shirt/skirt/purse as a pattern for another one in better material. Second-hand clothing is usually cheaper than patterns as well, plus you get the added benefit of trying your “pattern” on before you buy it.

  2. Terrific…what I’m looking for is a book or some instructions on how to alter clothes. If my tops fit my boobs, then the shoulders are hanging. Pants have their own problems. Any suggestions?

  3. Bust magazine published a great diy article last summer about altering. I gave the magazine to someone I thought needed inspiration and have been kicking myself ever since. It was the best collection of instructions on altering vintage & 2nd hand things ever. EVER!

  4. Like you I refuse to pay $20 for any pattern. In fact I made up a little crocheted britches for my bitch in heat. They look pretty good if I do say so myself (try finding a pattern for that).

    But if you decide you’re spending more time than you want making up the pattern and you know of a pattern you could use just let me know. Our local Hancock Store is always having patterns on sale for 99cents. McCalls or Simplicity are the two that are on sale that way at least once a month. Limit of 5. So, for about $7 I could send you 5 patterns. 🙂

  5. if anyone is interested, I have some old Vogue patterns
    very 70s vintage
    http://flickr.com/photos/akajesais/tags/vogue/

    I have more that I have not photographed. I had this vision of selling them on eBay. but then got busy, and besides they aren’t worth much, but I thought if someone who wanted them had them I would feel good about it. They were my grandma’s Not sure why I save ’em……

  6. Chloe:
    I have the issue of Bust (Aug/Sept 06) you’re looking for – the altering instructions rock. I could copy the instructions and send them to you if you’d like.

  7. Looks a little daunting, but I might give it a shot. I have been making girls dresses from patterns, but make alterations to the patterns to give them my own look. But starting from scratch with an original pattern sounds fun! Thanks for posting these…

  8. I can sew but need a pattern – I can’t wing it like you. Could you make a pattern for me from a picture of the dress – both from the pattern and from a dress made up?? I will very willingly pay for it. It’s a vintage vogue that I have searched high and low for, to no avail, and i so badly want it.
    Thanks.
    Sue.

  9. tring to make a legend of zelda princess zelda costume for me for halloween can’t find a patten any where trying to make a dress patten from pictures i have of zelda’s dress any ideas how to do it or any help could use all the help i could get

  10. You can go to the Bust magazine website and order the back copy of Aug/Sep 2006 magazine for $4.99.

  11. This message is for Jenn or anyone else can help: Do you still have those vintage dress patterns and, if so, what size are they? I’m on the look out for vintage dress patterns (1940’s – 1970’s) for dress sizes 10-18. If anyone has any and has no need for them, please let me know! Thanks for any info. 🙂

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