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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.