How to Sew a Pleated Skirt Dress
Practice those sewing skills and take them a step further with a pretty pleated skirt dress. Perfect for summer and swishing around in the hot sun!
This dress is as classic as a wicker picnic basket and a red-checkered blanket. The simple, sleeveless bodice allows the pleated skirt to take center stage, while the skirt’s longer length is perfect for windy days in the great outdoors. These instructions are for the pleated skirt shown with a basic bodice. The amount of fabric it requires depends on your desired fullness and length.
The pleated skirt will work with many different fabrics but a nonslippery fabric with a bit of stiffness will be easier to work with and press into pleats. The basic bodice will work with a wide variety of fabrics from thin, lightweight, and drapey to heavier and stiffer. It all depends on the look you’re after.
Images and text from Sew Many Dresses Sew Little Time by Tanya Whelan, published by Crown Publishing.
For the bodice
- Front Basic Bodice pattern » (sheet 1 front)
- Back Basic Bodice pattern » (sheet 1 front)
- Fabric »(fashion fabric and lining fabric)
For 45″ (114cm) wide fabric:
• US Sizes 1 to 5: ¾ yard (68.5cm)
• US Sizes 6 to 12: 1¼ yard (1.1m)
For 60″ (152.5cm) fabric:
• Sizes 1 to 12: ¾ yard (68.5cm)
- To face bodice instead of lining, add
½ yard (45.5cm) of 45″ (114cm) or 60″ (152.5cm) facing fabric
1 yard (0.9m) of 20″ (51cm) interfacing
- Invisible zipper »
For the skirt
These instructions are for a pleated skirt that is attached to a bodice. For a stand-alone skirt use your waist measurement plus 1″ for wearing ease in place of the bodice waistline measurement when calculating the total fabric width.
If you decide to add sleeves, then skip the armhole facings.
If you will be lining the bodice, skip the neckline and armhole facings.
1. Trace and cut out the Front and Back Basic Bodice patterns from sheet 1. If you will not be altering the neckline to make it larger using the scoop, deep V-, or high V-neckline templates, then you will need to add a 5/8″ (1.5cm) seam allowance for a zipper to the back bodice pattern. If you do use a template or alter the pattern yourself to make the neck opening bigger, then you can add the seam allowance to the back bodice pattern for a back zip. Or use the pattern as is and insert a side zipper, cutting the back bodice pattern with the center back on the fold.
2. Trace the armhole and neckline of the front and back patterns to make the pattern for the bodice facings. Trace to within 1/16″–1/8″ (1mm–3mm) of the edge. This will make the facings slightly smaller than the bodice, which will ensure that the facing rolls to the inside of garment and doesn’t peek out. See page 25 for more about facings.
3. Cut the fashion fabric, facing fabric, and interfacing using the patterns according to the appropriate cutting layout for your fabric width and size. Sew the darts on the front and back bodice. Press the waist darts toward the center and the bust darts downward.
4. With right sides together, sew the front bodice to the back bodice at the shoulders and side seams. Note: If you are using a side zipper, leave one side seam open. Press the seams open.
5. Apply interfacing to the wrong side of the facing pieces according to the manufacturer’s instructions .
6. Sew the armhole facings with right sides together at the shoulder and side seams. (Remember to skip this step if you are adding sleeves.) Note: If you are using a side zipper, leave the side seam of one of the facings open. Press all the seams open.
Sew the front neck facing to the back neck facing with right sides together at the shoulder. Press the seams open.
7. With right sides together, sew the neck and armhole facings to the bodice.
Grade all seam allowances, clip the curves, and understitch the armhole and neckline seam allowances to the facing. Finish the seam allowances, if desired. Press the facings to the inside of the bodice.
1. For a continuous one-seam skirt with 1″ (2.5cm) pleats, measure the front and back waist of the basic bodice pattern (don’t include the seam allowances) and multiply by 3. Each completed pleat will require 3″ (7.5cm) of fabric, so if the waistline of your bodice measures 26″ (66cm), for example, your fabric would need to be 78″ (198cm) wide plus 1¼” (3cm) for the seam allowances by your desired length plus 2 5/8″ (7cm) for the waist and hem allowances.
2. Make a mark on what will be the waist of the skirt with tailor’s chalk or a dressmaker’s pencil 5/8″ (1.5cm) from the edge. Mark every 1″ (2.5cm) along the waist from this point.
3. Pinch the fabric together and pull it up at the 3rd mark and bring it over to meet the 1st mark. Press and pin in place. Pinch together at the 6th mark and bring it over to meet the 4th mark. Press and pin. Pinch together at the 9th mark and bring it over to meet the 7th mark. Continue in this way down the waistline. Leave 5/8″ (1.5cm) unpleated at the end for the seam allowance.
4. Machine-baste just inside (closer to the raw edge) the 5/8″ (1.5cm) seam allowance along the waist of the skirt to secure the pleats.
5. With right sides together, sew the back seam of the skirt, leaving 8″ (20.5cm) open toward the waistline for the zipper. Press the seam open.
6. Press the hem inside by 1″ (2.5cm), repeat, and sew close to the folded edge or use a blind hem stitch.
Attaching the skirt
Whether you’ve designed your dress for a side zipper or a back zipper, the process for sewing the skirt to the bodice is the same. Make sure all seams are pressed open and the darts are pressed toward the center front and center back. Arrange your skirt inside out. Place the bodice inside the skirt, right sides together, with the raw edges of the waistlines aligned. Align the side seams and darts (where applicable). Stitch around the waistline.
Installing a zipper is really not hard. It takes just a bit of patience and precision. Invisible zippers are the best option for all of the projects in this book as they are barely visible—except for the zipper pull—from the outside of the garment, and they mimic the look of modern ready-to-wear clothing.
An invisible-zipper presser foot is very helpful. If you don’t have one, you can buy a universal invisible-zipper foot that works with most machines anywhere invisible zippers are sold. These plastic feet can be used successfully to install an invisible zipper, but a metal foot that works specifically with your machine is the best option. If your machine didn’t come with a metal invisible-zipper foot, you can often find one that’s compatible with your machine online. You can also use a regular zipper foot in a pinch; it doesn’t allow you to get really close to the zipper teeth as easily as you could with an invisible-zipper presser foot, but it can be used effectively to install an invisible zipper. I know a few expert seamstresses who use a regular zipper foot for all types of zippers.
Prepare by opening the invisible zipper and pressing it with your iron on the synthetic setting. The zipper teeth will be curled up a bit initially. Press the zipper as flat as you can get it so that you can see the stitching that runs next to the zipper teeth. The seam you’re sewing it to should be unsewn. Make sure that the lining or facing is pressed to the inside of the garment. Baste the facing or lining to the fashion fabric along both sides of the open seam ¼” (6mm) from the raw edge. Finish the seam allowances if desired.
Installing a zipper
1. Pin the open zipper to the right side of the fabric along both seam allowances as shown. Align the top of the zipper where the teeth end with the top of the open seam. Align the zipper teeth with the ?” (1.5cm) seam allowance stitching line (you can mark this beforehand with tailor’s chalk or by pressing a crease with your iron, if you desire) on both sides of the seam.
2. Sew the zipper to both seam allowances in this position.
3. Fold the zipper tapes over the top edge and tack (sew a couple of stitches in the same place to secure) in place by hand or machine.
4. Fold the seam allowances to the inside of the garment and tack in place at the top of the zipper through the zipper tapes. To finish sewing the rest of the seam, switch to a regular presser foot. Pull the bottom of the zipper out of the way and stitch.