Retro Ruffle Pillowcase Dress Tutorial

Rummaging through the thrift store a couple weeks ago I found a large blue pillowcase for $1.91, but then I had a 50 percent off coupon. I thought it would make a cute blue dress for Elle. I have this thing for blue dresses for little girls. I love blue on girls. I’ve had this ruffle dress sketched in my notebook for a while now. I thought the pillowcase would be perfect for it. If it didn’t work out I’ve only lost $0.96.

I wanted to make a pillowcase dress for Elle that didn’t make her look like she is actually wearing a pillowcase. Also, since I’m using a pillowcase, the dress will only fit a baby. Elle is 14 months and wears between 12-month and 18-month size clothes. You probably don’t want to make this for a toddler bigger than 18-month size. And another note, I made the collar on this dress little too big. Next time, I would cut the hole slightly smaller. If you make this, upload pictures of your work on our Flickr group to show off your ruffle dress!


  • a large pillowcase (40 x 20 inches) or same amount of fabric (40 x 40 inches)
  • matching thread
  • 2 inch matching ribbon
  • a button

1. Flip the pillowcase inside out and lay flat. Then place a dress that is the size and fit you like for measurements. Using a washable fabric marker I marked the collar, armpits and the length of the dress.

2. Add seam allowance to the markings on your pillowcase. I used 1/2 inch seam allowance everywhere unless noted otherwise in later instructions. The bottom of the dress I added 2 inches for the seam and the hem. I matched the shoulder of the pattern to the top of the pillowcase so I didn’t have to sew that part. Once you marked your measurements, fold the pillowcase in half long ways then cut. I do this so the left side of the dress will be exact with the right side. Keep all your scrap pieces because you’ll use them.

Tip: Make the collar a little straight at the bottom instead of rounded because you’ll have the ruffles there.

3. Cut strips for the other parts of the dress using remaining pillowcase. Large strip that goes down the middle of the dress is 3 1/2 x 20 inch. The ruffles are 4 x 40 inch strips, you’ll need 2. The collar is 2 x 30 inch, this only has a 1/4 inch seam allowance. The V-split on the back of the dress is 1 1/2 x 6 inch, this also has a 1/4 inch seam allowance.

Tip: Use tape to mark each strip so you don’t get them mixed up.

4. Using scraps cut the sleeves. You’ll need 4 pieces of 3 x 10 inch in the shape pictured below.

5. Flip the dress right side out. On the back side of the dress, find the middle of the collar and cut a 3 inch slit. This is for the V-split (I don’t know what the technical term for it is, so correct me if I’m wrong) closure on the back of the dress. Be careful not to cut the front of the dress too.

6. Take the V-split strip (1 1/2 x 6 inch) and iron the 2 long sides with 1/4 inch seam into the wrong side of the fabric. Then fold in half and iron so you now have a 1/2 x 6 inch strip. Then pin it to the slit you just cut. The bottom of the V will have a fold. Make sure that’s on the inside of the dress. Sew strip in place (see tip below) as close to the edge as you can.

Tip: The best way to pin is to open the V wide so it’s a straight line. Pin then allow it to naturally fold back to a V. Same thing with sewing it.

7. With the dress inside out, match the two sides of the V-split so the strip you just sewed on is in half and flat. Then sew the bottom of the V at a 45 degree angle.

8. Moving to the front of the dress now. Iron the ruffle pieces in half the long way right side out. With the short ends of the ruffle pieces temporarily turned inside out, sew the two short ends. Iron them flat right side out again. Next, do a basting stitch down the open side at 1/4 inch seam with the right side out.

9. Iron the 1/2 inch seam on both sides of the large middle piece then place down the middle of the dress. Pin it in place with the dress right side out, front side up. Gather the ruffle pieces and pin one side in place. Account or the 3/4 inch collar that will be at the top and the 2 inches at the bottom of the dress for the seam and hem. Sew a straight line from the top of dress all the way to the bottom to keep the strip and the ruffles in place. Then do the same to the second side. Trim off the excess at the top and the bottom from the large middle strip.

10. Take the collar strip and iron 1/4 inch seam into the wrong side of the fabric on both of the long sides. Fold in half long way and iron right side out. At one of the short ends of the collar sew the end close with the wrong sides out. Flip right side out then iron. The collar should now be 3/4 inch wide. Starting from the back of the dress, pin the collar in place using the closed end matching one of the V-split ends.

11. The collar piece should be longer than the collar on the dress. On the opened end of the collar strip, measure the end of the collar and add 1/4 inch for seam then trim off excess. Flip the opened end inside out and place the ribbon on the inside, touching the right side of the fabric. Make sure the ends of the ribbon matches the end of the open ended collar so it will be sewn in place with the seam. Sew the seam, flip right side out and iron. Sew the collar in place all the way around as close to the edge as you can.

12. The sleeves. Match two pieces right sides together. Sew only the curved side at 1/4 inch seam. Flip right side out and iron. Do to both sleeves. Then pin the sleeves to the arms on the dress (see picture below). Sew the sleeves in place then use a serger or zig zag stitch the seam of the sleeve. Iron flat.

13. Flip the dress inside out and pin the sides of the dress. Sew at 1/2 inch seam then use a serger or zig zag stitch to go over the seam.

14. Fold the bottom of the dress at 1/2 inch then iron all the way around on the wrong side of the dress. Then fold again so the hem matching the front ruffles. Iron the hem then sew it all the way around.

15. Sew button on the back and you’re done!

Β» Tell me… Are you into the retro style? What about for kids? Or have you made pillowcase dresses before?

57 Responses to “Retro Ruffle Pillowcase Dress Tutorial”

  • Robin

    The dress is really cute! I wish my girls were still small so I could make one. :0) Hmm…maybe I could make a doll dress? My daughter just got an 18″ doll.

  • Lauren

    I can totally see this on a bigger toddler with some cute leggings underneath!

  • anh

    you have great sewing skills. i wish i was good as you! the dress is ADORABLE! great tutorial.

  • Liz

    Way cute. I bet you could make it for a larger child with using regular material instead of a pillow case. I love how you did you sleeves, much simpler than what I am use too. Also the “v” shape is called a placket (I just learned this last month).


    This is an excellent tutorial. Very neat and tidy sewing. We would be happy to feature this at, our members would really appreciate this tutorial. Keep up the excellent work!

  • amy

    Wow, this is super cool. It reminds me of a tuxedo shirt…but it’s infinitely cuter! Thanks for sharing the tutorial. Now if only I could find a very large pillowcase that would fit me…

  • Jennifer

    I wish I had a little girl and had the “guts” to just “do it”. I tried making a t-shirt for myself and ended up with a kid size jumper- lol.. I need stretchier fabric- i guess.. Love your blog!

  • Susan

    Love Love Love the ruffles. I cannot get enough of them right now! Great refashion (can we call it that?) Nice Blog!

  • Andrea

    Adorable!! So sweet and cute. Thanks for sharing your process.

    If you are interested, I have a weekly blog party especially for people to share the things they’ve made to be worn. Stop by and link up or just check out what others are making!

  • Jen

    Love Love Love this! I will have to try to make this for my niece since I have all boys!

  • Alyssa

    I love this! I can’t wait to make it. Unfortunately, I just broke my sewing machine, so it is going to be a while until it is back up and running.

  • Rachel

    awesome tutorial! can’t wait for nap time this weekend so i can whip one up for my little girl!

  • Sharon

    SUPER cute!!! I might actually try this and I do NOT like sewing at all!

  • nancy in IN

    I love the dresses and they will look cute on grands. Lots of ideas to make larger and as one comment said make a doll dress. Thanks for sharing.
    Nancy in IN

  • mamaTAVE

    Oh, that is precious! I might have to try to rig this for my four-year-old…. I have only made her the “traditional” pillowcase dress, which was also cute. But, this one is much classier. πŸ˜‰


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