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!

» 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”

  • Keira

    I was inspired to make a little dress for my daughter’s dolly (which only came with P.J.s). So cute and finished-looking. Love the sleeves and the ruffles!

  • Katie

    I love the dress, but wish there was a pattern in pdf for the arms and arm holes… I spent 3 hours making this dress for my daughter, and after several “alterations” to get the arms sewn right, the width of the dress will not fit her, maybe a newborn if I am lucky!!! I will try again! The tutorial is easy to follow for the most part except for the arms and arm holes…. Please post more on the arms!!! Thanks!!!!

    • Tiffany

      i’ll work on that. thanks for letting me know!

  • Amamammadesigns

    I love this!!!! But I no longer have such a little girl to make one for. I’m thinking that with the retro styles in tops I could easily make this as a great summer blouse for my 7 year old. Thanks for the inspiration and an awesome tutorial!!!!!

  • Joy

    Hi There,
    I am in the middle of making this dress and am new to sewing. I have made a few others before but I seem to have come into a problem when sewing the ruffle and middle part onto the front of the dress. The machine keeps skipping stitches. I have tried a bunch of needles sizes, thread and tension. Nothing seems to work.
    Can you please tell me what needle size you used on the front ruffle part and the tension. Thanks so much!! Getting frustrated but don’t want to give up because I love this pattern so much.

    • Tiffany

      is it because the ruffles are making it thicker? try ironing the ruffles flatter then sew it on the dress. i used the same needle throughout the entire project. and regular tension for a straight stitch. sorry if that’s not a very helpful answer.

  • Nancy Lee

    I’m 70 years old and have never heard of a pillowcase dress. I have a great grand daughter that I’m going to try and make one for her. She is 2 years old, but I can figure out how to add some fabric and make the pillowcase a little larger. I loved the placket and sleeves. Your sewing skills are wonderful. Thank you so much for your time and talents and wanting to share with others.

  • Linda A. Young

    I love the adorable little ruffled dress! I sewed a lot for my little girls, a long time ago, and haven’t sewn for years! You have inspired me and thank you for showing me how! I think I’ll get out two pillowcases and make matching frocks for our 1 and 1 1/2 years old grandbabies, who are cousins! Thank you so much!

  • Laura

    thank you for your posts. i am also an “upcycler” & i love to use my husband’s old shirts (broken snap, hole, too small) to make things for my daughter. i just don’t take the time to photograph & post step-by-step. you are making me think that i might want to start though! thanks for taking the time!

  • Chef jenny

    You are my kinda dress maker! This is how I make jersey dresses for myself!!!! Draw the outlines of something simple I own and voila no complicated patterns! I think this would make an adorable boys shirt/tank also just shortened. My sister is expecting baby #2 so I might give this a try for the summer! What a brilliant idea for a pillow case or scrap fabric! You rock!

  • Janey

    what a yummy little dress, I made a variation of it which I have posted on my facebook page, but if it weren’t for your ideas Mine wouldn’t have been half as good, Thanks very very muchly x

  • Rumana

    hi everyone, i’ve made pillowcase dress before, but not like it..the dress is really cute..i think we it would become more nice if you use different color fabric…

    Thanks for sharing…


    Your tutorial has been very popular at You have a knack for demonstrating step by step. We would love to have you as a guest blogger.

    Contact me if you are interested in some fabulous exposure at SWN for SMM.

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  • Bunnie

    Hmmm . . . if you use a king-sized pillowcase you could easily fit a larger toddler.

  • Betsy

    I have made pillowcase dresses before and I am always looking for ways to add a little “extra”. Thanks for the great tutorial!

  • Deborah

    The neckline piece needs to be cut on the bias so that it will stretch to fit around the curve of the neck without buckling. You would be better to use a solid bias tape and sew it on and turn it to the inside and stitch it down. Fabric cut on the grain does not do well around necklines unless it is a facing piece.

  • Kytha

    I loved making this dress! It is the first clothing item I have ever made and it turned out pretty good. though it came out a bit small for my daughter (it fits for now but only until she grows again). So..How can I make a dress a bit bigger following this same thing?


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