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Basic Pillowcase Dress

by Judy Roberson
After many requests, here without further adieu is how the pillowcase dress came about & how to make it.

Pillowcase dresses are so easy to make, as well as being fun to wear. I originally got the idea from my mother, who is 80 years old.  She told me, that they originated from when she was a child, since so many folks back then had a hard time clothing their children, they often just used what they had on hand due to shortages of supplies, funds and time.

One such instance is that of the pillowcase dress.  People would cut the sewn ends off of their worn pillowcases, then cut arm holes, turn under, stitch and add strings, thus a pillowcase dress was made.

Today, the pillowcase dress has returned, but with many more  options for us than there was in our parents day. You can still make them out of beautiful pillowcases or you can make them from purchased fabric, it’s your choice.  If you use a pillowcase, you will be cutting the sewn end off.

My granddaughter loves Curious George.  When I found this fabric, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it!  A cute pillowcase dress for Callie.

Here are basic instructions for this simple dress using purchased 45″ wide fabric:

Step 1)  Determine the size  you need for your child by measuring from her collar bone to the knee (or whatever length you want the dress to be) this measurement is the length you will need to cut your fabric from 45″ wide fabric.  Don’t forget to consider how deep you want your hem to be though.

Step 2)  Right sides together, sew up the open side using a 5/8″ seam.

Step 3)  Keeping fabric folded, you are now ready to cut out your arm holes, so at the top of the fabric, on each side, cut out a strip of fabric to form a backward L (in other words, from the top of the fold, cut in about 2″ and down about 7″.  Once the armholes are cut out, clip the curves.

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Step 4)  Now cut 2 strips of fabric 2″ wide x 18″ long (this is to bind your armholes with).  Around each arm hole, pin one of the 2″ strips of fabric to the armhole area (right sides together) and stitch together, clip curves again, double fold the raw edge of the strip over to the inside of the dress and sew, easing in as you approach curves.  Congratulations!  You’ve just finished binding your arm holes (note: you can use pre-packaged bias tape if you prefer, in place of making your own binding).

Step 5)  Fold the top front down 2.5″ and stitch (this is going to be the front casing for the shoulder ties).  Do the same on the top back to create the back casing for the shoulder ties.  Now insert gross grain ribbon in the casings for the front and back (hint:  you can attach a safety pin to one end of the ribbon to help you feed it into and through your casings).

Step 6)  You’re now ready to hem your beautiful little pillowcase dress.  Or you can take it one step further, as I did on this cute little Curious George dress.  I added a matching yellow check border and topped that with red rick-rack.  I then found a cute generic embroidery design from Designs by Sick from a set named Fruit”.  I chose design no. 02 (bananas):
http://www.designsbysick.com/buydesigns/fruit
and then added the words Curious George above the banana design (we all know George has to have his bananas).

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This  adorable little pillowcase dress is so easy to make.  It can be worn in the summer as a sun dress or in fall with a long sleeved t-shirt and leggings for another adorable look.  So  you see, our ancestors stretched their dollar and so can we.

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64 Responses to Basic Pillowcase Dress

  1. ABN says:

    Such a cute little dress. I think my mother (age 90) maybe would like one of these to sleep in. bring back old memories. thanks for sharing.

  2. Rosalyn says:

    Thanks so much for the simple dress option. Will try this out on my 2 year old great niece.

  3. linda parker says:

    Little girls have been wearing these dresses to church for many years, and they were a big hit. Although my grands are teen, I plan to use the same directions to make tops for them. Luckily I have a grand niece and she will be getting a pillow case dress real soon. thanks

  4. Darla says:

    The dress is adorable thank you so much i have alot of fabric remenants that will work great for them and my cousins both have toddler girls Darla from Indiana

  5. norma porter says:

    Just wanted to thank you for the instuction on your pillow case dresses .I had saw them and made one for my GreatGrand daughter I embroidery on front of mine to match the ribbon that I used
    Thanks Again

  6. Jan Battles says:

    That is absolutley adorable! I’m headed to my sewing room right now to make my 2 little grandaughters one! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Eileen weiblen says:

    What a delightful idea. Know a litttle girl who will love one of these! Where does all the spare time go;-)

  8. Ruth says:

    So wonderful for my granddaughter; cute and easy!

  9. Clarice says:

    Darling Dress!!

  10. MK says:

    This is adorable…thank you for sharing!

  11. Gail says:

    Just love this little dress and little ones will love it too…sooo comfy…

  12. Sheila says:

    This is adorable, I can’t wait to try it

  13. sandra says:

    Thank-you sew much for this wonderful pattern. It was sew intersting learning about how mother’s saved money and using pillowcases.I know about making cutains from sheets.I once made a crochet bodice and attached it to a eyelet trim pillowcase for the skirt part. I love your ribbon and trim and the way you embellish the finish dress! Sandra

  14. G'ma Pamela says:

    Cute!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Good instructions, too. Now I just need a little girl to sew it for!

  15. G'ma Pamela says:

    Cute!!!!!!!!!!!! Good instructions, too.
    Now I just need a little girl to sew it for!!

  16. Claudia in Alabama says:

    The first explanation of a pillow case dress with clear pictures I could follow. As I am very new to sewing this looks like a project I can do…:)
    Thank you for the explanation and work in putting it together.

  17. Lisa says:

    Adorable!!! I should make one for my niece!! Great job! 🙂

  18. Frances says:

    Thanks for a great news cap.I’m sew happy you responded on our desire for this little dress. I will be printing out the instructions. And as always your letters go into a special file i set up so I will always have your information handy.Thank Design By Sick Frances

  19. Barbara says:

    Adorable. Would love to see Callie in the dress. Now I want to make one for my Ale.

  20. Jolene says:

    Too cute, great instructions. Going to try it for my granddaughter… Thanks a bunch for sharing.
    The photos are a big help…

  21. The Beaton Path says:

    Thank you so much for providing these instructions!! I can’t wait to make this for my baby daughter!

  22. flora says:

    that dress is really cute . thank you for submitting it.

  23. ItsAKip says:

    This is so easy!!!Esp. using an odd pillowcase, or a vintage one… because the embroidery or trims are too lovely to throw away or not use…”ironing…ugh! Let the gathering ribbon loose for washing and ironing and you have a flat item.

  24. Gretchen says:

    How simple is that? I have been wanting to make one for my 2 year old GD. Thanks for the info.

  25. Dorothy McCann says:

    Your dresses are so cute. Thank you for taking the time to post the directions.

    We can learn a lot from our parents.

  26. Edna Tollison says:

    very pretty little dress but my grand daughters are too old now for the dress. I don’t remember ever having one of these myself, but I know Mama used to get flour sacks that were printed and would try to get the same design until she got enought to make us dresses.

  27. mimi's needle and thread says:

    this is so cute, I just love it, I think I will make one for my granddaughter this summer

  28. sjwnana says:

    Just precious…. how I wish I had a small one to make a dress for…my gran will be 21 this year..

  29. Jo Ann Lawrence says:

    That is absolutely adorable. I wish I had a grandaughter to sew that for, I have 4 grandboys. I use to sew my 2 girls dresses and different things all the time though. THANKS FOR SHARING, MAYBE I CAN FIND SOME LITTLE GIRL TO SEW THIS FOR!!!!

  30. Patty L says:

    That is absolutely adorable. And it is so easy to make. I will definately keep these instructions. My niece has a baby girl and I would love to make one for her when she gets a little older.
    Hugs, Patty

  31. Mahala says:

    Love the little dress and instructions are simple enough but a list of supplies would have helped. How many yards of 45″ fabric? How many inches of grograin ribbon? What size child will this dress fit? Thank-you

  32. Sandra says:

    This is so cute. I am going to make this for my granddaughter and embroider on it with her initials. Thanks so much.

  33. Jean says:

    these are great for the missions. see
    http://www.littledressesforafrica.com

  34. Patty Pascoe says:

    Thank you so much for the great idea. The pillowcase dress is adorable and I can’t wait to make one for my granddaughter!

  35. Marsha G, says:

    Thanks so much for giving us the directions. This is such a cute project. Can’t wait to make one for my granddaughter. Loved hearing about the history of this style dress – thanks to your mom!

  36. Irene says:

    Yea! Fabulous! My daughter just asked me to make pillowcase dresses for my granddaughters. What perfect timing. Thank you so much, Judy, for submitting this article. Your dress is darling. Many pillowcase dresses to come.

  37. Anonymous says:

    I have never herard of pillow case dresses but what a neat idea. The one you made is so cute, you sre did a great job!!!
    Bre

  38. rosalen brown says:

    thank you so much for the beautiful idea!! my great-granddaughters loves pillow-case dresses, and this gives me a whole set of new ways to make them!! thank you again

  39. GRACE says:

    very cute GRACE

  40. Christina Wilke says:

    Such an easy way to make a lovely sun dress for a little girl and with the ribbon ties an added bit of bling, instead of the folded up hem I put a frill around the bottom, my granddaughter Zoe loves to dance and have her dress spin out and she likes to wear it all year round even in our snowey winter but with a skivvy underneath.
    Great one

  41. Sharlyn says:

    Cute! I love the fabric. My four year old would love one with the Disney princesses. Have to try that one 🙂

  42. Tina says:

    Very Cute !!! Thanks for the instructions and pictures. I put this on my to do list for my Grandaughter.

  43. Ardith says:

    Going to make this for my granddaughter right away. Love this idea.

  44. Dorothy says:

    That dress is just adorable !! Thanks so much for the great instructions.
    Dorothy

  45. lynda byrd says:

    VERY CUTE

  46. Paula says:

    How cute! I can’t wait to make this adorable dress for at least 3 of my granddaughters! Thanks for the great idea!

  47. Jan says:

    Thank you for sharing..will make these for our Charity Sew In.

  48. Shelia says:

    Thank you so much for the instructions AND PICTURES! I have been hearing about these on many of my online groups. I think they are just adorable. I can hardly wait to make some for my grandaughte!

  49. Tanya says:

    That dress is soo cute. I have been wondering how to make one for a long time and here you are giving use directions and pictures. She will love this outfit. Thank you for the knowlege and pic.
    Great job

  50. Patti Peterson says:

    Judy, the dress is adorable. Thanks so much for the directions. I’m thinking it would even make a cute top for a grown up, I may try that (although I would probably need a little more fabric than a pillowcase). Patti

  51. Marianne says:

    I have enjoyed reading and preparing to make the pillowcase dress – it looks so easy and adaptable too – my grand-daughter will enjoy wearing it – I am sure – I will let her choose the material from my stash.. many thanks

  52. watermelon says:

    Thanks bunches for the instructions for the pillowcase dress. What great fabric and design you chose!
    I think it’s just adorable and I bet Callie loves what her grandmother made. Curious George is one of my favorites.

  53. Tami says:

    This is the cutest little dress! I can’t wait to make some for my girls. Thanks for sharing this awesome design!

  54. Donna Gatlin says:

    I love this idea for a cute, quick dress. Thanks for the instructions.

  55. Judy Roberson says:

    Hi, thankyou all so much for the wonderful commments, I appreciate it. Let me add the supply list for the lady who wanted them.
    List:
    1—45 in wide fabric X however many inches long you need it to be [measure your child from collarbone to knee or wherever you want it to come to] .Note this width of fabric will fit a child up to a size 10/12.
    2—-Grossgrain ribbon for shoulder ties–2 1/2 yds
    3—Ric rack for border–45inches [one prepackaged pack will do 2 dresses]
    4- optional border fabric -1/4 yd of 45 inch wide fabric.
    Hope this helps. Judy ROberson

  56. Juanita in Cozumel says:

    Thank you for this great article, Judy. The instructions are very clear and it seems like an easy project. My granddaughters are sure to love this. I can’t wait to get started. They are perfect for summer.

  57. Maria says:

    Thanks for showing how to do that dress. With the heat and humidity here in Florida I’ll try one for myself to be at home or in the garden.
    Thanks for all the good ideas.

  58. helen says:

    Thanks Will try it My mom also made her dresses from flour sacks
    Helen from Clarksville, TN

  59. Marjorie says:

    Great idea… Will make one of these in terry for a bathing suit cover for my granddaughter. Perhaps my daughter would like one for herself in a larger version?? 😉

  60. Melinda Cieslinski says:

    My sweet daughter-in-law had ladies she worked with that wanted to dot his project to send to children in Africa. It turned out none of the gals new how to sew, therefore, they purchased all of the pillowcases and my dil made 21 of these one weekend!! I was so proud of her knowing how busy she is on weekends volunteering her time for archery for kids. It is a precious dress 😉 Thanks so very much for sharing.

  61. Thanks so much good & easy summer project

  62. B J. says:

    When Christmas times is here this is a good way for quick costume without the fitting — can be long or short. One year we wanted to have 10 little Christmas trees. Someone found tne lights that use small AAA batteries and the pillow cases were Green and we carefully draped the lights around the children.

  63. Sharon says:

    I love this dress. But I really want to make one for myself. I have searched the web to no avail. Any help will be wonderful. 🙂

  64. Linda says:

    i would like to know where you can get the font used for curious george or the name of the font pls:)

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