I'm Erin. I love to sew pretty things for my children. I haven't bought an actual pattern in over ten years now. Read more...

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peasant dress

I’ve had several requests for an explanation of how the peasant dress underneath the apron dress and tab-front dress is made. Honestly, it's so dead easy I’m almost embarrassed to tell you how to do it. (But I will anyway:) Here goes:

The green dress was made from one yard of fabric.  The red gingham dress, 1 1/2.  My daughter is 36" from shoulder to ankle. 

Iron your fabric and straighten the cut ends.

To cut out the dress:

Decide on the depth of the ruffle, then add ½” for a narrow hem and enough for a seam allowance at the top. (Mine were 3 ½” total.) Clip the selvedge edge of the fabric and tear or cut off two strips for ruffles.

Decide how long you want the sleeves to be. Add 1” for a double fold hem at the top and bottom. I wanted 6” sleeves, so I tore a 7” strip. Clip the selvedge edge and tear or cut off one strip for both sleeves. Don’t cut this in half yet.

What you have left will become the front and back of your dress. (Make sure when tearing all the other stuff off that you don’t end up with a dress that’s unacceptably short, or you’ll be adding ruffles of some other fabric to make up the length.)

To construct the dress:

Join the ruffle together to make one continuous strip. Turn up ¼” twice and make a narrow hem. Using a ruffler attachment or gathering by hand, make this strip into a ruffle.

Turn under ¼” twice on top and bottom of the large block (dress) and small block (sleeves) and hem.

Cut the dress piece in half, lengthwise, as shown in the pattern layout. Cut the sleeve piece in half lengthwise.

From each of the four pieces you now have, cut the top corners. This should be a right isosceles triangle, with the 90 degree corner on the fabric corner. The hypotenuse will be on the fabric bias. My hypotenuse for a size 4 was 4”. (Whoa, did that sound exceedingly technical? This handy picture will explain.)

You may have to experiment with this length. Too short, and the neckline pulls too far down in front and back. Too long, and it’s too high on the neck. This will leave you with four rectangles with no top corners.  

Now sew the whole thing up, making a square. Dress front—sleeve—dress back—sleeve—like this:

Next, sew one side seam, from the sleeve hem all the way to the dress bottom.  Attach the ruffle at the bottom and sew the other side seam.

Now you have what looks like a big T-shirt. Get your shirring elastic and run two rows of shirring around the neckline, the sleeve hems, and where you want the waist to be.

That’s it. Telling you how to do it made it seem a lot harder than it actually is. Once you know how, you’ll be making one of these to go under everything. Variations on this, of course, are endless. You can make longer sleeves, change the skirt, add more ruffles here and there, and so on. Shorter, and you’ve got a top, hip length and you’ve got a tunic....

Okay, I’m stopping now. Have fun!


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Reader Comments (38)

Great tutorial!

February 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

I Love this pattern for a peasant dress! I can't wait to get started tomorrow :)

March 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLeanne

OMG...I love you. I have this pattern sitting here that I'm too lazy to cut out. I can totally do what you posted!


April 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEileen

thank you! it was so easy?? and everyone and their aunt is selling this info for more than $15? wow. thank you for explaining this.

p.s. i came from via sew mama sew and am SO awed with this site. beautiful.

September 16, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjaya

Thank you for the compliments! Welcome!

September 16, 2009 | Registered CommenterErin

I used your tutorial to make nightgowns for my daughter. She loves them. Thanks!!

September 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterErin

I'm so glad to hear it. Love your name, by the way! :)

September 4, 2010 | Registered CommenterErin

I love how simple this is! I have wanted to make dresses for my 4 girls like this but never knew how. I am a pretty good sewer but just thought it was more technical then that. Thanks so much! I found your link from my friend Erin(above). She posted a link on her blog after she made nightgowns for her daughter. They looked so cute I just had to follow the link. Love your site too btw. I will add you to my reader and def. Be back. :) I can't wait to make these. I just have so much extra fabric around waiting for this. :):)

September 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJenn-Lee

This is just adorahle! I made one today for my 3-month-old daughter (dress body was about 12" before the ruffle) lt was precious... so I tried it on my 2-year-old son (shhhh...), and it made the cutest little tunic! This is going to be a favorite "pattern" for years to come! THANK YOU!

October 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

I think I may have just found my new favorite website!

December 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKari

Wanted to thank you so much for this tutorial, you inspired me to finally make my girls some nightgowns
and matching nighties for their dollies
Thank you:)

February 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterErin

Hi there, thanks for the great tutorial! It looks very simple to follow for a beginner like myself! Just a quick (and probably dumb) question: How wide is the material that you use? (If the length is either 1 or 1 1/2 yards depending on which style of dress). Thanks!

September 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCorrin

Did I forget to mention? Shame on me! I was using 44" wide fabric for both dresses. Good luck!

September 15, 2011 | Registered CommenterErin

This is a very nice blog. I had fun reading it. And also, I have learned something from it. I'm going to try the pattern. It's so cute!

October 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterchildrens dresses

I'm trying to figure out how to make this for myself as a nightgown, but am having trouble with the size and measurements. I'm about a size 8 and have about a 40" hip measurement and am about 52" from shoulder to ankle. Since you used 44" fabric for a child and cut it in half, would I just use the full 44" width for myself? It seems incredibly enormous! I need your help figuring this out, please!!! I'm stuck in the middle of making it! I have been searching for years for a free pattern/tutorial and finally found yours. What length should the sleeves be in order to make them come to the same point on my arm as it does on your child in the photo? 12"? With an 8" hypoteneuse? I really need an adult adaptation for this pattern!!! I'm in love with it!! (You can just email me if that's easier.) Thank you so much!!!

July 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTiana

Oh, Tiana! I wish I could help you more. I haven't made it in an adult size (although I do remember trying on a child size at the urging of some hilarious laughing friends once who were trying to prove a point about how skinny I was-and popping some of the elastic, thank you silly friends) and all I can say is, trial and error and an old worn out sheet to cut up and practice with are your friends.

Do remember that the raglan seam, the one that goes from your armpit to the neckline, will determine how low the neckline goes, because it'll be pulled down by your armpit. Longer seam=higher neckline. Good luck!

July 12, 2012 | Registered CommenterErin

What an adorable dress and wonderful site! You mentioned the pattern was used for your 4yo. Would I need to adjust the width of the dress pieces for a 6yo? Thanks!

July 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

Hi, Alex! Thanks for the compliments. I would not adjust the width for a size 6, only the length. This dress is very versatile size-wise.

Best of luck!

July 17, 2012 | Registered CommenterErin

thank you, thank you!

July 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

Have you made enough of these dresses in various sizes to be able to do any educated guessing as to the hypotenuse of a size 6 or 7 dress? For example, when you made them in size 3, was your hypotenuse closer to 3 or 3.5 inches?

I am making this dress...and will definitely be blogging about it for my Little House party. Of course I'll be linking back to you. Thanks for ANY help you might be able to give me!

September 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnnette {This Simple Mom}

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