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Simple Elegance, Girl's Pillowcase Dresses

Updated on May 12, 2013
bought pillowcase
bought pillowcase | Source
Top seam cutting
Top seam cutting | Source
Cut pieces
Cut pieces | Source
Before sewing
Before sewing | Source

Pillowcase gowns, i have become fascinated with them! The cost, the simplicity, the quickness in which you can have a completed garment ready and how cute they turn out to be, with very limited resources and time. The other great thing is that it grows with the child, from knee length to short top paired with leggings or shorts.

They are also a lot of fun!

We all love dressing little girls! From the simplest to the fanciest garments. We all tend to 'ohh and ahh', when we see a cutie. What's fascinating is there is nothing better than watching a little girl enjoy primping in a cute outfit.

Girl's dresses

The simple designs tend to be the prettiest, because you, in my opinion can do a lot with your overall look. Anything with ribbons, bows and lace, seem to give the added 'girly' effect.


Hand or machine sewing are options depending on the simplicity of the pattern one is using. Since Pillowcase dresses basically have straight seams they are perfect for novices, trying to ply their hands at something they have accomplished with little or no hitches or complications.

Simple pattern

Pillowcase dresses have mostly straight seams, it depends on if you use a curved armhole in your design. There's the side seams, the hem, the top piece which forms the casings, front and back, for the ribbon and the arm hole.

This pattern is enjoyable because it is quick, simple and inexpensive. It can also be done in under an hour, from start to finish, depending on the person's skill.

Semi homemade

When i speak about being semi homemade, it means that you have purchased or decided to use a manufactured pillowcase. Something that has outlived it's use or no longer works with your bedroom bedding decor.

When creating your dress this way most of the work is already done for you. A few simple cuts and you'll have a dress in less than forty-five minutes or so, depending on how you plan to embellish your finished garment.

Warning: The only draw back with the semi home made version is that you are confined by the width of the store bought pillowcase, so if you have a chubby cutie who you want to make the dress for, make sure you know their measurements -'around' or just go with making your own pillowcase dress from scratch.

Other than that these garments which are usually straight up and down with interesting details, fabrics and ribbon, normally look good on anyone. The myriad choices in fabrics, details and ribbons give you the opportunity to make something absolutely custom to the child for whom you are sewing the dress.

It gives you the freedom to experiment! So go ahead and let your imagination loose, creatively there is nothing holding you back but YOU!


The choice of fabrics are quite straightforward and all depends on the season in which the person wearing the dress will be using it. Yet, this dress can be year round. The type material you decide upon also gives you to be dressy or play wear friendly.

Depending on the child's size you don't even have to use more than a yard or so, if that, but you need to know their basic measurements, because once you start cutting you will be limited to what you can do, especially if you are using any of the left over fabric for self facings and bindings or even your self made ties for the dress.


  • ribbons
  • rickrack
  • iron on design
  • bows
  • buttons
  • ruffles
  • lace

Think of dyeing, tie dying and painting if you are using a plain ole cotton.

How to make one

Materials needed for Semi homemade (you are using a pillow case)

  • finished manufactured pillowcase with a nice design (hem)
  • ribbon, roping (something to tie up the garment)
  • binding or facing


  • sewing machine ( you can hand sew or stitch )
  • needle and thread
  • large safety pin
  • scissors
  • pencil (for marking, typically armhole)

Putting it all together

Cutting it out

Using your sharp shears cut the top of the pillowcase straight across the closed seam, then dropping down the side seams however many inches you need go ahead and cut a curved opening at an angle (a cut off 'J' gives you a good idea).

Going in a couple of inches where you first cut the straight line across the top, measure in a couple of inches, then out at an angle, connect the marks, that is what you are looking to do for the armhole as a guide.

Sewing it up

Since you only have the armholes and tops of the dress to sew up it should not take long or be too much work. Straight seams typically half an inch, will do to finish the seams.


Using the binding, enclose the raw cut edges of the armhole and stitch the binding in place.

Casing for ribbon

Since you are creating a casing for the ribbon across the top, fold over the raw edge, then fold the width you'll need for your ribbon, stitch. It could be anywhere from 1 to 2 1/2 inches, or even larger depending on the effect you are looking to have with your finished dress.

Threading the ribbon

Since you have created a casing or tube for the ribbon you will need to thread it through, so after cutting your two lengths of ribbon and marking the center of them both pin a safety pin to one end.

Side note, Another way to create straps and ties with your ribbon is to keep it as one piece and run it through in one continuous piece, tying it in a bow over one shoulder.

Sliding the safety pin through is the easiest way of doing this, you will be gathering the top as you slide it through, once the ribbon is through evenly find the center point of your casing and stitch it through all layers. This is so that you will keep the ribbon in place.

You can always attach a bow or something to cover the thread.

Recommendation as a first time sewing project...

For a first time project for anyone learning to sew, be it hand sewing or machine sewing, pillowcase dresses, whether semi homemade or from scratch is a great way to use whatever limited skills, especially for a beginner. This would give someone learning a great sense of satisfaction.

Tidbit, these dresses were made out of flour sacks during lean times in U.S. history, like the Depression or the Dust bowl era of the Mid West. So, pillowcase dresses are an age old classic that anyone can and should enjoy.

They make excellent easy summer wear...

Try it! Enjoy!


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    • Celiegirl profile image

      Celiegirl 4 years ago

      Thanks Rayne123 / Laurie.

      Rickrack is a trim used in sewing, it is typically zig zag and top stitched on a garment.


    • profile image

      Rayne123 4 years ago

      Very useful but can I ask you what a rickrack is

      Great hub