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The Amazing Pillowcase Dress Sew~Along {Elastic Version}

The first time I made Phoebe a pillowcase dress I made it the traditional way and I thought it was pretty cute. It was a little hard to get the ribbon tied without the dress falling off but we eventually got it done. 

When Christian, who was then about 11, saw it he declared it “inappropiate”. What???How is this inappropriate for a five year old? I asked. He said that if the tie comes untied the whole dress will fall off. And he was right. So I began making the dress with elastic and bias tape instead of ribbon. This is probably my favorite way of making pillowcase dresses. 


Pillowcase (or fabric)
1/2″ Elastic
Sewing machine
Safety Pins
Iron (optional)                                                                                                                   Ric Rac (optional)
Bias tape 

1. Make your own “pillowcase” (if using an already made pillowcase skip this step) 

Cut rectangle to size. Esther wears about a 3T so my rectangle was 18″ wide by 19″ long but I cut it on the fold so that I only have one seam instead of two. I’m making this one with a contrasting fabric at the bottom so it’s a little short. If I weren’t using a contrasting fabric I would make it about 21″-22″ long.

If you want to make your dress with contrasting fabric here’s how to do it…


a.  cut piece of fabric that is the same width as your dress (18″ in my case) and about 2-3″ long. You can make it longer and double it over. That way you won’t have to hem the dress. With right sides together pin the contrasting piece to the bottom of the dress. (raw edges together if you folded your contrast)

b. stitch the contrasting piece onto the bottom of the dress using 1/4″ seam allowance.

c.  zig zag the edge of the seam to keep it from fraying.

d.  open up the seam and iron it on the wrong side so that the seam is laying against the top of the dress not the contrast. Now with right side of fabric up stitch about 1/8″ from the seam on the top of the dress. This is called topstitching and it will make sure that seam stays nice and flat. 

e.  this is how the right side of the fabric should look

f.  this is how the wrong side of the fabric should look – everything nice and tidy.

Pin the sides together. If you cut on the fold like I did you will only have one seam. Sew the sides together using a 1/4″ seam allowance and a zig zag or make a french seam (instructions are in week 1)

You now have a tube with the top and bottom open go to step 3. If you don’t have the top and bottom open go to step 2. 

2. Cut off fold of pillowcase
If you’re using a pillowcase you will need to cut off the folded area so that you have a tube. If you made your own “pillowcase” and you already have a tube then you are good to go…just skip this step. (I skipped this step)


3. Make armholes 

Lay your dress out with the side seams on the side if you have 2 side seams. If  you only have one seam you can either put it on one side or down the back. I chose to put it down the back.

 Fold your dress in half longways.

On the seam side you’re going to go 1.5″ to 3″ in and 3″ to 4.5″ down. I marked 2″ in and 4″ down. Then I just curved the rectangle like a backwards J.

Cut along your markings.

Unfold your dress and it should look like this.
4. Make a casing for the elastic

Fold down about 1.5″ of front (between the armholes) toward the inside of the dress. Iron if you want to.



Open up fold and make another fold by folding down the top of the dress to the 1.5″ fold line. 

 Pin the fold down it should be about 3/4″ wide. This is the casing.

 Stitch along the bottom edge of the casing close to the edge.

Using a safety pin insert the elastic into the casing. For the 3T I used 6″ of elastic. Just measure across the chest to see how long yours needs to be. 

When the end of the elastic gets close to the edge of the casing stitch the casing closed to secure the elastic.

Finish pulling the elastic through the casing and pin it to the other end of the casing. Stitch the opening closed to secure the elastic. 
Repeat these steps for back of dress.
5. Finish armholes and ties

Cut a piece of double fold bias tape about 15″ to 20″ depending on how big you want the bow to be. Open up the bias tape and sandwich the armhole inside. Make sure that the middle of the bias tape is lined up with the middle of the dress so that the strings for tying will be even. Pin it.

Stitch close to the edge of the bias tape (about 1/8″ from edge). I start at the top of one armhole and stitch all the way to the end.


Then I stitch from the top of the armhole (where I started before) and go all the way to the other end. I don’t usually pin the bias tape that is going to be the ties but you can if you want to.

To finish the ends of the ties you can fold the raw edges inside and stitch closed, or you can just zig zag them or you can use a product called Stop Fray which is kind of like a glue that will keep the fabric from fraying. The cool thing about bias tape is that it doesn’t really fray.
If you used a pillowcase or folded your contrast you’re done! Unless of course you want to add some embellishments. If you didn’t use a pillowcase keep going.
5. Hem your dress 
To hem your dress the “normal way” just fold it over twice like you did to make the casing. And stitch close to the edge just like you did with the casing. But if you want to add ric rac to the bottom you don’t need to hem it. Here’s how you do it…

First zig zag the raw edge of your dress to help the fabric not fray. Then pin on the ric rac lining it up with the edge of the dress. If your ric rac has a pattern on one side then put the patterned side down. 

Stitch the ric rac down the middle. I did mine a little to the right of the middle it’s fine, you just don’t want to ever get off the ric rac and you want to be as consistent as possible. Also fold the ends so that it won’t fray…or use Stop Fray.

Now, fold the ric rac to the underside and it should look like this. Pin it down.

Top stitch about 1/8″ from the ric rac.
6. Enjoy
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Thanks for sharing with your friends!


Saturday 27th of February 2016

Aren't you still tiring the dress? Only with the bias?

Angi Schneider

Saturday 27th of February 2016

Yes, you're still tying the dress at the shoulders with bias. The difference is that with a traditionally made pillowcase dress you sew a casing and run ribbon through it to tie at the shoulders. If one of those ribbons comes untied the whole dress can fall off as there is nothing to keep the ribbon from slipping out of the casing.


Sunday 9th of June 2013

Unfortunately I haven't been able to find one pillowcase dress tut that I can fully understand, no fun having learning disabilities. :( :( bc they are so cute.

Angi Schneider

Monday 10th of June 2013

Maybe if you tell me what you're not understanding I can help.


Friday 22nd of June 2012

How long were the elastic pieces for the 3T?


Friday 22nd of June 2012

That's a good question! They were 6 inches. I just measured across my daughters chest. I'll edit the tutorial to include that. Thanks!