Bias and Buttons Dress Tutorial

First of all, I want to thank everyone for your kind, enthusiastic, response to my Bias and Buttons dress.  I was blown away by all the positive feedback I received. I’m so glad you like this dress as much as I do; thank you!

OK, are you ready for a tutorial? I’m sorry I haven’t done a lot of these lately. I guess I’ve been too busy sewing!

Please bear with the bad pictures. As I worked on this tutorial I came to the realization that I should come up with a better system for taking tutorial pictures. So many are taken late at night, or haphazardly off the cuff because I’m too involved in what I’m doing to stop and stage a good shot. I’m going to work on this!  In the meant time, I’ve done my best with the pictures I already took and I hope you can at least figure out what the steps are. 🙂 Ok, let’s get started.

For this dress you need:

  • 1 to 1.5 yards of muslin depending on how long you want the dress and how tall your child is.
  • A stack of coordinating fabrics. I used 8 different prints, but the more, the merrier, I say! A note on choosing colors: your fabrics do not need to match, they just need to go together. Does that make sense? Lay them all out together and if it looks pleasing, go for it. If you feel your stack needs more pizzaz, add a bold print to the mix. 
  • 1 package, or 3 yards of 1/4″ bias tape. You can make your own using this tutorial.  NOTE: For 1/4″ bias tape, cut your bias strips 1 1/4″ wide. (For this dress I used store-bought since I had the perfect color on hand).
  • 6 chunky buttons. I used three yellow and three pink because the those were the predominant colors in my dress. My buttons ranged from 1 1/8″ to 3/4″ wide.
  • A piece of 1/4″ wide elastic for the back. (Optional)

This dress was created by sewing dozens of bias-cut strips to an A-line dress with a wrap front. Here is how you can create a similar dress pattern.

Use a shirt or dress that currently fits your child. (In these pictures you’ll see the bodice pieces I recently created for Abby, but ignore the random lines you see). Fold the shirt or dress in half, lay it on your muslin and trace it. Make sure you add seam allowances! For this dress I used a 3/8″ seam allowance.

To create the front right piece:

After you’ve traced the the neck, shoulder and arm holes, draw two angled lines to form the A-line of your dress. See the picture below for reference. The two lines should be about 18 inches apart at the bottom (for a size 2T). My dress is 17″ long from the armpit to the bottom.

At this point I made a couple of changes to the neckline and shoulder, as you can see below. I wanted the shoulder to almost look like capped sleeves.

IMPORTANT: Give the bottom of your dress a gentle curve at this point. CUT TWO of your right front piece. One is your “main” piece and the other is your lining.

To make the left front piece:

Lay one of your right front pieces on some more muslin. Now lay the right front lining piece next to it so it looks like a full dress (see the picture below). Use this piece to trace the neckline, shoulder and arm hole on to the blank piece of muslin below.

To create the wrap front, extend the neckline down as shown in the picture. Now draw an angled line from there to the bottom, 2-3″ from the left seam line. (Sorry I don’t have a better pic!)

CUT TWO of your left front pieces.

Now lay your right and left front pieces out like this to make sure they fit together correctly. Make sure your bottom hem is slightly curved (but equal. I had to fix mine after this picture was taken).

Pin your pieces together and lay them down on MORE muslin. You’re going to trace them to make the back piece.

TIPS ON CREATING A BACK PIECE: Make the back neckline higher than the front; don’t make the arm holes quite as deep; and add an extra 1/2″ to the shoulder.

Sew the shoulder seams together like this. Since muslin fabric doesn’t have a right or wrong side, you have a little less to worry about. If you are using a printed fabric with a wrong side, sew the shoulder seams with right sides facing.

Sew the side seams. Then finish the bottom of your dress with by serging it (or with an overcast hem). You can also add a traditional hem if you like.

Now sew your lining together the same way and set it aside for later. 

At this point, draw some stitching lines on the top part of the bodice as a guide for when you sew on the bias strips. You don’t need to draw them all the way down since the strips themselves become a guide.

Now begin cutting 2″ bias strips. (For more info on how to cut on the bias see No Big Dill’s original tutorial on the Very Biased Skirt ). NOTE: Why not cut come strips 1″ instead of 2″ for more variance? I did this with the yellow polka dot).

I’m sorry I can’t give you a more accurate guide on how many bias strips to cut: just keep cutting until you have a nice pile of coordinating/contrasting strips. If you need more, you can always cut more.

This is a nice way to use up some fat quarters you’ve had sitting in your fabric stash for awhile.

Now lay your strips out on your dress to give you an idea of how many you’ll need and in what order you should sew them.

Beginning at the bottom, sew your strips along the bottom hem. Continue sewing them all the way to the top. Just like Katie from No Big Dill, I purposely sewed some of my strips different widths apart and overlapped them at different spots.

No need to sew the strips together! When you come to the end of a strip, just overlap it with a new strip and keep going!

When you come to the stitching lines you drew at the top, use them to guide your strips over the shoulders and around the back. Here is a close look at the back of my dress:

Once all the strips are sewn on, open up your dress and trim the edges so they are straight and clean.

Now, slip your lining inside the dress and pin the shoulder seams together for stability while you add the bias tape.

Pin the two layers together up both sides of the opening. Sew your 1/4″ bias tape to the raw edges.

The bias tape should go from the bottom of the left side, up around the neck and back down the right side. No need to add it to the bottom hem. You can use a straight stitch or a zigzag. I used both.

[Optional Step] Now find a good spot in the middle of the back to add your elastic. Lift up one of the bias strips and sew the elastic underneath with a zigzag stitch, pulling the elastic as you go. When you come to the other side seam, secure your stitches and cut off any extra elastic.

Now find a good spot for your buttons on the front left of our dress. Space them out as evenly as possible, but don’t worry if it’s not exact. That’s part of the charm of this dress!

I sewed my buttons on by hand using embroidery floss. Knot those things down good!

On the reverse side I sewed velcro under each of the buttons. Add velcro to the corresponding spots on the right side and you’re done!

If you would rather use button holes than velcro, add your buttons to the RIGHT side of your dress and sew the button holes on the left side. I agree that button holes have more class, but for Abby I chose velcro. It’s much easier for her to get the dress on and off that way and she loves it.

CONGRATULATIONS if you made it all the way to the end of this post! I know it was long, but I wanted you to have all the details. If you make a Bias and Buttons dress, I’d love to see it in the CailaMade flickr pool!


  1. says

    Hi Marissa! The beauty of cutting on the bias is that the edges do no fray. They will become a bit “rough” with washing and drying, but it adds a whimsical look to your dress. Personally, it’s a look I like. I don’t dry this dress, just wash it in cold on gentle and line dry.

  2. merav says

    Hi, Caila. Thanks for a great tutorial! If I plan on serging and hemming every strip anyway, does it matter if I use regular strips and not bias strips? Because I have a ton of beautiful straight and narrow scraps I would love to use..

  3. Anonymous says

    God bless you! My o My This dress is awesome & cool. It looks so cute on you girl. Keep going you are great!!!

  4. says

    This is THE most original girl’s dress I have seen in ages! Well done! (Now I just have to find a little girl to make one for….)

  5. says

    Assuming she is your little one…. the model she is adorable and the darling dress is too. I can tell she is so proud of your creation just for her. Amazing