Vintage-Inspired Baby Dress {Tutorial and FREE Pattern}

It’s finally here, the Vintage-Inspired Baby Dress pattern and tutorial! Hooray!

Allow me to give you a brief history of this dress. Not too long ago my mom and I unearthed a number of baby dresses my Grandmother made for me almost 30 years ago. In the box was this sweet little number:

 Having had a baby girl myself, I just knew this was a dress I had to recreate. So, I got to work and this is what I came up with:

I’m trying to unearth a picture of myself in my Grandma’s version so you can have a little chuckle at my baby-self, but I haven’t been successful yet. I’ll keep you posted on that. :)

So, a few things before we get started on this tutorial.

  1. This is the first time I’ve posted a free PDF pattern. If you have any trouble downloading the pattern using the link below, PLEASE let me know. 
  2. Sharing in the online community is what this is all about, so please, if you make one of these dresses and post pictures on your blog, flickr, or whatever, I’d love to see them! You can share your link with me in the comments section here or email me at cailamade@gmail.com. I’ll add your link to a list at the bottom of this post so others can be inspired by your work. :)
  3. This pattern is for personal use only; however, if you are interested in selling some of these hand-made baby dresses, just ask my permission (cailamade@gmail.com) and I’ll probably say yes. 
Okay, ready to get started? First, download the pattern by clicking on the link below. This will take you to another website and you will have to click on the words, “Download Image.” When you print this pattern makes sure it prints at FULL SIZE, or 100%.

DOWNLOAD PATTERN

Next, gather your materials:

MATERIALS LIST

  • 1/4 yard of fabric (or one fat quarter): light-weight cotton, cotton voile, handkerchief linen or other lightweight fabric (eyelet, lace, or dotted swiss are also good alternatives).
  • One yard (36 inches) of 1/4 inch bias tape. This is likely sold at your local fabric and craft store, or you can make your own using this tutorial. The tutorial teaches you how to make 1/2″ bias tape, but you can convert this to 1/4″ bias tape by cutting your bias strips 1 1/4″ wide instead of 2″.
  • Matching cotton thread.
  • Lace or other embellishments (optional)

Don’t forget to wash, dry and iron your fabric before getting started!

STEP ONE: Cut out your pattern piece

Lay your pattern piece out on the fabric. The right (straight) edge should be lined up with your fabric’s fold.

Cut out your fabric. Here is how it will look still folded in half:

Here is how it looks opened up.

STEP TWO: Bind the arm holes


Bring out your 1/4 inch bias tape.

Now, pin your bias tape around the arm holes. I used the “cheater method” here, but you can also take extra time to do it the proper way.

Stitch the bias tape down. Here, I used two rows of straight stitches: first, I edge-stitched as close to the left side of the bias tape as possible and then added another row of stitches close to the first. This way, I was sure to catch the under side of my bias tape in the stitches. You could also use a zigzag stitch here.

STEP THREE: Hem the bottom edge of the dress

I used a rolled hem foot (6mm) to hem this dress, but you can easily hem by folding the raw edge under 1/4″, pressing, and then folding under another 1/4″ and edge-stitching it down.

Closeup of the hem:

STEP FOUR: Gather the top


Okay, it’s time to gather the top of the dress. This is when it really starts looking pretty!

I’ve found that the easiest way to gather is this:

  1. Set your machine to the longest straight stitch and DO NOT backstitch at the beginning or end of stitching. Leave long tails of thread on both ends.
  2. Set your machine’s tension as high as it can go.
  3. Sew two rows of stitches near the top edge of your fabric. The first row of stitches should be 1/8″ from the raw edge, the second row 1/8″ to the left from the first.

This is how it looks while I am stitching the second row.

And after both rows have been stitched, but before I’ve finished gathering by hand:

Now, gather the far-left top of the dress so that it measures 2 inches. Do this by pulling on the bobbin thread (it should be sticking out from the back of your fabric in a long tail). As you pull gently, the fabric will begin to gather. Stop when this section is two inches wide. Repeat for the far-right side.

Now, gather the middle so it measures four inches.

 Step Five: Add the bottom trim (optional)


If you would like to add trim or lace to the bottom hem, now’s the time. I added some vintage crocheted lace to this dress from my Grandmother’s stash.

Pin the trim to the bottom edge and then edge-stitch it onto your hem, backstitching to secure your stitches at the start and finish.

 This is how your Vintage-Inspired Baby Dress will look at this point:

STEP SIX: Add the tie

Now it’s time to add your bias binding ties! First, fold your bias tape in half lengthwise to find the exact middle. Press with your fingers to crease the fabric.

NOTE: In these pictures I used 1/2″ bias tape, but I much prefer using 1/4″ for this part. It makes the dress look so much more delicate.

Now line the crease up with the exact middle of your dress and begin pinning. Pin from the center out.

When you get to the end of the center section, measure two inches for the arm hole and continue pinning.

Pin the whole length of the dress.

Stitch the bias tape down, beginning at one end and continuing on the the other end. Make sure to backstitch at both ends. I sometimes like to add a knot at the ends of both ties.

STEP SEVEN: Add trim to the top

And finally, you can add some more trim to the top of your dress, right under the bias tape.

And voila! The Vintage-Inspired Baby Dress. I added a little flower to this one because I thought it looked a bit dull without it. You can see it in some of the pictures below.

From the back:

With a little flower to embellish the front:


And there you have it: The Vintage-Inspired Baby Dress!  I’ve found this is perfect for summer babies. Even in colder months this dress is beautiful over a long sleeved-onsie and baby leggings. 

 And lastly, here are a few more pictures of the original for inspiration. :)

If you make one of these dresses, I would love to see your photos in my Flickr photo pool– All That YOU Have Sown!


If you have any questions, please leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can! And thanks for reading! :)

Comments

  1. says

    Caila, The file seems to download fine. However, it is automatically opening in HP MediaSmartPhoto on my PC. When it opens in HP MSP it is auto set to print as a 4×6 photo. Any suggestions on how to fix this?

  2. says

    Cassie, I’m so glad you mentioned this! The problem might have been that the file was a jpg (maybe your printer is set to automatically print jpgs at 4×6). I fixed the link and the file is now a PDF, which should automatically print at 100% on your printer.

    Go back to the link and download the pattern again. It should print full size this time. If not, let me know!

    Thanks, Cassie!! :)

  3. Anonymous says

    Hi I was wondering what age range this dress is for? My niece is 11 months and it is so hot where we live. I think this dress would be perfect for summer.

    Thank you

    • says

      Hi there! This dress was made for newborns, but I have a friend who still puts it on her 6 month old. I think it could be easily resized for an older baby. Maybe you could just resize the arm holes? It takes so little fabric that you could make a test run first and see how it goes. I’d love to see what you come up with! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! :)

  4. Joyce says

    Thank you so much for sharing this cute little dress. I’m going to be Grandma to two little girls. Just finished one dress & I will be making more! :)

    • says

      Hi and thanks for the great question! Yes, it’s a pinafore-style dress, so the back is supposed to be open. My baby wore it as is because the weather here is hot, but it’s most often worn with pants and a onsie or top. I hope this helps!

    • says

      That’s a really great point. We use it as a dress here because the California weather is HOT, but it’s really a pinafore. It’s probably best worn over little leggings and a onsie or top. Thanks for the great question and comment!

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