Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Urban Princess Dress: the Full Tutorial!

We're so excited today to share with you this tutorial we originally did as a guest post for the lovely Jamie at Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom! We are going to show you all how to make this adorable dress, which we named the Urban Princess Dress:

the urban princess dress sewing tutorial diy

This dress was designed by Jessica's four year old daughter. Jessica's daughter decided that this was the dress that "a Disney Princess would wear to go downtown." Thus, the Urban Princess dress was born! This is seriously the easiest dress to sew, with the most impressive results.

We started with this drawing of my (Jessica's) daughter's design:

I then measured her waist circumference and the length from her waist to the floor:

We did this first so that we could get a good guess as to how much fabric to buy. My daughter is a skinny size 6/7 right now (at 4 years old!!!) and her waist was 20 inches around, and 28 inches from her waist to the floor. This means that I cut a single skirt piece that was 2 X her waist measurement (40 inches) x 32 inches long (I added four inches to accommodate for a deep hem and sewing the top to the skirt).

We then went to the fabric store and chose this super cheerful rainbow stripe fabric, and bought some white 2 inch wide elastic. I bought a yard and a half of fabric, because I knew I wanted a very twirly dress with lots of gather in the skirt at 40 inches around. We also decided to use a pink tank top that she already had but never wore for the top of the dress:

Using the two inch wide elastic, measure around the waist of your tank top. It doesn't matter if the tank top is a little loose on your child, the elastic should still be fitted to the tank and not to the child's waist. This shirt just happened to fit my daughter perfectly so it was exactly her waist measurement, but that's not necessary.

After you've measured and cut your elastic, cut straight across the shirt about half an inch below your child's waistline. The extra half inch is for seam allowance.

Next you'll put together your waistband. Pin the ends together and sew them together into a loop using a straight stitch, like this:

Then take the edges of your seam in the elastic and pin them down like this:

Sew both edges down again, using a straight stitch, like so:

This is what it will look like from the "front:"

Now you're going to pin your elastic to the top of the dress! Center your seam in the elastic in the back of the tank top piece, and pin all the way around:

Sew your tank top to the elastic, using a long straight stitch. It really helps here if you stretch the elastic as you sew your straight stitch. It will look a little ruffly at first but trust me, you can fix that later with a steam iron:

You now have the top of your Urban Princess Dress!

This is what it will look like on the inside. No need to finish off that raw edge, because the tank top is jersey, so it won't fray:

Now let's finish the skirt! Just to warn you, this skirt is not an economical project in terms of fabric. I wanted the skirt to be extra twirly, so I used the entire 40 inch width of the fabric and just pinned the selvedges together. This also makes it easier in the long run, because I didn't have to finish the interior edges of the skirt, either:

Sew your skirt piece into a long tube:

I used my pinking shears to cut along what will be the "top" of the skirt piece. This is not really necessary, but it will help to keep that raw edge from fraying when your dress is washed:

Next, I measured for my hem. I always put a very deep hem in my daughter's dresses when I sew, so I measured three inches from the bottom and ironed it down all around:

Then I folded the fabric under so that I had a two inch deep hem, and ironed it in place. This step is totally unnecessary, but for me it makes sense. My daughter is going to hit a growth spurt very soon (and already is growing so fast!) that I don't want this dress to be too short for her in a few weeks! Putting in such a deep hem means that if she grows and her dress is too short, I can use my trusty seam ripper to take out the old hem and lengthen it:

After you have hemmed the skirt, gather it so that it is about 3-5 inches wider then your elastic. Now we're (finally) going to put the skirt on the top piece!

Starting at the back center seam of your elastic, pin all the way around the dress evenly. It's totally fine that your gathered piece will be bigger then the top! This will allow room for your little girl to stretch the dress out as she puts it over her head to wear it:

Making sure to stretch your elastic as you sew, sew your skirt piece to the elastic with a straight stitch. I did two rows of stitching, just to be absolutely sure that it wasn't going anywhere. This make the elastic look a little ruffled and funny...don't panic!

Run an iron over the elastic waistband on a steam setting and it will magically shrink back down and become flat again. And you little girl will be able to get the elastic over her head without busting the seams. Yay!

There you have it!

the urban princess dress sewing tutorial diy

A relatively simple dress to make, and a gorgeous result! Your girl will be sure to love it. I know my daughter felt like a princess all day long, even in the mud (yeah, you read that correctly...sigh).

Jessica & Hilary


  1. Yay! I was waiting fot this dress to come home so I could pin it:)

    1. Thanks Amy! If you make one let me know and I will promote the heck out of that for you! I would love to see the version you would make with your skills!

  2. how cute! It looks super fun and comfy, perfect for a four year old!

  3. Unreal, I love it. Thanks for the tutorial and thanks for linking to Inspire Me. Hugs, Marty

  4. How adorable! Such an easy project!

  5. Your daughter is the cutest and looks so sweet in her new dress. Thanks for a great tutorial and fun idea. We appreciate you sharing it with us at the BeBetsy BRAG ABOUT IT Link and Hop.

    Sharon and Denise ♥

  6. SO cute! I didn't think it was one piece from the photos... but I love that it is and your daughter looks SO happy!
    Oh I've got several pattern and fabric giveaways going on now along with my sewing series.. come on over and enter!!

  7. So cute! I can't wait to make one for my little girl!
    Jamie @

  8. Oh my gosh!!! This is SOOO CUTE!!!! I love it. I want to make one for each of my nieces. They would love it!!! I would LOVE for you to share this at "That's My Style" Link Party TOMORROW (every Friday) on my blog. Not comfortable sharing? Stop by anyway for beauty related post and fun DIY projects. I hope to see you there! :)

    Karla @

  9. Your Urban Princess Dress inspired two pokemon-themed dresses for my daughters. Thanks!

  10. Okay ladies this needs to be pinned immediately! What a simple but great tutorial! I love that she designed it herself! That is fabulous! Please link it to our Pattern Party! I think everyone needs to see this one! Thanks for sharing! It starts the 1st of each month

  11. This is wonderful. My daughter is so getting this dress for her birthday! Thanks for posting.

  12. Beautiful dress!! I love the twirly skirt with the colorful, rainbow stripe pattern! We'll be featuring this over at Someday Crafts tomorrow :)

  13. Ok its beautiful and id like to make this for my two princesses but I have never sewed before... I just bought a machine will someone pls tell me how you get the scrunching effect on the top of the skirt? And do I turn the top half inside out when I sew the bottom to the top thank you and I love this dress

  14. Wondering how that straight stitch holds up on the elastic? I'm new to knits but.both my "teachers" have been pretty adamant to usr either a stretch stitch (lightning bolt) or flattened out zig zag (changing stitch measurements) to accommodate stretch and keep from popping the seams?

    is it different because it's elastic or would we be better off using a zig zag or stretch stitch on the elastic portions?

  15. do you gather the skirt? before you attach it to the top? sorry, i am really a newbie in sewing

  16. do you gather the skirt? before you attach it to the top? sorry, i am really a newbie in sewing

  17. There are no pictures with this. have you upgraded but not gotten to this post?
    lovebirdmom at gmail dot com

  18. love the skirt.!! so the skirt is doubled layered?


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