The Piper Dress

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The Piper Dress


The Piper Dress


The Piper Dress


I whipped this dress up from start to finish in just 2 hours so it’s a great nap time project!  You only have to cut 4 pieces of fabric but this dress does use some shirring and a button hole.  For more details on shirring check out my basics tute on how to shirr.


What you’ll need:
-2 colors of fabric
-Elastic thread
-Buttonhole foot
-All your sewing goodies
Grab your little model and take two measurements: (1) chest circumference, measured right under the armpits (2) length from chest to knee.


You’ll need to cut four pieces of fabric:
-Dress (cut 1): This rectangle should be 2x the chest circumference by the length from chest to knee.  For example, my daughter measured 21″ for chest and 16″ for length so my rectangle was 42″x16″.
-Ruffle (cut 1): This rectangle should be 4x the chest measurement by 4″.  So, mine was 84″x4″.  I used a long enough piece of fabric to cut one rectangle but piece together if you need to.
-Straps (cut 2): These should be cut 42″x4″ These are really long so adjust if you want shorter ones.


First, using a rolled hem, serge one long side of your dress pieces and one long side of your ruffle piece.  If you don’t have a serger, simply fold over 1/4″ and iron.  Then fold over another 1/4″ iron and sew.

Along the other long side of the ruffle strip, ruffle fabric.  I do this by setting my stitch length to 5.0 and upping the tension to high.  Then your machine will automatically ruffle as you sew.  Leave a few inches of thread at each end (no backstitching!) so you can adjust ruffle to be the same length as the dress piece, as shown below.

The Piper Dress

Pin ruffle to bottom edge of dress with raw edges aligned as shown below.  Sew with a 1/2 inch seam.  Serge or zig zag.

The Piper Dress
Fold ruffle down and press seam.  Topstitch.
The Piper Dress
The Piper Dress
Next, along the top edge of the dress, shirr 4 rows a presser foot width apart, skip 1″, and then shirr 4 more rows.  This picture shows the back side of the shirred rows.
The Piper Dress

Fold your dress in half and measure to find the front center (subtract 1/2″ allowance from the open side before finding center).  Mark with a pin as shown.  This is where we’ll sew a large button hole.

The Piper Dress
Buttonholes are really easy actually.  Your machine will do all the work but you may have to help it along because the fabric doesn’t move as easily due to the shirred rows.  The button hole will be right in that 1″ opening between the 2 sets of shirring rows.


I stick a pin at the top of mine when I use a seam ripper to open the button hole to ensure I don’t cut the top edge of the stitches:
The Piper Dress

I actually ended up making the button hole a bit larger after this.  I set my button hole foot to the largest button size.  We’ll be pulling the straps through this hole so you want it big enough to accomodate the fabric of the straps.

The Piper Dress

Fold dress in half with right side together and raw edges aligned.  Pin and sew with a 1/2″ seam.  Serge or zigzag.

The Piper Dress
Now take your strap pieces and iron in half lengthwise.  Cut one short  end of each strap at a 60 degree angle.
The Piper Dress

With a 1/4″ seam, sew raw edge of long side and angled short side closed.  Leave the other short end open for turning.  Turn, press, and topstitch.  Serge or zigzag the straight short end.

The Piper Dress
Find the center back of your dress and pin straps 1″ from center (for a total of 2″ between the straps).  Sew in place.
The Piper Dress

Pull straps though the front buttonhole and tie in a bow.

The Piper Dress

All done!  I’d love to see pics if you make this dress! :)
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  1. 1

    Ok, this is so adorable! My niece would look so cute in that!

  2. 2

    This dress is adorable! I just need to get up the courage to use elastic thread, and my serger :) Visiting from TT&J.

  3. 3

    This dress is so dang cute! Love the cute pics too. If only I had a girl :/

  4. 4

    My daughter sent me a link to this dress. It is so so cute! I can’t wait to make it for both of my granddaughters. Thanks for the instructions!

  5. 5

    This dress couldn’t get cuter! It’s adorable! I found your blog on TT & J and I’m so glad! I’m a beginner sewer and I’m always looking for clear and easy tutorials like this! Thanks!

  6. 6

    I love this dress, but my baby is 13, and a big bow on her chest would be so uncool! So, I will instead leave an opening in the rear seam and attach the straps in front! This will make a cute sundress for church. Thanks for sharing, great tute!

  7. 7

    This is Gorgeous! Oh.. I wish I could sew better you make it look soo easy! I am your newest follower.. Hope you hop over to my under 300 follower blog hop @
    Amie @ Pinkapotamus

  8. 8

    Can you do this w/o a serger?

    • 9

      Hi Emily! As noted above, you sure can! If you don’t have a serger, simply fold over 1/4″ and iron. Then fold over another 1/4″ iron and sew. (This would be for the top and bottom hems). You would simply zigzag for other exposed raw edges which is what I did prior to having a serger…but in generel, zig zaging edges doesn’t hold up as well as serging after washing a few times. Hope this helps! :)

  9. 10

    Hi Dawn, What a gorgeous dress. I’ve just bought a sewing machine and I’m just wondering what size elastic thread I will need (sorry if this is a silly question) and will I need to change my sewing machine needle? Great work and I look forward to hearing from you if you have the time to contact me :)

  10. 11

    may just make this for my girl but as someone else mentioned a bow at the front wouldn’t suit her age so will stick it to the back! :) Love it~ thx

  11. 12

    I made this dress over the last two nights! Mine is purple with a bright pink ruffle and straps – super cute for my niece’s 4th birthday. Just a few comments (pointers, whatever) for anyone giving it a shot.

    A) it was pretty easy! My FIRST ever garment (I sew blankets and burp cloths and crib sheets and such), and I think from cutting to end project was about 5 hours of work (and that involved ripping out 82 inches of ruffled fabric when I sewing it on the wrong way AND re-reading tutorials AND finding my machine’s instruction book to figure out my button hole foot).

    B) I’m pretty sure the strap cutting measurements should actually be **4** by 42, not 2×42 – when I folded my 2×42 strips in half and flipped them inside out… they’re (obviously) only about 1 inch wide. Looks like the original dress straps are 2 inches finished. If you want thick straps, cut your straps as 4×42!

    C) I don’t have a serger, had never sewn a ruffle, and didn’t know what shirring was until I started this project. But I impressed the heck out of myself with the finished dress (even with “spaghetti straps” – as my husband calls them)

    DO IT! You won’t regret it!

  12. 13
  13. 15
    aime blazer says:

    I fell in love with this dress as soon as I saw it!!! My 4 yrd old brought home some material from her grammas house and said mommy has to make me a princess dress. Today i made it and she is SO happy!!!! Thank you. Im a new sewer and i actually was able to do this!!

  14. 16

    Do you think i can do this pattern with knit if so any pointers?

  15. 18
    Kristine Borgartz says:

    My children bought me a brand new janome for mothers day and I have not yet used it but will be quite soon as reading through the comments has inspired me to make a dress each for my 2 and 5 year old girls. Wish me luck!!!

  16. 19

    Hi I love this, your so clever! I tried to make one for my daughter about a month ago however in your instructions it states you times the chest measurements which I did (my daughter measures at 23″ so I doubled 46″ x the length) and it was massive on her in fact I could get it on myself just a little to short for me hahaha. So I unpicked all and cut it down taking about 10″ away. I would love to make my friends daughter one but I’m a little worried it’s not going to fit can you make some suggestions of why it hung on her please?! ( I also washed the fabric before & after so that the shirring can pull tighter).

    • 20

      Hi! Hmmm….The 2:1 ratio is correct. I’m wondering if you maybe skipped the step of shrinking the shirring when you are done with a very hot steam only iron? That’s the major “magic” in shirring and what shrinks it up nice and small!

  17. 21

    I love this dress I am just beginning to sew I made this dress. I had a few troubles along the way. The elastic thread. It just wasn’t looking right so I went and watched a tutorial about it. I ended up using an iron to make the elastic shrink. My daughter has a sunken chest and it’s hard to fnd cute dresses that will camouflage her chest area. If it comes down to far or is loose you can see straight down her shirt. The bow on here covers her up great! Thank you so much. Since I did have a few mistakes I am going to make it again to make it look a little more “done”. Hope to see more from you. Again, thanks!

  18. 23

    I love this dress! What makes it even better is our 4 year old’s name is Piper! lol I can’t wait till we get my craft room set up in our new house so that I can make this. Our Piper will love it. :-)

    • 24

      Hi Jenn! Our youngest, Quinn, was almost named Piper. Since she didn’t end up with the name, the dress did! :) Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment! Have a great rest of the weekend! -Dawn

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