Sleeper Style Dress

The inspiration and my dress

A Word of Caution

I feel the need to start by saying this will not be an organized tutorial. I already made the dress and didn’t film any of the process so I am doing it after the fact. But I’ve had so many requests for a tutorial I felt the need to try and type out my process for how I did it.

What I will do is link all the supplies that I used, explain my process, as well as link YouTube tutorials that I found helpful in learning how to do these steps.

What you’ll need

Step 1: Measuring and Cutting the Fabric

This dress consists of three main pieces: one rectangle for the body of the dress and two sleeves. That’s it!

The Body of the Dress

To get your measurements for the body of the dress, you’ll have to do a little measurement and math.

The process of shirring shrinks your finished garment, so you’ll have to add some inches to your starting fabric.

You will need to measure your bust at its widest part. Once you have that measurement you can multiply that by 1.3-1.5. This is going to depend on your fabric. Heavier fabrics (like the linen I used) don’t “shrink” as much with the elastic, whereas thin cottons tend to shrink up quite a bit. If you are unsure, I would lean toward cutting more fabric. You can always cut the excess off at the end but you can’t add more on.

Here is how I did mine:

45″ (my bust measurement) x 1.5 = 67.5 then rounded to 70″ for seam allowance and just easy measuring.

Since this was my first time working with linen I estimated up and I’m glad I did, it ended up working pretty well.

This calculation will get you the width of your fabric. The length is pretty simple. Decide how long you want your finished dress to be. I generally have mine go halfway between my knee and ankle, but that is personal preference.

Once you decide where you want your finished dress to hit, take a measuring tape and start it on your chest where the top of the dress will be then measure down to that point. Then add an inch for seam allowance. For reference, I ended up with 40″ as my length measurement.

After all that, I ended up with the measurements of 70″ x 40″ for my dress body measurements.


The sleeves are a little less straight forward. Mostly because I used a pattern piece I already have and just tweaked it to fit what I needed. For reference, I used the sleeve from this Etsy pattern.

You can find your own sleeve pattern or make your own. For reference, the sleeve in this pattern is 30″ wide (for my size anyway) and I felt that was right to give it the perfect “poofiness”.

However, this pattern is for a short sleeve, not a long sleeve. The good news is that making it a long sleeve is pretty straight forward.

First measure your arm, placing the measuring tape on the top of your shoulder where the sleeve will sit then measure to where you want the sleeve to hit on your arm. Write down that measurement.

Then you can put your short sleeve pattern piece on your fabric and add the difference between what you measured and the length of your pattern piece, straight down from where the pattern ends (see below)

Step 2: Hem the Ends of the Fabric

I like to start my project by hemming all the ends that I can. For this project you want to hem the top and bottom of your large rectangle as well as the bottom of your sleeve.

I like to use a narrow rolled hem foot to do this. I have a TikTok explaining how I do this or you can watch this YouTube video. If you need a narrow rolled hem foot here are the ones that I use.

At the top of the dress you can then fold over the entire top of the dress about 3/4 inch (or enough to fit your elastic through). Sew this down and it will create a channel to fed the elastic through later.

Step 3: Shirr the Fabric

Now that you have the top and bottom of your fabric hemmed you can start shirring. If you don’t know how to shirr you can watch my TikTok or this tutorial I found on YouTube.

Basically you’ll need to add elastic thread to the bobbin and regular thread in the top thread as well as set your stitch length to the longest setting. Then you just sew multiple rows.

The number of rows just depend on your preference. I just eyeball it and hold it up to my body to see when I want to stop.

Step 4: Add Bias Tape

Now we’re going to add bias tape to two areas: top of the sleeve and toward the bottom of the sleeve.

You can either make your own bias tape or buy it. With this project I made my own bias tape for the top of the sleeves (since it is semi-visible) and I used store bought bias tape for the bottom of the sleeves since it could not be seen.

First add the bias tape to the top of the sleeve to make a channel for the elastic. For a tutorial on how to do this, you can refer to this YouTube video.

Then you’ll add bias tape toward the bottom of the sleeve. I added it about 1 1/2 inches away from the bottom hem, but this is up to you and your preferences. For this one you’ll just lay the bias tape down with the open end toward the fabric and stitch on both sides of it creating a channel for the elastic.

Step 5: Adding the Elastic

Now that you have all of that done, you can add all the elastic to your dress.

For the top of the dress (above the shirring) take your elastic and measure around the top of your chest, where your dress will sit. You want to stretch your elastic while measuring so that when you insert it into the dress it will hold up.

This is another preference to you, you can make it as tight or as loose as you want. Once you’ve figured out the right length, cut it and attach a safety pin to one of the ends of the elastic. Use this safety pin to feed it into your channel and guide it through. Once the non-safety pin end reached the end of your dress, stitch that in place, then keep feeding the other end through until it reaches the other end of the dress. Then stitch that end in place and cut off any excess elastic.

You’ll do a similar process for the top and the bottom of the sleeve. Measure how much elastic you’ll need (to your preference), feed it through, and stitch in place on both sides.

Step 6: Stitch up the Dress

Next you’ll want to sew up the side of your dress. I like to use French seams, but you can also serge or do a zigzag stitch.

For French seams, you’ll pin the two sides of dress together with wrong sides touching. Then sew the sides up. After you have sewn the sides cut down some of the extra fabric as close to the seam as possible without cutting into it. Then iron that down and flip your garment inside out. Then stitch down the side again. Now you should have a french seam on the inside of your dress.

While your garment is inside out you can also stitch up the other side of the dress. This isn’t necessary structurally, but will give your dress symmetrical seams.

Step 7: Sew and Attach the Sleeves

Next we are going to go back to your sleeves and sew up the sides. But before you do that, you’ll want to serge or zigzag stitch the part of your sleeve that will be sewn directly to the dress.

The sleeve pattern I use has notches showing me where start sewing. This will be hard to explain in words without images, so you can also reference this tutorial for the sleeve pattern that I use.

Once again, you can do french seams, serge, zigzag stitch, or however else you like to finish your seams.

After you sew up the mid to bottom of your sleeve you’ll take that part that has not been sewn up and attach that to the sides of your dress piece, lining up the v in the sleeve with the seem in your bodice piece. Then stitch it on and you’re all done!

That is it!

I know this was by no means a perfect tutorial, but it is the best I’ve got for now. I will most likely make another dress in this style and when I do I will film more of my process.

Until then feel free to ask questions!

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