Double Layer Top/Dress Tutorial

We have another tutorial today from an Idea Room Reader. Christine at From An Igloo, shares with us how to make an adorable layered top/dress for your daughter that is fun and summery! Thanks Christine for sharing with us!

Last summer I made my girls several shirred sundresses. A tube of fabric shirred with tie straps. They were cute, and easy to sew, but this year I felt like coming up with something a little different.

Here is what I came up with. Just as easy to sew, but I think so much cuter! The double layer adds a really nice weight to the top (I’ve made two tops so far, but with added length this would make a very cute dress as well), and just a little bit of “poof”. You could add a contrasting fabric to the hemline of one skirt panel to get the same colour effect, but I think the nice weight it adds to the top is worth the extra fabric! The armhole shaping also allows the bodice to sit a little higher in the front which I like. This top feels expensive and could easily be dressy, but is adorable for everyday as well! :)

Don’t you just love this Amy Butler fabric? 

Keep reading, I have an easy tutorial for you and you can make one too!
Use a 1/4 inch seam allowance unless otherwise stated.

Ok my friends, your pieces should look something like this when you are done cutting. I swear this is the same fabric, not sure why this picture is so bright!

Following are your pieces and how you should measure them:

You have a decision to make. You can just purchase a package of double fold bias tape and you are good to go. Or, you can make your own.

I wanted my straps to be of the same fabric as my top, so I made my own. I’ll show you how. First though just worry about the cutting. I would say for all sizes from 2-7 you will be fine with two pieces 2 inches X 26 inches . You need to cut these two strips on the bias. This means on the diagonal of your fabric. Not up and down or side to side. Cutting on the diagonal is what will enable your fabric to stretch a little and sew around a curve easier. If you want large bows when you tie them, make your strap pieces a little longer

If you use packaged bias tape cut two strips 26 inches long.

Measure all the way around your child’s chest. Now take this measurement and multiply it by 1.5. Add 1 inch. Example: My child’s measurement is 22 inches X 1.5 = 33 inches + 1 inch = 34 inches

This will be the length you will cut. For the width….

Sizes 2/3 cut 4 inches
Sizes 4/5 cut 5 inches
Sizes 6/7 cut 6 inches

So my daughter is 6. I am going to cut a piece of fabric 34 inches by 6 inches.

Disclaimer: These widths are what I would use. They may be too long or short of a bodice for your child. For best results measure on your child how wide you think the bodice should be and add 3/4 inch for seam allowance. Measurements above have seam allowance factored in.

Now you have one piece of fabric. Cut it in half lengthwise. So, I am going to cut my 34 inch X 6 inch piece so that it is now two pieces that will measure 17 inches X 6 inches each.

Skirt Pieces:
You need to decide if this is going to be a top or a dress. Hold one of your bodice pieces up to your child at collarbone height. Measure from the bottom of the bodice piece to where you want the top or dress to fall. Add 1 inch.

For me, this measurement was 14 inches. Cut your piece the full width of your fabric

So, I am cutting a piece 14 inches X the full width of my fabric. This is going to be the under layer of your top or dress. Use your contrasting fabric.

For the top layer, cut a piece that is 3 inches shorter than the previous piece. So, my top layer piece will be 11 inches X the full width of my fabric

Using the full width will produce a nice result for all sizes mentioned. For the smaller chest sizes this will result in a slightly fuller skirt or top.

Now this is a not so scientific way of making that nice curve on the sides of your bodice for your child’s arms. Take a large coffee mug of small bowl and position it so that it is approx 2.5 inches up from the bottom and two inches in from the side draw that nice curved line. As you can see my mug starts curving around at the top, but we will want this to go straight up so draw accordingly. See next photo. Don’t be scared here, if your mug is a little lower or higher this is still going to be ok, promise! We are just making a nice spot for your child’s underarms so the fabric does not rub and bother them! It also enables the front of the bodice to sit a little higher than it would if you didn’t so this.

Cut out the fabric at the line you just drew. As you can see I have folded my bodice in half so that I can cut both sides at the same time. Now use this bodice to cut your second bodice piece.

Let’s do our pressing. Take your two bodice pieces and press the top edge in 1/4 inch and then in again another 1/4 inch.

Now your skirt pieces. Press the bottom up 1/4 inch and then up 1/2 inch on both pieces.

Sew the top edges of your bodice pieces where you have pressed, enclosing the raw edges.

Take your two bodice pieces right sides together and sew the side seams. Finish your seam allowance with a zig zag stitch. Set bodice aside.

Take one of your skirt pieces and right sides together sew down the short edge creating a “tube”. Make sure to zig zag your seam allowance.

Now, I think skirt panels should have side seams.  Lay your tube out flat with the seam you have just sewn on one side. The side opposite sew a line of stitching down to create an opposite side seam. You won’t need to zig zag this seam allowance as it will be on a folded edge.

Fold back up your pressed bottom edge and hem 1/2 inch up from bottom.

Do the previous three steps with your other skirt panel.

I’ve lost a couple of pictures, but this is easy, I don’t think I’ll lose yah.
Right sides in take both of your skirt panels and put your shorter one inside the longer one. Make sure raw edges and side seams are even.

Make two rows of gathering stitches and gather to fit your bodice. You will want to put your bodice inside your skirt panels right side of bodice facing right side of skirt panels. The raw edge on bottom of bodice should be even with raw edge of skirt panels. match side seams. Good idea to pin.

Your skirt panel will not be as gathered as this photo. I took the photo before evening out the panels to be the same size as the bodice.

Sew, attaching bodice to skirt panels. Zig zag seam allowance.

Press seam up towards bodice and topstitch about 1/8 inch in.

Starting about 1/2 in from the top of your bodice do several rows of shirring from the top of your bodice to the bottom. Do the same on both sides of the bodice. If you have never shirred before, I talk more about shirring in THIS tutorial. I did my shirring 1/8 inch apart on this top but you could go farther apart.

Shirring after pressing. It tightens up a lot! Set your top or dress aside.

If you are using packaged bias tape you can skip this part. Here I will show you how to make your strips into bias tape. First fold your pieces in half lengthwise and press.

Open up your piece and press each side in to the middle.

Fold back in half lengthwise and give it a good press. Easy peasy.

Take one of your pieces and mark the midpoint. Match up the midpoint with the side seam of your dress. If you are using the packaged stuff join in.

With your bodice sandwiched in the midde of your bias tape fold pin around your armhole.

Make sure you fold in the end of your pieces to enclose the raw edges. Sew from one end of your piece to the other around your armhole.

One strap is done! See how this encloses the raw edge of your bodice so nicely? Now do the other side.

Add some cute little buttons or other embellishment to the front if you wish and your’re done!

Don’t forget to share your photos on our Flickr Group.


  1. Amy says

    Beautiful top and you're right, it would make a lovely dress. Have you ever tried the bias tape makers? They're a fun and inexpensive tool to have around.

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