DIY Vintage Dress

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In this tutorial, you will learn how to make a beautiful and easy DIY Vintage Dress.

For my dress, I used 2 m (you might need to buy more depending on your measurements) of gingham fabric, but you can use other cotton materials or linen.

You will also need an invisible zipper, rouleaux turner (really worth buying one!!!) and a strap of cute lace if you wish.

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Part 1 of DIY Vintage Dress – The Skirt


The skirt is an ultra-simple gathered skirt.

Step 1 – Make and cut out the pattern

In order to make the pattern you will need two measurements: your waist circumference and the distance between your waist and the point where you want your skirt to finish (below the knee/above the knee/ankle?).

To calculate the width of the pattern piece:

Divide your waist circumference in two and then, multiply this value by 3.

For example, my waist is 60 cm. I usually add 1 cm for ease, so I take 61 cm and divide it in two = 30,5 cm. Then I multiply 30,5 cm x3 = 91,5. That final value will be the width of my pattern square.

61/2= 30,5 x 3= 91,5

The distance between your natural waist and the point where you want your skirt to finish is the length of the square.

Here is how the pattern for your skirt should look like after adding 1,5 cm seam allowance all around.

Cut out two pieces. One will be the front panel of your skirt, the other will be the back panel of the skirt.

Step 2 – Assemble the skirt


Serge, zigzag or pink the front, and back panels.

Pin front and back right sides together and sew the right seam together. Start sewing the left side. When you reach the point where your zipper starts, backstitch and baste the two panels together all the way up. Iron the seams open.


Why did I stitch the left side seam all the way up? I discovered a brilliant method of inserting an invisible zipper which never ever produced any puckering at the bottom and always comes out even at the top.

Step 3 – Gather the skirt

Now, make a gathering stitch all the way around the top of the skirt. Make sure you don’t stitch over the seam allowance of the left side seam (you can stitch underneath). Gather your skirt until you reach your waist circumference. Then, distribute the gathers evenly and run a basting stitch within the seam allowance to hold the gathers in place.

Part 2 of the DIY Vintage Dress – The Bodice 


Step 1 – Make the pattern


If you don’t have any basic bodice pattern, find a shirt that fits you well. Make sure that if you choose gingham or other non-stretchy fabric you take a shirt which doesn’t stretch either. Trace the front and back of the shirt, without tracing the sleeves.

Modify the shirt pattern as shown on the picture. Take in as much as possible at the waist because this dress looks best when the bodice is well-fitted.

Make a muslin to test the fit and modify in case there is a need. I had to put in a dart over my bust to prevent the front bodice from rolling up and revealing too much. 🙂

Step 2 – Cut out the pattern pieces and make the shoulder straps 


Cut out both the front bodice and the back bodice on the fold. If you don’t have enough material, that’s ok. Cut out the back bodice in two pieces, put them right sides together and sew. Make sure that the gingham stripes align well.

Use this wonderful tutorial by Sew it Over to learn how to make 4 rouleaux straps for your dress. They are charming and extremely simple to make.

Serge the side seams and the bottom edge of both bodice pieces.


Step 3 – Finish the bodice


Start with sewing the darts in the front and back bodice, iron them towards the center front.

Next, put front and back bodice right sides together, pin and sew together on the right seam, baste it together at the left seam. Iron the seams flat.

Close the top edges of the front and back bodice by creating a rolled hem. The armholes of this dress are not very curvy, so you shouldn’t have any problem with it.

Alternatively, you can also use a bias tape to bind all the seams around the dress. It might create a unique accent if you use a bias tape in contrasting color.

Once the seams are done, Attach the rouleaux straps to front and back bodice.

I decided to put a little lace to cover the rolled hem on the top of my bodice. I absolutely love this little detail and it came in really handy to cover all the stitches. 🙂


Part 3 of the DIY Vintage Dress – Finishing Touches 

Step 1 – Connecting bodice with the skirt 


You will be pinning the bodice and skirt right sides together. I like to flip skirt to the wrong side and put the bodice inside the skirt.

First, align the side seams and pin the skirt to the bodice. Remember to mark the left seam because we will only baste it to the skirt.

Locate the middle of the front bodice and pin it to the middle of the front skirt panel. Do the same at the back. From that point, it will be easy for you to pin it all evenly.

Start stitching skirt to the bodice by first basting it together at the left seam. Once you pass the seam, back stitch and start sewing with normal stitch length until you get to the left side seam.

Iron the waist seam up towards the bodice.


Step 2 – Inserting an invisible zipper


Follow this tutorial for inserting an invisible zipper. The waist seam makes it a bit complicated but not impossible. I usually follow with the tutorial until it gets to the point where I need to sew the zipper with the zipper foot, I just rip a few stitches and when I am done with the whole thing I come back and secure the waist seam by hand. This way I get into every little corner.

This method might seem a bit troublesome in the beginning, especially if you have a waist seam like we did here and a gathered skirt but I must say – this method gives me the best looking invisible zippers ever. I wish I had found that method right after I learned how to sew. It would have saved me so many headaches. 🙂


Step 3 – Hemming the skirt 


I had plenty of material for this simple dress, so I decided to make a vintage -looking wide hem. I love the look of 1950’s dresses when the hem is very wide. I turned up my hem by 10 cm and then used my all time favorite blind hem foot to hem the dress.

You can slip stitch the hem to the dress, but I personally suck at hand stitching! The machine blind hem foot not only saves me time but also makes my hems very neat and tidy. I could not ask for more!

Congratulations! You are done!!!

Try on your dress, tie the straps into cute bows and enjoy your beautiful DIY Vintage Dress!

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Go ahead and make your new lovely dress or save this tutorial for later. 🙂


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Did you enjoy this tutorial? Would you like to make your own vintage-inspired dress? Please let me know in the comments. 🙂

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14 thoughts on “DIY Vintage Dress

  1. Oh I LOVE this dress. Can’t believe I’ve never found this tutorial before. The lace detail is lovely, and I can’t wait to make myself one <3

      1. Hi and thank you for your comment. 🙂 I usually put the zipper 23 cm below the waist but it is individual. If you need more room to get your hips through a skirt comfortably then put it lower, depending on your needs 🙂

    1. Hi Laura,

      Thank you for your comment. I will try to improve that part of the tutorial. 🙂
      If you are a beginner and don’t feel comfortable with making your own patterns yet, it would be great for you to find a basic bodice block and take it from there. 🙂 When I make a new pattern for myself, I always make at least one muslin. Once you put bodice muslin on your body, you will see where it needs to be tucked in. That will be the place where you will need a dart. Give it a try and you will see that the process is quite natural and not as hard as it looks. 🙂

      Big hugs,
      Marlena x

  2. Hi Marlena, I love this pattern, and how simple! I would be tempted to add a couple of ties to the sides for a bow at the back. (I’m a bow fiend lol) also a little chest pocket? Thanks for the upload.

  3. Hello,
    Thanks for sharing some ideas and skills, very pretty vintage dress, So cut and feminine, perfect 🙂
    Please have a nice day


  4. I can’t believe I saw this only now it’s amazing I love vintage sooooooo much and this is absolutely amazing. I’m so gonna do this!!

  5. You really ought to add in amount needed for hem to the instructions for determining the length for the pattern. An inexperienced sewer might not think to do so.

  6. PLLLLLLEEEEEEAAAAAASSSSSEEEE could you make a short video tutorial for this beautiful dress. I am also a curly haired warrior myself – I’m new to dressmaking and patterns but able to use using a machine. I’d like to try something thats more challenging.

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