Tutorial: Sew a 11-1/2" (such as Barbie) fashion doll dress

As promised in my previous post, here's a step-by-step tutorial for sewing this doll dress.

The dress is one I designed and sewed (many, many times) in the 1970s. I scanned my original pattern pieces, which means they aren't perfect - you'll see the pin holes and slightly crooked solid lines. But that kinda adds to the charm don't you think? The document is a PDF and you can download it here. I have it set to print on a 8-1/2" x 11" sheet of paper. To help you determine if it's printing out the correct size, the bottom edge of the skirt pattern measures 6-7/8".

The dress is view 4 shown in the upper right corner of this pattern envelope.

  • Lightweight cotton or cotton-blend fabric remnant (I used a portion of a fat quarter)
  • Lace—15”
  • Thread
  • Snaps
Cut out the dress:
  • 1 - bodice front on fold
  • 1 - skirt on fold
  • 2—bodice back
  • 2—sleeves
Seam allowances are a scant 1/4”. Sewing a larger seam could result in a dress that is too small for your 11-1/2" fashion doll.

That being said, all fashion dolls are not equal and it’s a good idea to measure your doll’s bust and waist to verify this dress will fit.

You might want to add more to the center back allowance when cutting out your dress. You can always cut off excess if it proves to be too large for your fashion doll.

On wrong side of fabric, mark center front darts and small dots at neckline

Sew darts in front, press toward center

Carefully clip to small dots (see photo below)

Sew front to back at shoulder seams

Finger press seams open

Carefully clip curved portion of neck edge (see photo below)

Turn neck edge in to wrong side and press

Stitch in place close to neck edge. You may find it easier to do this from the right side (see photo below)
Turn under bottom edge of sleeves twice; press (see photo below)

Machine stitch sleeve hem in place (see photo below)

Gather top edge of sleeves by stitching one row of stitches 1/4" from edge and the other 1/8" from edge using a long machine stitch (see photo below)

Take hold of the two bobbin threads and gently pull to gather the sleeve top

Distribute gathers evenly and pin the sleeve to armhole opening, wrong sides together
Sew seam (see photo)

Optional: Finish seam by sewing a zig zag stitch in the seam allowance. This will prevent the fabric from ravelling (see photo below)

Sew underarm and side seams (see photo below)

Finish seams with zig zag stitch (see photo below)

To hem bottom edge of skirt, turn under twice just as you did for the sleeve hem, press and stitch in place.

Sew lace trim to the bottom of the skirt (see photo below)

In my example I needed to use a zipper foot due to the sequins in my trim (see photo below)

Gather the upper edge of the skirt by sewing one row of stitches 1/4" from the edge and the other 1/8" from the edge using a long machine stitch.

Mark center front of skirt with chalk or pin.

Match center front of bodice and skirt, wrong sides together, and pin in place (see photo below)

Gently pull skirt gathers to fit bodice; pin in place (see photo below)

Sew seam (see photo below)

Finish waist seam with a zig zag stitch (see photo below)

Press seam towards bodice. On right side of bodice, topstitch in place (see photo below)

Be careful to keep the sleeves out of the way or you could find yourself doing what I did - sewing the sleeve to the inside of the dress (see photo below)

Press the back edge of dress (see photo below)

Stitch in place. If you're unsure of the fit of your doll, try the dress on the doll before finishing the back edge.

Place dress on doll; overlap right bodice back over left; pin in place (see photo below)

Place a pin on the left bodice back where lapped edge meets (see photo below)

Sew snaps to back of doll dress.

If you prefer, cut narrow strips of Velcro and sew to the back edge of the dress in place of snaps.




  1. Thanks for the pattern and tutorial. And nice work on the pattern set. I remember wanting more clothes for my Barbie, but somehow never got into making them myself. And now that I have the ones my mom made, I can see why it wasn't her favorite thing to sew - tiny!!

  2. I can't wait to try this. It looks much simpler than the usual patterns I use. I have four daughters, three of whom are school age and into Barbie. They will go ape over this. Thank you!

  3. Thank you for sharing the pattern and tute! My daughter loves playing "fashion show" with her Barbies, and new clothes are always appreciated!!

    I linked to your tutorial over at Craft Gossip Sewing:


  4. I like it. I did some barbie tutorial too. Not on clothes but ob cupcakes and swiss roll for barbie.


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