Sew a romantic strapless ruffled maxi dress: a tutorial

As promised yesterday, here's a sewing tutorial so you can sew your own Summer Dreams strapless ruffled maxi dress.

It's very similar to the strapless maxi dress tutorial I shared with you a few months ago.  This time you'll customize it to fit your measurements.

Note: If you have the One Yard Wonders Book you can create this dress starting with my Strapless Belted Tunic design. 

Gauze or other lightweight fabric
1/4" elastic
Single fold bias tape

The finished length of the dress is approximately 51" measured along the side seam.  Lengthen or shorten as needed. 

Make your dress pattern
Measurement A
Measure your bust around the fullest part.
Add 12" (this is the ease) and divide by two.
Example: Full bust = 36" + 12"  = 48" / 2 = 24"

Measurement B
Measure your hip around the fullest part.
Add 12" (this is the ease) and divide by two.
Example: Full hip = 38" + 12" = 50" / 2 = 25"

Measurement C
Add 1" to measurement B
Example: Measurement B = 25" + 1" = 26"
  • On a large sheet of paper draw a vertical line 37" long down the center of your paper. 
  • Measure 15" down from the top of the vertical line and make a mark.
  • Starting at the top of the line draw a horizontal line equal to measurement A centered on the vertical line.
  • Starting at the 15" mark draw a horizontal line equal to measurement B centered on the vertical line.
  • Starting at the bottom of the line draw a horizontal line equal to measurement C centered on the vertical line.
  • Connect the top line to the bottom line along both sides.
  • This is the front and back of the maxi dress.
  • If your full busted, on the front piece measure 1" to the top of the vertical line. Make a mark. Use a French curve to draw a gently curved line from the each side seam to the mark at the center front.

Cut the dress
Cut 1 dress front
Cut 1 dress back
Calculate and cut the upper ruffle length
Multiply measurement A by 1.5. This is the ruffle length Measurement D.
The ruffle width is 10"

Cut 1 front bodice ruffle measurement D x 10"
Cut 1 back bodice ruffle measurement D x 10
Example. Measurement A = 24" x 1.5 = 36" so the ruffles to be cut are 36" x 10"
Calculate and cut the lower ruffle length
Multiply measurement C by 3. This is the ruffle length Measurement E.
The ruffle width is 17"
Cut enough lower ruffle pieces to equal measurement E x 17"
You'll need to piece the ruffle to get the desired length
Example. Measurement C = 26" x 3 = 78"

You now have the upper ruffle, the dress, and the lower ruffle.

Sew the dress
Pin the front and back dress right sides together.

Stitch side seams.

From the top of the dress measure down 10" on the wrong side and make a mark.

Draw a line around the entire dress.

Be sure to use a removable fabric pen or chalk.

This is the line for the waistline casing. Eliminate this step if you do not want an elasticized waist.

Pin the single-fold bias tape on the inside of the dress aligning the bottom edge of tape on the marked line.

Stitch in place close to each edge of the bias tape.

Pin the front and back upper bodice ruffles right sides together.

Stitch side seams.

Turn bottom edge 1/4" to the wrong side; press. Turn under 1/4" again to the wrong side; press. Stitch in place.

Gather the upper edge of the ruffle. To gather use a long stitch length and stitch along the upper edge 1/2" from the edge leaving thread tails at each end. Stitch a second row of stitches 1/4" away from the edge.

With right sides up (wrong side of ruffle to right side of bodice), pin ruffle to upper edge of bodice matching side seams. 

Adjust gathers to fit.

Stitch ruffle in place. 

Finish raw edge of seam with bias binding. 

To create the casing turn under 3/4" on the upper edge of the bodice; press. 

Stitch casing to the bodice 1/2" from the top fold being sure to keep the ruffle free. Leave a 1" opening to insert the elastic.

Cut a piece of 1/4" elastic a comfortable upper chest measurement plus 1/2".

Attach a safety pin to one end of the elastic and insert in the casing.

Pull elastic thru the casing. Lap the elastic ends by 1/2" and stitch together securely.

Pin the lower ruffles right sides together.  Stitch seams.

Turn bottom edge 1/4" to the wrong side; press. Turn under 1/4" again to the wrong side; press. Stitch in place.

Gather the upper edge of the ruffle.

Pin ruffle to lower edge of dress right sides together matching side seams.

Adjust gathers to fit. Stitch. 

Cut a piece of elastic a comfortable waist measurement plus 1/2".

Attach a safety pin to one end of the elastic and insert in the casing.

Pull elastic thru the casing. Lap the elastic ends by 1/2" and stitch together securely.




  1. Positively romantically lovely! Makes me want to sew one up & float around the garden with mint julep in hand! (& my handsome lover on the other hand) ;-D

  2. Anonymous10:29 PM

    Wow, that's cool! Thanks.

  3. Lovely, thank a lot!

  4. Love the fabric you've used!

  5. Saw your tutorial today & thought you might be interested in seeing a similar dress I made for my daughter not long ago. The one major difference in my dress is the draft of the upper ruffle - mine is based on 1/2 circles so it's more flared. I have used a version of your One Yard Wonders Strapless Tunic as the basis for many dresses. To better accommodate "hippier" figures, I have modified the original pattern from straight rectangles to a trapezoid shape - much like you did with this dress. I'm currently working on a color blocked knit version. Thanks for such a great, go to, pattern!

  6. Anonymous7:25 PM

    Beautiful! I'm definitely starring this post for later. Thanks :)

  7. LOVE THIS - can't wait to try it! thanks for sharing! i am confused about the last step though when sewing casing for the top. since the ruffle is already attached, how am i supposed to fold top over and sew for casing without catching ruffle? maybe i'm just thinking about it too hard!

  8. my mom made me a dress like this back in the 70's. I loved it then, and I still love the style now.

  9. I will deffernetly be having ago at this one thankyou

  10. Wowsers this is a nice tutorial and well laid out, even I could follow it!!!!! I appreciate that when someone is talking sewing! It's a really cute dress too!

    Have a great weekend!

  11. What a beautiful dress! Thanks for the tutorial!!!!

  12. This looks lovely! I can't wait to try it out!

  13. Omg I totally have so many ideas I could do with this dress!!!

    When i'm free I totally want to come out there again to finish the photoshoot!!!

  14. Anonymous7:26 PM

    Stopping by from TT&J - This is so cute! I love Maxi dresses and you did a great job! Thank you for sharing!

  15. Anonymous7:31 PM

    This is great! I just pinned it! I'll let you know whenever I get around to making it! Thanks for the tutorial!

  16. This is beautiful! I'm going to be on the lookout for the perfect fabric to make one.

  17. Anonymous7:25 PM

    I think we may be the same measurements, but do u know the length for drawing it if I want it to b as short as my knees? Please contact me at:

    I really want to make this! I just don't know what the measuring for drawing the pattern

    1. Good question! You'll need to customize the pattern for your own height. Measure from above your chest to where you want the dress to end. Write down that number. Decide how big you want your ruffle and add 1" for the hem and seam allowance. Write down that number. Subtract the ruffle number from the dress length number. This is the length to cut your dress.

  18. This is great! I'm thinking of making this for myself as I'm going to a wedding in June. Any advice on fabric to use? Something cool but not to shear. Thank you x

    1. Hmmm, a rayon challis would work, although it could wrinkle when you sit. Any woven fabric that drapes well - you could even use a quilting cotton although the dress will stand away from your body a bit more. A soft silk would be absolutely gorgeous!

  19. I love this pattern. It reminds me of a dress I saw on tv once. It was short and the ruffle went down to the waistline, and it was off the shoulder as well. If I wanted to make it so the ruffles were extended out to make it an off the shoulder dress, how would I do that? Would I multiply the measurement around my shoulders by 1.5? I'm a beginner sewer but this pattern seems manageable for me! Thanks!

  20. I have been trawling the internet for the perfect pattern to go with an old sarong I have, and this is it! Can't wait to get started. Thanks for the awesome tutorial, I will try and post a pic when I have completed it (Im a novice sewer so might take a while haha)

    1. Yes, please post a photo! We'd love to see your dress.

  21. Anonymous12:03 PM

    Love this dress! I made it this weekend! Can't wait until the weather is warmer to wear it. I was wondering if it would be possible to make this same dress out of a knit fabric??

    1. Send me a photo! I'd love to see it. And yes, you could make this out of a knit. I'd choose a lightweight knit or the dress will likely become too heavy due to the ruffles.

  22. Anonymous6:01 PM

    Here's a link to my dress photo!

    1. I LOVE it! It's beautiful. Thanks so much for leaving the link so we can all see your dress.

  23. Anonymous7:10 PM

    Hi! I just want to say that I love this dress! I just started sewing a few months ago & I'd love to make this dress for myself! Being a 'big' girl, I'm not exactly fond of my arms. Can you please tell me how I could make this an off-the-shoulder dress, where the top ruffle is covering my arms? (& thank you for posting this beautiful dress!)

  24. Anonymous8:39 PM

    I am a medium-large size in many yards of fabric should I buy for this pattern?

  25. Sumira1:02 PM

    I can't wait to make this beautiful dress! Thank you so much for the pattern! Please let me know how many yards of material you suggest. Thanks!

  26. Anonymous2:18 AM

    Hey I love the dress and would like to make one too but where did you get 37" from?

  27. Anonymous3:48 PM

    May I say that this is the most beautiful dress I've ever seen? I would love to make one but I would hate to demean it by totally screwing it up.

  28. Anonymous7:25 AM

    I found this while prowling for the perfect weekend sewing project. I need to go to Jo-Ann for the gauze, but that's okay, it'll be worth it. Can't wait to flaunt it on Tuesday, Monday is Memorial Day.

  29. Anonymous7:27 AM

    ,aslafegkgrkmhOTW...,leay5jkprggl>tndssssssssssteluoHFLHMmhrg{FLMnH,s. Sorry, that was my jaws dropping on the keyboard because this dress is so beautiful.

  30. Anonymous8:34 PM

    Can you tell me how many yards of fabric were needed for this dress?

  31. Anonymous1:23 AM

    this would be awesome also as shirt length moving the elastic waist down to bottom of shirt like a bubble shirt w a denim maxi skirt....think i might make this for our school blow out cookout this sat....

  32. Hello. I liked your pattern very much
    I am looking forsomething similar to this, a pattern or tutorial to make a summer strapless dress/skirt
    something like this

    or this

    It seams very easy but I can't find anything
    Do you think you could help me
    Thank you in advance
    Evangelia from sunny Greece

  33. wow.. i liked it.. i was looking for a maxi dress pattern and i find it very helpful to me..

  34. I would really like to make this but I'm 14 so Im not exactly sure what some words mean... I would be totally grateful of you If you could post a video tutorial on YouTube.. I know how to sew it is just that I'm not sure of the sewing terms I guess... Thank you so much :)

  35. Tasmia11:36 AM

    Also, how much fabric would I need for this if I used your measurements. The measurements here are bigger than my size but I'd just like to be sure that I have enough :) thanks

  36. Do you think it would look just as good if I didn't do the ruffle at the bottom - and just did the one at the top? I'm not sure if I would like the bottom one.

    1. Amanda, yes! If you don't care for the bottom ruffle just leave it off. Be sure to add enough fabric to the length of the dress so it's as long as you want it to be.

      Here's a link to another strapless maxi dress I created a tutorial for that you might also find helpful:

  37. if your middle section is wider than your hips should you just use the measurement of your middle instead?....if that makes sense

    1. also am I able to use a universal needle or should I invest in one for fine fabric?

  38. Does anyone know where I can buy this dress from??

    I love it!!

  39. This is a beautiful rendition of a maxi dress. I bought your book, one yard wonders, a few years back. I LOVE IT! I also borrowed your fabric by fabric one yard wonders from my local library. I made a pair of the slipper booties for a friend of mine. Really comfy.

  40. Do you HAVE to use the bias tape? Or is there some other way to do it?

  41. This is a beautiful dress!

    My fabric is very sheer so I was thinking of either doubling it up, or using a lining. How would you suggest I do that?


  42. Can I pay someone to make me about 8 of these for a wedding??? LOL It is perfect for the bohemian theme I have in mind. I cannot find a dress like this anywhere to purchase!

  43. Hi! First, thank you for sharing this beautiful dress pattern to us! I really love it and I was thinking to make this for me and my husband’s 10th anniversary to renew our vow and it will be held at the beach. I was wondering if you have the video on how to make this? Unfortunately, I’m a beginner in sewing but I will definitely try hard to make this dress for our renewal of bows.


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