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Make a Dress from a Top Sewing Pattern!

I lengthened the Fifer top into this chic gingham dress.

Posted in: Tutorials & Techniques, Patterns • June 19, 2024

Want to turn your favorite top pattern into a dress? It's easy! With a few simple adjustments, you can make any top or blouse pattern work as a dress, too.

I recently lengthened the Fifer top into a chic A-line gingham dress, and I love it.

Keep reading—and watch the video—and I’ll show you the straightforward steps to lengthen your top patterns into dresses, giving you more options without needing new patterns.

Choosing a pattern

I used the Fifer pattern and this gingham from my stash, which I got for $2 a yard.

When choosing a pattern, look for one that extends past your waist. If a pattern’s fitted at the waist, you can still turn it into a dress, but you’d have to use a different technique, like adding a skirt from another pattern.

Fifer is pretty loose-fitting, and the side seams go out towards the hips, which is ideal since I can follow these lines to turn it into a dress. Anything loose-fitting like this will work really well.

Choosing a length

Once you have your pattern picked, it’s time to pick the length you want for your dress. There are a couple of easy ways you can do this:

  • If you’ve already made the pattern as a top, you can try it on and just measure from the hem to where you want it to be.

  • If you haven’t, you can pin-fit the pattern to your body and measure from the shoulder.

  • Don’t worry about getting the perfect length. Just add a few inches to whatever length you choose, and you can shorten it to the exact length you want before you hem it.

For Fifer, I wanted a pretty short length, but when I tried it on I realized that with the ruffle and the loud fabric, I needed it even shorter so it didn’t overwhelm me.

Buying fabric

To decide how much fabric you need, take a look at the cutting layout.

Are the front and back both cut on the fold? If so, you’ll have to double the extra length you’re adding.

Often, one piece is cut on the fold, and one is cut two. If they’re side by side, you might only need to add the extra length.

Altering the pattern

This is for a trapeze or A-line style dress.

First, lay your pattern out. Then, extend the side seam.

Measure your body from the shoulder to the hip. Then, measure your hip.

Measure the pattern from the shoulder to hip and compare the measurement at the hip. Is there enough ease here for you? You want at least 2-3 inches for ease of wear and movement.

I wanted an A-line mini dress like this. But sometimes, you might want a little more shaping.

If you want to add shaping at the hips, use a dress pattern you have with the shape you like to redraw the hip curve. You can also add fisheye darts to either the front or back or both.

Just a note: If you do think you might want more shaping, make a muslin to try out these changes.

And that’s it, a super simple way to create a dress from a top pattern! A top like the Seamwork Fifer is really easy to do this with because it’s got that A-line shape.

Other patterns I think this would work well on are the Romie top, the Dara blouse, or the Kit blouse.

Have you ever turned a top into a dress? Post a picture and share!

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