The bodice is fitted by using the waist measurement and subtracting a few inches (don't forget about seam allowances). The top shape can be found by either tracing an existing garment, altering a pattern to the correct shape, or winging it (as I did). If you make your first cuts out of inexpensive fabric and then try it on the child before you sew, it's easy to make alterations until it fits just right. One part that you really want to pay attention to is making sure the shoulder area is just wide enough to fit the width of the strap you plan on using, plus your seam allowances.
When you have the desired shape, cut 1 of main fabric and 1 of a lining fabric. Align these two pieces, right sides together, and pin in place. Don't sew yet! You want to secure your loops between the main and lining fabrics.
Fold loops in half and align the raw edges with the edge of the bodice piece, like so:
Stitch the sides, arm curve and neckline. Do not stitch the top portion where the straps attach. That is what you are going to do next.
The straps, like the loops, are sandwiched between the lining and main bodice. To get them to the right place, bring them up through the bodice and pull just a bit of the ends out through the shoulder opening, like so:
Open bodice and press flat. Machine baste the bottom opening closed.
The width of the skirt from above is a few inches shy of twice my child's waist measurement. Length is up to you, whatever you desire. Don't forget to add your hem allowance and another 1/2" or 5/8" or so for the waist seam. Sew the skirt into a tube.
And the fun part: skirt gathering. No really, it is fun, because this dress uses clear elastic, which is so very friendly. You must use elastic (though you could get by with regular elastic, but I suggest no thicker than 1/2") because the back must stretch to actually get the child into the dress.
Cut the clear elastic to the same size as the child's waist (or 1/2" longer if using regular elastic). Divide the elastic into 4 equal portions (use pins to indicate the 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 marks and then the ends will overlap when you sew). Also partition the dress in 4 equal parts (sides, middle, back - again, use pins). These pins are to be matched up so that the elastic is evenly distributed when you sew.
Start your sewing in your elastic flush with the raw edge of the top of the skirt at one of the pins in your bodice. Put a couple of stitches into secure elastic end and then stretch elastic so that the first pin meets the next pin on the garment. Stitch the elastic in all the way around the skirt, stretching the elastic to meet the next pin until it is all gathered.
Pin the front midpoint of the bodice's bottom to what you want to be the middle front of the gathered skirt (right sides together). From this midpoint, work your way along the bodice on either side, pinning the bodice to the skirt without stretching the elastic. Sew bodice to skirt.
To complete the waistline, you want to fold the edge of the skirt over, wrong sides together, to make a casing for the already stitched on elastic. It is really just a hem, but you have to stretch out the elastic as you sew. Use the part where the bodice seam ends as a guide to the fold over point and hem evenly along the back of the skirt.
All that's left is to hem the skirt and add any embellishments you desire.
Variation: to make a flat fronted dress or top (instead of a fully gathered skirt), cut two panels to form the skirt. One equal to half of the waist measurement and one 3/4 of or equal to the waist measurement. Sew these two panels into a tube. Use the clear elastic (measure to 1/2 of waist measurement) to gather just the longer panel, from side seam to side seam. Find the midpoint of the ungathered panel and pin to the midpoint of the bodice. Proceed as above.Questions and comments welcome :)
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