Ballet Dress: A Free Pattern + Tutorial

Hi there readers! I feel like I should re-introduce myself after that crazy long blog break.  (it’s me, Adrianna.)  It was a good break though, with birthdays and holidays and visitors and vacations.  But now I’m ready to do some sewing and blogging again so I thought I’d kick off 2013 with a new tutorial and pattern!
I have a dress that I love and have been meaning to recreate for awhile now.  It’s a simple and versatile style, but has a few fit issues.  Plus, it’s black, a color I almost never wear (I don’t even own black shoes to match – true story).  So I decided to fix those issues and remake it in my favorite color, the one I wear 6 days out of 7 – navy.  Navy is way different than black, trust me.
It’s just a simple ballet-neck knit dress with slight cap sleeves and an a-line skirt.  It may not be the most eye-catching item in your wardrobe, but it could be the most versatile.  To prove it, I will now bestow upon you the gift of seeing me model it in a few different ways.  Having my picture taken is just about the worst torture I can imagine.  I would go to the dentist 10 times and go through labor again to avoid it.  But here I go, nervous and completely sober, just because I love you.
First up, Secretary Administrative Assistant CEO Barbie:
Do you, unlike me, live in a cold-weather locale?  If so, you could wear it like this and not sweat through your cardigan within 4 seconds of stepping outside.  (by the way, YOU’RE WELCOME)

And then there’s my personal favorite:  As is.

And now the breeze will show us what this dress would look like with a straight skirt instead of an A-line.  Might have to try that, thanks wind!
So here’s the deal, I made a pattern for this dress in a woman’s size smallish.  The actual measurements are a 33.5 bust and 26.5 natural waist.  The skirt is 22.5 inches from waist to hem.  But given its easy shape and that it’s made out of stretchy fabric, you should be able to make it work if your measurements are a bit smaller or bigger.  I’ve given a couple hints on how to alter it beyond that in the pattern directions, but if you’re looking for something more comprehensive, Susan and I can’t recommend this book enough.
If you’d like to give it a shot, you’ll need to download the pattern and tutorial here.  Select “file” and “print” and make sure you’re printing at 100%, or “no scaling”.  You can use A4 or letter paper as long as you print at 100%.  Page 18 has a test square if you want to make sure it’s printing correctly.  Page 10 (marked “G”) has the layout guide for taping the pattern together.  (many people, including myself, report not being able to see the pages in their web browser.  If you download or print, they should all be there.)
You’ll also need 2 yards of a thick knit.  I used an unmarked matte polyester for mine.  The main fabric qualities you’re looking for are:
 1. Not see-through-able (there are no linings or facings)
 2. Not too stretchy, but stretchy enough to pull over your head and bust without closures.  
My fabric had about 35% stretch to it, which means if I took a 4 inch length of fabric and pulled against the grain, I could stretch it to 5.5 inches.  I don’t often sew with polyester, but I really think it’s the best option for this dress.  It allows you to have both a fitted bodice and flowy skirt.  You could also spend some money for a nice heavy double knit or 100% cotton interlock.  Jersey will work too, it just won’t hold the shape as well (think slouchy instead of fitted). 
This dress is a super quick and easy sew.  Once I had it cut out, it took less than 30 minutes to put together.  Can’t beat that for a cute woman’s dress!  You can add extra little details if you’re inclined, but they’re not necessary.  I top stitched around the waist and at the shoulder seams to keep the seam allowances tacked down.  I also inserted ribbon as I was sewing my shoulder seams so they wouldn’t stretch, which isn’t completely necessary when using a stable knit like this, but it can’t hurt.  If you think you’re going to wear a belt with it, you can add simple belt loops with coordinating embroidery floss.  I don’t talk about finishing your seams, but you can of course serge or zig zag stitch or use pinking shears.  None of these are necessary though since knits don’t fray.  The plain edges of my sturdy polyester actually looked neater if I didn’t finish them.
So that’s about it!  I hope you’ll try it out.  I am so excited about the possibilities for wearing and accessorizing this dress.   You know, when I get back to a place with seasons.  For now, it’s flip flops and a fedora all the time :)
And in case you thought that the previous pictures weren’t that bad and are wondering what all the complaining is about, here are some outtakes for you.  First up, the reason why I have the exact same smile in all the previous pictures:
Because if I don’t smile, I look like I’m trying to kill you with my brain.  I wish I could pull off that mysterious staring-off-into-the-distance look, but then it just looks like I’m staring off into the distance trying to kill you with my brain.
I get mad at things like the wind and sun when they mess up my shot and scold them as if they’re my errant children.  It’s embarrassing for everyone involved.
Hair in my mouth.

And the all time worst thing about photoshoots – glancing over to see your neighbors standing there laughing at you.  Yeah, hi guys.


  1. says

    I clicked all the way through my Reader to comment! ; ) A- You look awesome! And I love your bangs! Super cute dress, can’t wait to try it! {from first skirt week winner Shannon of the twill tape days of yore}

  2. says

    That’s really cute (and love the photos and outtakes!). Glad to know someone else who practically never wears black. Thanks for the free pattern!

    • says

      I have no idea why the rest of the pages aren’t showing up (yes I do, technology hates me) but if you download or print, all the pages are there. Let me know if you have any problems!

  3. says

    Cute dress!! I need to take some time to sew some clothes for myself. I’m kinda stuck on quilting right now…. This would be perfect for FL.

    Love your pictures. You’re cute whether you smile or not!

  4. says

    You are just too cute. And the dress is darling too! Personally, my favorite was the scrunched up nose pic. from IG but the last “Hiya neighbors” pic is pretty good too. Honestly, I wish a lot more bloggers would post the more natural pics. The faraway dreamy look has yet to surface on any mother I’ve ever met.

  5. Anonymous says

    I love it and it looks so cute on you! I only saw the first 3 pages on my computer but I was able to print all of the instructions and pattern. I absolutely love sewing with knits and can’t wait to try this. Thank you so much for taking the time to share this :-)

  6. says

    ok, cute dress….hilarious outtakes. I snorted out loud when I saw the hair in mouth, and then continued laughing at the neighbors staring at you. That would be my WORST nightmare. hahaha.

  7. says

    you are soo funny! I love reading what you write. My husband always asks if I’m mad when were outside. I can be walking towards him and he’ll ask who pissed me off and I say no one it’s the sun in my eyes! Or I’m just thinking. But I guess I always look mad unless I’m smiling. I love your comment that you look like you’re trying to kill people with your brain. Love the dress and all the ways you’re wearing it!

  8. says

    Just saw this dress on CraftFoxes Pinterest board and followed it here. Love it! And you’re a hoot to read, too.. so, new follower here!

  9. Charmaine says

    Has the link to the tutorial and pattern been removed? I can’t access it and I LOVE this dress and WANT one!!


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