DIY Off-the-Shoulder Dress Tutorial!

12:00 PM

Off-the-Shoulder Dress Tutorial - Erica Bunker DIY Style!
As you all have figured out by now, I'm completely obsessed with the off-the-shoulder trend. I think it's so adorable and easy to wear. On the 4th of July, I wanted something easy, comfortable, cool to wear for the hot and humid evening. So at the last minute, it was around 2pm, I decided to put together a look in patriotic colors.  I had this blue paisley print cotton poplin in my stash. I bought it last year from Mood Fabrics. I don't see it on the site, but here are some fabulous cotton paisley prints.  Here's how I made my quick and easy dress:

What you need:
  • 1 - 2 yards of lightweight summery fabric (suggestions: cotton poplin, chambray, challis, crepe, crepe de chine, seersucker, linen)
  • Coordinating thread
  • 3/4" elastic
  • pins
  • scissors/rotary cutter
  • chalk
  • seam ripper
  • rulers
  • pattern paper or whatever you use to draft pattern pieces
  • tape measure
  • seam gauge
  • safety pin or bodkin
  • pen and paper
  • Sewing Machine
  • appropriate sewing machine needle for your fabric
  • Serger (optional)
You're going to need THREE measurements and write them down:

Measurement 1: Upper Bust -- Measure your upper bust where you want your dress to sit.
Measurement 2: Dress Length -- From your upper bust, measure down to where you want your dress to end.
Measurement 3: Ruffle -- Measure the distance around your upper bust and arms, just like how the ruffle will fit.

Creating your pattern:

Note:  You can draft your pattern pieces on paper or draw them out on your fabric with chalk. Your choice and either will work.

Let's determine the width and fullness of the dress!

We do this by using Measurement 1 and a little bit of math (The Ratio of Gathers).

1.5:1 = slightly gathered
2:1 = obviously full
2.5:1 = normal gathered
3:1 = luxuriously full

For mine, I used 1.5:1 ratio.  And here's how the formula looks
My Measurment 1 - 34" x 1.5 = 51". 51" will be the width of the dress.

Add the seam allowance:  I used a standard 5/8" (0.625").
You have to count each side for both pattern pieces: 4 x 0.625 = 2.5" (seam allowance)
The width of each dress body pattern piece: 51" + 2.5" = 53.5"  
But since we're cutting these on the fold, we're going to use half of this measurement: 53.5 / 2 = 26.75"

For the length, add 1" for the elastic casing and a hem allowance (I used a 5/8" hem allowance) + your Measurement 2 number.

The Armhole:

The armhole is approximately 3" wide and 5" long.  You can use a curve ruler or just freehand the shape.  See the illustration above.

The Ruffle:

The ruffle is created the same as the dress.  I wanted an obviously full ruffle, so I used the 2:1 ratio.  You do that by simply cutting 2 pattern pieces with your Measurement 3 number + 2.5"(4 x 0.625 seam allowance).

My ruffle length is 10".  You can tweak yours if you like.  Add to that 1" for the elastic casing and 5/8" for the hem allowance.

Let's make our dress!
With right sides together, sew your side seams.  I finished mine with the serger and pressed to the back back.

Hem your armholes.  Make sure to clip the curves.  And PRESS!

With right sides together, sew your ruffle.  And hem with the 5/8" hem allowance.  And PRESS!

At the center front and center back of both the ruffle and the dress, make a small clip.

With wrong side of the ruffle to right side of the dress, match your clips and pin in place all the way around.  Machine baste with a 1" seam allowance.  Scantily finish the edge with a serger.  Using your seam gauge, fold over 1" and press.  Sew your casing leaving about a 1.5" opening for your elastic.  

Wrap your elastic around your arms and across your upper bust until it feels tight enough.  Cut it and feed it through your casing.  Use your safety pin and pin both ends together.  At this point, go ahead and try on your dress to make sure your elastic is the right fit.
Sew your opeing closed and hem your dress.  Give it a final press!
I lightly steamed my ruffle.
I added one of my custom labels to differentiate the front and back.
Even though it seems like a lot, once you gather your measurements and work out that small amount of math, you're on your way.  And that Ratio of Gathers also works for amazing full circle skirts!
Styling tip: Since I was going for a red, white and blue theme, I added a red bandana and white flat sandals for the ultimate comfort!

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  1. This is a great tutorial; I liked the beaded belt too. Thank you! Your blog is wonderful.

  2. I love the finished product of this tutorial. I used to do a bit of sewing when I was younger and I may just have to try this one out.
    Great blog btw!

  3. I love what you've done recently but can't identify with them because it's just too darned cold here for anything but roll necks and cardigans. 😣

    1. You're more than welcomed to our heat and humidity! Thanks Ann!

  4. Very nice indeed. The blue is popping.

  5. Pretty dress, Erica.

  6. Very Pretty ,Erica! You look "FAB", as usual!

  7. Thanks for sharing this tutorial!

  8. So cute! And you make it look easy enough that I might try this one! Every two years or so I convince myself that I can actually learn to sew....a little bit. :-)

    1. I think you could do it! Thanks Pam!

  9. Greetings Erica!

    I have a question...
    Did you cut the ruffles on fold or separately?

    I'm using the 2.5:1 ratio and my measurement 3 is 42.

    I calculated using the formula: 42" x 2.5 + 1" (0.5" seam allowance x 2) which came up to 106".

    Do I cut two pieces with the 106" width or half of that?

    1. Hi Erica!

      I did not cut them on the fold. If you cut on the fold, you only need ONE.

  10. Ok! Awesome! That makes sense! Thank you so much! :-)
    And I love your blog! I've been following you since 2009 when I was 16!

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  12. What if you have large arms will three 3 x 5 measurement be enough? Or is there a formula to figure it out?

  13. Hi Erica, I am attempting to make your dress but for some reason I have a very wide front and back which is not right? I followed your measurements correctly and don't understand why they are so wide. I can send yiu a ouc but not sure how to upload on this platform. Please help. Thanks liz


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