How-To: Sew a Ruffle Dress and Skirt

Craft & Design Yarncraft

CRAFT: Sew and Sew

By Christine Haynes
This project is like learning to make a whole closet full of skirts and dresses. Follow the steps and you’ll have a simple dress or skirt that is endlessly alterable. 

For the dress, you can make it as a halter, with shoulder ties, with straps, or strapless. The skirt is made with a simple elastic waistband, but is brought up a notch with the addition of circular ruffles, which are incredibly easy to make in the length of your choice. Make them long for a full flounce, or make them short and sweet — it’s completely up to you. And once you learn how easy it is to make ruffles, you’ll be putting them everywhere.

Ruffledress Materials


Fabric of your choice amount depends on your sizing in Step 2
1/2″ elastic amount depends on your sizing in Step 4
Sewing machine
Paper roll
Ruler or T square
Straight pins
Large safety pin

Time: 2-10 hours
Complexity: Easy to Medium


Step 1: Make the Ruffle Pattern
Step 1a: To make a circle pattern (donut-shaped) for the ruffle, determine how long you’d like your ruffles to hang. To make the ruffles the same size as I have, use the following measurements. For the large ruffles on the dress: 25″ diameter with a 7″ diameter center circle. For the small ruffles on the skirt: 10″ diameter with a 3″ diameter center circle.
Ruffledress Step1B
Step 1b: Using either muslin or paper to create your ruffle pattern, make a mark for the center of the circle. Measure out from this center point to where you want the outer circle to be, and mark dots in equal distance from this center point. Connect these dots to make a circle.
Ruffledress Step1C
Step 1c: Marking from the same center point, measure the distance for a center circle. Again, mark dots in equal distance from the center point and then connect the dots to make the center circle.
Ruffledress Step1D
Step 1d: Using a ruler, make a straight line to connect the small center circle to the outside larger circle. Now you should have what looks like a donut with a line on one side.
Ruffledress Step1Ea
Step 1e: Following the line you just drew, cut along to the center circle. Next, cut along the outside circle, then around the small center circle. Now you have a circle ruffle pattern. 

Ruffledress Step1Eb

Pin the pattern to your fabric and cut around the outside of the large circle, then cut the center circle and the line that connects the 2. Open the ruffle so that the center circle becomes a straight line, and you’ll see how the center circle becomes the top of the ruffle, and the rest flows down to make the flounce.
Step 2: Make the Dress/Skirt Pattern
The basis for both the skirt and dress is a simple A-line shift dress. It isn’t fitted, so sizing is quite easy. The versions I’ve made for the project are for a size small. Use the measurements at right to make your dress or skirt look like these.
Note: These measurements are for  f the dress or skirt. You’ll be making 2 pieces and sewing them together at the side seams.

Size Top width Bottom width Length
Extra Small 23″ 35″ 25″
Small 25″ 36″ 26″
Medium 27″ 38″ 27″
Large 29″ 40″ 28″

Ruffledress Step2A
Step 2a: To make the pattern, measure out the top width using a ruler and marker. Find the center point of the top width. From that point, measure and mark down the length of your choice. Do the same from each end point of the top width. You should now have what looks like a big E.
Step 2b: Take your bottom width and cut the number in half. Measure and mark that half measurement on either side of the center point along the bottom width. Using a ruler, connect the corners of the top width to the bottom width.
Ruffledress Step2C
Step 2c: Cut out the dress and skirt pattern by cutting around the outside lines. This is   of your dress or skirt. The front and back of the dress/skirt are mirror images, so to cut out the pieces, place the pattern on your fabric and cut it out twice. You can fold your pattern in half and place it on the fold of your fabric to save cutting.
Step 3: Sew the Dress/Skirt with Ruffles
Ruffledress Step3A
Step 3a: Using a zigzag stitch, finish off all raw edges of the cut fabric you’ll be using. Then line up your 2 pieces, right sides facing, and stitch the side seams together using a straight stitch and a 3″ seam allowance.
Ruffledress Step3B
Step 3b: It may take multiple ruffle circles joined at the short ends to go around your garment. Eyeball how many it might take, and connect them on the ends with right sides facing. For my examples, I used 5 ruffles on the dress at its widest point, and 7 ruffles on the skirt at its widest point. Once you have as many joined as needed, with the wrong side of the ruffle facing the right side of the dress or skirt, line up the top of your ruffle with the top edge of the dress or skirt and pin in place.
Ruffledress Step3C
Step 3c: When you go around the whole top and the 2 short ends meet, you might have some ruffle left over. If so, fold back 1 side and trim, leaving your-self the 3″ seam allowance to attach the 2 ends together. Stitch the 2 short ends together, right sides facing, and pin to the dress.
Ruffledress Step3D
Step 3d: Stitch the ruffle to the top of the dress with a straight stitch. Press up the hem of the ruffle and stitch in place with a straight stitch. Flip up the ruffle and measure from the seam down to where you’d like to sew the next ruffle. There are no rules on how close or far it needs to be. This is all up to you and will depend on how long your ruffles are. For the dress, I placed the ruffles 6″ below, so there would be 3″ overlapping. Pin the ruffle to the dress, and repeat Steps 3b and 3c to attach and finish 
the next ruffle.
Step 3e: Repeat Step 3d for each additional ruffle, until you’ve attached as many as you’d like.
Ruffledress 3F
Step 3f: Press up the hem of the dress or skirt and stitch in place with a straight stitch. Fold the top of the dress or skirt down 1 1/2″, including the ruffle, into the inside of the garment, and press. Lifting the ruffle out of the way, pin the fold down to the inside of the garment. Starting at 1 side seam, stitch around the bottom of the fold with a straight stitch, leaving a 1″ opening from where you started.
Note: Be very careful not to sew the ruffle while doing this.
Step 4: Add Elastic
Step 4a: Cut the 1/2″ elastic to fit either your bust or your waist, depending on whether you’re making a skirt or a dress. For this garment, I recommend using the measurements at right as a guide.

&nbsp Extra Small Small Large Medium
Dress 27″ 28″ 29″ 30″
Skirt 25″ 26″ 27″ 28″

Ruffledress Step4B
Step 4b: Attach a large safety pin to 1 end of your elastic and feed it through the 1″ hole you left in the casing.
Ruffledress Step4C
Step 4c: Push the elastic around the entire garment. Be careful not to twist the 
elastic or lose the other end in the casing. Pull the elastic out, and pin to the other end, overlapping about 1″. Sew the 2 ends together using a zigzag stitch, then fit the elastic into the casing. Close up the hole with a straight stitch.
Step 4d: To wear, flip the top with the elastic to the inside of the dress or skirt, so the ruffle appears to come out from the inside seamlessly. Adjust the gathering on the ruffles, and you’re done!
Optional Straps or Belt
Ruffledress Options Straps
Not into the strapless look? Or maybe you’d like to make a belt like I did with the black dress? Well, here’s how! Oh, and don’t forget, you can use any fabric you’d like: contrasting, matching, or whatever!
Making a Belt
Decide how long and wide you’d like your belt to be. For the black dress I made it 60″ long and 1 1/2″ wide. Cut a piece of fabric the length of your choice by the width of your choice doubled, plus a 3″ seam allowance. If my belt is 60″ long by 1 1/2″ wide, my fabric is 60″ X 3 5/8″. Fold the piece in half, lengthwise, right sides facing, and sew along the long end with a 5/8″ seam allowance. Turn it right side out and press. I left the ends unfinished and tied them into knots to match the shoulder ties. But if you’d like them finished, turn the ends into the inside of the belt, press, and straight-stitch closed. Re-press.
Making Shoulder Ties
To make shoulder ties like on the black dress, follow the instructions for making a belt, but make it long enough to total the 4 straps. For the black dress, I made each strap 20″ long, so I cut my piece 80″ X 3 5/8″. Once you’ve turned your piece right side out and pressed it, cut it into four 20″ pieces. Pin 1 end into the inside of your dress, lining up the bottom of the strap with the bottom of the casing. Straight-stitch the strap in place along the same stitching used for the casing. Stitch the strap again, on top of the casing, just above the elastic. Be careful not to catch the elastic. Repeat with the other 3 straps. Either tie the ends into knots or finish them off per the directions in the belt section.
Making a Halter
Follow the instructions for making a belt, but make 2 pieces, approximately 30″ X 3 5/8″. For a halter, it’s best to place the 2 ties at a slight angle, toward your neck, so the straps don’t buckle. Pin the 2 pieces inside your dress and sew in place, but try it on just before sewing to make sure the ties are placed properly. Tie the straps behind your neck.
Making Straps
If you want simple straps, follow the instructions for the shoulder ties, but make only 2 straps. Sew them the same way as the shoulder ties.
About the Author:
Christine Haynes is an independent fashion designer based in Los Angeles. Her first book, Chic & Simple Sewing is out in bookstores now. To learn more about Christine, visit her website at

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