Back to School Tunic Dress

on August 7 | in Sewing Tutorials + Patterns | by | with 95 Comments

Jessica from Me Sew Crazy started sewing when her first child was born. Her oldest daughter is heading off to kindergarten in the fall and Jessica is still in love with sewing… She created Chloe’s Fall Collection for Kindergarten, full of really fun clothes, and today she shows you how to make one of the pieces. Jessica makes this Back to School Tunic Dress look easy, as she teaches you how to draft your own pattern and sew it up!

Learn more about Jessica in her introduction, and don’t miss her Back to Basics series and extensive selection of tutorials. Jessica will debut Chloe’s entire collection a little later this month, so you’ll want to check that out too!

Have you ever turned around and been shocked with just how fast time flies? Our oldest is starting school this fall– Kindergarten! I mean WOW… How did that happen? Of course as every parent feels when this first happens, I am worried, anxious, excited, and every other emotion in the book about this momentous occasion.

After creating Spring Clothing Collections on a whim for my daughters earlier this year, it got me thinking… What about fall? After all, it is my favorite season– Especially for clothes! And what better way to send my daughter off to school not only in style, but with a little bit of extra handmade Mommy love?

I am please to introduce The Back to School Tunic Dress created for Sew,Mama,Sew! the first of many for Chloe’s Fall Collection…

You will need:

  • Approx. 1 yd fabric (I patchworked various fabrics together prior to making the dress; you can find a good tutorial for how to patchwork fabric here.)
  • 1 yd Bias Tape
  • Approx. 10 – 16″ of Ribbon (depending on child’s size)
  • 3″ piece of Elastic Cord
  • 1 Button
  • Pom Poms (optional trim)
  • T-Shirt that fits well for pattern sizing (not too tight, not too loose)
  • Coordinating Thread and other sewing essentials
To Make the Pattern:

Lay your t-shirt on top of your fabric. We will need to cut the front of the dress portion, as well as the back and sleeves.

With fabric folded in half, and shirt folded in half, cut along the top front of the shirt– Cutting around the neckline and armhole line, stopping approx. 2” down from bottom of armhole (ahem… Armpit). This will be the front bodice.

*Note: I have the fabric I cut on top of my shirt, just so you can see better.

For the front skirt of the dress, we will be cutting a rectangle of fabric. Place the shirt on top of your fabric, both on the fold, starting where the bottom of the bodice ends (where you just cut), down to your desired length. For the width, extend out approx. 3 – 4″ larger than you shirt on each side. For my five year old I cut a rectangle of fabric 17”L x 18”W.

Now, place the shirt once again folded in half on another piece of fabric folded in half.

Cut around the back of the shirt’s neckline and armhole line, all the way down to the bottom of the skirt hem, arcing out and slightly up at the bottom. This is your dress back. I forgot to take a picture of this one, but you will see in the final pattern pieces what it would look like. This will be the back of the dress.

Lastly, we will cut the sleeves. Following the line of the shirt sleeve, with the top shoulder seam being the fold– Cut 2 patterns out of your fabric (with the top of the fabric on the fold). Cut to your desired sleeve length. Mine will be ΒΎ sleeves, and I also belled the bottom out in an arc for a fuller bell sleeve.

Once all is said and cut, you should have this:

*Note: As stated above, this is the photo in where you can see the dress back pattern piece!

Now, Let’s Get Sewing:
Take the front skirt of your dress (the rectangle of fabric), and sew a line of gathering stitches along the top edge. Gather stitches until the top of the skirt is the same length as the bottom of the bodice. I kept my gathering stitches directly in the center of the skirt fabric, rather than spreading it out along the entire piece of fabric.

With right sides together, pin the bottom of the bodice to the top of the skirt. Sew together. Zig zag stitch or serge to prevent fraying.

You should now have this:

Take your ribbon, and place along the bottom of the bodice seam on the right side of the dress fabric. Pin in place and stitch to secure.

Now on the back of the dress pattern piece, we are going to cut a 3-5″ slit along the back center of the neckline.

For my five year old, I made the slit approx. 4.5” long. Using some bias tape, sew bias tape along slit edge.

Take the front of the dress and the back of the dress and place right sides together. Pin at shoulder and side seams. Sew together, and zig zag stitch or serge to prevent fraying.

You should now have this:

Now, take the sleeves and fold right sides together matching the arm seam. Pin together and sew. Zig zag stitch or serge seam to prevent fraying. Repeat for other sleeve.

Turn the dress wrong side out, and turn your sleeve right side out. Slip sleeve inside armhole, and matching up the side seams, pin sleeve to armhole, with right sides of fabric together.

Sew together and zig zag stitch or serge to prevent fraying. Repeat for other sleeve.

You should now have this:

Take your elastic cord and loop– pin to the top back of your dress, directly on top of the bias tape. Sew back and forth stitches to secure in place.

Now, we are going to sew bias tape around the neckline. When you are sewing the bias tape along the back center slit, fold bias tape under ΒΌ” inside the fold so as not to enclose the elastic loop.

You should have this when done:

Now we are going to hem the bottom of the dress and the sleeves. Turn under ΒΌ” and press, then turn under again Β½” and press, enclosing the raw edge. Sew around for the sleeves and bottom of the dress.

Sew a button onto the back top of the dress, opposite the elastic loop.

You can be finished here if you do not want the pom pom trim.

For the optional pom pom trim, simply take pom poms and pin them on the bottom inside of the dress so that the poms are sticking out of the bottom.

Sew around, and voila! You are finished!

I hope you all enjoy this Back to School Tunic Dress, and will check out the rest of Chloe’s Fall Collection premiering this month at Me Sew Crazy.

This week you can win a $25 Gift Certificate to Sew,Mama,Sew! or one of FIVE copies of the Hexiecase Pattern from During Quiet Time. Comment on any post this week to win!

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95 Responses to Back to School Tunic Dress

  1. Kary Pollet says:

    Do you have a Facebook page? I tried searching but couldn’t find one πŸ™ I would love to become a fan!

  2. Kelli says:

    My daughter loves Holly Hobbie and just today she said Mommy can you make me a dress made of patches!!! awesome and that one is so her. Child of the Earth my little one is.
    Thank you it’s beautiful

  3. Marci says:

    Saw this today and I need to make it today!! My eldest is also starting kindergarten. Thanks for the help!

  4. Carrie says:

    WOW! Fantastic! I love the way you went about it too! I would love for you to talk about how you made your patchwork material. I think it looks like you used a serger. Is that right? My mom has one but I have never used it… Thanks so much. You are an inspiration!

  5. megan says:

    Cute dress! Maybe I can find time to make one for at least one of my girls.

  6. Joy says:

    beautiful! I am inspired to sew this darling dress.

    Thanks for the tutorial.

  7. za says:

    so cuteee….. ^^

  8. Tiffany says:

    I love this tunic! I can’t wait to create two for my twin girls! Thanks so much for the tutorial!

  9. Sharon says:

    I really see myself making this! I have been practicing some basic sewer patterns to get comfortable with my machine and some other simple sewing details. And this might me my next step. Thanks for the great tutorial!

  10. Maile says:

    So adorable! And thank you for such a great tutorial.

  11. Gina says:

    Now that’s MY kind of pattern! (And also why I can’t ever replicate something exactly) Darling dress, awesome patchwork, beautiful little girl πŸ™‚

  12. Deanna says:

    Done! That came together very nicely. I changed a few little things, but overall, Wonderful!

  13. Mare says:

    AWW!! Your little girl is absolutely precious! The tunic is super cute too. Thanks for sharing!

  14. This is just too cute!

  15. Nadia says:

    How adorable – I’ll have to stitch one up for my 4-year old!

  16. tina says:

    Sew sweet! Inventive and flexible pattern. Love the fabric choice here but can imagine the possibilities. Must get to my machine, then find a deserving little gal. Thanks.

  17. Deanna says:

    I was looking for exactly this kind of tutorial earlier this week! Thanks for doing the hard work for me.

  18. Marisa says:

    Such a sweet dress. I would love to make one for my daughter!

  19. Christie says:

    This dress turned out wonderfully, the patchwork really makes it!

  20. Mikaela says:

    Really cute!

  21. kate C. says:

    Adorable dress! and it looks pretty easy to do!

  22. Amanda says:

    Love this! I’ve been looking for a cute easy dress pattern for my daughter (starting 4k this fall). This is perfect! Thanks!

  23. Betsy M says:

    Wow, so cute! Maybe with different fabric this will be my kid’s Christmas dresses.

  24. Emily says:

    You make it seem so easy! Very inspiring! This would be cute in tunic length on my 9yo also. I may push myself out of my comfort-zone of gathered skirts!

  25. Karen Gass says:

    THAT is adorable, and it looks very easy to make!!! I love the idea of making a line of clothes for your daughter – she must feel so special, having her own line! πŸ™‚ Bookmarking this and then I’m off to visit your blog and see what else you have! πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing, Karen

  26. Tanja says:

    Sooooo cute!! Thank you for sharing!

  27. Tara says:

    I LOVE this dress!!

  28. PattyC says:

    Such a great tutorial !!! (And the model is a cutie !!)

  29. Carla G says:

    What a cute dress! Wish I had a girl to sew for… πŸ™‚

  30. Keri Can says:

    Going through the kids’ closet this week. Have to put this tunic on the list!

  31. Penelope says:

    This will definitely be added to my “to sew” list. Thanks for sharing.

  32. Jen says:

    That dress is adorable! I might have to make one for myself (minus the pom poms)

  33. N. Perez says:

    I’m completely in love with this! Can’t wait to make them for my girls.
    Thank you for the awesome tutorial!

  34. Marcia W. says:

    This is cool dress – need to study more to see if I can make it.

  35. Patti says:

    I’d go back to school if I could wear something so cute!

  36. Ng Lay Yen says:

    I love patchwork clothings and am learning how to make one. Your tutorial is great and just in time for me. Thanks !

  37. Jayne says:

    What a cute tunic! Great idea!

  38. Stacy H. says:

    Too cute! I just love it!

  39. Jamie says:

    So cute! I don’t think my boys would be willing to wear it though, so I’ll just have to admire it online for now. The little pom poms are adorable!

  40. Amy says:

    What a pretty dress! Thanks for sharing. I might have to find a little girl to sew this for. πŸ™‚

  41. Karen says:

    I love the colors of the dress and the fabric pattern. Very cute! Thank you for the tutorial.

  42. Tina L. says:

    A very cute tunic and not too difficult too make.

  43. Cat says:


  44. Cameron H says:

    Very cute! Thanks for sharing.

  45. Christine says:

    What a cute dress! I enjoyed visiting your website and will be going back.

  46. Janet says:

    The hexi case as well as the tunic are great; thanks for the tutorial on the dress.

  47. Rocio says:

    Lovely design and fabric combination. I like the way you made the pattern, clever!

  48. Skooks says:

    This is adorable!

  49. Love this!

  50. karenkay says:

    totally adorable dress!!

  51. upstatelisa says:

    very cute! I want one too!

  52. Beezus says:

    This is an adorable pattern! And I love that trim. πŸ™‚

  53. emily says:

    Oh wow, this is darling. On my “to make” list! Thanks!

  54. Alli says:

    What a cute dress — thanks for the tutorial! πŸ™‚

  55. Stephanie S says:

    I LOVE this!!

  56. Rebecca says:

    This is really cute! Thanks for sharing!

  57. Traci says:

    Sew Cute! I must try this!!!

  58. Adria says:

    Adorable! I don’t have children but it reminded me of when I started Kindergarten…… My grandmother made me dresses for my first year of school. I loved those dresses!!! And looking back those are still some of my favorite outfits! Unfortunately she passed when I was 11 or I would have her teaching me how to sew! I can do quilts…..but that’s the extent of it! LOL

  59. Mary says:

    Thanks for sharing this! I wonder if I could get my daughters to wear something like this? (They are hitting those tricky pre-teen years. Oiy!)

  60. Heather says:

    That is just adorable, I’ll have to give it a try. Thanks!!!

  61. Crunchy Con Mommy says:

    Oh my goodness-so adorable! I would’ve loved that dress as a kindergartener!

  62. Kristin H says:

    So cute! I love the way a shirt is used for the pattern. I think I may have to try scaling the pattern up to make a blouse for myself.

  63. Jean Rollins says:

    Now, that’s a cute dress and seems easy to make. I have lots of 5″ squares and was going to use them to make a gathered skirt but this might be cuter. I have often wondered, however, why people sew up the side seams before setting in the sleeves. I sew my sleeves (flat, not sewn together) in with the side seam open (after shoulder seam has been sewn) and then sew from end of sleeve all the way down to bottom of the top/dress. Love your Me Sew Crazy!

  64. Amy G. says:

    How cute!

  65. Bonnie says:

    I love this dress! It is awesome with the patchwork. Great idea and tute!

  66. Jess says:

    The tunic is gorgeous! I’ll definitely be making one for my daughter. I’ve found many great things on Me Sew Crazy! Thanks for sharing this.

  67. Shelly says:

    What a cute tunic – thanks for the tutorial!

  68. Sue D says:

    Very cute–I like all the colors/patterns.

  69. Mirja says:

    Love this dress – so very cute.

  70. suzee says:


  71. Sarah M says:

    This dress is adorable, and I feel like I could actually sew it! I think I will be making a sleeveless version for my neice soon…

  72. tayamg says:

    I love the shape of that dress and the cute trim!

  73. jen says:

    such a cute dress! I LOVE the pom pom trim!

  74. Steph says:

    I love this dress. My daughter is just starting school this year and she states that she absolutely loves it! This is a must sew project

  75. Elizabeth Johnson says:

    I love the dress–especially the bell sleeves. Wish I had some little grandchildren so I could sew cute little outfits.

  76. Courtney says:

    Such a sweet dress and little girl.

  77. Eleanor says:

    Such a beautiful dress!

  78. Robin E. says:

    Such a cute dress, and since it uses a T-shirt that fits, I can make any size, even for my super tall 12 year old. Hmmmm, I think she might prefer a tunic to wear over jeans than a dress. Thanks for the great tutorial.

  79. Lisa uotinen says:

    I wonder how I would look in a grown-up sized tunic? Because I really love that look! Thank you!

  80. Deanna says:

    Very nice and simple, too. The style is darling.

  81. The Me Sew Crazy blog is great!

  82. Kristin says:

    So cute! I may have to make one of these for my little girl who is heading off to kindergarten this fall!

  83. Jess says:

    Aww, so sweet! I might have to make a sleeveless one for my own daughter.

  84. Suzanne says:

    That hexie case is wonderful!

  85. Ariana says:

    Adorable!! Can’t wait to make this for my daughter!

  86. Melissa says:

    I love this:) My “baby” is 17 now and won’t wear cute clothes:( When she was little, I did make her tons of very cute dresses though. Your little one will be the cutest girl in her class, to be sure!!!

  87. patricia says:

    This is a fantastic way for me to use some larger scraps of my favorite fabrics. My little girls will love this.

  88. Marcy Mitchell says:

    a very cute pattern. Looks simple to make, too.

  89. Lori says:

    So adorable!…Love those fabrics!

  90. Lynne in NC says:

    Great tutorial and the cutest model. Thanks for sharing.

  91. Jen S says:

    Adorable! I love how the patchwork shines in the final product!

  92. Jen B says:

    So cute! I wish I had a girl to sew for!

  93. Stacey says:

    I love this! And everything else on Me Sew Crazy!

  94. Beth T says:

    Let’s just say it: cutest model ever. The tunic is darling, too. Thanks for sharing.

  95. kadybug says:

    What a cute tunic! Love how the gathering kinda creates a faux pleat.

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