The Life of Jennifer Dawn: Onesie Dress Tutorial

Friday, October 3, 2014

Onesie Dress Tutorial

I started making onesie dresses when Lydia Grace was a baby. They were the perfect outfit--girly and cute while still being comfy and casual. Through the years, I've made ruffle adjustments, perfected the measurements, and added the pinwheel flower. Although I've shown a few people how to make them, I hadn't created a tutorial. Until now...

Several variations of the onesie dress are floating around the internet. Here's how I make mine though...


For the dress:
sewing machine
basic sewing supplies (measuring tape, pins, scissors, pinking shears...)
1/2 inch elastic
lace for the ruffle (I used a vintage lace but any will work.)
fabric (My favorite online source for fabric is Raspberry Creek Fabrics. I love the shop's coordinating fabric bundles. The floral fabric I used for this dress is the dahlia print in grey from the Autumn Woods by Kate and Birdie paper Co for Moda Collection.)

For the pinwheel flower:
needle and thread
knit fabric (Raspberry Creek Fabrics has some great options for this too. )
pin back
hot glue gun

1. Alright, let's get started with an essential item--the onesie. Choose an infant bodysuit in the desired size and brand. I prewash, dry, and iron the onesie just like I do with my fabric. Now you need a couple of measurements. Lay the onesie flat and measure its width. Take that number and multiply it by four. This will be the length of the fabric piece you cut.
2. Measure down from the neck of the onesie to the snaps at the bottom. This will be the length for your fabric piece.
3. Cut your fabric according to the measurements mentioned above and press it. (Fabric width=onesie width x 4, Fabric length=length of the onesie from the neck to the snaps)
4. Double hem both of the longer sides of the fabric. I start at one end and fold a section of the fabric over 1/8 inch, fold that same section over another 1/4 inch, pin it in place, and continue moving down that side of the fabric.
5. Stitch along the folds removing the pins as you go. Remember that for this dress you are going to hem both of the longer sides of your fabric. (This might be a good time to mention that if I am doing a fabric ruffle at the bottom rather than the lace, my process is a little different.)
6. Lay the hemmed fabric flat and pin the lace along the bottom. I start on one side and pin the lace directly onto the right side of the fabric. Oftentimes I'll match up the line of stitches on the lace with the line of stitches on the hem.
7. Sew the lace onto the fabric removing the pins as you go.
8. Bring the two shorter sides of the fabric together with right sides facing. Use pins to secure these edges together. This will end up creating the seam at the back of the dress.
9. Sew the two shorter edges together that you pinned in the last step. Use pinking shears to trim some of the excess fabric from the sewn edge. Press the seams open. Now you have the skirt of the onesie dress.
10. Think back to the width of the onesie. Multiply this measurement by two and add one inch. That is how long to cut your piece of elastic. (Example: If the onesie is eight inches across, you'll need a piece of elastic that is seventeen inches long. 8x2+1=17 inches) Place a pin in the elastic to mark the middle. Then place a pin in skirt to mark the midpoint that is directly across the back seam. These pins will help with the next step.
11. Place the skirt in the sewing machine with the back seam under the needle. Put the elastic on top of the fabric just under the hem. Make a few stitches back and forth to secure the elastic to the skirt. Then begin pulling the elastic taunt and sewing it under the top hem of the skirt. Stretching the elastic will cause the skirt to gather. Remember those pins? They'll help you know how tight to pull the elastic as you sew. You'll want the pins marking the middle of both the elastic and the middle of the fabric to match up. Once you've reached the pins, pull them out and continue stretching the elastic and sewing. When you get back to where you began, stretch the elastic enough so the ends overlap. If you don't overlap the ends, there will be a gap in the ruffles.
12. Slip the onesie inside the skirt. Place a few pins to secure them together. I pin the skirt just below the arms of the onesie to create an empire waistline.
13. Adjust your machine to do a zig zag stitch. Take the platform attachment off the sewing machine to make the base under the needle as narrow as possible. Slide the two dress pieces under the machine through the neck of the onesie. Starting at the back seam of the skirt, sew the onesie and the skirt together.
14. You'll want to sew slowly. Make sure the skirt and the onesie are staying in the correct position. I continually make sure the onesie is laying flat under the skirt. If the ruffle side of the fabric begins to get caught in the presser foot, simply place the needle down into the fabric, lift the foot up, lay the ruffle flat, place the foot down, and begin again. Tip: For this step, I like to make sure the top bobbin thread color coordinates with the skirt and the bottom bobbin thread color is the same color as the onesie. This will make the stitches less noticeable. Sometimes I'll even sew twice around the dress to ensure that everything is secure.
15. Make a pinwheel flower for the dress. You can find my old tutorial for the embellishment here and an updated one here.
16. That's it! Now you are ready to dress your own little one in their new onesie dress or give it away as a baby gift.
Lydia Grace has gotten too big to wear these now, but they are still one of my favorite things to sew. I jump at any chance I get to make one for a sweet baby girl. Now you can make them too!

Are you looking for more baby sewing ideas? Be sure to take a look at this baby bundle tutorial. With just two yards of coordinating flannel, you can quickly sew a blanket, bib, and burp cloth for baby.

If you have a baby boy to sew for, you may also enjoy my tutorials for a bow tie and necktie onesie. Aren't baby items so fun to sew?!

Happy sewing!
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  1. So stinkin cute! Pinned. Lou Lou Girls

  2. So cute.....if I ever have a little girl again I would give this a try!

  3. Jennifer this is too cute! Great Tutorial as well!

  4. I was wondering when you do the zig zag stitch, is that stitched on top of the elastic? Or is the elastic in the ruffle above it?

    1. Hi, Emily. Before I zig zag stitch the skirt to the oneie, the elastic has already been sewn onto the skirt. Let's see if I can break it down...

      I've sewn and hemmed the skirt piece, I turn it inside out. I place the piece of elastic right under the top hem and sew a few stitches forward and back to attach it to the skirt. You're going to be tugging on the elastic in order to gather the skirt into a ruffle, so you want to make sure it is secure. I usually begin at the back of the skirt. Once the elastic is attached, I tug on the elastic as I continue to sew it to the skirt. Just keep tugging and stitching. You'll see the top of the skirt begin to gather into a ruffle. To make an even ruffle all the way around, it helps to mark the halfway point for both the skirt and the elastic and get those to match up. This also helps you know whether you are pulling too hard or not enough. Once I make it back where I started, I overlap the end of the elastic with the beginning and sew over it. Now I turn the skirt right-side out, slip the onesie inside, and secure them together with pins. I open up the buttons on the onesie, so I can slip it over the arm of my sewing machine. You're going to do a zig zag stitch to sew the skirt and onesie together. I follow the straight seam that was made when the elastic was sewn on. So, yes, you will be sewing right over the elastic.

      I hope that makes more sense. Let me know if you have any other questions.

  5. HELLO!! do you have a video?

  6. Thank you for the free baby dress tutorial. I was able to sew up a sweet little dress for my hairdresser who is bringing home a newly adopted little girl very soon.

  7. So cute. Made one for my 11th grand girl due in December. I love how the skirt stays elastic even after the zig zag.

  8. I finally made one of these today. I skipped the lace, and did a French seam for the back. Love it!

  9. I love this idea for a baby gift. Very well written tutorial. Can’t wait to make one.


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