My five-year-old recently put an order in for a rainbow dress. I didn’t disappoint her.
The idea came from the blog of ‘A Jennuine Life’, which I stumbled upon on Pinterest. From the photo it looked amazing. I read the blog post and – wow – she’d made it perfectly, and it looked a bit difficult. It involves lots of piecing and lining up. Plus she mentioned that she switched threads for every colour. Could I really be bothered to do that? The bigger question, though, was could I actually make the dress at all? See, there was no pattern, or even tutorial. Unfortunately by the time I had realised that, I had my heart set on making a curvy rainbow dress. So… I had one hell of a challenge on my hands. But I did it!!
Of course, I cut a few corners. I didn’t totally copy the other blogger’s dress. I admit I stole the curvy design – but I simplified things by keeping the back plain.
I am quite impressed with how this dress turned out, because I drafted the pattern and construction all by myself! Having only started making clothes a couple of months ago, that’s quite an achievement in my eyes.
Seeing as there is no pattern or tutorial for a dress like this, I thought I would type up what I did here – a) to help myself remember how to make this fab dress, so I can whip it up much more quickly, and b) to provide it for any of you lovely readers, so you don’t have to think too much!
So, here it is – my first little tutorial. Now, I totally made it up as I was going along, from start to finish, so there were errors. This is not a professional tutorial! But it WILL result in a beautiful rainbow dress.
First, take a well-fitting A-line dress from your model’s wardrobe, and lay it on some paper (in my case a roll of kids’ paper).
Draw around it, adding a 5/8″ seam allowance. If your dress has sleeves, fold them out the way and draw along where the seam line is, creating a sleeveless dress template.
Cut this out, fold it in half, and correct yourself if your sides aren’t symmetrical.
Next, with this piece still folded, trace around it to make your dress front (lining) piece. You will cut this on the fold. Now, use this piece to draft your dress back piece. Simply line it up on more paper, spacing it 5/8″ from the long edge, as shown below:
Draw around the whole thing, along all the edges – just making that gap down the long side so that you have an added seam allowance for your zip. And cut it out!
So, you will now have your dress back piece, and your dress front piece – which is just for the lining – both half-dress sizes. I made mistakes on writing on the pieces – of course you do not cut the back pieces on the fold!
Put these to one side. You’re now going to work on the front of the dress. Take your large dress front piece, and draw sweeping lines across it to create seven blocks. This took me a couple of attempts – you want the blocks to be fairly consistent in width – but don’t stress over the measurements; just use your eye.
And cut out your pieces. Write the corresponding colour on each piece so that you don’t get confused later on.
Now this is the time-consuming bit. You can’t use those pieces because they have no seam allowance. Having said that, I guess you could use them and just cut your fabric wider than the pieces – but I would probably forget. So if you’d like to do it like I did, trace the pieces onto more paper, adding a 5/8″ seam allowance. It was only when I got to the cutting out stage that I realised I needn’t make the seam allowance all the way around – only between the colours (i.e. the long sides of the pieces). However, bare with me, because cutting a seam allowance all the way round worked in my favour. It meant that I didn’t have to be 100% precise with sewing. And somehow, I didn’t end up with a dress that was 5/8″ larger all the way around – the edges were jagged. You will get what I mean when you see the photo further down; for now, just redraw and cut your pieces with a 5/8″ seam allowance all the way around.
Now, you will have seven pieces cut. They won’t all fit together because of the seam allowances, but don’t worry – it’s fine. You may wish to mark where the grainline will be. Excuse my random paperweights! You won’t have cut out the red piece at the top yet – I only realised I should think about grainlines after I’d cut that piece!
Hooray – you have all your pieces ready! Now to start cutting.
Grab your fabrics in an array of colours. I bought 1/2m in all, but 1m in lilac for the lining, and it was plenty (for an age 5 dress):
> Lining pieces – 1 x dress front piece on the fold, and 2 x dress back pieces.
> 2 x dress back pieces in any colour – I used red because I had more of it due to the red piece being the smallest – and I think it looks good.
> Your rainbow pieces.
Phew. Now you have all your pieces cut, you can finally start sewing :)
Get your first two pieces (in my case red and orange – but you may like to put your colours in reverse order – or not even use all the actual rainbow colours). Pin them together along their long sides. You will have bits poking out. Now, this is where I found that added seam allowance useful, because it means you don’t have to be 100% precise. Stitch along the edge, and it doesn’t matter if the start and finish aren’t equal (but of course try to make them as equal as possible, or you will cause yourself problems!)
Continue this way, stitching all the pieces together (with a 5/8″ seam allowance), until you have something that looks like this:
Notice how the edges are uneven? It’s absolutely fine. Now press all the seams open.
Now, you can grab your dress front lining piece and place it on top. You will probably see that the edges are uneven, like in the left-hand-side photo below. That’s fine – you can simply trim around the edges to make it all neat!
Next, put your lining and main dress together. You will then be left with a lining consisting of a dress front piece and back pieces, and a main dress consisting of your rainbow front piece and back pieces. So, with right sides together, pin and stich down the long edges of the lining, and then do the same with the main dress.
Press the seams open. It’s coming along nicely!
Now to put the lining and main dress together. I followed the same technique as I used for the Cottage Mama Party Dress. It looks a bit confusing, but it works.
First, put right sides together, and stitch along only where I have indicated below. This is along the neckline (front and back), and the armholes. You leave a couple of inches up to the shoulders, and the tops of the shoulders free.
Clip the corners (or use pinking shears – a great tip), trim, turn right side out, and press. Now, I got carried away and pinked around the whole edge. DON’T do this! It makes it very difficult to know where the seam allowance will be for your shoulders. Trim only where you have actually just sewn. You can see in the photo below that the shoulders are zigzagged – they shouldn’t be!
Now for the fiddly part. I will try to describe it the best I can. You are going to stich the front shoulder piece to the back shoulder piece. So, take a shoulder from the front of the dress and a shoulder from the back of the dress, and hold them right sides together; pin. You will have the rainbow piece lying against the back piece (in my case red), and the front lining lying against the back lining). If you are doing this now, it should make sense!
You are going to stitch along this edge:
And you will end up with something like this (although not so scruffy if you didn’t trim those edges!) The arrow shows where you have stitched.
You should see it really come into shape now, it’s a great technique. Now you just need to press the edges under…
… and either slipstitch the gap, or topstitch around the armhole. (I slipstitched.)
Repeat the process for the other shoulder!
Now it’s time to add the zip. Mine was 9″ concealed (I think!) – it won’t really matter exactly how long it is (and of course it will depend on the size of your dress!) – just have it going down about halfway.
I’m not going to bother explaining how to insert a zip because there are some great tutorials out there. I learnt with Thread Carefully’s tutorial – it means you can insert it with your ordinary zipper foot.
Once the zip is in place, finish stitching the back seam. Then measure how far up your zip ends, and use this measurement to stitch the back seam of the lining, up to this point. Press the rest of the seam allowance open.
Slipstitch the lining in place down the zip – being sure not to go through to the main back piece. Keep the lining away from the zip or it will get stuck! Mine is not very straight and neat, but I didn’t really care. It won’t get seen. Tuck the top of the zip to the sides so that the zip is right at the top of the dress.
Now all you need to do is hem it – and give it a good press. Now, you could hem the main dress and lining separately; but I decided to hem it all together because I didn’t finish any seams inside. Therefore the hem is thicker, but it isn’t actually too chunky. I debated with myself over the colour of thread. It would be nice to match the thread to the colours of the fabric, to hide it. But to be honest, at this point I didn’t really care and just went for a red thread to match the back. I think it looks fine. Fold and press the hem under twice, and stitch close to the fold.
And that’s ‘it’!!
It definitely fits the brief of a ‘rainbow dress,’ doesn’t it?
It would be fabulous with a rainbow back, too. It wouldn’t be much more difficult to make – it’s making those paper pieces that is the irritating stage! Especially when your paper is all curly, haha.
I think the end result looks pretty neat.
Thankfully the dress fits my little girl – it’s always a bit of a worry that it won’t fit after you’ve put so much effort into it. I do always have the back-up of a younger girl to grow into it, though! The armholes do look a bit tight, but she assured me that they’re not, so I won’t worry about it!
I hope you find this useful… if you do make a dress like this, please comment below as I would love to see it. I also welcome any other comments or questions!