Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Peasant Top/Dress Tutorial

I have made a number of these tops/dresses for both myself and my daughter.  The great thing about it is that it is pretty universally flattering.  And it's a little boho chic.  The trickiest thing about it is the sizing.  I am going to include measurements here that I have used for me and for Layla.  There are some great tips for adjusting size here on Our Dish.

For this project, you will need:
  • 1/2 yard to 2 yards of fabric (for a toddler shirt - 1/2 yard, for an adult dress 1 1/2 to 2 yards)
  • 1/4 inch elastic
  • corresponding thread
  • pins (optional)
Step 1:  Cut out fabric

For Little Bean, a size 2T:

You will need two of the following shape (the vertical line is the fold of the fabric):

vertical length: 17" for shirt, 21.5" for dress
You will also need two rectangles for the sleeves 7" x 13". 

For Me, adult size 2 to 4:

You will need 2 of the following (the vertical line is the fold of the fabric):


vertical length:  20" for shirt, 27-30" for a short dress

You will also need two rectangles for the sleeves 12" x 18".

Your pieces will look like this:
dress piece, oops, forgot a pic of the sleeves

Step 2:  Cut out armhole and neckhole pieces

On your dress/shirt piece (leaving it folded in half), cut out an armhole (6" long for toddler, 9.5" long for adult). I cut a basic J shape.

Cut the neckline as deep as you would like it.  You may prefer to cut the front more than the back.

Fold the two rectangles for the sleeves on the long side, so you will have two 7" x 6.5" pieces.  Stack them up and place them behind the dress/shirt piece with the fold on the inside, like this:
Try to ignore that this is different fabric :)
Now cut out the armole and neckline where they overlap the fabric.

Step 3:  Piece together your top

Unfold all of your pieces.  With right sides facing eachother, line up the armhole on one side of the top with the matching cut on the sleeve piece.  (You can pin this if you like, but I don't bother...I only pin things if I absolutely need to.)  Like this:
This was a long sleeve top, that's why yours looks different.
Now sew around 1/4" in around the edge of the armhole.  Go back and do a zig-zag stitch at the edge of the fabric to keep the seam intact.

Repeat this on the other side of the dress/shirt piece.  It should look something like this:
Looks like a snow angel
Now attach the other side of the dress/shirt piece in the same way.
Line up the seams at the armpit and then sew along the arm and the side of the shirt all at the same time.  Again, secure your seams with a zig zag stitch.

Turn your top inside out and it will look something like this:
Step 4:  Finishing touches

Cut the top edge of your dress/shirt so that it is straight (as it is in the picture above).

Time to heat up that iron.  Fold the top edge over 1/8" and then fold over again about 3/8" given you a nice clean edge.  Repeat with the sleeves and the bottom hem (although if you are not cinching the bottom, you can fold over to 1/4" on the second fold).  Iron down the edges.

Now sew one line straight across the top of your nicely prepared fold just below the very edge of the neckline.  Go all the way around the edge .  Now sew a second line around a little more than 1/4" below the first one.  Be sure to leave about 1/2" gap at the end so that you can feed your elastic through there.  Repeat on both sleeves.

Stitching at neckline

You can hem the shirt now as well.

Attach a safety pin to one end of your elastic.  Insert it through the hole at the neckline and start to feed it all the way through to the other end.  Once you have the elastic through and it is cinched just how you like it, tie the two ends of the elastic together.  Now, TRY IT ON!  Make sure it fits just right.  If it does, then untie the elastic and run a few zig zag stitches through it to secure it.  Sew the 1/2" hole closed.  Repeat with both sleeves.

Here is the final product on Little Bean:
Long sleeve peasant dress
How cute is she?
Step 5:  Play around and make yours unique!

So, there are a million different variations of this top.  Here are a couple of mine:
Dress with wide neck and straight sleeves
Close-up of the neck, tutorial here
Here is a knit top with a keyhole neck (click on the link for a tutorial):
And of course, through this whole tutorial, I included pictures from a long sleeve dress.  I have not included measurements for that because I messed with it so much that I don't have any accurate numbers...but start long and you can always make them shorter.  Also, you will want to taper the arm pieces slightly, otherwise it will be too bulky at the wrist when you are complete.

The two tutorials that helped me get to this variation are from Prudent Baby and Our Dish. Check them out!


  1. Aaauugh! Both of those turned out so stinking cute! I am going to make Jill a long sleeved version now, and yours looks like you bought it from a store! I can't wait to see it in person!

  2. Hi Amy! This is so cute. If you have a second shoot us an email using the contact us form on We have a question for you. : )

  3. Love it! Thanks for showing us how to make this. It was fun!

  4. It would be so awesome if your daughter where a smaller size. I tried to figure out how to make a pattern from your other post but I am not advanced enough to understand it :/ really love this and want to make it but cant

  5. Thank you so much for this. My 12 year old has to make her own peasant dress for a medievil day project. This will help us tremendously!

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