Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How to Sew a Cape Dress - Cutting out the Dress

I'm one of those talk-with-their-hands people. I'm not sure how to describe a project with only words and few photos. But I'll dive in and hope you ask questions for anything that is not clear.

Yesterday I shared that my pattern started with a purchased pattern that I tweaked and adjusted for me. I strongly encourage you to try out your pattern with scrap fabric before using your good fabric. You probably won't need to make a whole dress - just the bodice. The frustration of completing a dress then finding it does not fit is a frustration to be avoided at all costs!

To make a cape dress, you will need a pattern for the  front and back bodice, a front and back cape, a sleeve, front and back skirt, and pocket, if you wish.

Bodice and Cape

This is my bodice pattern. I like to use wrapping paper to make patterns. It is easy for me to see which patterns go together if I cut one pattern from Christmas paper and another from blue checks. As I adjust a pattern, build up the neckline, add to a side seam, or whatever - a pattern can have so many notes and additions that eventually I trace off a new pattern. I like to date the pattern so I know which version is the latest.

For my cape pattern, I use my bodice pattern. I fold in the sides making an almost straight line from the shoulder to the waist and use this for cutting out the cape.

To cut out the bodice, both the front bodice and the front cape pattern is placed on the center fold of the fabric so that when it is unfolded, it is one piece.

The back bodice and back cape pattern is not placed on the fold since it will have a zipper up the back.


You can use about any sleeve pattern you like as long as the sleeve hole in the bodice and the sleeve top are the same dimensions. A gathered or pleated sleeve is easier to adapt to various dresses. A fitted sleeve has to fit more perfectly.


Various skirts patterns can also be used with your bodice. Again, a gathered or pleated skirt will be easier to adjust to various bodice patterns. A fitted skirt will have to be carefully measured to find if it fits your bodice. If you measure your bodice pattern at the waistline, subtract the seam allowances and darts, you will know how wide your fitted skirt pattern will need to be.

I often do not use a skirt pattern. For this dress, I cut out a rectangle of fabric, making sure the front skirt was on the fold of the fabric. Since I planned to make a pleated skirt, the top waistline of the skirt I cut one and a half times as wide as my bodice. In other words, if one of my bodice pieces (a quarter of the dress) was ten inches wide, I cut the top of the skirt fifteen inches wide. I cut the bottom a couple inches wider, maybe about 18 inches in this example, and then made the side seam diagonal from the top to the bottom for however long I wanted my skirt.

And I'm sure that description is as clear as mud. Sorry for my limitation with words. Maybe I need to shoot a video!

Next we will look at sewing the dress.


  1. Replies
    1. Oh dear. What did I just suggest?

  2. This is very interesting, guess I just thought there was a special line of patterns among the cape dress wearers that you could purchase. Something I never thought to ask. Wonder if that was true for Grandma H. too?

    1. Maybe there is someone out there somewhere that has a pattern for sale, but I haven't seen it. I'm sure Grandma H. had the same kind of hand-me-down adjusted for her type pattern.

  3. What fabrics do you use??

    1. When I look for fabric, my goal is fabric that will not need ironing and will not fade. I like to wear a dress for a long time! And I like my girl's dresses to survive long enough to hand down to the next daughter.

      Right now, my favorite fabric is the Tropical Breeze line. It is a cotton/poly blend that is easy care and comes in many different prints and colors. I have some dresses that I have worn hard for years and they still look good. You can find some Tropical Breeze fabric online.

  4. I just ordered a cape dress pattern from Gehman's Country Fabrics.

  5. Another excellent post, I like the visuals and will be adding this to my FB group as well!

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


I'm still learning how to be a joyful homemaker and I'd love to hear from you!


Related Posts with Thumbnails