Monday, November 11, 2013

How to Sew a Cape Dress - Finding a Pattern

I love reader's questions. But one question that I get frequently, I never feel that I adequately answer. I finally decided I'd have to do a series of posts in attempt to answer it.
I'm often asked by readers where to find a pattern for my dresses. Or how to make a dress like mine.

There is just no simple answer. I wear what is known as a cape dress. It has an extra piece of fabric (or a cape) over the bodice of the dress. It isn't a pattern that you can find at your local sewing store.

The pattern I use is from several patterns that I have purchased, adapted to a cape dress, adjusted, tweaked, and finally, after over a decade, feel that it fits exactly how I want. I could copy off the pattern and share it with you - but it is doubtful that it would fit you.

Probably the best way to sew a cape dress is to find someone close to your size, and ask for their pattern. Several of you I've been able to direct to a local Mennonite church and a seamstress who could help you. But some of you live hundreds, even thousands of miles from any Mennonite community.

And maybe I should insert here that I am not saying that everyone should wear a cape dress. I believe that according to the Scripture, a woman should dress modestly. You can read more of what I've written on the topic of modesty here. But there are different styles of dress that fulfill the Biblical command of modesty. Many Mennonite churches, including my own has chosen to wear the cape dress and I have learned to appreciate the simplicity of this style of dress, but I'm not at all saying that this is the only way for a Christian woman to dress in a way that honors God. Neither is the cape dress something that you can only wear if you are Mennonite. I have friends who have chosen to wear a cape dress just because they like the style of dress.

So this series is not to condemn the way others dress. I hope this is helpful for those many readers who have written and asked for information on sewing a cape dress.

This series is also not a complete guide to sewing a dress. I'm not sure that I can describe something like sewing with a keyboard. I wish you could just come and spend a day by my sewing machine. I will assume that if you tackle this project you have basic sewing skills. You know how to sew a dart, pleat, and zipper. If you are not to that point in your sewing skills, spend some time with some simpler projects first.

To begin look for a dress pattern at my local fabric store that could be adapted into a cape dress. My goal is to find a dress pattern with sleeves that has a natural waistline with darts for fitting ease. If the neckline is too low, it can be adjusted. If you don't like the sleeve or skirt that the pattern shows, this too can be changed. But a basic bodice pattern is what you are looking for.

The patterns I used for my dress pattern are long out of print so I scanned the patterns of some popular pattern companies to see what is available now. I found two that I think would work.

From appearance, both of these two patterns would probably work to begin your pattern making. But I haven't used either of these patterns so don't know for sure and you may find something better.

Another resource I want to mention is Preparing a Cape Dress Pattern from CLP. There is some very good information here, much more than I will share, on adjusting a pattern and sewing a sloper. CLP also has a second booklet on Sewing a Cape Dress which also goes into much more detail than I will. These two booklets are a little dated but still contain a lot of good information.

EDIT on 2/10/2020:
Sew Basic Patterns now has a cape dress for women of all sizes. Excellent patterns that take the guessing out of cape dress making.

After you have a basic pattern, what next? The next post will be on cutting out a cape dress.


  1. 9785 comes up as headbands, p-9785 is nothing. 8072 comes up as burda style, sleeveless dress. That looks exactly like a pattern I first used in the 70's for dresses with a short sleeve blouse underneath. Course it was not 6 in above my knees as on the model in the pattern. :)

    I don't sew my clothes anymore. I find that being short, many store made dresses and jumpers come to a very respectable length on me. Land's End catalog and outlet have many suitable choices.

    1. Sorry that the pattern links were incorrect. They should work now!

  2. I really enjoy sewing and making cape dress patterns. I use the Home-Sew Designing patterns that Gehmans Country Fabrics sell online. They are very neatly done cape dress patterns with waist darts or let out darts and make a elastic waist dress. Another option I use for ladies is the Sure-Fit Designs Kit that Glenda Sparling designed. It comes with a master pattern with all sizes on it, and a book instructing how to measure for a dress. It has templates to connect the dots for neck and arm holes. When you have a bodice front and back you can make a dress.

    1. Thanks for the pattern suggestions! They are new ones to me!

  3. I am constantly tweaking my own pattern as well. So glad I found this series that you wrote!

    this is a website that offers modest patterns and ready made clothing...just came across this and thought it might be helpful to some people

  5. I've found a couple of sites that have cape dress patterns. If you Google cape dress or modest Christian clothing, you can pull up recent information, as some sites go out of business, so I don't want to put links. Also, Katie's Mercantile is a great store that sells cape dresses, among many other great items, for an excellent price (best I've ever seen). So just in case you are like me and want to sew but aren't good enough yet or just don't have the energy or will to do it, they are a great resource.

  6. Hello, The Sew Basic Dresses patterns which are available in girls' sizes 1-8 will also be available in girls' sizes 10-16 with a cape included as an option sometime in the next 2 months.

  7. Sew Basic Dresses patterns are available at or email


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