Cinderella Princess Dress – Costume Pattern and Tutorial

The last few years, Halloween has kind of passed by. I would dress the girls up, and last year we even took them trick-or-treating to a few houses – but they didn’t really get it. When I explained to Kyah what Halloween was a few months ago, without any hesitation – she decided that she wanted to be Cinderella.

I knew I wanted to make a dress for her – because I wanted something that would out stand all of the dancing, twirling, and playing that it would endure. I knew that the Costco version, that she had previously been dying over, just wouldn’t last through the season.

Finally, I sat down and came up with an idea that would be comfortable and fun – and make my little princess feel just like Cinderella. The shirred bodice does just that – it adds so much flexibility and stretch that will play with her, even grow with her – and is sturdy, yet elegant enough, to be fit for Cinderella.

Bodice Pattern

First, we need to create our bodice pattern. You can use mine, adjusting to the size you will need, or create your own.

To create your own – find a shirt, or dress that fits your princess well. Lay it out on a piece of paper – and mark at these six points.

Then, connect the dots – and fold at the two center points.

Fold in half and cut around the pattern. Cut two pattern pieces – one for the front, one for the back.
For the back, draw a horizontal line at the bottom of the neck line (1), then draw two vertical lines separating the bodice into thirds, approximately (2). Then, connect the intersection of those two lines diagonally to the inner shoulder (3). 

Cut along the vertical and diagonal lines, like this.

Now, for the front. This time, draw a horizontal line 1-2 inches lower than the neck line, and a diagonal line connecting the inner shoulder to the bottom of the bodice. Just eyeball it – whatever looks good to you.

Cut along both of the lines.
After I created my pattern, I decided that I wanted the bodice to be a little bit shorter – hitting at high waist. I ended up cutting a few inches off the bottom of my pattern. Make sure that you measure your pattern and adjust it how you would like.
Pattern done. Now, let’s start sewing.
Bodice Sides
Use your pattern to cut out the bodice pieces. You will need two pieces (opposite of each other) of both your front and lining fabric, so – 4 pieces total. I used the same fabric for both.
If you created your own pattern, place the side “seams” together to create one piece, like this – and cut about ¼-½ inch outside for seam allowance.

If you are using my pattern, the seam allowance has already been added – just cut on the dotted line. (The outside line for Cinderella dress, inside line for Belle)
Now – finally time to turn on the machine! With right sides facing, fold each piece in half and stitch or serge the at the shoulder seam.

Next, you’ll make your bodice middle pieces by shirring a long rectangle of fabric using rows and rows of stitched elastic thread. These pieces will be what allow the dress to be so comfortable – by allowing it to move and stretch easily.
Take both your back middle and front middle pattern pieces and lay them side-by-side, with a little bit of wiggle room in between. Cut a rectangle of fabric equivalent to their height, plus two inches, and three times their width. (If you are using a very thin fabric – use up to four times their width.)
For example, for the 2T pattern – the pieces are about 8.5 inches high, and 9 inches wide side-by-side. So, I cut a piece of fabric 10.5 inches high, and 27 inches wide.
Start by hemming the fabric across its length. I serged the edge, but you could also use a zig-zag stitch.
Now, the fun part begins – wind your elastic thread into an empty bobbin. I know many people do this by hand, but I like to use my machine to help me out. I hold the elastic thread on a pencil, and guide the tension and direction by hand while my machine spins the bobbin. Make sure you don’t wind it too tight, though – you want a little bit of tension left in the thread.

Pop the elastic thread in your machine and run a manual stitch through so that you can pull the elastic thread up through the bottom. Set your machine to its longest stitch length. Iron the hemmed edge of the fabric back about ½ in, and sew your first row, hem side down – about a ¼ inch from the top, so it looks similar to this…
Sew the second row with the hemmed edge folded out, just so you don’t accidentally stitch over it again, about 1/4 – 1/3 inch under the first row.

Here’s what the back will look like after the second row.

Continue to sew rows of elastic thread down the entire piece of fabric. After the 5th-6th row the fabric will really start bunching – make sure you gently stretch the fabric from both the front and back, so that it feeds flat under the foot. Don’t worry if your rows vary a bit in distance – you’ll never know once you’re done!
Once the entire piece has been stitched (whew!), use your iron to steam the elastic thread. Rather than ironing back and forth, just lightly press the iron down on the fabric, giving it a good amount of steam as you go. The steam will help the elastic to shrink up and give it even more stretch.
Attaching the Bodice Front
Now you will attach the bodice sides to the middle sections. First, you will attach the front middle. Place a piece of tissue paper (I used two sheets), or a tear-away stabilizer to the back side of the shirred fabric, then place the pattern for the front middle bodice section on top, aligning both top edges (the wide end of the pattern to the hemmed edge of the shirred fabric.) This is to ensure that your nice diagonal line stays diagonal, and doesn’t get stretched out of position.

Straight stitch around the pattern, through both the tissue and fabric with about ¼ inch seam allowance (same if you are using my pattern or your own). Then, trim around your stitch, about another ¼ inch out.

Match up your bodice side pieces so that the left front and left lining pieces match up, as well as the right front and right lining pieces. Remember, both the lining and front pieces will meet up with either wrong sides together, or right sides together.

Take one side – doesn’t matter which, and lay out your lining fabric right side up. Place your middle bodice section along the front edge (the diagonal side) right side up, lining up the edges.

Then, take your matching front piece, and lay it right side down on top of both pieces, matching up the diagonal edge, and bottom edge of the lining. Pin in place.

Now, sew across the straight line where all three pieces meet. Do not continue to sew up the neck line. Just baste the shirred middle piece in place for now.
After you have finished one side, baste the other side of the bodice middle in place, repeating the exact same steps, only opposite.
When you are done, fold it right side out – it will look like this in front.
And this in back.
Now let’s put the back on.
Attaching the Bodice Back
Even though you cut out a pattern for the bodice back, you won’t really need it – other than as for a guide. The bodice back is just rectangle – and can easily be adjusted to be either larger or smaller, depending on how you want the dress to fit.
First, you’ll need to trim your remaining shirred fabric so the side edge is straight and perpendicular to the top edge. You can trim the bottom edge if you want now, too – I just left mine as-is.

Now, lay your bodice out with the front facing right side up. Then, lay your shirred fabric, right side down on top of the back edge, matching the top edge of the shirred fabric to the slight angle change in your fabric.

Your shirred fabric is now laying on top of the side piece with the lining underneath. You are going to take the lining piece and bring it all the way over and around the other side of the bodice, and back on top of the shirred fabric.
See how the opposite side pieces are rolled up inside? If you aren’t sure if you placed the fabric correctly, gently fold the piece inside out after you have pinned it where you think it should be – you will be able to see then if it is pinned to the correct section.

Now, baste along the edge, sewing only where all three pieces meet, just like you did with the front edge.

After you have basted one side, fold the bodice right-side out. You will now need to trim the shirred bodice back. You may want to measure it on your little princess before you sew the other side, so that it fits perfectly. Or, just use your pattern as a guide of how wide to trim it.

Repeating the same steps as before, baste the other side into place.
Turn the bodice back right-side out to make sure everybody is in place correctly. Tear off the tissue paper or stabilizer on the front piece. Now, we are going to finish the two seams that run along the neckline and through your basted middle pieces.

Turn one side of the bodice inside-out so the right sides are facing.

Sew or serge along the entire seam.

Do the same to the other side. Turn the bodice right-side out again.
Hand stitch trim, if using, along the outside seams you just sewed along the neckline.

You did it! Bodice, done. Now – on to the sleeves and skirt.


First, you will need to cut two sleeve pieces – I used a shiny white fabric. Adjust this pattern so that half of the sleeve width is equal to approximately the circumference of bodice armhole. (Or the entire, unfolded sleeve is equal to twice the circumference.) Don’t get too technical here, just use your best guess. You will be gathering the sleeve quite a bit so you’ll never know the difference.

After you have cut both sleeve pieces, fold each in half, right sides together, and sew or serge along the inner edge.

Now, you are going to sew a stitch, on your machine’s longest setting, along the curved edge of the sleeve, starting and stopping about an inch away from the seam you just made. Make sure you leave a good tail of thread before and after the stitch. Dang it, forgot to take a picture – I hope this explains it…

Pull the bottom thread to gather the sleeve. With the bodice inside out, fit the gathered edge of the sleeve into the armhole, making sure the seam lines up with the bottom of the armhole, and with right sides facing. Gather and pin into place, focusing the gathering at the top half of the sleeve.

Sew or serge the seam into place. Repeat with the other sleeve.

Now, press the straight edge of the sleeve just less than ½-inch under, then another ½-inch, to create a double-folded hem. Sew along the hem with about a 3/8-inch seam allowance, starting and stopping just before the inner seam in order to leave a small gap to insert elastic.
Measure the circumference of your princess’ arm. Add 1-2 inches for comfort, and mark the length on ¼-inch elastic. Insert the elastic into the double-fold hem, pinning the end at the spot you just marked (making sure it is not twisted inside).

Sew the ends of the elastic together using a zig-zag stitch, with about 1-inch overlap. Trim the long end of the elastic.

Insert the entire elastic loop back into the double-fold hem, and stitch the gap of the hem closed. Repeat with the other sleeve.

Who-hoo! So close! Now, we just need to add the skirt.
For Cinderella’s skirt, you will want three layers – lining, tulle, and a top layer (I used a sparkly tulle).
Here are the sizes that you need to cut, each are simple rectangles:
Lining: length of skirt + 2 inches (for hem and seam allowance) by 2x waist size.
Tulle: Length of skirt + ½ inch (for seam allowance) by 10-20 times waist size, depending on how full you want the skirt to be (I used 3 pieces of 18.5 inch (length of my skirt + seam allowance) by 3 yards, almost 18x the waist size – you can never have too much tulle!)
Top: Length of skirt + 1 inch for hem and seam allowance by3x waist size.

Whew! After you have all of the fabric cut, hem the bottom of any fabric that may fray. I stitched a double-fold hem on my lining, and a serged a rolled hem on my top layer. The tulle is fine left with a raw edge. Your hem will just depend on what you are using. Adjust your lengths as necessary.
With right sides together, sew along the length (the side seams) of both lining and then top layer to create two “tubes.”
Now its time to gather the tulle. My favorite way to do this is on my serger, running a different color of thread through my right needle. Serge along the top edge. Then, pull the colored thread to gather – as simple as that. You could also do this with a long straight stitch on your sewing machine. Same concept – I just like having the pretty edges to go along with!
You can sew/serge each piece individually to gather, or stagger each layer so the ends stop and start and different places through the skirt. I staggered mine.

Set out your lining “tube” right side out. Now, adjust and pin your gathered tulle so that it lays fairly evenly along the outside of the lining. Just eyeball it.
Using the same method, gather the top layer of your skirt and pin over top of the tulle. 
Cut a piece of ¼-inch elastic to the same size as the waist of your bodice, adding 1-inch for overlap. Zig-zag stitch the elastic closed, and pin in eighths.
Pin the top of the three-layered skirt in eighths as well. Match up the elastic pins and the skirt pins to distribute the elastic evenly.

Carefully and slowly, stitch the elastic to the skirt by stretching it out as you sew, in order to align it with the pins. Since you will be stretching the elastic as you sew it – use a straight stitch. (If you are sewing elastic while NOT stretched, always use a zig-zag stitch.)
I think I got a little too excited that I was almost done with the dress at this point, that I forgot to take a picture of this step. Basically, your end result will be a skirt gathered at the top with elastic. Easy enough. Set the skirt aside for now.
Now – to make the hip poofs. Yup, that’s what we’re calling them.

Hip Poofs

Cut out two circles – mine were 23 inches in diameter, mostly because – that’s how much fabric I had. Make them bigger or smaller depending on the dress size and your preference.
Also, cut out two circles (the same size) of stiff tulle – this will give the hip poofs their shape. You could also line the circles with interfacing instead for the same effect.

Fold the fabric and tulle in half, with the tulle inside and right side of the fabric facing out. Pin in place.

Sew or serge along the curved edge, to hold the layers in place.

Just under that stitch, hand stitch across the curve going front to back about every ½ inch.

Pulling one side of the string of the hand stitch you just made, and holding on to the other side, gather the edge up and pin it into place along the bodice sides. The poof should start and stop before it reaches the shirred fabric. Pin like crazy to keep your gathers under control.

Carefully sew the poof into place. Make sure to use a heavy-duty needle and take your time. Repeat with the other side.
Ok. This is getting exciting. Almost done!
Attaching the Skirt

Flip the poofs upward so that they are pointed up and encasing the bodice. Turn the skirt inside out , and then tuck the bodice and poofs inside (upside down, so that the waist seams meet), so that the right sides are facing. Because the elastic was cut to fit the bodice, it should line up pretty nicely. Align the seam of the top layer of the skirt to either the side or back of the dress.

Pin the skirt to the bodice by first pinning the front and back shirred sections, and then the sides. If you find yourself needing to stretch the elastic a bit to fit correctly, make sure you do it on the sides, not over the shirring. You want to make sure the shirred sections have as much stretch as possible to them.
At this point, the sides will be super thick – hand baste them into place, don’t even try to use pins.

Very, very carefully – and with a (super) heavy duty needle, stitch the skirt to the bodice with a straight stitch directly on top of the elastic. When you get to the shirred sections, either switch to a zig-zag stitch, or make sure to stretch out the elastic as you go.
DO NOT attempt to serge this seam. Depending on the strength of your sewing machine and quality of your needle, you may even need to just hand stitch the entire seam in place. If your sewing machine isn’t cooperating, grab a needle and thread.
Bippity-boppity-boo! You’re Cinderella dress is done. Go show your little princess and watch her eyes light up. It will make all your hard work so worth it!
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  1. Lisa says

    Thanks for the tutorial!!! I was looking for a way to make a nice princess dress. Your Belle Tutorial link isn’t working though…and that’s the one my DD really wants!

  2. says

    This is such a wonderful tutorial! I plan on making both for my niece! One question – roughly how many yards of each fabric did you end up using? Just trying to get an idea of how much I should plan on purchasing! Thank you!!

  3. says

    Wow. This is amazing. I love the shirring to create ease for play and movement — such genius that only a mom would factor in! I’m bookmarking for my four-year-old. She’s so into Cinderella right now.

  4. Anonymous says

    what kind of fabric did you use? and how much would I have to buy to do the cinderella dress for a 2 year old??

  5. Anonymous says

    I have NEVER sewn clothing before, and my daughter had a knights and princess party, so I came across your site and the step by step instructions, brought some material which cost around €20 nad thought how hard can it be! I drew the pattern up easily but a friend helped me to do the actual sewing, I think I may be able to manage the next one alone though!! She really was the belle of the ball, and the outfit will last her for years!! Thank you so much for sharing here is a link to her in the Cinderella dress

  6. Anonymous says

    I love this dress and want to make it for my daughter! I have never tried shirring and was wondering what kind of fabric you used?

  7. krissie says

    thank you so much !!
    I’m now making the cinderella dress for my daughters 4th birthday – and hopefully she will wear it to Disney on ice.
    once again huge thank you (-:

  8. Megan says

    Brilliant! I’ve been wanting to make my daughter a few princess costumes, but I keep putting it off until she could zip/button/tie them on herself. It was my intention, like yours, to alter a pattern from the store, but this is perfect! Love the shirring. Thanks so much for sharing!

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