What are the easiest doll dress patterns to sew? #18inchDolls #DollClothes

The image shows an 18 inch doll modeling a pretty pink dress on Simplicity doll clothes pattern number 4364. The pattern also displays six other dress patterns: a blue summer sundress, a pink and white tutu, a burgundy colored dress with short sleeves, a white baptismal dress, a red and black holiday dress, and an indigo-colored ice skater's dress. Beside the pattern, the Chelly Wood doll seems to be holding up the pattern for the photograph. the watermark reminds us to visit ChellyWood.com for free printable sewing patterns to fit dolls of many shapes and all different sizes.

There are several factors that contribute to the ease or difficulty in sewing a doll dress pattern. In my humble opinion, as a doll clothing designer who has been sewing for half a century, here are four factors to consider when picking out an “easy-to-sew” doll dress pattern:

  • Pattern maker
  • Type of skirt
  • Sleeves
  • Collars


Let’s talk about pattern makers. The Simplicity pattern company prides itself in keeping things simple; thus the name: SIMPLicity.

When I was doing research for this article, I looked for common pattern search topics in Google. One of the topics that came up was: “Vogue dress patterns easy.”

Ummmm… Nope. I’ve attempted lots of Vogue dress patterns. They’re never easy.

Beautiful? Yes! Unique? Definitely. Easy? No!

Now, as an advanced sewist myself, I have learned a lot by purchasing and making Vogue patterns. They force you to go outside of your comfort zone to learn a thing or two.

But if you’re looking for easy craft patterns, do not buy Vogue. Simpicity is a wiser purchase.

There are other pattern companies worth mentioning here, but some of them fall short of the mark, in terms of written instructions. I’ll say no more because I think it’s very unprofessional to fling mud at other doll clothing designers.

But when I buy a pattern for its simple instructions and easy design concept, I buy Simplicity.


Let’s move on to the type of skirt.

Take another look at the Simplicity 18″ doll clothing pattern #4364:

Here we see a close-up photography image of Simplicity doll clothes pattern 4364, which shows seven different styles of dresses for 18 inch dolls like American Girl, Journey Girls, etc... The pattern dresses can be described as follows: a pink dress will tulle overlay and a coat (pictured at center), a blue summer sundress, a pink and white tutu, a burgundy colored dress with short sleeves, a white baptismal dress, a red and black holiday dress, and an indigo-colored ice skater's dress. The watermark on this image reminds us that it comes from ChellyWood.com, a website offering free printable PDF sewing patterns for making doll clothes to fit dolls of many shapes and all different sizes.

I would venture to guess that the holiday-style dress shown in “View D” will be the hardest one to make. Why? Because it doesn’t use a gathered skirt.

A fitted skirt is harder to sew because it often has notches that need to be aligned. There can also be issues with the fabric’s nap looking funny after you’ve joined the bodice to the skirt.

Imagine the “View D” dress in a plaid fabric, for example. You would have to cut the skirt so that the horizontal and vertical plaids don’t look wonky when you join the top and bottom parts of the dress.

A gathered skirt will always be easier to create, in my opinion, even though you do have to understand how to gather skirting to make a dress with a gathered skirt.

One of the most difficult types of skirts to make is a knife pleated skirt, like this one:

The image shows a 28-inch Mattel Best Fashion Friend Barbie doll wearing a hand-made pleated skirt, sewn with argyle fabric. It has knife pleats. The overlay says "Pleated skirt" and offers the URL ChellyWood.com as a place to find the free printable sewing patterns for this 28 inch Barbie's skirt.

The problem with pleats is this: if you don’t measure and cut them exactly right, your seams won’t match up.

I told this to my youngest daughter who made her first pleated skirt this past winter. Let’s just say that there was a lot of seam-ripping and re-cutting of fabric…


Next, let’s talk about sleeves.

There are lots of ways to attach a sleeve to a dress, but many pattern makers encourage you to close the sleeve first before attaching it to the garment.

If you watch my tutorials, you’ll see that I don’t attach sleeves this way. Maybe closing the sleeve first is the best way to attach a sleeve to a human person’s garment, but the smaller the doll clothes, the harder it is to attach a sleeve that way.

So again, this is just my opinion, but if I were looking for a doll dress that was super easy to make, I’d avoid sleeves altogether. On Simplicity Pattern 4364, it’s not hard to pick out the dress that will be the easiest to sew; it’s the dress in “View E” — the one with no sleeves and a gathered skirt.


Finally, it’s time to address collars.

I recently designed a cute little shift-style dress for vintage Crissy dolls with a felt collar. Here’s a picture of that one:

This photograph shows a Crissy doll wearing a handmade shift dress and blue plastic shoes in front of a turquoise mottled background screen. The watermark reminds us to visit ChellyWood.com for the free pattern to make this "sailor-style" shift dress with a round collar trimmed in ribbon. Click on the link in the caption to find the free printable PDF sewing pattern for this short shift dress.

Now, my regular followers already know that I use a system of flowers to show the difficulty level for my patterns. You can see that the Crissy doll “sailor-style” shift dress has has FOUR flowers. Why? Because even a felt collar makes the pattern more difficult.

The image shows the free printable sewing pattern for a short shift dress or long sailor's tunic to be worn by 18-inch (45 to 46 cm) dolls with slender pre-teen bodies, like Ideal's Crissy dolls from the 1970's. The pattern includes a long bodice, a sailor-style collar, and a ribbon measurement.

So if you’re looking for an easy-to-sew doll dress, I recommend you use a pattern that’s sleeveless, without a collar, and has a gathered skirt, and I also recommend that if you’re buying patterns from a commercial pattern maker, go with Simplicity.

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Chelly Wood and the ChellyWood.com website are not affiliated with the pattern company or companies mentioned in this blog post, but Chelly finds inspiration in the doll clothes designed by these pattern companies. To purchase patterns from Simplicity, McCall’s, Butterick, or other pattern companies shown and discussed in this blog post, please click on the links provided here. These links below the “Disclaimer” section do not help raise money for this free pattern website; they are only offered to give credit to the company that made these patterns.

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