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Toddler High-Low Summer Play Dress

My daughter is a diva! She is the sweetest, most darling diva, but definitely a diva. And she is all girl. She loves dresses, “girl colors” as she calls anything not blue or green, and flowers. I love having a little girl to finally be able to make fun girly things for.

A fun summer play dress with hidden hot shorts. Perfect for playing hard in the heat! Tutorial on Houseful of Handmade.
She has been asking me to make her a dress for a while, I finally gave in.  We went through my fabric stash and she was more than happy with the coral and tropical fabric that I found to make her a fun little play dress.  I wanted to make her a play dress because it’s summer, she needs something to run around and play in, but we tried to make it extra fun for her diva personality.  Hence, the high-low skirt hem.

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A fun summer play dress with hidden hot shorts. Perfect for playing hard in the heat! Tutorial on Houseful of Handmade.

I love the high-low skirt hem, but it makes me think of a mullet.  You’ve heard “business in front, party in the back”.  Well the high-low hem is play in the front, diva in the back!  What girl doesn’t love a long skirt, but to have the shorter hem in the front means you can still walk, or run, with ease 🙂

A fun summer play dress with hidden hot shorts. Perfect for playing hard in the heat! Tutorial on Houseful of Handmade.

I also decided to sew in some hot shorts under the skirt so even when she is playing, which means she is not always standing upright, she can stay modest.  It’s something I am having a hard time teaching her so this dress means one less thing I need to worry about at the park!

A fun summer play dress with hidden hot shorts. Perfect for playing hard in the heat! Tutorial on Houseful of Handmade.

After I started sewing things up, I realized the cotton quilting fabric she fell in love with wasn’t the best for the high-low hem.  It’s a little stiff and doesn’t flow at all, but it’s near impossible to change my daughters mind when she wants something, so I finished her dress with the stiffer fabric.  It is still adorable and she LOVES it.  But if I made it again, I would try to find a fabric that had a better drape to it.

A fun summer play dress with hidden hot shorts. Perfect for playing hard in the heat! Tutorial on Houseful of Handmade.

The dress I made is roughly a size 4T.  I made it to my daughter’s measurements and she is wearing 3T-4T clothes, but I did make it a little bigger so she has room to grow.

I used a women’s XL camisole with lace that I got at a warehouse sale for a couple dollars to make the top and hidden hot shorts.  The lace already attached to the bottom of the camisole was perfect for making the hot shorts lace trimmed.  And that might me one of my daughter’s favorite parts!

A fun summer play dress with hidden hot shorts. Perfect for playing hard in the heat! Tutorial on Houseful of Handmade.

To make the hot shorts pattern, I kept it simple and used a pair of shorts she already had.  I put one leg into the other and turned them inside out so I could easily cut around them.  Then I lined them up along the outside edge and bottom edge.  The outside edge did flair out a bit, so I cut that off as well as cut around the whole short with about a 1/4″ seam allowance.  The material has a great stretch to it so it is very forgiving so I just eyeballed my 1/4 seam.

A fun summer play dress with hidden hot shorts. Perfect for playing hard in the heat! Tutorial on Houseful of Handmade.

Then I used the first one I cut as a pattern to cut the second leg out on the other side of the camisole so they would be the same.

A fun summer play dress with hidden hot shorts. Perfect for playing hard in the heat! Tutorial on Houseful of Handmade.

Using the top of the camisole, I cut one square that was 13″ x 10″.  This turned out to be a little too big for her and I cut off 1″ of each side later.

A fun summer play dress with hidden hot shorts. Perfect for playing hard in the heat! Tutorial on Houseful of Handmade.

Then I cut out armholes by folding the piece in half then I measured down 2″ and over 2 1/2″ and using my french curve, cut out a little curved notch.

A fun summer play dress with hidden hot shorts. Perfect for playing hard in the heat! Tutorial on Houseful of Handmade.

For the back I cut out a piece of fabric 13″ x 8″ (which is 2″ shorter than the front and will line up perfectly to the bottom of the arm notch).

A fun summer play dress with hidden hot shorts. Perfect for playing hard in the heat! Tutorial on Houseful of Handmade.

Now I have all the pieces I need to make the top of the dress and the shorts (basically it’s a romper and if my daughter would be happy without her diva skirt, we could have added a cute sash and had an adorable romper, but maybe another day).

A fun summer play dress with hidden hot shorts. Perfect for playing hard in the heat! Tutorial on Houseful of Handmade.

To sew up the shorts, you will start by sewing the side seams.  I used part of the side seam of the camisole, but had to sew the rest because I cut off the bottom of the cami that flared out a bit.

A fun summer play dress with hidden hot shorts. Perfect for playing hard in the heat! Tutorial on Houseful of Handmade.

Do that to both legs.  Then turn one leg right-side out and put it inside the one that is inside out.  Then you will sew along the crotch seam.  I put a pin at the top and the center to keep it all lined up as I sew.  I do use my serger for all of my seams here, but if you do not have one, you can get a good stretchy seam by just sewing it with a small zig-zag stitch.

A fun summer play dress with hidden hot shorts. Perfect for playing hard in the heat! Tutorial on Houseful of Handmade.

Now you are done with the basic hot shorts.  You can set them aside for a minute.

A fun summer play dress with hidden hot shorts. Perfect for playing hard in the heat! Tutorial on Houseful of Handmade.

Sew down the side seams of the two top pieces.  And the top is all done for now!

A fun summer play dress with hidden hot shorts. Perfect for playing hard in the heat! Tutorial on Houseful of Handmade.

Now it’s time to cut out the skirt.  I wish I would have cut mine a bit bigger so there was more gathering and flaring, but I underestimated and then it was too late.  I would recommend making your skirt bigger than I did!  Maybe 5-6 more inches.  Then the skirt would have a more prominent gather at the waist and flare out bigger at the bottom.

I cut mine 15″ wide by 22″ long.  Then sewed the side seams together so I had a long skirt.A fun summer play dress with hidden hot shorts. Perfect for playing hard in the heat! Tutorial on Houseful of Handmade.

To make the high-low hem, I winged it!  I do that a lot.  When you are making a pattern, the most important thing I learned was to make sure all your pattern corners/edges are at a 90 degree angle.  This ensures they all sew together smooth without funny points.  So I folded the skirt in half with the seams in the middle, then marked the length I wanted the front of the skirt at a 90 degree angle and the length for the back at a 90 degree angle too.  Then I free-hand cut the high-low with my rotary cutter.

A fun summer play dress with hidden hot shorts. Perfect for playing hard in the heat! Tutorial on Houseful of Handmade.

To make sure the skirt waist stretched over her little hips when she put it on and took it off, I used a little piece of elastic to gather the woven skirt.  I measured her waist and cut a piece of elastic to that size, then sewed it into a circle.

A fun summer play dress with hidden hot shorts. Perfect for playing hard in the heat! Tutorial on Houseful of Handmade.A fun summer play dress with hidden hot shorts. Perfect for playing hard in the heat! Tutorial on Houseful of Handmade.

I pinned the elastic into the skirt at the waist.  I like to pin at the front and center back and each side seam.  Just fold your elastic in half and make a mark at each edge, then fold it in half again touching those marks together and mark the new edges, then you will have your elastic separated into even quarters and can pin those to your center front, center back and each side seam and everything will be nice and even!

A fun summer play dress with hidden hot shorts. Perfect for playing hard in the heat! Tutorial on Houseful of Handmade.

Sew around the elastic with a small zig-zag stitch so the elastic can still stretch.  You will have to pull the elastic as you sew so it is the same size as the skirt (that is why it is pinned at the 4 points).  Then when you are done sewing, the skirt will be gathered around the elastic, but will still stretch to go over hips when dressing.

Now it’s time to put it all together.  I made sure the skirt and shorts were right-side out and the dress top was inside out.  Then put the shorts inside the skirt and pin the 4 points at the waist again (center front, center back and the two side seams).  Then put the dress top on the outside of the skirt so right-sides are touching and the waist is lined up to the skirt/shorts waist and pin it to the 4 points.  This can be a little confusing, but I like to pin it, then carefully pull the top up so it will look like it’s suppose to be when worn and double check that everything is pinned right before I start sewing.  That’s because I hate unpicking, and seem to do it too much 🙂

A fun summer play dress with hidden hot shorts. Perfect for playing hard in the heat! Tutorial on Houseful of Handmade.

Sew around the waistline with a small zig-zag stitch to connect it all together.  You will have to stretch the shorts and skirt a little bit to make it all line up with each other, but don’t worry, it is suppose to be a little gathered at the waist so that is what you are creating with the stretching as you sew.

A fun summer play dress with hidden hot shorts. Perfect for playing hard in the heat! Tutorial on Houseful of Handmade.

You can see how things are coming together now.  The dress is basically done!  At this point, my daughter wanted to wear it so bad, I had her try it on and she tried to run off with it even though she had to keep holding it up cause there are no straps to go over her shoulders yet.  Silly girl!

I used some of the skirt fabric to make bias tape to finish off the top of the dress.  I shared the trick I learned to making a nice continuos strip of bias tape on Tuesday.  Click here to see how I did it, then you can come back here to finish your dress.

I folded the bias tape in quarters and gave it a good steaming.  There is no really easy way to do this, I have some bias tape makers that I sometimes use, but they are a little tricky still, so I just start by folding my strip of bias cut fabric in half, steaming it with the iron so I have a nice crisp line, then folding in each side to this center line and iron again.  Then I finish it off with by folding it in half again (with the edges still folded in to the center) and ironing it so it’s in fourths.  For the amount of bias tape I needed for this project, it only took me about 5 minutes to iron it all together like I needed.

A fun summer play dress with hidden hot shorts. Perfect for playing hard in the heat! Tutorial on Houseful of Handmade.

Then I sewed the bias tape across the top front of the dress.  I finished this piece off since it would be enclosed in the other piece.  Then I took the remaining piece of bias tape and centered it on the center back and pinned attached it around each side, under the arm, and over the top, leaving the remaining bias tape hanging as a strap.

To attach the bias tape, I pinned one edge to the right side of the garment then sewed just inside the folded line.  Then when I was done sewing, I could fold it all over and so the edge of the fabric was completely encased inside the bias tape and then I top-stitched on the bias tape about 1/16th in from the edge and it caught the back and finished off the front of the bias tape with one beautiful seam.

A fun summer play dress with hidden hot shorts. Perfect for playing hard in the heat! Tutorial on Houseful of Handmade.

Give it a good pressing and your will see how beautiful the bias tape finishes off the edge and I love that it is printed to match the skirt 🙂

A fun summer play dress with hidden hot shorts. Perfect for playing hard in the heat! Tutorial on Houseful of Handmade.

Finally to finish off the straps, I sewed the end of the strap about 2″ in from the seam on the back of the dress.  Then I cut the bias tape in the middle and top-stitched the new edges to keep them from fraying.  Now I had a strap hanging off from the back and front of the dress that could be tied into a bow a the top of the shoulder.  I’m sorry I didn’t get a picture of this, my daughter was watching over my shoulder too eager to let me think about taking a photo!

Last thing was to hem the bottom of the skirt.  I just did a simple hem by serging around the bottom then folding it up 1/2″ and securing it with a simple straight stitch!  Yeah, all done!

A fun summer play dress with hidden hot shorts. Perfect for playing hard in the heat! Tutorial on Houseful of Handmade.

I think my favorite part of this dress was that most of the seams are all hidden in the waist of the skirt.  I really dislike finishing seams, so this was pretty painless for me 🙂  And my little diva couldn’t be happier!

A fun summer play dress with hidden hot shorts. Perfect for playing hard in the heat! Tutorial on Houseful of Handmade.

I hope I have inspired you to sew up something fun… I know I have inspired myself to sew a dress for me!

A fun summer play dress with hidden hot shorts. Perfect for playing hard in the heat! Tutorial on Houseful of Handmade.

We’ll see how long this little diva is happy with her new dress before she is ready for me to sew her another one 🙂  Good thing I like sewing.

A fun summer play dress with hidden hot shorts. Perfect for playing hard in the heat! Tutorial on Houseful of Handmade.

-Kati with picture of blog author Kati

How to Easily Make a Continuous Strip of Bias Tape
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Ruth Meaney

Sunday 19th of July 2015

Not only is the dress gorgeous, so is your daughter! ANd i am so envious of your sewing setup and all the little gizmos and gadgets you have! Very groovy :)

Kati Farrer

Monday 20th of July 2015

Thanks Ruth! I have been sewing for so long, and if I just buy a new gadget every so often, I have lots of things to make sewing easier without breaking the bank.

Christine | Where The Smiles Have Been

Saturday 18th of July 2015

Your dress (and little girl) are adorable! Thanks for such a detailed tutorial, and for sharing this with us at Merry Monday! We hope you'll join us again next week to share your latest creations with us! :)

Laurie

Wednesday 15th of July 2015

Reading your post just made me smile! Your daughter is precious! She looks so happy in her beautiful play dress! Thank you for sharing with us at the Brag About It Link Party! ~Laurie

Kati Farrer

Thursday 16th of July 2015

Thanks so much Laurie. She is more than happy with her new dress, but if she's around when I'm on Pinterest and see's another dress she immediately wants me to make her that one too :)

Lisa E

Wednesday 15th of July 2015

Over from Sand and Sisal. What a beautiful dress you made! She is adorable and I got a kick out of her poses with her one shoulder up. Too cute!

Kati Farrer

Thursday 16th of July 2015

Thanks Lisa, she doesn't even need any help when it comes to posing... she's all natural :)

Ana Marija

Tuesday 14th of July 2015

What a cutenes! And you inspired me to sew!There is a little pile waiting for inspiration,I think I found it! Thank you!

Kati Farrer

Wednesday 15th of July 2015

Thanks Ana! I would love to see what you sew up :)

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