Back to School Wardrobes: Younger Girls

Back to School Wardrobes: Step Three

At last!  The final installment in my Back to School Wardrobes series: younger girls.  This encompasses everything from toddlers (around size 2) up to school-age (around size 6 or 7).  Because there are SO many options out there, this might have been the very hardest list to put together (and look! it only took me a year! ahem).  I have to constantly ask myself, when I see cute patterns, “Would I sew that?  How long would it take?  Is it similar to other styles already available?  Would she love it?”  And since our youngest loves, loves, loves dresses, I wanted to pare the list down to the really best of the best.

back to school clothes to sewUsing the list I already developed, I knew I needed not just school clothes but also church clothes and play clothes.  As she has gotten past the itty-bitty stage, I also need athletic & dance things, plus the multitude of socks, underpants, tights, hair elastics, outerwear, and the shoes, shoes, shoes!  I swear, these children go through shoes like nobody’s business…

Classic dress sewing pattern for little girls

But let’s start with the dresses!  Obviously, the Flip Flop Dress is my go-to dress pattern for this size.  I love that it has so many looks, and that it changes so dramatically depending on the fabric I choose.  (This 3/4-length sleeve version is one of the variations I’ll be featuring coming up on the blog, in addition to the core pattern!)  I also love the First Day Dress, which has a sweet A-line shape; the Geranium Dress, which has a higher waistline and cute flutter sleeve option; the School Photo Dress, with its cool collar option; the Comfy Knit Dress tutorial from LBG Studio; and have seen some very cute versions of the Sally Dress (but haven’t made it). Because girls’ dresses are SO ubiquitous, there is a HUGE range of patterns available, and they all have potential.  (I could do a whole post on dresses, but sincerely sew the Flip Flop so much that I would never make them all, even if I did a giant round-up.)  Check out here, here, here, and here for some great free and inexpensive patterns for girls’ dresses and let me know if you find any winners!


We love jumpers, too, in addition to dresses.  This one, which is from Stitch Savvy, is reversible and makes a great over-the-jeans tunic–we’ve gone through dozens of these for our three girls, and have worn them all four seasons through the year.  Bonus: like the Flip Flop Dress, this pattern adapts easily to school uniform dress codes, and can be made in khaki or navy twill!  The version above was made by Rachel of Stitched in Color with a sweet color-blocking variation.  For other jumpers, I love this incredibly classic style from Ikat Bag, and there’s a huge (albeit older) round-up of jumper patterns here.

matching skirts | whipstitch

I also rely a lot on the quickie 20-minute Skirt project, which sews up super fast in any fabric.  It’s a simple way to fill in holes that’s a lower time commitment than a full dress.  And it allows us to work into her wardrobe the tee shirts that we receive as gifts and hand-me-downs.  At about a half-yard of fabric each, these are also crazy economical!  For a slightly more complicated shape, I like the Hopscotch Skirt from Oliver + S.  You can also find huge round-ups of skirt patterns (for girls and women!) here and here.

girls handmade tee shirts

Speaking of tee shirts, how many do YOUR kids go through in a week?  Even when my girls wear a dress to school, they frequently get off the bus and head inside for a “costume change” which generally involves a tee shirt in some form.  We get tees as gifts from grandparents pretty often, but I also like our girls to have some core basics: tops that can be layered under jumpers or over skirts, and that are in simple prints, stripes, or solid colors.  The tees at the store have become increasingly less satisfying, partly because the quality is SO, SO low, and also because even though you can get a tee shirt for $5, should you really be ABLE to get a tee shirt for $5?  I don’t feel good about the supply chain that takes a manufactured garment of sub-standard construction and materials made at grossly low wages and ships it across oceans to a big box store for an absurdly (and unsustainably) low price.  Once you make your own tees, you’ll realize how quick and simple they are, and rarely feel compelled to buy them again!  The tops you see above were made a year ago for our vacation, from modifications I made to the Schoolbus Tee pattern from Oliver + S.  I also like Rae’s Flashback Skinny Tee pattern, and Dana’s video on her YouTube channel for a free guide to making your own tees!

perfect pants fit

For pants and shorts, I have my own “Perfect Pants” pattern that I loooooove…  It’s unisex, makes shorts or capris or long pants and works in nearly any fabric (you can see examples of this pattern here, here, and here).

dimensional denim shorts w ruffled pocket


Pants are hard–not to sew, but to fit.  And once you have a go-to pattern that you love, you’ll never want another pair from anywhere else.  I’m really not just saying that: it really has gotten to the point where when I have my kids try on pants from the store, I just don’t like the fit as much as when I sew them myself.  Great starting patterns for your own pants are the Moon Pants pattern from Made By Rae (her Parsely Pants are another great basic); the Kid Shorts pattern from Dana; and the Cargo Pants from Shwin & Shwin (which are apparently designed for boys, but I think would be pretty boss for girls, too).

The Overmost sewing pattern a3

And overalls!  Another garment that’s great for school, but seems to get relegated to boys’ wardrobes more often than I’d like.  Girls love to climb and jump and turn upside down just as much as boys, and for the days when she doesn’t want to wear a dress with shorts underneath, I love The Overmost.  Lined and reversible, it can even be made with a Velcro closure for the youngest ones who are still potty training!

Make the Flip Flop Dress for girls

My point here is that once you have a stable of patterns that you and your girl love, it’s possible to make a complete, comprehensive and super cute wardrobe for her–even when there seems to be a zillion little girl patterns on the market at any given time.  Look for the shapes you love and use the inventory list to seek out gaps in her wardrobe.  Most importantly, think of the girl you’re sewing for and what SHE wants to wear most–then make a whole mess of THAT.  It’s the surest way to make certain that the things you sew will get used and loved and handed down.

For more from this series, follow these links:

The Flip Flop Dress Pattern NOW AVAILABLE!

FLip Flop Dress sewing pattern by Whipstitch

It’s here, it’s here!!  The Flip Flop Dress pattern is available for purchase and download NOW in my shop!

Flip Flop Dress sewing pattern view A

Huge thanks to all of you who have been so patient and have been anticipating the release of this dress.  I think it’s a DREAM for back-to-school, and am delighted to have it ready and available for you as you’re thinking about sewing for your girls for the coming year!

dirndl skirt for girls

Because this shape is so classic and versatile, I think you’ll also love making sleeveless and cap sleeved versions to last until the summer heat has faded away.  I hope you make a million of them!

Flip Flop Dress sewing pattern back view

The Flip Flop Dress pattern is a downloadable PDF sewing pattern.  Your purchase will redirect to an INSTANT printable file, so you can get sewing right away.  The pattern prints beautifully to both A4 and 8.5″ x 11″ paper.

The Flip Flop Dress: pattern pieces

I have been sewing with this design in one form or another for twenty years, but I must humbly admit that this is my favorite version ever, and I am absolutely bursting with pleasure that it’s in a final, printable form to share with you!

The Flip Flop Dress: optional unlined bodice with rounded neckline

For more details about what makes the Flip Flop Dress special, see this post.  For more about the basic pattern and the two views it includes, see this post.  For more about variations on the pattern, and upcoming blog specials (like additional pattern pieces and techniques specific to this pattern), see this post.

the flip flop dress by whipstitch

Like all my patterns, the Flip Flop Dress is a labor of love, one that I hope will teach techniques and walk you ably through the construction, no matter how much sewing experience you have.  I consider this a beginner level pattern, which you can make with very little formal experience with patterns.  I hope you’ll dive in and give it a try!

The Flip Flop Dress pattern is available for immediate purchase and download HERE.  Share your finished versions on Facebook and Instagram with #theflipflopdress.


The Flip Flop Dress: Variations

In addition to the core Flip Flop Dress pattern, I’m also sharing some of the variations for the dress!  Initially, ALL of these pieces and techniques were included in the full pattern, but my testers reported back to me that it made the pattern bulky and unwieldy to work with.  I envisioned it as a choose your own adventure-type document, but there are just so many variations that it was a huge number of pages and hard to follow, particularly for folks who have less experience working with a sewing pattern.

Peter Pan collar and three quarter length sleeves on the Flip Flop Dress by Whipstitch

I totally agree with them.  Sometimes, I want more to be more.  My goal, though, isn’t to make the end-all-be-all dress pattern for girls–it’s to design a pattern that’s a pleasure to sew and a joy to share.  Reducing the overall scope of the core pattern was the best means to do that, and to create a pattern you’d love to work with.

The Flip Flop Dress: optional cuffed sleeve

All those other options were so great, though!  Rather than leaving them on the sewing room floor, I’ve decided to offer each one on the blog as a FREE download.  Some of these variations are additional pattern pieces, and others are alternate techniques that I’ll share through tutorials–and printable PDFs to add to your pattern file.


Making this dress with an unlined bodice wasn’t my first instinct–because generally, I prefer lining to almost any other finishing technique.  (It’s so simple!)  Once I started sewing samples, though, I desperately wanted to make a double-gauze version–this one is made with Cotton + Steel double gauze from Pink Castle Fabrics.

The Flip Flop Dress: optional unlined bodice with rounded neckline

Making the dress unlined changes only that: the lining.  All the other options and elements can still be included!  This version even has a Velcro closure–even simpler than buttons, and great for teaching the littlest ones to dress themselves!

Velcro closure on the Flip Flop Dress sewing pattern

I’ve made the unlined version sleeveless, with the cap sleeves, and with the long sleeves.  In most fabrics, I would still argue that the lined version is easier and cleaner–but with the double gauze, for example, lining the bodice didn’t make sense.  Part of the point of double gauze is its soft breathability, and I felt like I would lose that by adding a lining.  Making the dress unlined kept it light and summery and easy to wear.  I suspect if you wanted to sew this dress as a school uniform from a particularly bulky fabric, you might be able to make it unlined for less weight.

unlined bodice on the Flip Flop Dress sewing pattern from Whipstitch

It probably wouldn’t have killed me to iron this one, but it was straight out of the dryer–another dress that my girl wears every SINGLE time it’s clean.  I can’t make the washer go fast enough for her.  A full step-by-step tutorial here on the blog–complete with printable PDF–will show you how to replace the lining and make an unlined bodice, including a simpler finish for the waistline seam that can apply to any version of the dress you make.

Great look for little girls--the Flip Flop Dress sewing pattern from Whipstitch

My favorite of all the extras is the 3/4 length sleeve with cuff.  Good night, how cute is this look!! I love the shape and the versatility of this sleeve.

optional three quarter length cuffed sleeve for Flip Flop Dress by Whipstitch

With a sleeveless version, you have the option of wearing the dress over a tee shirt or blouse as a jumper, but with the longer sleeve with the cuff, the dress really stands out and is so dear.

Classic girls dress sewing pattern

The shape of the sleeve makes me all fuzzy inside, with the slight bell shaping at the cuff.

three quarter length sleeve on the Flip Flop Dress sewing pattern

There are no buttons or closures on the cuff, so it’s a quick sew that makes a stand-0ut variation of this style.  It has a flat (not puffed) sleeve cap so it’s clean and classic, even for girls who don’t love wearing dresses.

alternate pointed collar on the Flip Flop Dress sewing pattern

Finally, as I was working, I dreamed up an alternate collar, one that my mom liked to include in her collections when she was still manufacturing the earliest incarnation of this design.  Instead of a Peter Pan, this one is a pointed collar that can work with either the button front or the button back versions of the dress.  It feels a little more dress to me than the Peter Pan collar, and can be done in a contrasting fabric for a sweet pop of color.

Classic dress for girls to sew

Each of these extra little freebies will be available after the release of the basic pattern!  I’m virtually ITCHING to see all the versions you come up with, and can’t wait to see photos of your finished projects.  Believe it or not, back to school is nearly here–and this is such a fabulous design for making a good first impression!


The Flip Flop Dress: The Basic Pattern

FLip Flop Dress sewing pattern by Whipstitch

The Flip Flop Dress features a lined bodice that can button front OR button back, with either a rounded or a square neckline, and a full gathered dirndl skirt.  The bodice hits about an inch above the natural waist, and the skirt falls just below the knee.  There is an optional lined cap sleeve, and an optional Peter Pan collar, meaning you can make dozens of variations of the dress from the core pattern alone!

the flip flop dress in citrus checks

I confess that as I was developing the pattern and designing the options for each version, I may have gotten a little carried away.  I made two sleeves and two collars and two necklines and an unlined bodice version….  It was exciting, but when I tested the pattern with stitchers, the feedback told me it was a LOT of information for a single pattern.  My goal with any pattern I design isn’t to make THE pattern so you’ll never need another pattern–it’s to create a pattern you’ll want to follow and that you’ll actually sew up.  Narrowing down the options to TWO core views was key to making this a solid, usable, clear sewing pattern.

Flip Flop Dress sewing pattern view A

View A includes all the options in the basic pattern: a Peter Pan collar, lined cap sleeves, and the lined bodice with full skirt.  Good grief, it’s adorable–a truly classic look that’s also updated and really versatile.  I like that, even compared to what this pattern originally was back 20 years ago, this incarnation is a “big girl” dress that’s suitable for a huge range of occasions.

dirndl skirt for girls

Because you can “flip flop” the pattern to make it with the button closure either at the front or the back, you can really vary the final look a great deal with just a simple change in cutting technique.

the flip flop dress with square neckline

View B is even simpler to sew than View A, and can totally be stitched up in under two hours.  Once you get the hang of it, honestly, you can churn out a whole week’s worth of these like a magical assembly line.  This view includes a square neckline, a sleeveless bodice, and the same full, twirly skirt.  “Flip flopping” the pattern again allows you to move the buttons between front and back as you choose.  Shown here with the cap sleeves (rather than sleeveless), you can easily see how many variations just this core pattern of two views provides!

twirly flip flop dress

You can make a sleeveless version with Peter Pan collar, or a cap sleeved version with a square neckline–each element can be selected as you plan your garment–and each dress really looks unique.  My youngest looooooves this style, and reaches for this dress before anything else in her wardrobe.  But I never worry that she looks as though she’s wearing the same thing day after day.

Flip Flop Dress sewing pattern back view

The back of the dress is a classic shape that goes from playground to school to church to weddings, easy peasy.  The waistline seam falls about one inch above the natural waist, and the bodice is slightly more fitted than “younger” girl patterns, meaning this dress is one that will let her grow, while still letting her be little.

FLip Flop Dress sewing pattern for girls sizes 2T to 6

I can hardly even count how many variations of this pattern I’ve made–not to test it, but because my child demanded asked nicely for them.  The moment this mustang fabric from Cotton + Steel (ordered from Pink Castle Fabrics) came into the house, she wanted THIS dress made from it.

the flip flop dress with button back

The other versions were because I couldn’t wash the dress often or fast enough for her!  She wore it every single time it came out of the laundry, over and over.  And suddenly, every fabric she saw she wanted in this style.

Flip Flop Dress with Peter Pan collar and cap sleeves

I love knowing that I can have a go-t0 pattern that works and fits and looks great and sews up beautifully in nearly any fabric.  The Flip Flop Dress works in quilt-weight cottons, lawns, double gauze, babywale corduroys, lightweight denims, and voiles.  So versatile!  The sleeveless version even makes a great jumper, and could be sewn up in a solid twill as a school uniform.

We love the Flip Flop Dress from Whipstitch!

Coming up, I’ll share the additional options that I eliminated from the basic pattern–they were too good to just toss away!  So I’ll include them as FREE downloads here on the blog after the pattern releases, and showcase some of the versions I’ve stitched up here at our house.

Make the Flip Flop Dress for girls

Can’t wait to hear what you think!!


The Flip Flop Dress: What Makes It Special

The Flip Flop Dress: optional unlined bodice with rounded neckline

The Flip Flop Dress pattern started out, years ago, as a style my mother manufactured when she made children’s clothing for her cottage company back in the late 80s and early 90s, back before people had cottage companies.  It is a simple, classic, adaptable pattern for girls sizes 2T-6.

The Flip Flop Dress: sleeveless unlined bodice with square neckline

Because she was manufacturing, she wanted a pattern that was as versatile as possible, but that didn’t require a zillion pattern pieces.  It’s a simple but genius idea that means less to store, less to manage, and more variation from the same pattern pieces.  The original pattern that my mother used was destroyed in a house flood years ago, but the concept behind the pattern pieces was so clever that I wanted to include it in the re-design and launch of this pattern.

The Flip Flop Dress: Peter Pan collar with cap sleeves

I named this pattern the Flip Flop Dress because that’s what you do with the pattern pieces: depending on what style you want to create, you can FLIP the pattern pieces to re-arrange them and alter the final appearance of the dress.

The Flip Flop Dress: pattern pieces

This is the front bodice pattern piece.  Running along the straight edge is a line.  This line represents center front.  Center front on the finished garment is in the same place whether it fastens up the front or fastens up the back, right?  When a button front version is closed, for example, the buttons are placed at the center front, and the two sides overlap.  When a button back version is made, center front is still in the same place, but with no buttons.

The Flip Flop Dress: cutting the front bodice

The Flip Flop Dress: a unique sewing pattern

If I want to make a version with a button front, I place the front bodice pattern piece on the fabric, and cut around all the edges.  This gives me a right front and a left front with edges that are open along the center front, where I can put buttons.  This includes a margin for the buttons.

The Flip Flop Dress: an adjustable sewing pattern

If I want to make a version with a button back, on the other hand, I place the front bodice pattern piece on the FOLD, and leave the margin for the buttons excluded when I cut around all the other edges of the pattern piece.  This leaves no opening, and makes one front bodice piece, cut on the fold as a mirror image.  The closures will be in the back of the dress for this version.

The Flip Flop Dress sewing pattern from Whipstitch

The bodice back works the same way–all I have to do is remember that if I have buttons on the front, I cut the back on the fold; if I have buttons on the back, I cut the front on the fold.  Simple!

The Flip Flop Dress: square neckline with cap sleeves

Designing the pattern this way, especially for a PDF printable pattern, means a few things.  First, it means fewer pages to print.  With a single front and a single back bodice pattern piece, I don’t need to have a front button version and a back button version of each (four pattern pieces), which would require more pages to print out.  It saves ink for the user (and since I use my own pattern exhaustively, that means less printing for me, too).

The Flip Flop Dress: fewer pattern pieces, more options

Second, by designing the pattern this way, there is less to store.  No matter how organized you are in your pattern storage system (assuming you have one at all–ahem), pieces can go missing.  How irritating to want to use a pattern you’ve used previously and find that you’re missing one key piece!  With only two bodice pieces, that likelihood is greatly reduced, meaning less RE-printing for you.

The Flip Flop Dress: optional cuffed sleeve

Finally, this pattern emphasizes some basic ideas about how patterns function and how to alter a pattern to suit your vision.  Lots of folks have never thought about how the center front would work or how to move buttons from the front of a garment to the back.  I believe deeply in creating patterns that have a long life span, that teach you as you work with them, and that inspire you to create just what you imagine. I think this design is true to that ideal, and encourages you to dream and work with patterns in a new way.

I can’t wait to share more images with you, and to show off some of the variations I’ve sewn for my daughters!  The basic pattern includes a lined bodice with a cap sleeve and a Peter Pan collar–and I’m also including lots of fun goodies to allow you to make an unlined bodice, a longer sleeve, an alternate collar, and to mix and match details to get JUST the dress you want.

Looking forward to hearing what you think!

At Last! Pre-Release: The Flip Flop Dress

the flip flop dress in citrus checks

I’ll be going on and on about this pattern for a few days, just be warned.  I’ve made about a zillion of them, and my daughter wears them all. the. time.  So I’ve got photos to share and lots to say–because I love the pattern, and I know you will, too!


I’m not big on the hard sell–I don’t like being pushed to buy ANYthing.  So I will do my best not to do that here.  But I love this pattern, I think it’s super versatile, super easy to style, works in almost every fabric I’ve tried it in, and has so many ways to vary the look and make it work for your little one.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 10.15.56 PM

I’m sharing images of ALL the variations over the next few days, and on the day of the release, will drill down on the “basic” version that is included with the initial pattern before sharing more about the FREE “extras” that I’ll be bringing you on the blog once the pattern is out.  ALL the extra goodies come WITH the pattern, so you’ll get multiple collar and sleeve options while still having a streamlined pattern that makes this a great style to sew even if you’ve never made a garment before in your whole life.

the flip flop dress with button back

For some of you, summer has barely even begun–so you’ll want to make double gauze sleeveless versions for days at the pool and beach, or just for surviving the heat of the northern hemisphere from July through September.  For others of you, like me, summer is more than half over, and you’re anticipating the return to schoolbooks and dress codes in just a few weeks–you’ll want to make woven versions with sleeves, or sleeveless versions that can double as school uniform jumpers.  And if you’re in the southern hemisphere, you can sew it up in babywale corduroy or wool for the cool weather!

I am working on an embellished version with a cross stitched bodice, and can’t wait to share it with you–this pattern is dying to be a palette for you to applique, cross stitch, embroider or otherwise personalize your child’s dress to make it perfect just for her.

More in coming days, including details on the unique pattern detail that makes it a “flip flop” dress–I think you’ll be intrigued, and begin to see just how many times you can make this dress and still have it fresh and new every time!

My Favorite Notions: The Chaco Liner

I learned a lot of my sewing through osmosis.  Watching my mother and grandmother work their magic was part of my childhood landscape.  So the tools that I used when I began to sew myself were largely the tools that I had seen around our home for years and years.

When I got to college and worked in the costume shop of the School of Theater, I became acquainted with new tools, and (finally) purchased my own “starter kit” of sewing supplies.  I bought tailor’s chalk, because that’s what my mom used, and that’s what you did.  It works, and it’s a great tool, but on occasion tailor’s chalk can drag across the fabric and I hate it when I get weird skips and lumps on my fabric.

A few years ago, I discovered this little toy:

Chaco liner pink

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4th of July Flashback


A week before the Fourth, my kids were all looking for their Stars and Stripes outfits.  Our neighborhood hosts a kids’ parade–complete with bike/wagon decorating competition and bake-off–and they wanted to be appropriately dressed.  This year, I didn’t need to do any sewing, because everything we needed was already in the closet.

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Why Sewing People Are the BEST People

Sewing people are the best people.  I had this thought the other day, not for the first time, but clearly, like a lance through my skull, reminding me that sewing people are the BEST people.  Because they are MY people, in so many ways, in ways that are multilayered and complex and interesting and reflective of analytical brains and widely varied interests.

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Pencil & iPad Cases for Travel

Cotton + Steel ipad and pencil case

The night before we left for our recent epic trip to New York and Boston, I (quite naturally, in my opinion) stitched up some cute little cases for my goodies along the way.

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