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:

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  • treen
    August 3, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    Absolutely agree about finding a pattern that you like and fits your child well, and then make a bunch. I just bought Dana’s Kid Shorts and they fit my girls like a dream. I’ve never liked making the same thing over and over, but I’ve been using this pattern to make flannel pajamas shorts for my girls this month (6 pairs and counting). It’s been GREAT. And I timed myself. I sew slower than molasses but I can go from cutting out to finished in 55 minutes. Yay me!

    Are you going to post any specific patterns for tweens to get ready for the next season? My oldest turned 9 a couple months ago, and has declared herself a TWEEN and is SO EXCITED to be getting older and “more mature” (please assume an arrogant pose and tone for that phrase. Heh.)

    • Deborah
      August 3, 2015 at 4:14 pm

      I have this post from last summer:

      Our girl has just realized that she could qualify as a tween, and we’re not sure we are happy about that. But she’s always so sweet and lovely, so we look hard for clothes for her that allow her to bridge that gap!! DO SHARE if you find sources & resources that help you sew for her–I want all the ideas I can get! 🙂

      • treen
        August 5, 2015 at 2:20 pm

        So far, I only sew with Oliver+S patterns (and Dana’s shorts). I’ve tried a couple of patterns from McCalls and Simplicity, and they didn’t turn out nearly as well because I couldn’t understand the instructions, so I’m going to be brand loyal for now.

        In doing a random google search just now for tween clothes, a few things stand out to me as overarching principles:
        – solids rather than prints.
        – If using a print, choose carefully and avoid cutsey things. I saw a lot of geometrics.
        – clean straight lines in the clothes to keep them pretty simple, and jazz up the outfit with accessories or the fabric choice (like a lace overlay or those geometric prints).
        – no pastel colors. They can be soft and pale but not baby sweet, but I’m seeing mostly darker and/or bolder colors.

        With that idea, I think you could use pretty much any pattern as long as it fits or can be altered. All the O+S patterns I have need to be altered for 9yo anyway – she’s very slim and tall, so I make her a size 7 and lengthen it a lot. I made her the music box jumper at her birthday last year, and lengthened the bodice by 2 inches and the skirt by another 3. It worked great!

        Hope this helps you too! It’s been a good thing for me to take a few minutes to think about!

  • Heather
    August 19, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    Love the way everything looks! Seeing everyone dressed up the first few days is always so exciting.

    • Deborah
      August 19, 2015 at 9:27 pm

      Isn’t it?!? I can hardly believe they’re two weeks in already. We’re still riding high on new school year excitement! 🙂