Mori Girl Sundress Pattern & Tutorial for 30 Days of Sundresses!

It's officially summertime, let the adventures begin!

I love summer in the Northwest:  there's no lack of adventure and it's all pretty much in my backyard!  My favorite thing to see my girlies in during these sun-soaked days are simple twirly sundresses, so when Melly asked me to be a part of her 30 days of sundresses tour I, for real, did a happy dance. 

I had a hard time really honing in on an idea that I was excited about and that wouldn't be a bazillion bells and whistles cuz, I'm all about the overkill and having been working on the editing part ;-).  I eventually went to something that I blogged about years ago that I never did a tutorial for, tweaking it to make it even better.  

So here she is:

When I think about the girls twirling in their dresses in the backyard or traipsing along a wooded trail, it reminds me of the Japanese fashion trend: Mori Girl which basically means "forest girl".  

 I wanted to add the tassel drawstring to make it a bit more interesting and the bias hem facing is a pretty way to easily take care of that tricky curved hem. The best part of this dress (I think) is the ease of it:  It's easy to make and super easy to throw on or off, making it great for even the quickest of adventures!

The pattern is for 12m-7 years and, don't laugh, is something I made it ages ago and while it totally works, it ain't pretty.  If you have a favorite peasant pattern by all means you can use that and I won't be offended ;-)  

A quick note on fabric, this dress looks best on lightweight cotton, voile, calico, or as I did, gingham and broadcloth for the sleeves.  You may wish to use just a solid color throughout or choose to color-block the bodice.  In that case, just adjust the fabric requirements up or down accordingly.  

So let's get started! 

Materials Needed:

  • 1 1/4" to 2 yards of fabric
  • 1 1/2 to 3 yards of bias tape that is 1" wide (4x .25")
  • 2 lengths of fabric for ties (W16"xL1 1/2" for smaller sizes and 18" width for sizes 3T and up)
  • 2 scraps of fabric for tassel tabs (width ~2" x length 1 1/2")
  • 2 lengths of 3/8" wide elastic. One that is one inch smaller than your high waist measurement, and one that is ~13-15" for neckline.
  • 2 lengths of 1/4" wide elastic for armholes each about ~8-10"
  • MORI GIRL SUNDRESS FREE PATTERN (sign up to my newsletter to gain access to my secret freebies library!)
  • 1 small square of fabric for keyhole facing (W2.5" x~3-4" long, depending on how big you want your keyhole)
  • a large safety pin
  • general sewing supplies
  • sewing machine and (optional) serger for finishing seams


all seam allowances are 3/8"(1cm) unless otherwise noted.  Back-stitch at the beginning and ends of stitching unless basting.

1.)  To determine how long and how wide your circle skirt bottom should be measure down from high waist to just above the knee (or whatever length you want the skirt to be.)  We will be adding in 3/8" seam allowance to the top waist measurement and 1/4" seam allowance.  Using your two bodice pieces, subtract the seam allowances, then add that measurement together.  So for instance, if your two bodice pieces add up to be 24", then subtract seam allowances (1.5") making it 22.5".  Now use that measurement and it by 6.28 making our example 3.58" (this is your circle skirt waist measurement).  Make a quarter circle measuring out from the point to your circle skirt measurement (3.58").  From that, measure down how long you want your skirt length to be plus seam allowances.  Fold your fabric in quarters and place your circle skirt quarter template with one straight side on the double fold and the other straight edge on the single fold.  Draw out your circle skirt per the picture. Cut along the top quarter circle curve and bottom circle curve.

2.)  Take one bodice piece and one sleeve piece and sew along the curve RST (right sides together).  Repeat with remaining bodice and sleeve piece, sewing them together to along the curves until they are all attached.

3.)  Finish the edges by serging or zig-zaging over the edge.  Press seams.  Sew the side seams RST,  matching fronts with backs and sleeve points.  Finish edges.

4.)  Finish the long edges of the keyhole facing and one side of the short edges.

5.)  Next we're going to make the ties with fabric tassels.  First, sew your contrast fabric for the tabs matching the like edges of your fabric ties.  Then, using a very close and narrow zigzag stitch, about 1/2" down from the tie seam. Now comes the tassels part.

Following the illustration, carefully remove only the crosswise threads, 1-2 threads at a time, leaving only the lengthwise threads.  Repeat this until you reach the zigzag stitching.  Fold the ties in half lengthwise towards the wrong side of the fabric towards the center.

6.)  Top-stitch on either side of the ties, 1/8" or less from the edges.  Box stitch the contrast tab between the seam and the zigzag edge.  Press ties.  Now let's determine the length of elastic we need.  Typically for a fully elasticized neckline you would need ~17-20" length of elastic.  So for Akira's 2T size dress, I used 17", divided it by four (since the back and the sleeves account for 3/4 of the bodice), then subtracted that number from 17".  So my equation looked like this:  17 ÷ 4=4.5.  17-4.5= 13.5.  The bold is what I cut for my neckline elastic.  Use a larger starting number for larger sizes.  After you determine that, secure the elastic ends to the raw ends of the two ties.  I recommend a box-stitch but a triple zigzag stitch is fine too.

7.)  Now it's time to make the keyhole.  First, find center of the bodice and keyhole facing and clip or mark it.  Match the two pieces RST , pinning the raw short edge of the facing with the raw edge of the front bodice.  Measure down about 1.25" from the top and draw a line 1/4" from the center top facing on each side.  Leave an opening about 5/8" wide on either side, then continue your lines (keeping them straight with the previous marks) and towards the bottom gently curve your lines towards the center to meet.  Stitch along your marks.  Check picture for clarity if you need it.  Clip carefully straight down the center and notch the apex of the curve close to the stitching line.  Turn facing towards the inside bodice and press well.

8.)  Next we're going to make the neck casing.  First fold down the top edge by a 1/4" all the way around towards the wrong side.  Press.  Fold over again towards the wrong but this time 5/8".  At the top of this fold there should be the top of your opening (the space you left open from stitching) and you should match the bottom edge with the bottom of the opening, leaving an opening 5/8" wide for your casing which should be big enough to pull your ties and elastic through.  If your ties are bigger or smaller, adjust accordingly.  Press.  Pin all around to keep your fabric from shifting.

9.)  Starting from one opening of the keyhole, stitch all way around, as close to the bottom folded edge as possible.  I like to think of it as a "generous" 1/2" since you want it to be as close to 5/8" without missing your fold.  This way your ties won't get stuck like mine did, haha.

10.)  In order to ensure the facing doesn't move around too much, I like to top-stitch it down.  Start by pinning the facing to the bodice from the top of the bodice.  Then I measured 3/8" from either side of the keyhole opening, and stitched, starting at the bottom of the casing stitching line, curving around the bottom.  Then I edge-stitched close to the inside of the keyhole.  It might be pretty to do some decorative stitching inside the two lines.  Maybe next time!

11.)  Using a large safety pin securing it to one of the box-stitched ends of your ties.  Carefully guide it through the casing, pulling it through the other side of the keyhole opening.  Find the part where your ties start/ your elastic ends on either side and pin in place between the sleeve and front bodice stitched seams.  You can feel the bump of where that is pretty easily.  Then stitch in the ditch (aka, right in the middle of your previous seams.  I go over this twice in both places.  This ensures that the elastic won't ever show through your keyhole openings and that it won't get twisted.  Win win!

12.) Now we're going to work on our skirt.  You should start off by finishing the top edge either by serger or zigzag stitching over the edge.  Next we're going to determine the length of elastic needed for the waist.  Taking your high waist measurement (at belly button level), then subtract half an inch (you'll need two 1/4" for overlap).  The reason we are doing an inch less is because of the way the elastic is sewn, it stretches out a bit and this way you'll have a fitted look with about a half inch of ease.  My girls live in theirs and never complained about them being tight!  Stitch the ends of your elastic together.  Mark the elastic in quarters so you can match it up with your center front, center back, and side seams easily.  Compare the bottom bodice edge with your skirt top edge.  If the skirt ends up being bigger than your bodice, then ease it to fit the bodice by basting then gathering to fit.  Pin the two edges RST at the marks.  (optional:  you could baste these two together to prevent shifting.)

13.)  Starting at the center back, pin the elastic on top of the skirt side at the points you pinned the skirt and bodice pieces.  Setting your stitching at about 6mm wide (or as wide as your machine will go if yours doesn't go that high) and about 3-3.4mm stitch length, zigzag stitch the elastic directly on top, stretching elastic to fit the the skirt and bodice piecesfrom pin to pin.  When you approach the next quarter pin, again stretch your elastic to fit your pieces.  Repeat until you reach your center back again.

14.) Now it's time to finish your hem!  If you haven't already, fold the edges of your bias tape towards the wrong side by 1/4" from each long edge.  Press well.  Starting with a tail long enough for about 1/2" seam allowance, match the edge of your bias to the edge of your skirt hem edge all the way around until you reach the other end, leaving about 1/2" seam allowance on that end as well.  I like to mark where the edges would meet to make sure there isn't any gaping and then stitch directly along that edge (removing those first and last pins temporarily and then trimming the seam allowance to 1/4", then replace those pins again).

15.)  This is really just a reference picture of the two tail pieces of step 14.

16.)  Stitch directly in your crease, 1/4" from the skirt edge all the way around.

17.)  Fold the bias tape towards the wrong side right at the seam you stitchedand press well all around. 

18.) Pin the bias in place from the front side. Top-stitch 1/2" from the skirt edge.

19.)  Almost done!  All we have left are the sleeves.  So we're going to fold the raw edge 1/4" towards the wrong side and again 1/4" towards the wrong side and press well.  Stitch in place 1/8" from edge. Repeat for other sleeve.

20.)  Measure around your top arm girth to figure out your elastic.  Add in 1/2" for seam allowance (it doesn't stretch out as much as the waist elastic).  Cut two lengths of 1/8" elastic.  Stitch the ends together.  Stretch the elastic to fit your sleeve and stitch with a narrow zigzag stitch (I used a 1mm width and 2.5mm length and but bobbin thread in that matched my sleeve fabric and stitched from the wrong side to prevent shifting) 1/2" from the sleeve hem for the smaller size and up to an 1" for the largest size.

And you're done! 

It's really such a breezy dress; I want to make an entire wardrobe of them for my girls for summer!  It goes a lot faster than the steps lead on.  

I really wanted to do something that was on trend for 2015 and had been hoarding all this fun gingham for just the right project.  Akira's was from Jo-ann's, Sephira's was repurposed from a curtain panel from Ikea, and Azriella's was from my favorite vintage fabric shop, the Knittin' Kitten. 

 I contrasted them with neon cuz, well, DUH, neon!?  It needs no explanation!  I tried to pull the outfits together by alternating the tassels' colors of the other dresses sleeve colors ;-)  

This is about as matchy as I will ever get!  

Also,  I seemed to have taken a crazy amount more pictures of Akira than anyone else.  Probably because she stays put a little more than the other two!

This was also the first real photoshoot I have done of all three girls at one time!  I was hoping for the perfect portrait picture...

 but someone always derped it up. Hahaha.

In fact, I have no shortage of out-takes!


Oh man, I sure do love these sweet faces!!!

I hope you make a Mori Girl Sundress!  Please use the #MoriGirSundress or tag me, @sew_chibi on Instagram so I can check em out! 

Thanks for stopping by, and thanks again to Melly for having me on your tour! Be sure to check out ALLLLL the dresses on her blog this month!  There's some great stuff there!

Next up for me is Sephira's 4th birthday dress coming up so soon!  Eek!  Stay tuned!

hugs and stitches and many many smooches,


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