How to Create a Circle Dress for a Tween – A Tutorial

Tween Polkadot Circle Dress5

Hi friends!  I am joining hands today with Sally and Kelli over at Sew Cool for the Tween Scene and sharing a circle dress made for Maïan.  If you have a tween, you have got to check out their website.  It is chock full of sewing inspiration for the 8 to 13 age group! You are bound to find some great ideas for fresh and modern garments for that often difficult-to-sew-for age group.

Aaaah my sweet 11 year old Maïan… she doesn’t always let me sew for her.  In fact, it takes a lot of convincing to get going on a garment for my tween.  So when she asked me to make her a simple dress,sleeveless with a full circle skirt, I said: “Mais oui ma cherie!!!

The one condition was that I let her pick the fabric… (she clearly doesn’t trust my taste in fabric… Gulp!  I’m trying to not take that personally!) So needless to say, the design of this dress is hers, as well as the polkadot blue and white fabric!   

Tween Polkadot Circle Dress7

Here’s a quick and dirty tutorial to help you along if you’re hoping to recreate something similar for your tween.  I won’t go into great detail with the construction of the bodice but will rather give you the general steps that you should take.  I will spend a bit more time on the construction of the circle skirt pattern, as this part baffled me quite a bit.  I finally figured it out so I’m happy to pass along that information.

Of course, if you’re in the mood for a bit more hand holding, I’ll include at the end some links to existing patterns that would give you a similar result as this dress.  So here we go!

Tween Polkadot Circle Dress11

Tween Polkadot Circle Dress9

Tween Polkadot Circle Dress4

STEP ONE: Trace your bodice.  This could be from an existing pattern, or from an item of clothing that you already have.  I used a top that was almost identical to the bodice I wanted to recreate.  You’ll see below that my makeshift pattern was traced with added seam allowance (3/8 inch in my case).  You can see that the front bodice piece is to be cut on the fold and has a lower neckline.  The back is to be cut in two pieces with seam allowance (to allow for the invisible zipper), and has a higher neckline.  I measured Maïan to see how low I wanted to bodice to end, and added a 3/8 inch seam allowance to that.

Tween Skater Dress1

STEP TWO: Sew shoulder seams of main bodice together, right sides together (RST).  Sew shoulder seams of lining together, RST.  Place main and lining bodice pieces RST, pin neckline and sew.  Do the same with the arm holes (but not sides of bodice).

Tween Polkadot Circle Dress3

STEP THREE Add your invisible zipper to your main fabric and lining.  If the waistline is low enough, you can end the zipper at the bottom of the bodice, allowing you to keep the skirt back in one piece.  There are some wonderful invisible zipper tutorials out there but I really like this one by Girl Inspired, as it shows you how to insert it in a bodice with a lining.

STEP FOUR If you want to add piping, to the bottom of the bodice, this would be the time to do it.  Alternatively, it could be added to the top of the skirt just before skirt and bodice are sewn together.  Up to you!

Tween Polkadot Circle Dress8

STEP FIVE  Time to make our circle skirt.  Pull out the calculator my friend.  Oh, don’t be scared… it won’t hurt.  But it will bring back memories of high school math!  In all seriousness, I actually asked my husband to help me figure this out… but I bet you’re smarter than I am and can figure this out.

This is going to be a two panel circle skirt.

Measure the bottom edge of the front bodice.  Divide this number by 3.14.  This will give you your waist radius.  Let’s call this number X.   For Maïan’s dress, the bottom of the front bodice measured 16 inches.  Divided by 3.14, that gave me, 5.1 inches.  (As my bodice sides have not been sewn yet, my measurement of the front bodice piece includes seam allowances so there is no need to add more.)

Take a piece of pattern paper and starting at a corner measure X horizontally  and mark (1). Return to your corner and measure X vertically and mark (2) .  Again from your corner, measure X all along between the horizontal and vertical marks (3).  Your pattern will look like image 4 below.

Creating a circle skirt collage1

Next, determine how low you would like the skirt to go.  I chose just above the knee.  Measure from the bottom of the bodice to your desired length.  Add 3 inches to this (for seam allowances).  This will give you your length radius. Let’s call this Y.  In Maïan’s case, bottom of bodice to knee was 17 inches.  I added 3 inches which gave me 20 inches.

Take your pattern paper and starting at the same corner as before, measure Y horizontally and mark.  Return to the corner and measure Y vertically and mark.  Again from your corner, measure Y all along between the horizontal and vertical marks. (1) Your pattern piece is now complete.

Creating a circle skirt collage2

Place the pattern on your fabric, ensuring that your fabric is folded along the horizontal line. (image 2 above)

Cut x 2 for the main fabric and cut x 2 for the lining fabric.  You should therefore have 4 pieces in total.

STEP SIX Pin main skirt front to bodice front, (RST), pining at the centre and then out towards the sides.  Sew front skirt to bodice front.  Repeat for the back side.

Do the same with the lining.

Tween Polkadot Circle Dress1

STEP SEVEN Sew side seams of main bodice and main skirt, (from arm hole to hem) front and back together.  If you have excess fabric  (meaning that either the skirt measurements or bodice measurement were a bit off), you can adjust at this point in time by tapering your stitch line and cutting off the excess fabric.   I used my serger to finish off the seam allowances.

Repeat for the lining.

STEP EIGHT Last step! Fold your main fabric hem up 1.5 inch and iron well. Fold up again 1.5 inch and iron well.  Sew hem.

Repeat for the lining, ensuring that the lining is just a tad shorter than the main fabric (unless you’d like the lining to peek out a bit, which would be cute too!).

Tween Polkadot Circle Dress2

Tween Polkadot Circle Dress10

And there you go, a circle skirt for your capricious tween!

As promised, here are a few links to similar type dresses that go all the way to size 12, and will give you way more detail that the quick tutorial above.

The Caroline Party Dress by Mouse House Creations (affiliate link – cause I love it so much!):  Sized from 6 months to 12 years, this is a gorgeous dress with lots of possibilities.  And bonus, it now comes in women sizes too if you’re looking for something bigger than size 12.  I’ve made one Caroline dress so far for my 4 year old.

Volume 1 E-Book by Five and Ten Designs: This collection of pattern alterations will work great at recreating the look of Maïan’s dress.  Look 1 in particular is very similar, although not a circle skirt.  Note that this e-book only goes to size 10 so you’ll have to grade up a tad if you need bigger than a 10.

The Summer Maxi Dress by Heidi and Finn: Admittedly a very  different style of dress, but I think you could do something quite interesting by lowering the bodice and shortening the skirt length.  Goes from 12 months to 12 years.

The Hanami Dress from Straightgrain:  Another beautiful dress pattern that comes with tons of great options.  Choose to make it sleeveless, with the zipper back and you would have a similar dress to the one I made.  This pattern only goes to size 10 so again, you might need to grade up a tad or adjust length to make it for an older girl.


Tween Polkadot Circle Dress6

Make It and Love It

19 thoughts on “How to Create a Circle Dress for a Tween – A Tutorial

    1. Hi Sally,
      I find I don’t have a choice anymore… for the garment to stand any chance of being worn, her input is crucial!!! After all, why bother spending all that time creating it if it’s just going to gather dust hanging in her closet, right. Thankfully, I still have a 1 year old that couldn’t care less what she wears so I get to go crazy with the pattern/fabric choices for her, haha!


    1. Oh, Rachel! I forgot to talk about the pockets in my tutorial, haha! I can’t believe that completely slipped my mind… I created those based on the Caroline dress tutorial, which I purchased while I was sewing up Maïan’s dress… they were a last minute addition and totally worth it! And the piping is a fun little detail.. just a little bit of colour to break up the blue!


    1. Justine, I’m so glad you like it… and thank you so much for pinning this for me! I am seeing lots of traffic and re-pins because of you!!! Yay!!!


  1. Cute dress/idea! Isn’t it difficult to get on and off with the zipper stopping at the waistline? I’d hate todo all that work and then have a problem with the wearing. Would love to know if you had any issues with that or not.

    1. Hi Kathy,
      Good question as of course that would be an issue if this was a women’s garment. But with this particular pattern (the Tinny), it isn’t an issue. The bodice is long enough and the overall garment loose fitting enough that it passes right over her head and shoulders, or over her legs and bum. With my 4 year old, I prefer to lengthen the zippers into the skirt or the bodice to hit the hips as she’s a bit rounder in the belly. Thanks for stopping by Kathy!


      1. Kathy, I realize that I was referring to the wrong dress when I replied. Your comment came in shortly after posting a dress for my 2 year old, where I had also stopped the zipper at the waistline so I assumed you were referring to that toddler dress. But now I am realizing that you are referring to Maïan’s dress, my tween. Sorry about that! No, it hasn’t been an issue as Maïan really has very small hips or bum so she can get in and out quite easily. I would consider lengthening the zipper into the skirt otherwise and probably will in the future once she hits puberty.


  2. Hi Natallie, I am going to make this dress for my grandaughter , would it turn out ok with a poly cotton fabric or is it too light weight for the circle skirt part ?


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