Betty Bodice Dress Free Pattern and Tutorial

It’s ready, it’s ready, it’s finally ready!
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I’m so pleased with it!  I hope you all like it too, ok just a few more photos!
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I have quite a few variations in mind so watch this space!  This tutorial contains the pattern and instructions for the lined (bodice only) dress.  It is in a Size 8, I hope to make the pattern available in more sizes in the future.

What you will need

  • Fabric – Half a meter of each fabric for the bodice is plenty.  For the skirt part of the dress it will depend on the width of your fabric.  The width for the skirt is 142cm (56”) by 48cm (19”), so if your fabric is less than 142cm (56”) wide than you will need a full meter.  If it is more than 142cm (56”) wide you can get away with half a meter (Note: a yard is slightly smaller than a meter (1m = 1.09 yards).
  • Bias Binding for the ties.  Or you could use ribbon, or make your own using fabric.
  • Pattern – Which you can download in a Size 8 for free.  Just click this link.
  • Note: Sewn with a 1cm (3/8”) seam allowance.
This is going to be one long tutorial, but bear with me!  It is not long because it is difficult, but rather I have kept all the photos large so that the steps are nice and clear.  I wanted to make sure it is nice and easy to follow!

Step 1 – Pattern

You will need to download and print the pattern.  The assembly is nice and simple, and there are only 2 pages to print.  Make sure you print in ‘actual size’ or uncheck ‘scale to fit’ if it is ticked. 
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I have used A4 size paper but it should print fine on other sizes if printed using the correct settings.  Print two copies, one for the front and on for the back.  Please check the 2.54cm” (1”) square before cutting out!!
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Cut the excess off one of the pattern pieces.  That is the plain strip above the pattern lines.
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Place the trimmed page on top of the other page and line up the pattern lines so the ends just touch. Tape in place and cut out.
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This is the back piece, trim off the curved neck line to make the front piece.

Step 2 – Cutting Fabric

Place you pattern piece on your fabric on the fold with the grain line following the arrow on the pattern.  I like to fold over my fabric just enough for the piece I am cutting then fold again for the next piece.
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I have tucked the scissors in between the layers so you can see where the edge is.  Cut out as you usually do.  I don’t pin or mark (only rarely for tricky pieces), I place a heavy item on top and start cutting.
Repeat for front and back, and the same in the lining pieces.

Step 3 – Cut Back Opening

Fold out your back piece and lay the pattern on one side.
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Cut down the centre (where the red line is on the pattern) down to the red arrow on the pattern.  This will make your opening for the back.
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Do the same for your lining piece.  You could be brave and do both at once but I always worry about the layers shifting!

Step 4 – Sewing Bodice Front

Lets start with the front.  Lay you main fabric and lining on top of each other with your pieces right sides facing each other.  Pin the neckline and two thirds of the way up the armholes.
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Sew this with a 1cm (3/8”) seam allowance, I have used this seam allowance for all seams in this pattern.  Remember to lockstitch or reverse a few stitches over at the beginning and ends.
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Here is one of the lining which is a little less pretty but easier to see!
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Before you turn it right way around you will need to cut into the seam allowance on the curves, so that it will sit flat the right way around.
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Turn you piece the right way around.
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Press with your iron, when you get to the un-sewn piece of the armhole just iron in the fold so it matches the rest.
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There is the finished front of the bodice.

Step 5 – Sewing Bodice Back

Is a little more tricky than the front but still nice and simple if you follow the steps.
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Pin the armholes two thirds of the way up, just like you did for the front.  Remember to have the right sides facing each other.
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While it is pinned fold both layers in half.  Trim from the bottom of the cut to round the opening, tapering to nothing at the top.  I marked 1cm in 1cm before the end of the cut, and used that as a guide.  Here is a graphic if that didn’t make sense!
Back Graph Opening
Pin the neckline including the back opening.  You can sew the armholes and the neckline, but NOT the opening!!!
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Prepare the ties.  You can sew bias binding (tape) together like I have done, or you can make your own ties anyway you like.  You can use a button, dome, or zip (don’t round off the opening).  I will add these options to coming tutorials!
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Sew your bias together in one length, then cut in half afterwards.  I chose a contrast coloured thread but do whatever you like!
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Tuck and pin your tie in place, it can lay against the neckline seam so you know it will be straight and in the correct position.
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Here you can see the end just sticking out.  Make sure that your ties are both up the same way!
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Time to sew the opening. Start at the end of the neckline seam and sew down and around and back up the other side.  As I sew over the tie I reverse back over it, and sew it again for extra strength.  You can lift your presser foot with the needle in to turn the fabric at the curve, so you can make it around without puckering.
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You can see the thicker stitching on the tie.
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Cut into the seam allowance around all the corners, back opening, neckline and armholes.  Cut the corners off at the top of the opening, be careful not to cut any of the stitching!
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Turn it around the right way and press as you did for the front.  You can pull gently on the ties to help pull out the corners.
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Step 6 – Join Bodice Pieces Together

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Lay your pieces on top of each other, with right sides facing out.
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Fold open the top of the shoulder and pin together.  Make sure to match the seam in the middle.  Don’t worry if the edges don’t line up perfectly, they will be folded in anyway.
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Sew in place.
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Fold around the right way and press with your iron.  Repeat on the other shoulder.
Now to join the side seams,
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Fold out as shown in the photos above and pin in place.  Again taking care to match the seam in the centre.
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Sew the seam as normal.
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Overlock the raw edge (or you can zigzag).
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Back to the trusty iron to press the seam neatly in place.  Repeat on the other side.

Step 7 – Topstitching

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Pin the remaining openings on the shoulders in place.
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Topstitch the armholes starting at the underarm seam.
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You can see I have used a matching thread for the lining on the bobbin.
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Carry on topstitch the neckline and back opening.  You can do this in one continuous line.
Yay you have finished the bodice of the dress!!!

Step 8 – Skirt Prep

For a gathered skirt you will need a piece of fabric that measures 142cm (56”) by 48cm (19”).  I have chosen to use a contrast hem (like the Contrast Hem Skirt).  So I have two pieces, one that measures 142cm (56”) x 38cm (15”) in the same fabric that I used for the lining, and one that is 142cm (56”) x 10cm (4”) of the bodice fabric for the contrast hem.  You can allow a little for seams but as it is the length of the dress a centimetre here or there doesn’t really matter!
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Fabric not wide enough?  Don’t panic!  You can just join two pieces together.  I just overlocked, pressed and topstitched the join.
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Overlock (or sew) the contrast strip on the bottom.  I overlocked then pressed and topstitched this piece.  Note: skip this step if you are using a single colour skirt.
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I like the detail of the contrast topstitch line at the bottom.

Step 9 – Gather Skirt

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Sew close to the top edge of the skirt piece, using the highest thread tension (mine is 9) and longest stitch length (mine is 4) your machine has.  I have a Superhero Cape tutorial which shows this clearly here.
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Adjust the gather to make the skirt piece same length as the bodice (it is folded double in the photo).  Allow 1cm (3/8) for seam allowance on both ends.
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Once you have the length right, tie both threads together at the end to prevent it moving.
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Spread the gather evenly around the skirt, and press with your iron to help keep the gathers in place while you sew.
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Pin and sew the side seam.
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Overlock or zigzag the side seam.

Step 10 – Join the Skirt to the Bodice

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Mark the centre back of your bodice back with a pin.  With the skirt inside out and the bodice the right way around.
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Place the bodice inside the skirt, pin the centre back to the seam in the skirt.
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Pin the rest of the way around.  Notice how I’ve pushed the lining in and out of the way.
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Sew and then overlock in place.
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This is how it will look.
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Pull the lining out of the top of the dress, and overlock (zigzag) the raw edge.
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Nearly there! Turn the dress the right way around and press the seam between the bodice and skirt.
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Now you can leave it as is, or you can topstitch the seam.  This also catches the lining, totally optional but I like the look.
Pin on the right side, taking care to hold the lining flat with your hand inside.
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This is how the inside will look.  Also a great time to add your label!
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Starting at the back seam topstitch all the way around.  Take your pins out as you go, I don’t like sewing over pins they all get bent!
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Only one more step!!!

Step 10 – Hem

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You can use any hem style you like.  I have gone for the simple overlocked and folded hem.  Overlock the edge.
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Iron over the overlocked edge.  I used the overlocking as a guide and folded over double that width.
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Using the guides on your machine (I used 1cm 3/8”) to make sure you catch the seam and it stays even.
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Congratulations!  You are all finished!  I would love to see how your dress turned out.  So please share it Instagram (and tag @nina_makes or write it in the comments), or on add a photo to the Nina Makes Facebook page.  Or if you are not on social media feel free to email me ninalondeman@gmail.com!
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4 thoughts on “Betty Bodice Dress Free Pattern and Tutorial

  1. Thank you Nina for your dress tutorial, I’m looking forward to making one.
    I’m waiting for my material to dry, forgot to pre wash it beforehand!

    Your stitching looks so neat and even!

    1. Hi Maureen, don’t you hate that, waiting for fabric to dry is not my strong point. I have taken to washing it all before I put it away in the cupboard! Thanks for your kind comment, I have been known to un-pick seams that aren’t quite right 😉 Good luck making your dress!

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