A simple DIY summer dress made with a mix of printed fabric using McCalls M8090 sewing pattern, modeled on a mannequin.

Make a Summer Dress – McCalls M8090

Hello, sunshine! Though you may be spending an enormous amount of time at home these days, let’s sew something to wear for the days when we do get out. Follow along and be inspired to make a summer dress – McCalls M8090.

I also have lots of other sewing pattern ideas too. I hope you find joy and satisfaction in creating something with your own two hands.

Perfect time to make a DIY summer dress

If there is a season for the dress, it has to be summer! There is no better time to wear a flowy dress than warm weather.

My dress pattern choice is loose and comfortable, but I have included other style ideas below that are more fitted too.

Mixing patterns and mixed prints in an outfit

I have been drawn to fabric my entire life. A mix of prints, patterns, or funky color combinations in clothing, especially intrigues me, and I would love to make more clothes like this. 

This is one way the “be brave” mantra comes in to play for me. My goal is to challenge myself and you to do the creative things you feel in your heart. What is your heart calling you to do?

My good friend and fellow creative, Ruth, came along to assist me in selecting and pairing fabrics. It is always helpful to get another perspective. She marched me into the quilting fabric section at JoAnn Fabrics. For reals?

I had never gone in THAT section for apparel fabric. The selection is quite large and diverse, so you need to hunt.

It was fun getting outside of my usual sandbox. We chose prints that are quite gentle and quiet, so it was a good first step for a new mixologist.

Tiered Dress or Skirt Pattern Designs

A tiered skirt is a dream to wear and so very fun to float in! There is nothing more feminine! Some of the dress patterns below also incorporate tiers or rows of fabric, overlapping layers, or flounces.

How To Sew A New DIY Dress That You Love and will wear

What styles do you feel most comfortable in?

You may want to look in your closet or try on various styles before you choose a sewing pattern. Of course, you can challenge yourself with something new, but be sure to give it some thought.

Consider the features you like to wear; whether long sleeve or short, long dress or short, fitted bodice and waist or loose-fitting, pockets, splits, ruffles, etc. The choices are all yours!

Though I love the flowy skirt in the dress I made, I discovered that this smock style dress is not for me. While it is incredibly comfortable and it does hide all-the-things, I need a defined waist and a bit more structure.

Next time I will incorporate the tiers into another dress or skirt style because they Ah-mazing to wear! So, do what I say and not what I did.

Dress sewing patterns ideas and inspiration

To begin, pick a sewing pattern design. My DIY dress is McCalls M8090. (affiliate link) Below are a few good dress patterns and some of the best dress styles for summer that I found on Amazon that have tiers and ruffles.

Today’s picks have an emphasis on feminine fashion. I do not dress this way often, so it is a fun variation!

I hope you find a look you are drawn to, there is something girlie, for every shape and size here. There are also buying sources in the text below each photo. (affiliate links below)

McCall’s M8090    |    Simplicity 1872

Simplicity 1110    |    Vogue V9251

Sewing Dress Projects for Beginners

If you are new to sewing, choose your dress pattern and fabric wisely. Beginner sewists should select a sewing pattern labeled “Easy to Sew”, “1-hour”, or “Learn to Sew”, etc.

Also, consider a solid color fabric to start. This will make it much easier to succeed!

Best Fabrics For Sewing a Summer Dress

For my smock dress, I chose three quilting cotton prints that are medium-weight.

Sewing projects are more enjoyable and easier to manage with light to medium weight fabrics. Be sure to look for these types of fabric if you are just learning how to sew clothes.

You will also discover that sewing with quilting cotton is incredibly easy. It’s easy to cut, press, and it doesn’t slip and slide. Cotton, in general, is a great fabric if you are new to sewing or just dipping your toe in for the first time.

As you shop, also consider lightweight fabrics, such as chambray, soft cotton, cotton lawn, linen, or medium weight fabrics: for example denim, and oxford. There are so many lovely options for dress fabrics.

What is Quilters Fabric?

Can I use quilters fabric? Yes, you can indeed use quilting cotton even for apparel fabric.

Quilting cotton tends to be stiffer than apparel cotton. It is usually not as soft and does have a stiffer drape. Quilting cotton works best for casual garments, structured garments, and it is perfect for little girl dresses.

The best quilting fabric brands start with high-quality greige (gray) goods. Premium greige fabrics have a thread count a minimum of 60 by 60 threads, and most have thread counts higher than 60 square.

A higher thread count creates a silkier feel, less breakdown when washed, a more extended fabric life, and better print clarity.

Most large chain stores carry quilting cotton produced from less expensive materials. Premium brands are worth looking into because they offer higher quality than their less expensive counterparts but for not much more.

You can typically find better quality cotton for apparel in smaller fabric stores and online.

How to prepare your fabric for sewing

I recommend pre-washing your fabric and drying as you will do in the future. If you use a dryer, this may shrink the fibers slightly but, it’s better to do before you invest your hard work than after.

Whatever fabric type you choose, try to hang dry your garments after they are done, to extend their life.

Ideas Where To Buy Affordable Fabrics Online

You can purchase almost everything you need for your project at your local fabric, craft store, or online retailer; Including sewing machines, fabric, sewing patterns, and supplies.

Here are a few well-known online shops and also a few good brick and mortar establishments to help you locate your perfect dress fabric:

Harts Designer Fabric
Hobby Lobby
JoAnn Fabrics
Mood Fabrics

Minnesota peeps! If you are in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis or St. Paul, or just passing through, be sure to check out our local Minneapolis fabric stores and also our St Paul fabric stores! CLICK below for more information:

The Sewing Lounge
Treadle Yard Goods
S.R. Harris

Sewing Supplies For Your DIY Summer Dress

Assemble or purchase your sewing materials to prepare. See below for the essential items you will need and ideas on where you can buy them (affiliate links in blue)

Sewing Pattern mine is McCalls M8090
Dress Fabric
Matching Thread
Notions according to the pattern, mine were interfacing and bias tape
Sewing Straight Pins HERE
Sewing Scissors or
Rotary Cutter
Sewing Board, HERE or
Safe Cutting Surface, HERE
Paper Scissors not pictured
Sewing Machine not pictured

A simple DIY summer dress made with a mix of printed fabric using McCalls M8090 sewing pattern, modeled on a mannequin.

Sewing With A Patterned or Print Fabric

If you choose a fabric with a distinct print or pattern, it can be tricky to match the connecting panels together. It requires a bit of time and patience, but it is worth it when your dress is ready to wear.

It is near impossible to match everything perfectly on the entire garment, so choose the most dominant and noticeable areas.

My dress fabric was not directional, meaning it does not have a particular print orientation or distinct graphics. The prints are smaller, so I was not concerned about the pattern connecting from panel to panel.

Depending on the style of dress you choose, you may need to pay special attention to the bodice, the center front, or the hemline, etc. to match up your print design.

Here are some matching techniques to consider if you choose a stripe or pattern fabric.

Find a dress sewing pattern and make yourself an easy-breezy dress to finish off your August. If you do make one, please let me know in the comment box below. I love to see what you are creating!

Enjoy the warm weather!

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10 comments on “Make a Summer Dress – McCalls M8090

    1. Hi Nancy! It does not. I guessed! According to my receipt, it looks like I purchased 1.25 yards of each of the 3 fabrics. I did have some leftover, but I prefer to be safe. Please get a second opinion based on your pattern, fabric, and size though! Good luck and keep me posted!

  1. Love the more “girlie” look. I plan on using the inspiration to have something similar tailored right here in Vietnam.

  2. I’ve almost finished mine in a green daisy print rayon. I might try another in different colours like yours, so cute.

  3. It looks like you added a 3rd tier not pictured in the pattern . Did you make the 3rd tier longer or the 2nd shorter?

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