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how to make an easy off the shoulder dress or top

How to make an easy off the shoulder dress or top // FREE tutorial on Megan Nielsen Design Diary

Off the shoulder dresses and tops are clearly having a moment this year. Thankfully, a little while ago darling Holly (who is currently enjoying some lovely newborn baby time!) created a super easy tutorial for making one yourself.

I’ve had a lot of requests for where to find this tutorial, so i thought it was worth sharing it with you all again!  It’s really simple to draft the patterns, as it’s only a few rectangles. Add some elastic, and voila! A super on-trend piece that will make you feel oh-so fancy.


All you need is:

aprox 1 1/2 – 2 yards of fabric

1/4 wide elastic

sewing machine

iron and ironing board

scissors, measuring tape, pins, etc.


So come on makers, check out the tutorial after the jump!


cut your fabric:

– For the main body of the dress, you will need two identical rectangles. Measurement A is your desired length. Measure from right above your bust (where you want the dress to sit) down to where you want it to end. Add 2” for seam and hem allowance. For the width of your rectangle, Measure right above bust (about a couple of inches or so), all the way around. This is your Measurement B. Each rectangle (front and back) should be this wide. This will make for a really full dress. So if you want something not quite so big, you can shave off a few inches from this measurement now.

Then, on both the left and right sides of both rectangles, mark 3 inches in along the top edge, and 5 inches down along the side. Draw a curved shape connecting each two points (pink lines in the graphic above), and cut out. These are your armholes.

– For the ruffle, you will also need two identical rectangles. Measure all the way around your shoulders for Measurement C. Again, each rectangle will be this wide. Measurement D is how long you want the ruffle to be. For reference, I cut mine at 10″ (that includes seam and hem allowance).


1. With right sides together, sew your front and back pieces together at the side seams. Finish your seams with your desired method.

Now also finish the edge of your armholes. You can do this with bias tape, or, like me, by turning under a small baby hem.


2. With right sides together, sew the two ruffle pieces together at the side seams to create one big tube. Finish your seams.

Mark your tube at the center of each piece. Also mark the center of both the front and back dress body pieces.


3. With both right sides of the fabric facing up, lay your ruffle tube around the dress, matching the center marks. Pin, and stitch the two together on both sides using a long basting stitch.


4. Time to create the tunnel for the elastic along the top edge of your dress. Turn the top edge under 1/2”, and then again another 1/2”. Pin, and stitch close to the edge. But don’t stitch all the way around. Leave a couple inch opening to insert the elastic.


5. Remember Measurement C? It was your shoulder measurement. Subtract 2” from that, and cut a piece of 1/4”  wide elastic at that length. Attach a safety pin to the end, and insert it into the opening you left in the tunnel. Use your fingers to move it along the tunnel until it comes out the other side.

Stitch and secure the two ends of the elastic together.

Pulling slightly on the elastic while under the presser foot, stitch the tunnel opening close.


All you have to do to finish your dress is hem the bottom edge of the dress and the bottom edge of the ruffle. Really, thats it! Wasn’t that easy? Give it try, let me know if you have any questions, and feel free to share your versions with us! I’ll be busy over here making a whole closet full of these. Psssst – you can see a starry printed version Holly did here.


Top: handmade // make your own with the instructions above!

Sunglasses: Warby Parker

Temporary Tattoo: Tattly

Sandals: Wanted // similar

About Author

Meg is the Founder and Creative Director of Megan Nielsen Patterns, and is constantly dreaming up ideas for new sewing patterns and ways to make your sewing journey more enjoyable! She gets really excited about design details and is always trying to add way too many variations to our patterns.

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[…] Megan Nielsen shares a quick off the shoulder dress tutorial. […]

7 years ago

Thank you so much for this amazing yet simple tutorial. I have been dying to bye a dress like this and was about to shell out close to $80 at Zara. Now i just need to get the few materials and the save a ton of money and have the cutest dress for summer. I am beyond grateful for this!

Shanna S (@PinaCocoblog)

I have an off the shoulder top that I am basing my measurements off of and if I do that then each ruffle length is 30″. But if I do two of each circumference according to your tutorial I would have two 60″ lengths and that would be a giant ruffle. Is this correct? Same with the dress measurements it seems awfully large. The dress on your model doesn’t look nearly this wide. I am curious as to what the widths are of each of these fabric pieces. I have a yard and a half fabric I am working with and I don’t want to end up wasting fabric if I cut the pieces too big to begin with or end up not having enough if the dress is really supposed to be that wide for each piece of fabric. Thanks

7 years ago

Thank you Megan for such a brilliant and easily explained tutorial. It is so simple. I want to create my own version this weekend but might take longer than necessary to complete because of my disability but it’s so easy that I just might manage ??

28 days ago

Thank you so much for this project! I’m going to try it. Two quick questions… 1. What type of fabric do you think works best for this gorgeous dress? And.2. Should I make the arm hole smaller since I am making this for my 10 year old daughter? Super excited to try this. Thanks again.