Saturday, January 5, 2013

Knocking Off J Crew: The Ruffle Dress Tutorial

This was originally posted as a part of Heidi's 'Knock off November' over at Elegance and Elephants.  Since I can't show you what I've been working on for the past few weeks until FRIDAY, I figured it was time to put this tutorial up on my own blog to kill time ;op
So here is the tutorial to make your own JCrew knock off.

JCrew Dress Knock off:
Well if you read my Dilemma Post, you know that this dress almost ended up in the 'circular filing cabinet' rather than finished.  It was never thrown across the room, but it did get left in a puddled lump for days at a time on more than one occasion.  It is NOT perfect, but I am sooooooooooooo happy that I finished it.

Mine: $0

J Crew does this weird thing where they only post front pictures of many styles and then go back weeks later and add a photo of the back.... ummmmm, great.  So I designed the dress 'back unseen', then stumbled upon the real back and scrambled to make a couple alterations so that the knock off would be as close as I could get.  (My original back had a standard high rounded neck and an invisible zipper - you can see I left out the darts - my pieces were already cut to match each other and I just didn't want to change it at the 11th hour ;op)
I made an active choice to sew down the ruffles and have them attached into the bodice.  The combination of  satin and a small size just made me feel like the ruffles would be overwhelming on baby girl unless they were somewhat tamed.  I also made the bodice an empire waist because I think this is easier for babies to wear - toddler and up I would do a standard bodice that hits at or just above the belly button.

Although baby girl did not NEED one more Christmas dress, it makes me really happy to have made something for my daughter for her first Christmas - and I made it a 12 month size so she can also wear it for Valentines day.  I've already been plotting a soft tulle version for Easter (WHAT did I just say I was going to make this thing AGAIN????? Well, tulle wont have to be roll hemmed ;op).

Difficulty: Intermediate/Advanced
 (* if you are a beginning-intermediate sewer who happens to have and love the rolled hem foot, go ahead and tackle this!  OR make it more casual and use a knit)

You will need:
-1.5 yards of Fabric for a Size 12month (or 1/2 of lining and 1 of outer fabric - I used a bridesmaid dress, so I'm guessing a bit on fabric amount)
look at that bridesmaid dress in all it's glory!!!

- metal zipper (mine is stolen from a pair of jeans)

-Basic A line dress pattern with scoop neck bodice (we'll alter it to add the front gathers)
-Template for the ruffles (you can use LBB's here, or do your own - I made my own because of the small size.  I do think a full circle would create a fuller ruffle - hindsight: 20/20 and all that.)
16 cut out ruffles - so pretty, so daunting

-Rolled Hem foot (if you don't have this: choose either a fabric that doesn't need to be hemmed, or practice doing a rolled hem by hand on a piece of curved fabric - maybe it will come naturally for you, but it didn't for me)

*I feel like the construction images I took are hard to decipher, so I made lots of diagrams ;o)
Altering the Bodice:
You will cut your lining pieces and back bodice piece as usual.  The only piece you will change is the Outer Bodice Front.

-Lay your front bodice on a piece of paper to trace
-Trace the bottom, side seam, and center (cut on fold) lines

-Now slide your pattern 1 inch away from your center line and trace the neckline and shoulder seam.
*This will give you two inches to gather at the center, if you want a fuller gather you could add 1.5 or 2 inches (just don't add too much or the bodice will have a poofy look)

- Now you will twist your pattern piece so that the shoulder seam and side seam of the arm hole match, and trace the arm hole.

Here's a look at the comparison of the two pieces and your new pattern.

*I promise, when the front is gathered, the pattern pieces will line up perfectly with one another!

Prepping the ruffles:
-Cut out all your ruffles, I cut 16 but used 15 (the extra is now a rosette accessory)
-You are going to do a rolled hem along the outter(longer) curve and the bottom straight edge.  The top you can leave raw if you are attaching it into the bodice.  If you want them to hang free like the original, hem the top edge too - ensure that your ruffles are the perfect length to end just shy of your seam allowance, the curved edge will stretch a bit just like bias. 
*I suggest cutting an extra or two that you can practice the rolled hem on - all fabrics behave differently, and the technique gets easier as you go along.
Here is a great tutorial for rolled hems - pay attention to the hand position, it made ALL the difference

Attaching the ruffles to the skirt:
What gives this skirt ruffles is that you are sewing a curved piece along a straight line
(*Seriously, go read LBB's tutorial if this condensed version doesn't make sense)

- Lay out your skirt with side seams sewn but the back left open.  You should hem your skirt at this point - it will make your life easier and you will thank me!
-Measure the top and bottom and divide by the number of ruffles you are going to attach (in my case 15: 7 in front and 8 in back, I regret only doing 7 in front because the back is so much fuller with that ONE extra ruffle)
-Mark where each ruffle will be , top and bottom.  Then connect the lines (with fabric pen or chalk)
-Sew One ruffle along each line right side down. (Your skirt should already be hemmed, start at the bottom and sew up to the waist - any overage will get evened up in the waist seam.)
*Line the edge of your fabric against the inside of the foot - 1/8 or smaller of a seam

-Iron the ruffle over so the right side is showing and then top stitch the same way you originally stitched on.

-Pin the free edge of the ruffles down, lined up with the top of the waist then baste in place.

-Trim the edges even with the skirt waist line.

Voila - ruffle skirt ;o)

Bodice Construction:

- First we need to add that cute gathered section to the outer bodice piece.
- Mark your center and measure out 1.5 inches on each side, totaling 3 inches.  
- Sew a basting line along those three inches. (don't back tack at the end)
- Pull your top thread to gather the material
-Hold it up against your lining piece to make sure the neck lines are now the same and top stitch the gathered section to hold your gathers in place
-Sew together your shoulder seams for the lining then the outer bodice

-Lay the two bodices right side together

 - Stitch around the arm holes and neck hole, but not the back seam, side seams, or bottom
- Turn the bodice right side out.  Splay the side seams open and then sew together the front and back in one straight line.

- Press Press Press

For the zipper, I chose to just baste,  turn, and press the center back edges and top stitch the zipper in place (after sewing the bodice to the skirt).  There are many other options, but this was the easiest for me to achieve the look of the original.

And there you have it, a J Crew Knock off!

*If there is anything I failed to explain, just ask... 


  1. The dress is just so pretty and feminine! you did a great job with the tutorial!

  2. I will be attempting this for my 2 year old.. I will need a lot of luck!

  3. Ok so I made one.. I will NEVER do another (in satin) Oh my word! What a pain in the butt with all those ruffles.. I ended up using 3 full yards for a 2 year old with only 12 ruffles.. (I guess I spaced em to far I had 14 ready to use) ANyway I will try add a picture..

    Well dang I can't figure out how to share a picture..

    I will try again tomorrow when I'm not so exhausted..

  4. [URL=][IMG][/IMG][/URL]

    Hopefully one of these links will work..

  5. This is an awsome tutorial! But I am still a little confused on how to add more ruffles.