Happy Day Big Bow Dress ~ Pattern and Tutorial

Today I’m excited to share my tutorial for the ‘Happy Day Big Bow Dress’ with all of you.  I created two coordinating sister looks from this gorgeous fabric (see previous post here) – ‘Sunny Happy Skies’ by Riley Blake Designs.  The big bow dress is an easy, beginner sewing project that makes a big statement with the over-sized pocket and bow.  Yes, there are two button holes, but trust me, you can handle it!

Make this dress for any holiday by changing up the fabric.  The dress can also be layered with long-sleeves and tights for the colder weather months.  Let’s get started…….

Happy Day Big Bow Dress
by The Cottage Mama
Size 12 Months – Size 8
3/4 yard main fabric (varies depending on size)
1/3 yard fabric for bow
Fat quarter of fabric for pocket
1 yard pre-gathered eyelet or ribbon trim for straps
Embroidery floss
Rick Rack trim
Basic sewing supplies
Embroidery and hand sewing needle
Wonder Tape (optional)
Cut the fabric for the main body of the dress.  Keep fabric folded with the selvages lined up.  Selvage is the edge of the fabric with the name of the fabric line on it.  This edge of the fabric prevents it from unraveling.  Cut the length according to chart below:
Size 12m-24m: 19″
Size 2/3: 21″
Size 4: 23″
Size 5: 25″
Size 6: 27″
Size 7: 29″
Size 8: 31.5″
The dress I made for Matilda is the size 2/3.  You can see where the dress falls on her and adjust yours accordingly depending on if you would prefer a shorter or longer length.  If you follow the sizing above, your length should look about the same as her dress.
Turn the main body fabric so that the right sides are facing each other.  Stitch the selvages together to make the body of the dress.  Do this by sewing a straight line matching up the selvages.  This seam will be the back of your dress.  Use a 1/2″ seam allowance.  Press seam open.  You won’t need to finish the edge because we’ve left the selvage in tact so there will be no fraying.

Hem the bottom of the dress.  It won’t matter which side you hem, unless you are using a directional fabric.  In which case, you will need to hem what appears to be the bottom.  To hem, turn the raw edge up 1/2″ and then turn it up another 1/2″ and stitch in place all the way around the bottom.
Now cut the fabric for the large bow.  Cut TWO strips on the fold, both 5″ wide (you will use the full width of the fabric).  See picture above. If you are making the 12-24 month size, you may want to shorten the length by about 5″-7″.  
Now you will have two long strips of fabric that you need to sew together.  Put them right sides together and sew one of the short sides together – use a 1/2″ seam allowance.  This will make one giant long strip of fabric that is approximately 82″-84″ long x 5″ wide.
Fold the 5″ wide strip in half with the right sides facing and make a diagonal cut on both ends.  Do this however you think looks best.  There’s no right or wrong way about it.

With the right sides together, sew the long strip using a 1/2″ seam allowance.  Leave a 4″ opening in the middle of the strip so you will be able to turn it right side out.  Before turning, make sure to clip your corners to remove bulk.
Turn the strip right side out by pulling the fabric through the opening.  Work out the corners with something sharp line a bone-turner, pen, or paint brush and press with your iron.  Normally I would suggest that you hand-sew the opening closed, however, this part of the bow is going to end up encased in the top of the dress so don’t even worry about closing it.

For the pocket, you can embroider whatever you would like.  I used a water-soluble marking pen and simply wrote ‘Oh Happy Day’ and embroidered over it.  If you aren’t sure how to embroider, I will have to do a tutorial for that on another day.  But in the meantime, my friend, Jen, started a blog called ‘Ginger Freckle‘ not long ago and she’s got a great tutorial for the basics here.  
It’s kind of fun to have your own hand-writing on your child’s garment, so don’t worry if you think you don’t have neat hand writing……..just give it a try…….I think you will be pleasantly surprised.  Everything looks better with embroidery on top of it!
Once you’ve finished your embroidery, cut your fabric down to a 10″ x 8″ rectangle.

To make the rounded corners, find an object with a rounded edge.  I used one of our mason jar drinking glasses that I pulled out of the kitchen cabinet.  Fold your square in half and use your rotary cutter to cut around the curve.  If you don’t have a rotary cutter, simply trace the curve and cut with scissors.

The easiest way to add the rick rack around the edge is to use my favorite product, Wonder Tape.  I know I have said it a thousand times before, but Wonder Tape is a double-sided tape that will wash away after a garment goes through the washing machine and it doesn’t gum up your needle.  It is amazing at holding trims in place.  But if you don’t have it, just use regular straight pins.
Pin or tape rick rack on the right side of the fabric around the edge of your pocket.  Line up the edge of the rick rack with the raw edge of the fabric.  Cross over the ends as seen in the picture above.  Stitch straight down the center of the rick rack all the way around the pocket.

Use your iron and press the rick rack to the back side of the fabric all the way around.

Pin the pocket piece to the dress.  Just use your best judgment about where you would like the pocket placed.  Also, mark where you would like the top of the pocket to open.  Top-stitch around using a 1/4″ seam allowance.

Fold over the top of the dress 2″ and press towards the wrong side of the fabric.  I finished the top edge with my serger to prevent fraying.  If you don’t have a serger, you may choose to use pinking shears to finish the edge or a zig-zag stitch before you press the fabric in this step (totally optional).

Measure down from the top of the dress by 1/2″ on the right side of the fabric.  I made my button holes 1″ long, though you could probably make them 3/4″ if you would prefer.  I also set mine about 1″ apart from each other.  Before making the button holes, turn the 2″ of fabric that you pressed in the prior step back up (you don’t want to catch the other side when we make the button holes).  We just wanted to press it down so we could mark our button holes appropriately.

I’m going to assume everyone does button holes a little different depending on what kind of machine you have.  I have a button hole foot on mine, so that’s what I use.  If you need a button hole tutorial, you can check out this one from Sew Mama Sew.  Do not be afraid of the button hole – they really aren’t as hard as they look!

Once you’ve made your two button holes.  Fold the 2″ back over and stitch in place to create the casing for your strip of bow fabric.

To thread the bow fabric, use a bodkin or a safety pin on one end of the long strip.  Work the bow fabric through one button hole and out the other.
For the straps, I used pre-gathered eyelet, but you could use any kind of strap you like ~ try using ribbon, decorative trim, or you could try your hand at making ruffles from coordinating fabric.
Sorry I don’t have better pictures for this part.  I got a little excited to be finishing the dress and forgot to snap them.  I’m going to recommend measuring your child for the strap length.  The straps for the 2/3 dress for Matilda were cut at 10.5″ each.  If you would prefer to just make a guess, you can add an additional 1/2″ – 1″ for each additional size up from the 2/3. 

Remember when deciding on your strap length that you will be losing about 2″ based on sewing the straps in line with the casing stitching (in the step below).  So make sure to add 2″ to your desired strap length when cutting.  Logic would tell you that you’d be losing 2″ on EACH side, but the way the bow gathers the top of the dress, you really only end up losing 1″ on each side for a total of 2″. 

You will attach each strap by lining up the raw edge of the strap with the line of stitching that made the bow casing around the top of the dress (the stitching that we did 2″ from the top of the dress).  Make sure the strap is placed inside the dress.  Stitch over that line to attach the strap.  Then hand stitched the strap in all four places to the top edge of the dress.
Then tie a big giant bow in the front of the dress, step back and admire your work because you’ve done it!!  You’ve completed the ‘Happy Day Big Bow Dress’.
And finally, put this happy little dress on your happy little lady. Enjoy!
To download my free pattern and tutorial for the ‘Tulip Petal Sun Hat’, please visit Riley Blake Designs Cutting Corners blog by clicking here.

Like this post? Want even more?
Sign up below and receive all my tutorials, recipes and updates directly in your email inbox.


  1. It’s very pretty! I would make the shoulder straps higher though.

  2. oh my goodness, this is so stinking cute! That Oh Happy Day embroidery, and the big bow – I LOVE IT!!!

  3. So adorable! Thank you for the tutorial, love!!

  4. Thank you so much for this tutorial! I love everything about this dress!!!

  5. very adorable

  6. This is so cute, I really think I am going to try this. I am a super beginner sewer, I have only had my machine for 3 weeks. Where do you get your fabric?

    • Thanks, I’m glad you like it!! Well, this fabric was sent to me directly from the manufacturer…..Riley Blake Designs. But I love all my fabric shop sponsors, so click on any of them in the right side bar of the blog and you should find some fabulous prints!!

      Don’t worry about being a beginner……..we all had to start where you are at one point or another. Sometimes you just have to dive in and start learning. You can do it!

  7. This is just adorable. Thank you SO much for taking the time to do this for us.

  8. I love this and may have to give this a try. Maybe a cute idea for my daughter’s Easter dress! Thanks.

  9. Linsday,
    Thanks for such a great pattern/tutorial. I love reading your blog and I have one of your patterns that I have used several times for dresses for my girls. Thanks for all the hard work you put into your blog, it is one of my favorite reads every day.
    [email protected]

  10. Such lovely dress… I hope I could sew it one day with this great pattern and tutorial.

  11. Beautiful dress and gorgeous fabrics!

  12. I LOVE this dress! I actually just made it, and it’s so easy. I have a quick question about the straps. How did you decide where to put them? There’s so much bunching once the bow is in, that I’m not sure where to put the straps so that the bunching is even. Does that make sense? Should I just go about 1/3 of the way in on both sides of the dress?

  13. Hello. I love this dress. I have been considering making it for some time now! However, I am embarressed to admit that I am not getting the part where we know what the width of the dress should be? I am probably just having a brain cramp ;P. As always, love your creations!

  14. Thank you SO MUCH for this tutorial! I used it to make my daughter’s second birthday dress. I love how it turned out. So perfect for a little girl!!!

  15. Cute dress! Are you using the whole 45″ width of the fabric for the width of the dress?

  16. Thanks for the lovely pattern. Have made one for my Grand Daughter…have posted pics on my blog, plus a link to you.

  17. I just love this dress. I used the tutorial to make one for my daughter Lily. Still have to try it on her, and will have to do a redo. I didn’t do such a great job on the pocket placement and didn’t try to do the embroidery yet. Thank you so much for this tutorial! http://wethreemothers.blogspot.com/2013/05/a-big-bow-dress.html

  18. I bought my first ever sewing machine yesterday second hand and made my first project tonight which was this dress. I have always wanted to be able to sew other than by hand and I am so excited for how the dress turned out. THANK YOU for your inspiring blog and how you encourage us absolute novices to just give it a go even if you don’t feel you have the skills. Can’t wait to try it on my friends daughter tomorrow. It’s super cute!

  19. Fastidious replies in return of this query with firm arguments and describing all regarding

  20. Help! I am trying to see the straps and have no idea where to put them! This is a baby gift so I don’t have a little one to try it on. Thanks for your help!


  1. […] Rack Travel Tissue HolderToy Storage Labels‘I Spy’ Fabric Matching GameHappy Day Big Bow Dress TutorialOrange Themed Birthday PartyWill It Go Round in Circles? Free Quilt Pattern / TutorialTulip Petal […]