Kentucky Derby dress


Last year I went to the Kentucky for the first time ever. It was a bucket list item- I was raised on horses and fed southern pride, so naturally I was ecstatic all day. After witnessing American Pharoah win, in a ground-shaking experience from center field, my friend and I immediately went home saying, “We gotta go back.” We made plans to bring our families and moved on.

Fast forward 8 months and I was crawling through the fabric walls in my new favorite Nashville fabric hot spot, Craft South. I came across THIS fabric, and the horse girl in me took over and bought 3 yards. This fabric is obviously bold, and asked me to make something deserving of its equestrian glory. I originally envisioned something a little more retro-inspired, but a friend had the best idea for it.. a Kentucky derby dress.

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I have this white peplum top that fits like a dream. I permanently borrowed it from a friend’s closet and it’s been my favorite ever since. So that scoop-neck top served as a pattern for the top part of this dress.

The top.

I grabbed some tissue paper and set to work drawing out the individual pieces it would take, with 3 pieces for the front, and 3 for the back. I cut out two of each set (so 6 total). This is the part where I stared at it all for 20 minutes to decide the placement of all my ponies. 🙂












I hung back on cutting out the skirt portion of this at first- until I absolutely had to. Partly because I couldn’t decide how I wanted it to fit yet – partly because I’m lazy and hate cutting. So I set to work piecing together the top. I pinned the front pieces (right sides together), making small notches in the chest area so that the seams would lay smooth. I lined the top portion – this is a cotton blend, and although it has less ‘give’, I wanted it to come across neat, prim, and proper. This means making the same top twice.. So I pinned together & sewed all three front pieces twice, and all three back pieces twice.

Once those top pieces were put together, I went through the same process for the back.. Sorry, no pics of that! But you get the idea. After these 4 sets of 3 fabric pieces (3 pieces for both front & back, x 2 for the lining), You end up with 4 pieced together sections – two fronts, two backs. PS. make sure you iron ALLLLL those seams. I know. Ironing sucks. But your whole project will be a total waste if you don’t take the 3 minutes and iron all seams open. After that, things got a little complicated, seeing as this was my attempt in creating a pattern for what I wanted, so bear with me.

Creating patterns for what I want is sort of my thing, because I’m too lazy to find what I want. Also, pattern directions usually suck, and the patterns were made for body shapes from the 50s. So after I had these four pieces, I decided the best way to go about it was to pair each set of front & back together (that way I technically had two tops). I pinned the tops of the shoulders– the skinny 2″ across part- together and stitched them across. It should resemble a baby bib 🙂 by connecting the outside front to the outside back, and repeating it with the lining. I then took both bibs (hehe) and pinned them together, right sides facing each other, like this:


First, I sewed the neckline. I DID NOT stitch the openings for the arms or the sides of the top together. So listen up. The only thing I sewed in this round was the neckline –  one big round circle. And once that was done, I tucked the top layer (pictured above) into the neckline so that right sides were outward facing. I then sewed each front and back piece to each other, right sides facing. So you’ll have to move the liner out of the way when sewing the outside pieces together, and the outside pieces out of the way when sewing the liner pieces together. So once those pieces are joined together, you essentially have two tops that are connected by the neckline. There are several ways to go about this (think: blazer liners, etc.) but for me, this was the easiest way to handle this type of fabric, as opposed to forcing the neckline to stretch and fit itself, after already having two tops.

This is the part that makes those two pieces become one. This way once you turn it back right side out, you have two tops, joined at the shoulders, and one tucks into the other, and no seams are visible except the armholes. Now you can fold and pin the armholes down so that the seams will be hidden, but the stitching will be visible. I simply do this by creating a 1/4″ fold in both fabrics and iron all the edges inward. Stick them together, and then stick em’ with a pin every inch-2 inches or so- you be the judge. Sew each sleeve right along the edge. After you sew the armhole edges inward, the top should be completely finished off except for the raw edge where the skirt should be attached.

Then cut the back open like a madwoman. Yup, you read that right, but not just yet. Take a hard ruler and draw a line straight down the middle of the back of the dress’s top. Then, draw a line 1/4″ to the left and 1/4″ to the right of this middle line, so that you have 3 lines down the center of the back. Sew a simple basting line over the top of these penciled left and right lines (not the middle one). Then take your rotary cutter and roll it right down the middle line, cutting the back down the middle and opening up the back of the top. This will soon be the perfect place for a zipper. (btw, scissors are soooo 2002. Get on that rotary blade if you’re still playing around in that decade).

So at this point, you should have a cute little pony top (or whatever) that’s right side out with the neckline finished, and a biga** opening in the back where a zipper will one day in an hour go. Now turn it back inside out. Now you must do as I did, and put your adorable top on, modeling it as a crop top and dance around your dog. Your top – and the hardest part of this project – is DONEGO YOU!! 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions on this part if something doesn’t make sense-it’s been a while since I figured this thing out.

The skirt.

So I finally decided – I wanted a  1″ pleat on the skirt.. which means the pattern for this skirt is actually just a rectangle. YUP. Sew easy. I even contemplated keeping the pieces separate seeing as the pair with a little midriff was actually adorable.

Anyway, your rectangle should be 3x as long as the waistline. If you have a wide piece of fabric, the best way is to ‘square’ it up (make the depth of the fabric even throughout) and get to pinning. In order to create the pleats, you take a 1″ bunch, and tuck .5″ under each fold, like this:

Once you’ve pinned pleats in the entire rectangle – or at least until it’s long enough to connect (pleated) to the waistline of the top, sew a basic line from one end to the other to replace your pins and secure your pleats. The second to last step is connecting the top to the skirt. Pin it right sides together, and make sure your original line creating the pleats won’t show with your new 1/4″ seam connecting top to bottom.

Zipper time.

img_5906Install your zipper foot and pop in a good quality metal zipper – do not use a cheapie here. Your dress deserves the best after all that work – spend the $4. I chose a novelty color (my hunter green) and made mine exposed. Super sorry I got excited about this final step & totally forgot to take pics of this step, but if you need a tutorial on how to sew an exposed zipper, click here. I skipped the step where you install interfacing because I’m totally lazy, impatient, and was out of interfacing. Once you’ve installed your zipper, you’re good to go frolic around in your horse dress like I did.

Do you want to buy this pattern? I still have it. Email me at


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