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How Many Yards of Fabric to Make a Dress?


How many yards of fabric to make a dress?

You've chosen a beautiful dress pattern, dusted off your sewing machine and are ready to get sewing. But how do you work out how many yards of fabric you'll need for your project? In this post we'll give you the lowdown on working out the amount of fabric needed to make your dress.

Your pattern will recommend the amount of fabric to buy. But if you're making your own pattern, or need to work out yardage without one, we can help . To avoid having to go back to the store for more fabric, it's best to err on the side of too much. You can sew any extra fabric for another project. There is no one answer for this question, so follow these tips to find out how to calculate how much fabric to buy.

how much fabric you need to sew a dress


Calculating how much fabric you need

To calculate how much fabric you need, or 'fabric yardage', first you need to think about the length of the dress. If you're making a short dress with short sleeves for a child, 1 yard should be the right amount of fabric. For a longer adult-size dress with long sleeves you will need a minimum 2 to 3 yards of wide fabric.

You also need to take account of the width of the fabric. As a rule of thumb most fabrics come in 45 inches in width but you may find some 60 inches wide. For the narrower fabric width you'll need more yardage.

how many yards of fabric to sew a dress


How much yardage for a short dress with short or capped sleeves?

Your pattern will probably specify yardage, but as a guide for a short dress with short or capped sleeves in 35-36 inches width fabric, aim for 4 1/4 yards. If your fabric is 60" wide you need 2 3/8 yards.

To find out more about how big a yard of fabric is, go here.

how many yards of fabric short dresses


How many yards of fabric for a long length dress?

Obviously, the length of dress you're sewing affects the amount of fabric you'll require. If you're using 36" wide fabric for a longer length dress you need at least 5 yards of fabric. For wider 60" fabric opt for 3 yards.

Consider the cut and style

As well as thinking about the width of fabric and length of the dress, it's important to note the style and cut.

An A-line skirt, for example, will need more fabric than a straight skirt.

A bias cut skirt may require slightly less fabric, depending on the pattern, type and width of fabric.

fabric width to work out amount of fabric


A wrap dress will also need different quantities of fabric than a slip dress. For a full length ballroom dress 5 to 7 yards of fabric should be enough. A flared gown will need 6 to 7 yards of fabric.

Patterns affect the fabric yardage

If you need to exactly match up a pattern you will need more fabric than if you were making a dress from plain fabric. A ruched dress will also use more fabric to allow for the gathering.

Body measurements

how much fabric needed body measurements


We are all different shapes and sizes, so you need to factor your body measurements in when calculating how many yards of fabric you buy for your dress. You also measure differently if you're sewing pants, a skirt or a shirt instead of a dress.

To obtain the correct body measurements when sewing a dress you first need a tape measure. Then follow these steps:

  • If the dress is for yourself ask someone to help take your measurements.
  • Ask the person you're making the dress for to stand with their feet 15" apart.
  • Make sure you/they are wearing tight-fitting clothing or lingerie to get accurate measurements.
  • Measure the relevant places on the body, adding 2" for comfort all round.
  • The places you measure will depend on the garment you're making - a dress will need more detailed sizing than a shirt, for example.
  • For dresses you need measurements for: bust, waist, hips, nape to waist, depth of armholes, shoulder span, bicep and wrist round, sleeve length, height, dress length, waist to knee, waist to hip, and nape to bust.

Calculating fabric yardage from measurements

fabric yardage dresses

Once you've got accurate measurements, you can use these formulae to work out how much fabric to use:

A-line/ tunic dresses:

Multiply the length of the dress by two and add 0.25m.

Other dresses:

Multiply bodice and skirt length (from waist) by two, then add these together.

Add hem and seam allowance. Allow 0.75m for sleeves, plus hem and seam allowance.

Total these up - you'll probably find you get to around 3 yards of fabric.

Remember – this total is dependent on the width of the fabric and style of dress you're sewing.

calculating how much fabric for dress sewing


Asking yourself 'How do I work out how much fabric I need?'

As you can see, there's a lot to take into account when calculating how much fabric to get when sewing dresses.

If you're without a pattern, the main things to consider when buying fabric for a dress sewing project are:

The width of the fabric.

The style of dress.

The individual's body measurements.

The pattern of the fabric.

The length dress you're making.

As a rule of thumb, err on the side of getting too much fabric rather than too little - extra fabric is better than running out.

how much fabric for sewing dresses

The easiest way to be sure you've got the amount of fabric you need is to follow your pattern's instructions. But if you're sewing without a pattern, these tips should help you figure out how much fabric your dress needs.

Once you've nailed the yardage, you're good to sew!

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I'm Inga and this is a space where I celebrate simple, slow living. It's a place to be curious and creative, to share ideas on how to live and work sustainably and mindfully. Being the creative force behind I also write about my love for linen and natural fabrics. Linenbeauty weaves inspiring stories of slow living with interior style features, travel and cookery tips and outfit ideas. Thanks so much for stopping by.