Dress bag tutorial

Goodness! April has been busy. With work and visitors, I have barely had time to sew.

Earlier in the month, tradesmen installed new wardrobe fittings: shelves, cupboards and drawers. Before this, our wardrobe just had one shelf and a hanging rail. The shelf was high, and I needed a stepladder to reach it. I was always pulling things down on my head, and I had some of my clothes stashed in other rooms of the house as the space was not working.

To celebrate the new wardrobe, where everything now fits and can be reached, I decided to make some dress bags for my special-occasion dresses. These dresses need the most care (like expensive drycleaning), but they also collect dust because they are worn rarely. I thought some breathable dress bags would protect them from dust and grime in the long gaps between wears.

My dress bags are really simple, but I think a nice linen dress bag, perhaps with a little embroidery on the front and a matching draw-string bag for shoes, would make a useful gift for a new bride.

I used linen as I wanted a natural fabric that would breath, and the linen was on sale. A lightweight cotton would work just as well.

The dress bags are large and difficult to photograph! Here is one of the smaller bags, with my favourite knee-length red dress inside.

These dress bags are large and difficult to photograph! Here is one of the smaller bags, with my favourite knee-length red dress hidden inside.

Step 1

Cut a large rectangle of fabric for each bag you plan to make.

I made two sizes using rectangles 42 x 67 inches (long dresses) and 42 x 53 inches (short dresses).

As my coathangers are about 18 inches wide, and I wanted to allow a bit of extra space for dresses with full skirts, I cut the rectangles 42 inches wide.

I based my calculations on seam allowances that are five-eighths of an inch.

For a long dress bag, you will probably need slightly less than 2 metres (or yards) of fabric, depending on how long you want to make it.

If you are using fabric that is about 44 inches wide, just trim off the selvedges and use the width as is. My linen was 54 inches across from selvedge to selvedge, so I was able to cut across the fabric to make the shorter bags.

I measured from the top of a coathanger to the wardrobe floor to decide the length of the longer dress bags.

Step 2

Overlock the two long edges on each rectangle.
DressBag1

Step 3

Pin the two long edges, right sides together.

Mark 7½ inches from the top and again 24 inches below that.

Sew, leaving a 24-inch opening and back-stitching on either side of the opening for strength. (This will be the opening used to put your clothes in the bag.)

Optional: using the longest stitch on your machine, tack the opening closed. This can be helpful to keep the line straight when you press and top-stitch.

DressBag2

I used a coathanger to measure where the top of the opening should be: just below the trouser bar (marked with two pins). This photo also shows the curve in the coathanger (it is not a simple triangle), which is why the extra piece in the top worked for me.

I used a coathanger to measure where the top of the opening should be: just below the trouser bar (marked with two pins).
This photo also shows the curve in the coathanger (it is not a simple triangle), which is why an extra piece in the top worked for me.

I marked the opening 7½ inches from the top as this meant the opening started just below the coathanger’s trouser bar. You might need to adjust this depending on your coathangers.

Step 4

Press open the seam and top-stitch around the opening.

Unpick the long tacking stitches if you temporarily sewed the opening closed.

DressBag3

Top-stitching a large tube is a bit awkward, but it does give a neater finish.

Top-stitching a large tube is a bit awkward, but it does give a neater finish.

Step 5

Press the bag so that it is inside-out with the opening centred on the front.

Use a coathanger as a template to shape the top. If you are making more than one bag, it can be helpful to make a paper template that you can reuse.

I made paper templates based on my coathanger to shape the top.

I made paper templates based on my coathanger to shape the top.

I added in an eye-shaped piece so that I could have a neat opening in the centre, which I made using my sewing machine’s eyelet stitch. This small piece was cut from the offcuts trimmed from the top. You can do this or you can simply trace around your coathanger and then sew across the top, leaving an opening in the centre.

Sewing an eye-shaped gusset into the top of a dress bag

Sewing the eye-shaped gusset into the top of the dress bag is simpler than it looks.

DressBag4

Click here to open a printer-friendly PDF file.

Click here to open a printer-friendly PDF file.

Before sewing this piece to the rest of the bag, I sewed an eyelet in the centre.

Before sewing this piece to the rest of the bag, I sewed an eyelet in the centre.

This shows a close-up of the top of the dress bag.

This shows a close-up of the top of the dress bag.

Step 6

Sew the bottom of the bag closed, then overlock the seam to prevent fraying.

Optional: leave the bottom of the bag open and finish it with a narrow hem instead of sewing it closed.

Turn the bag right-side out and poke your coathanger hook through the hole in the top, and that is it!

I have leftover linen that I am planning to use to make other things for the wardrobe, like scented shoe stuffers and sachets, covered padded coathangers and lingerie bags.

The dress bags now protect my best clothes. The only downside is that I cannot admire the beading and pretty silks as they are hidden in the bags!

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