How long does it take to make a dress? Part 1, the process.

by - 20:05

Have you been tuning in to the new series of the Great British Sewing Bee?

It's not the first time, but it's been mentioned to me that I should apply for it. Quite apart from the fact I'm exempt due to previously having a small clothing business (I mean small, I sold only a handful of items over about 3 years), I would refuse on general principle. For anyone else interested, applications are open for the next season!

The programme has strict time limits for each challenge, which I think are totally unrealistic. On the episode last night (no 3), a toddlers smock dress had to be made. Now they said the word smocked, and I guffawed. Smocking is something that is done by hand, perhaps the gathering, or pleating can be done by machine, but proper smocking is a fine hand art.

I was intrigued by the process, and will attempt to give this cheats way a go in the future. For anyone interested, the pattern for the 18 month size dress is currently available on the Great British Sewing Bee website.

But back to the question in hand, they were given 3 hours 30 minutes to make an 18 month size dress, with set in sleeves, smocked front and gathered back skirt, dress. It closed at the back bodice with a bound keyhole, with rouleau loop and button.

In this time, they had to pick their fabric, cut out their pieces, then sew them, including the machine smocking. Forgive me for thinking this isn't long enough! But, blow me, they all managed it, apart from the lady that claims she's sewn loads of smocked dresses back in the day. She was being fastidious with cutting and lining up seams, but ran out of time for a perfectly done dress.

So today, I decided to make a vintage style dress for Layla, in age 8. Yes, it's a bit bigger (well, a lot bigger!), and yes, I think it was a bit more involved. She asked for this dress a week or more ago, and chose the fabric, so when I say I decided to make one, what I meant was, I got a demand for a new dress ;) I chose the Spinny Mini by Duchess and Hare.

It took me 28 minutes to cut out my fabric, that included a bodice front, two back bodice pieces, a lining bodice front and two backs, then two collar pieces, two lining collars and 2 collar interfacings, also two puff sleeves, two bias bindings for the sleeve hems, and one large circle skirt cut on two folds, and finally 4 long strips of skirt ruffle. I used the main floral fabric for the collar lining, main bodices, skirt and sleeves. I then used a plain chambray for the main collar, sleeve binding and skirt ruffle. Then the bodice lining was thin cotton lawn, and finally, the interfacing. So four lots of different fabrics.

Then sewing: The first task was to adhere the interfacing to the collar pieces and the centre back bodice; then construct the bodice; then construct the skirt; then join the two together.

I set my iPhone stopwatch at the very start of construction, stopped when my husband came home from work, then stopped again for dinner. I didn't include the time it took to measure elastic for the sleeves and waist on Layla. My sewing total time was 3 hours and 16 minutes, and cutting time was 28 minutes. So for the full dress, it took me 3 hours and 44 minutes. In the home sewing world, this didn't include the time to print, stick together, and cut out the paper pattern either!

I'm still yet to decide if this is fast or slow. To me, it feels slow. From a business point of view, it highlights just how little some work at home mum's make from their clothing business (a big reason why I gave up, I couldn't make any sales from the high prices of the garments I would need to set, to make a decent wage!).

So that's a lot of waffle for the end result of 3 hours 44 minutes to make an age 8 Spinny Mini dress by Duchess and Hare.

Did you know you can follow me on Instagram and I'd love for you to give me a like on Facebook.

You May Also Like


  1. I've always thought their timescales were unreasonable, it's almost there to encourage people to make mistakes though I suppose they don't finish their raw edges etc. Your dress is lovely, I think under 4 hours is pretty fast 😊

    1. Ah, it's not just me who thinks their timescales are too quick then! But I see your point, to wheedle out people prone to mistakes, it makes better tv viewing in that sense.
      Ah, and thank you! The geek that I am, I might record some other things I make. I have trousers and tops for me to make, it'd be interesting to know how long they all take.