Make a No-Sew Doll’s Sundress

Easy Craft – Making Doll Clothes without Sewing

I bet you have all the supplies on hand to make this easy doll’s sundress. No need to get out the sewing machine or even the needle and thread.

If you have scissors, glue, an old short-sleeved shirt, and some double-stick tape, then you are ready to start making a doll dress. Some rickrack or trim adds a nice touch or some paint but those are optional.


This outfit is perfect for your doll to wear around the patio this summer or use for a cover-up for her swimsuit at the beach.

Steps for Making a No-Sew Sundress – for a Doll

For this project, you are repurposing the sleeve from a short-sleeved shirt.

  1. Find a shirt that you don’t mind cutting up. This one was stained, so it was headed for the rag-bag. This is a cotton-poly blend that shouldn’t fray much. That’s good as we don’t plan to do any hemming.
  2. Cut the sleeve off a short-sleeved shirt. Do this by cutting outside the seam where it was attached to the body of the shirt. Trim closely to the seam. Cut along the seam under the arm to end up with a flat piece like this.

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  3. Position the doll in the sleeve with the longer part in front. Wrap the material around the back of the doll. You want some overlap (1/2 inch or 1 inch). Cut off the excess. Since this is a sundress, it is backless.
  4. Add any trim and decoration that you want for the dress. Here I thought about making it with a sailor theme to use an odd piece I’d been saving. It would have looked good with blue rickrack trim.IMG_7671_edited-1
  5. Using a good craft or fabric glue, secure the decorations in place on the doll’s sundress. Most glues dry clear, so don’t worry about excess glue.
  6. I used a strip of velcro to hold the back of the doll’s sundress in place. The velcro had the sticky back so I just applied it firmly to the fabric.

    PROBLEM: the velcro is bulky so doesn’t look the way I wanted. I’m going to replace it with some double-sided carpet tape that I have. It is heavy enough to stick firmly and can be unstuck to change the doll’s dress. The carpet tape is much thinner and will not look lumpy. You could sew some small snaps to hold the back together.

  7. Cut some rickrack to use at the top of the dress. It needs to be long enough to easily tie behind the doll’s neck. Glue the tie to the dress. Make sure the glue is quite dry before the dress is worn.IMG_7683

Add a Special Touch to the Doll Dress

with a Painted Design

I chose to add a sun graphic to the sundress for the doll. First I practiced on a scrap of fabric to see what my design might look like. You can search online for ideas for your design. I just used my imagination.

The paints I used are leftover paint-by-number oil paints. You can often find these cheaply at yard sales. Special paints just for fabric are available too. Put a sheet of newspaper under the fabric before you paint. Sometimes the paint soaks through and could stain your work table or counter.

Lots of Choices for Fabric Paints

Use these to make summer designs on the doll’s dress. You can paint flowers or starfish or rainbows. Use your imagination.

Fabric Paint 3D Permanent 24 Colors Set Marker Pens Style vibrant color textile paints dye for Fabric and other usesFabric Paint 3D Permanent 24 Colors Set Marker Pens Style vibrant color textile paints dye for Fabric and other usesView DetailsBest Fabric Markers (PACK OF 24 PENS) Non-Toxic - Machine Washable Paint - Perfect for Writing on Clothes, Clothing, Jeans, Pants, and ShirtsBest Fabric Markers (PACK OF 24 PENS) Non-Toxic – Machine Washable Paint – Perfect for Writing on Clothes, Clothing, Jeans, Pants, and ShirtsView DetailsAdd dimension to your paint - Tulip 35148 Party Dimensional Fabric Paint (20 Pack)Add dimension to your paint – Tulip 35148 Party Dimensional Fabric Paint (20 Pack)View Details

Here’s How I Made the Doll Sandals

The doll wears flip-flops with her sundress.

Find a scrap of packing foam. Cut it to fit the shape of the doll’s foot. I painted it with the oil paint to match the decoration on the doll’s sundress. You could also glue the matching rickrack around the base of the sandal and across the strap. These don’t stay on very well, so not very practical for an active doll. The straps can be glued to the base or attached with straight pins (if only for display or for an older child who won’t be sticking themselves).

Toni doll in sundress

Would You Like a Doll Like Mine? – She’s a Toni doll from the 1950s

These can be pretty pricey on eBay but keep checking and you can find one at a good price. I was really lucky and found mine for just $30. Usually, they go for more than that.

Best of luck with your bidding. Toni dolls come in several sizes and with blonde, brunette and other colors of hair.

Make a Little Black Dress for a Doll

Dolls aren’t just for little girls. I enjoy making doll outfits for my vintage Toni doll. In a previous post, I showed how to make the hat (a fascinator). Now, we’ll make the little black dress to wear with that.
2012-01-18 toni doll 009
Toni doll in a little black dress made from a discarded sports bra.

As I declutter my clothes closet and dresser drawers, I find items that aren’t suitable for donating to charity. The clothing might be faded, had stains or the elastic lost its stretch.

Some of these can find new life as doll clothes. Think of it as free fabric and one less trip to the store for material to make outfits for the doll.

For the project today, I’m converting a sports bra into a dress for my vintage Toni doll. The instructions for the fascinator hat and for the purse are shown below too.

Project Summary

Time required: 30 minutes

Difficulty: medium

Cost: Free


  • Sports bra of any color/fabric (for the dress)
  • Black netting (for the hat and tote)
  • Miniature silk rose (to decorate the hat)


  • Scissors
  • Glue Gun
  • Clamp or Clothespin

Fabric from a Sports Bra Gets Turned into a Doll Dress


This sports bra lost the stretch in its elastic. Since it is useless for wearing as a bra, it’s going to become a short dress for the doll.

I do hate to throw anything away, so repurposing the fabric like this keeps me from being a hoarder or from contributing to overflowing landfills.

Visualize the Dress and the Part to Use for It

This shows the part of the bra used for the front of the dress. Allow extra fabric when cutting, so you have enough to wrap around the back of the doll. 

The Sports Bra for Converting into a Doll Dress

Champion Women's Absolute Workout Sports Bra, Black, X-Small

Champion Women’s Workout Sports Bra, Black

You probably have some of these tucked away in a drawer. Check the elastic. After a number of years, they lose their stretch and aren’t very useful as a bra.

Then you can convert it into a doll dress or a doll swimming suit or something. You can also find them at a thrift shop.

Arrange the material around the doll in various ways to see how it drapes. for this dress, I decide on an off-the-shoulder look that will use about 1/2 of the bra. I cut away the part that I don’t need. The size of the doll determines how much material is needed.

Use hot glue to overlap the material for the hemline. I held it together while it sealed using clamps from my husband’s workbench. You could use clothespins or hold it together by hand if you have the patience.

Handy Things to Have for This Project

Surebonder HE-750 High Temperature Professional Glue Gun - 80 Watts

Surebonder High Temperature Professional Glue Gun

Regular glue just doesn’t hold up for doll clothes that will get played with. So, I use a hot glue gun.

If you are doing this project with a child, supervise this part carefully. It’s easy to burn yourself with the tip of the glue gun or if you drip the hot glue on your skin. Also, it is important not to drip glue onto the doll.


Since the sports bra is stretchy, I’m gluing it together right on the doll. It will stretch for removal later. Be careful not to glue the dress to the doll.

Here I hot-glued the shoulder strap to the back of the dress.

Here I’ve applied the glue up the back of the dress. Then I pressed it to the other part and held it until it sealed. (Alternate method: sew some small snaps onto the pieces to fasten it)

This project isn’t very fancy. It provides a dress for the doll for play or for display. Hopefully, no one will examine the seams and critique my work.

For play purposes, it needs to be sturdy enough to put on and take off. For display purposes, I only care about how it looks from the front.

Here’s the doll in her finished dress. The netting came from a fruit bag and I used it for creating the hat and also a purse for the doll.

black dress table toni

Make a Doll’s Ballet Dress or Fairy Costume

ballet dress toni doll
The doll wearing the fairy outfit is a vintage Toni doll from the 1950s.

Help a child make a fairy princess costume for a doll. A surprisingly attractive outfit can be assembled from items you might normally toss in the trash. Save those dryer sheets, plastic sample cup, bits of lace and ribbon, and color sheets from the laundry. Those are just what you need to make this doll costume.

Check out the step-by-step instructions below and in a very short time, your doll is transformed into a medieval princess or a fairy.

Instructions for a Doll’s Fairy or Ballet Dress – made of recycled materials.

  1. Gather the supplies to make the bodice and skirt of the ballet or fairy princess costume for the doll. Depending on the size of the doll, you might need 5 to 8 dryer sheets. These should be used ones as the ones straight from the box are too stiff. Flatten the dryer sheets or press them with an iron. Cover them with a tea towel when pressing so they don’t overheat and stick to the iron.toni doll outfit from dryer sheets
  2. Select some ribbons or other trim for use as decoration on the dress and the cone for doll clothesYou’ll need two Shout Color Catcher sheets (used) to make the hat and the bodice for the doll’s dress. Save ones that are a pleasing color from a wash with red or purple clothing. Red clothing in the wash results in a pink Color Catcher sheet. Use it again with navy clothing if you want a lavender hue like the one below. toni doll princess 2
  3. Fold one edge of the dryer sheets and run a needle and thread loosely through those to form gathers. Draw the thread tighter to make a more bouffant skirt.princess toni doll skirt
  4. Once you have enough dryer sheets gathered on the thread to wrap around the doll’s waist, make a knot at the end.You can leave the bottom of the gathered skirt plain or fringe it by cutting slits upwards from the bottom.
  5. Use a Shout Color Catcher sheet for the undergarment for the skirt. This sheet picked up light purple from the wash water, so I’m accenting it with purple ribbon and white lace. Place the Color Catcher sheet (or alternate fabric) on the doll and wrap it under her to cover to the waist in back. It will be held in place by the ribbon waistband for the skirt. I decorated the top of the bodice with lace and trimmed the sides at an angle to fit around the arm area better. IMG_7700
  6. Sandwich the gathered part of the skirt between two ribbons. Glue the ribbons to each other with the dryer sheets between them, flattening them so the glue adheres. I used lace in place of one ribbon but there is less for the glue to stick to. The ribbon needs to be long enough to wrap around the doll’s waist and tie in a bow. Alternately, you can sew on a snap where the ribbons come together in the back.ballet dress toni

Shout Color Catcher Sheets – for your laundry and crafts

I resisted buying these at first, but after several episodes of red shirts or other colors bleeding in the wash, I decided it was a wise buy. Usually, I reuse them in 3 or 4 washloads if the colors don’t run much in one batch. Eventually, they absorb enough color that I retire them. Using them in making this doll outfit is the first attempt by me to repurpose the color catchers. There are several brands that you can use, but the sizes are different.

If you like learning with a video, here’s a different way to make a tutu for a doll.