Tutorial: How to Make a Simple Tunic Dress

A tunic is one of those wardrobe staples I can never have enough of. This tutorial will guide you in making your own simple tunic dress which you may keep plain or you may embellish to your heart’s content.

Project: The Tunic Dress


  • Italian Linen in white 60″ width          1  1/4  meters
  • 100% Cotton lining                                   1  1/4  meters
  • Bias Tape Piping in Yellow                     2  1/2 yards
  • Yellow Invisible Zipper 14″
  • Matching thread
  • Sewing machine presser feet: Regular straight stitch and Zipper feet

Pattern: Modified Cheongsam pattern. This is my working drawing.

From Cheongsam to Tunic in 10 minutes


Step 1. Modify your Cheongsam pattern. 

The beauty of this tunic dress is that you don’t have to start from scratch. I hope you kept your cheongsam pattern from the last tutorial because that will be the basis of our tunic pattern.

  • To start, fold the cheongsam pattern in half along the center front. Lay it on the edge of a pattern paper or pages of newspapers taped together. Trace the cheongsam pattern onto the larger paper. This outline will help us create our tunic block.
  • Convert the high neckline of the front bodice into a sabrina neckline by adjusting the shoulder width. Measure 2.5-3.5 inches (depending on how wide you want your neckline to be) from side base of neck along the shoulder and mark A. Measure 1 inch from the center base neck and mark B. Connect points A and B with a curved line using a french curve.
Modified neckline
  • Leave the armholes and bust dart untouched.
  • Change the fitted bodice into an A-line silhouette. Measure 1.5 inches down from the bust dart and mark C. Measure the desired tunic length from point B down the center fold and mark D. From point D, measure a line to the right equal to 1/4 of the desired hem width and mark E. Connect points C and E with a diagonal line. Ignore the waist darts.You now have a modified front dress bodice. Cut your new pattern along points A, B, D, E, and C.
The modified Front dress bodice
  • Repeat the steps above using the back bodice pattern of your cheongsam, slotting in back darts. Since this dress will have a back zip, cut the back bodice in half. You should have 3 patterns altogether, 1 front piece and 2 back pieces.

Step 2. Transfer your tunic pattern to your fabric shell and lining and serge edges if you have a serger machine.

Pattern transferred to fabric and lining, ready for sewing

Step 3. Sew in invisible zipper. 

Use this tutorial to attach your invisible zipper to your back bodice. Sew the darts and press.

Invisible zipper attached to the center back

Step 4. Attach piping. 

Using your zipper foot, attach piping to neckline and armholes of both the front and back pieces, on the right side of the fabric shell as shown below.

Piping attached to neckline and armholes

Step 5. Attach the lining to the main fabric shell. 

To do this, refer to the tutorial ‘How to Line a Sleeveless Dress‘.

Fabric shell and lining bodices joined at the shoulders
Fabric shell with lining attached resulting in neatly finished neckline and armholes

Step 6. Close the zipper hole on the lining.

After Step 5, you should have a half-completed tunic with neatly finished neckline and armholes. Before closing the side seams, we need to deal with that gaping lining opening which accommodates the zipper. You may stitch the lining seams to the zipper seams by hand or you may follow these steps for a more professional machine-stitched finish.

  • Turn your tunic inside out. Fold the seams of the lining opening inwards to expose the zipper.
  • Reach underneath one side of the lining and carefully turn it over so the lining and the zipper seams are visible.
Closing the lining zipper hole
  • Using the zipper foot, stitch the lining seam to the zipper seam, from the zip’s top end to a point at least an inch from the zip’s bottom end. Repeat on the other side.
Stitching seam to zipper
  • Close the back seams  of the lining above and below the zip and admire your professional looking handiwork!
A professional looking zip is something to be proud of  🙂

Step 7. Close the side seams. Again, refer to this tutorial to guide you along.

Step 8. Finish the hemAnd you’re done!

The Tunic Dress
The Tunic Dress, reverse side
The yellow zip, seen on the reverse side

Step 9. Wear and flaunt!

Another dress conquered.  Hope to see you again in the next tutorial!

Happy Stitching!


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