A Step-By-Step Guide: Adding Pockets to Dresses

We can all (presumably) agree that pockets are a necessity for modern life! Have you ever dreamt about adding pockets to dresses in your closet? Well, we have good news for you: It’s easy! Follow the instructions below for a step-by-step guide for adding side-seam pockets to any dress.

dress with pencils in pocket

For an invisible pocket in the seam of a dress or skirt, there is one caveat — the garment needs to have some seam allowance to attach the pocket pieces to. The minimum seam allowance is about 3/8″. If you have a very small seam allowance (less than 3/8″) but can afford to reduce the circumference of the garment a little bit (½” to 1″ in total), then you can add a pocket to whatever seam allowance is available. 

How to add pockets to a dress

Step 1: Pick the pocket pattern and size

Many sewing patterns have an existing pocket piece, so feel free to use one from your collection if you desire. Otherwise, using garments with pockets you love, trace the pocket shape and size onto a piece of pattern paper. Later you’ll use that pattern to cut your fabric. 

Step 2: Determine your pocket placement

deciding pocket placement

The pocket opening should be right over your hipbones. Try on your garment, place your hands where you would normally reach for a pocket and mark the spot with pins. I like the top of the pocket bag to extend up to the waist. I always attach my pockets to the side seam securely so they don’t pull too much with weight of items in the pocket. 

Step 3: Mark your pocket placement

mark pocket placement

Once you’ve determined where you want your pockets, mark both sides seams with tailor’s tacks. To make sure the pockets are symmetrical on both sides, place the garment on the table and fold the side seams toward the center, matching the armhole. Run a thread tract at the top of where the pocket opening will be, like pictured above, and ensure the placements on both sides of the dress are even. 

For the actual pocket opening I find that about 5″ is a good length but you can adjust for your preference. Just be sure that it is large enough so that you can comfortably put your hand in without straining the stitching! 

Step 4: Cut out the pockets

cut out pocket bags mark dots

Using your pattern of choice, cut out four of the pocket patterns. (Try to use fabric that matches your garment in case the pockets decide to peek out here and there).

On the pink pattern piece above, I marked the stitching lines. Note that the pocket edge is stitched to the seam allowance at a very small width, approximately ¼”. Then the garment seam is sewn back up, starting and stopping at the dots to create the actual pocket opening. Mark the dots on the pocket pieces as shown.

Step 5: Open the side seam of your garment 

open side seam of garment

Once the pocket opening is marked, unpick the side seam stitching between the pocket opening marks. You can go a bit past the marks on either end because you will be stitching it up securely in a later step. 

Step 6: Stitch the pocket pieces on the side seam

sew second pocket bag

Stitch the pocket pieces onto the side seam, using a small seam allowance, around ¼”.

Stitch pocket pieces on side seam

Match the dots on the pocket piece to the marks for the opening in the side seam. 

Step 7: Press the pocket seams

press pocket bag seams

Press the seams flat with the pocket open as pictured above.

Step 8: Sew the side seam 

sew side seam again plus pocket

Sew up the side seam again and sew around the actual pocket bag to enclose. You can do this in two steps: First stitch up the side seam, stopping at the pocket opening marks shown here with pins. Be sure to reinforce by backstitching (the bottom of a pocket opening is an area of strain where stitching can later break). Then stitch around the pocket bag to enclose the pocket. 

Step 9: Press the side seam

adding pockets to dresses

Once you’re finished sewing, press the garment seam with the pocket toward the front of the garment. Try the dress on and rejoice in the convenience of your new pockets!

What types of dresses are you going to add pockets to?!

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15 Responses to “A Step-By-Step Guide: Adding Pockets to Dresses”

  1. Nadine Towler


  2. Mamie Hardy

    Great tip. Easy to understand and apply.

  3. Ada

    I did this too! Another thought to add…..if you are hemming the dress as well you can use the cut off fabric to make a facing on the new pocket for when you don’t have the exact matching fabric…….the rest of the new pocket can be a different print of a similar weight.

  4. Pam

    Hi, that was so easy, I find some was a problem. Thank you..

  5. Olivia Muhammad

    Nice and simple. Thank you.

  6. Anna Cantwell

    Thank you for such a simple and easy to understand guide. You made this so easy to understand anyone with any sewing experience can follow along and have great results. Thank you again for the great guide.

  7. Ann Constan

    Can this same method be used for slacks? Thank you. Can't live without pockets!!

  8. Chris Simpson

    Wow, I was always too scared to try something like this!

  9. Christine

    The best pocket directions!

  10. Madeline Bailey

    I have added pockets to a harem jumpsuit without side seams. Just cut the fabric where side seams should be, and add the pockets. It worked for me. I hope others who love pockets are helped with this note.