I finally finished the girls dresses. I would say it was a labor of love, but I had a couple of issues that keep me from being able to say it with a clear conscience. Nevertheless, they are done and the girls are quite content with them.
Alix’s was first, since I had a pattern for her which we had recently bought online for just a couple of dollars. Patterns are expensive – so I always look for sales. McCalls has a nice website with lots of patterns and great sales. The pattern is similar to this dress:
Most dress patterns have sleeve and neckline options. We used the small cap sleeve and really liked how it turned out.
Alix’s shoulders are just right for this kind of sleeve – soft and rounded. The pattern also had pleats in the skirt. I’ve done pleats before, but not in this way. It was fun to learn, and involved basting several long panels together which formed the entire front and back bodice down through the skirt. Between the panels for the skirt, we inserted 7 pleats. These were stitched to the panel sections and then the panels were split at the centers where I had basted them.
This gave a fullness to the skirt that is very reminiscent of vintage dresses. In fact, Aunt Pauline (who is in her 80’s) told me it reminded her of the dresses she used to make herself when she was a young woman.
I decided to do Olivia’s next because I already had a crossover bodice pattern and knew it would go quickly. The skirt part was easy – just cut 2 large rectangles across a lengthwise folded section of fabric, to the desired length. Allow for about 1/2 inch seam allowance where it joins the bodice, and enough for a hem. Hem allowances typically used to be 3 inches, which was actually very practical and economical because it allowed for growth spurts. Nowadays, I see hems in many different widths. I chose a 1 inch hem for Olivia’s dress because I thought it would look nice with the eyelet trim around the bottom edge.
The Pinterest picture I used for inspiration was this adorable little dress..
I changed a few things to make it look a little older; like a smaller sash and bow, and narrower eyelet trim.
Next were the twins’ dresses. This is where things started to get tricky.
I had this picture for my inspiration:
I love how it looks like a slightly younger version of a big girl’s elegant dress.
Just right for two 10 year old girls.
I didn’t have any patterns similar to it, though. Looking closely at the picture, I could see darts in the front on the bodice and the skirt. I was able to find a back view and it also had darts in the bodice and the skirt. That was ok. I’ve done darts many times. But without any similar bodice patterns here, I knew I would need to take the girls’ measurements to create a pattern. They are built very differently in their upper bodies.
Let’s not go into the time it took me to get her bodice just right. It was a lot of time.
I gave up on the sleeve style in the picture and did something I knew.
But finally, we got it. After using about half a roll of Christmas wrapping paper and lots of tape.
The fabric for the white sashes on the dresses came from the same canopy curtain panel I used to make the twins’ Nutcracker nightgowns.
Don’t be too quick to throw out fabric when you change things. I have re-created so many things by using fabric which was originally used for a different purpose. I have ripped zippers and trim off of old dresses or from clothing that we aren’t wearing, and even elastic from old fitted sheets has been repurposed.
And then there was Kate’s dress.
I am sighing just thinking about how long it took me to draft a correct muslin for it.
She picked this gorgeous 50’s style, drop waist, crinoline under the skirt, darts in the front and back of the bodice.
I had saved it for last because I knew it would be intimidating for me, since I was only going by this picture.
More Christmas wrapping paper went into my trash box.
But eventually we got it and she is very happy with it.
Because she is narrower through the shoulders than the lady’s dress in our picture, I made a shorter horizontal cut for the neckline. One of the major issues I had getting this one right was that neckline. In the end, the fit was great over her shoulders and under arms, but we had a small gape (not gap!) across the front neckline. We decided to use some of the white fabric and create a slightly gathered panel across the front of the neck and up to the shoulders. It solved the problem and added a feminine touch.
I also made a skirt for myself. My plans for a dress went awry because of time. Which I ran out of.
I don’t have a picture of me in the skirt, but here is the skirt I based it on:
It didn’t take me long to make – a few hours or so. But would you believe that after getting the side zipper just right, I stepped out of it to do the hem (the last thing!), and tripped over it. I fell to the floor with my foot stuck in the waistband and ripped it. Not on the seam. So I made another waistband, ripped out the torn one, attached the new waistband, and vowed never to step out of a skirt so carelessly again.
And there you have it! A really long post about dresses.
I think I lost Olivia’s attention on this one.
Hopefully, you are still with me.
Have a great start to your weekend!