A sewing blog about building a functional, cohesive handmade wardrobe, one garment at a time.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Princess sewing

Having a daughter with a bad case of eczema and very sensitive skin, I knew early on that I would be sewing all my girls' dress-up clothes.  We've been gifted some dress-up clothes in the past, but almost without exception, every item was made of horrible, cheap, scratchy fabrics with the bare minimum of seam finishing, which made them thankfully fall apart quickly, since they were very itchy.  

Back in January, when we were in the States for G's birth, I asked the girls which princess dresses they would like for their fall birthdays.  They told me (Tiana and Cinderella) and I amassed all the necessary fabrics. Then I had to come up with a pattern.  I knew that I wanted a very clean finish on the inside of the dresses, with a minimum of tulle and net, and only 100% cotton fabrics next to the skin.  I drafted the patterns myself, using tshirts and my Oliver+S Bubble Dress pattern as a guide to draft the bodices.

N's dress was first.  

The bodice is french-seamed.  The skirt is lined and has a layer of gathered tulle between the lining and the outer skirt.  I constructed the dress in such a way that the bodice-skirt join seam is sandwiched in between the outer skirt and the tulle layer and doesn't touch her skin.

I shirred the entire back bodice for a good fit. The leaves on the skirt are finished with a rolled hem (on my sewing machine - this was before I learned how easy it is to do a rolled hem on my serger).

The girls at their princess birthday party. Sadly, N doesn't wear her dress much anymore as it does not reach all the way down to her toes. I need to add a ruffle to the bottom or something so she will wear it again.

Next up was Z's dress. It was much easier to make.

The most time-consuming part was hand-sewing the sequin trim to the bodice.

I used a sparkly organza from Joann's for the outer skirt. The tulle is the middle layer, and there is a cotton lining.  Again I french-seamed the bodice and hid the skirt seam between the skirt layers for a clean inside finish.

The dress does not reach all the way down to Z's toes but she loves it anyway.  She also wears N's dress.

It is a good dress for getting your groove on.

When it was my niece's turn, she informed me that she wanted a mermaid outfit.

I had all the appropriate fabrics in my stash.  The sparkly blue fabric is actually a relatively soft shot cotton.  I picked it up from fabric.com thinking it would make a dress, but it is actually pretty costume-y looking.  Perfect for mermaid tails.

The iridescent purple stuff is a mystery fabric that my mom found for me at a thrift store.  Rather nasty to work with but again, perfect for this purpose.  I used this tutorial for the tails, but didn't add the top detail and made the elastic casing, then inserted the elastic, rather than the tutorial's method.  Very quick sew.  I used the bodice pattern I had drafted for the Cinderella dress for the bodice, and again hand-sewed the sequins.  I free-handed them and honestly didn't mean for it to end up looking like a bra top, but I guess for a mermaid that works.  I also made one of these outfits for each of my daughters.

Lastly, and most recent, is a gift for one of the girls' good friends here.

I used all stash fabrics that I had bought without a purpose in mind.  The embroidered net overlay was a remnant bin find at Joann's last year.  Again, I sewed the sequin trim on by hand - it is actually a relaxing endeavor in front of a good TV show.

For the bodice, I used this free pattern, but lowered the neckline a little and lengthened the bodice.  I trimmed the neckline with bias, but didn't think a bias-trimmed armhole was fancy enough.  So I zigzagged the edge, then sewed some lace trim to the armhole, right sides, together, before turning the edge into the wrong side and then topstitching it down.

I used Kona cotton for the underskirt, and I found these tacky adorable heart buttons for the back.  My girls love them.  They sell them here in various shapes and colors and they are only about 20 cents each, so I will probably stock up before we head home.

 When N saw this dress she started to whine that she did not have a pink princess dress.  We are working on gratitude and curing the gimmies, so I won't be sewing her a new princess dress any time soon (though I will probably lengthen the green one).  I am all princessed out for the moment.


  1. Amazing!!!!! I am blown away by all of those dresses. I love everything about them. You can't even compare those to anything you could buy. I am really inspired to get better at sewing so that I could make my daughter dresses like that. I hope you don't mind that I am going to pin this post.

    1. Christine, I do not mind at all; I am honored that you want to pin it. Thanks for the compliments.

  2. I love them all! I'm pretty anti princess personally, but my kid is not. So I try very hard to let her play princess and keep my opinion to myself! And, yeah, we too struggle with the "gimmees" - she had an issue giving chocolates with her Valentine cards without keeping some for herself - she swore no one in her class is going to give her a Valentine, and had a total melt down!

    1. Have you seen the Berenstein Bear book about the gimmies? We read it often here. The concept is sinking in ... but in practice, that's a different story.

  3. Wow! All those dresses are so pretty! I especially love N's dress! And it fits her great because of the shirring in the back. You are an amazing mother! I haven't made any costume dresses for my girls yet. (and probably never will) But I am seriously intimidated by sewing costume dresses for some reason.

    1. Didn't you make costumes for the sadik in Moscow? I think I probably got the idea from you :)

  4. You are such an awesome Mummy. I make costumes when I am called on to do so but I should just make some, for fun. My Littles would love it.


Hi! I am so happy you came by. Thanks for your comment!