My daughter recently watched the new live-action Cinderella movie and was immediately enthralled by the costumes (with good reason!). She adores the old Disney animated classic, but when I saw her eyes widen and her jaw drop upon seeing the new version of Cinderella’s ballgown I knew I’d be making one very shortly.
To be fair, I’d already planned out (just for fun) how I’d make one for myself if I ever had occasion to, but making something for a 3-year-old to wear is different. It needs to be comfortable, or she’ll never wear it. It needs to be washable (at least for spot-cleaning), or she’ll ruin it. And it needs to be reasonably cheap, or I’ll never make it. 😉 A tutu dress seemed to fit the bill admirably. It’s easy to make, inexpensive, very comfortable, stretchy so it’s practically one-size-fits-all, and simple to clean or repair if anything happens to it. And since the kidlet’s favorite color is purple I changed the color scheme to ensure she’d actually wear the dress.
When sourcing supplies I figured that as long as I was paying shipping costs for everything I might as well make more than one dress– remembering that three of my daughter’s preschool friends would be having birthdays shortly I decided to make them dresses too, based on their favorite colors. (purple, pink, and “Elsa blue”)
Anyway, I went online and acquired the following:
4 crocheted tube tops (purple, lavender, hot pink, and aqua), with lining. 9″ wide and 10″ tall.
14 25-yd rolls of 6″ wide tulle in different colors, including some slightly pricier shimmer tulle just for fun.
24 fake butterflies in various colors
Making the dresses is simple– you simply determine how long you want the tutu skirt to be (in this case, the skirts were all 21″ long), double that measurement, add an inch for knotting, and cut your tulle into strips of that length– in this case, 43″. The easiest way to do this is to find a piece of cardboard that’s half the length you need, wind the tulle around it until you run out, then cut one end of the tulle roll. Presto– instant strips of tulle!
For a 9″ wide crocheted tube top, there were 62 holes along the circumference of the top, so I needed 62 strips to go all the way around once. To get a layered effect, I decided to split the tulle into two rows of knotted strips, skipping holes between each knot. Since I had extra strips after I’d finished, I set aside three strips for the shoulder drape (more on that below) and added the remaining strips to the bottom row of the skirt, filling in some of the previously-skipped holes. This allowed the top layer to be consistently spaced, while adding some extra poof to the skirt as a whole.
To knot each strip, fold it in half, poke the loop through one of the holes in the crochet bodice, and bring the loose ends through the loop to the front. You can use your fingers to push the tulle through the holes of the tube top, but I used a large crochet hook, size N (9 mm). To use the hook, I pushed it into a hole from the outside and out of the hole directly above it. Then I hooked the tulle, pulling it back through the top and bottom holes to form a loop. I put my fingertips through the loop and pulled the “tail” ends of the tulle back down through it, then pulled it tight.
You can see that I kept my upper and lower layers separate while doing the knotting– this keeps the tulle from going all over the place and blocking your view of the next hole. It can be a little difficult at first to eyeball which hole comes next, but it’ll make sense after a few rounds.
Once I had the skirt attached, I took more tulle to create the shoulder drape from the original Cinderella dress. I used three of the pre-cut strips, layering them one on top of the other (I used three different colors for depth). Then I folded the stack in half and hand-sewed them together into a loop. I trimmed the seam so the ends were even, and pulled the thread tight to gather it.
I flipped the loop so the cut ends were on the inside, and stitched it to the center back of the bodice. Then, I flattened out the tulle to find the mid-point.
I did the same stitch-and-gather on the mid-point, and stitched it down to the center front of the bodice.
Finally, I did more stitch-and-gather seams about a quarter of the way around the tulle, but stitched it down about 2/3 of the way from the center to the side edge of the bodice– this way, it puffed up nicely at the neckline when worn, but didn’t get into the armpits the way it would if I’d sewn it down at the side edge.
I left the remainder of the tulle drape loose– that way it formed a sleeve that went over the shoulder, and there was lots of room for movement in a way there wouldn’t have been if I’d stitched the drape down at the back as well.
Then I just hot-glued butterflies to the stitching points. In retrospect, using feather butterflies was a mistake, since they’re relatively delicate and were easily crushed, but they looked pretty.
1. If you’re only going to be buying a few rolls of tulle (and you’ll need about 3-4 for a kids’ tutu), you could just buy them on eBay– you can get them for about $2.00 each plus shipping, or less depending on what colors you want.
2. Similarly, another money-saving tip would be to get an unlined crochet tube top instead of a lined one– the unlined ones are significantly cheaper. You could also get a regular crochet headband to make just the tutu part– those are about $1.00 on eBay, usually with free shipping.
3. Things will always be cheapest if you buy them on eBay to be shipped from China or Hong Kong. I paid a premium because I wanted them to ship from the U.S., which takes much less time. The overseas exporters can take up to a month to ship things, which is another reason they’re so inexpensive.
4. For the love of god, don’t buy glitter tulle or sparkle tulle or anything that has glitter on it. “Shimmer tulle,” on the other hand, is woven with metallic threads, and for that reason will not shed glitter on anything (though is a little stiffer than regular tulle). The other ones will just leave a fine coating of glitter all over your house, or anywhere your child goes. And as I’ve said before, glitter is the herpes of the craft world. Do not invite it in!
5. While you can of course make the skirts all one color, I really like the effect you get from using multiple shades. I think my favorite of the four I made was the “Elsa blue” dress, which used turquoise, ice blue, sky blue, and lavender. The lavender (which was the half-roll I used for an accent color) really added dimension to the blue tones! Don’t be afraid to use colors that contrast a lot with each other– the transparency of the tulle will do a lot to mute the differences and it’ll make for a great shaded look.
6. If there’s a chance you won’t have enough tulle to fill every single hole on a row, make sure that your empty spots are on the bottom row so they won’t show. The most important thing is consistency for the top row– you want it to look the same all the way around, whether it’s every hole or every other hole.
7. For my chosen skirt length and fullness, I used 3.5 rolls of tulle per dress, though I could’ve used as few as 3 or as many as 5. With 5 rolls I’d have been able to knot every hole on two rows, which would’ve made the dress fuller and slightly more opaque. With 3 rolls I wouldn’t have been able to bulk out the bottom row at all, which wouldn’t have been the end of the world, but I wouldn’t go with any fewer than 3 rolls of tulle for a 21″ skirt (for the record my daughter is 40″ tall). It made for a skirt that was semi-opaque, though with the sun shining through it, you could see the outline of her legs. She’ll wear a slip under it if she wears it outside.