Upcycled Birthday Princess Dress, Part I: Basic Dress and Sketches


For this year’s birthday bash, my daughter decided to go full-on girly and have a princess party. (okay, I admit it, I may have encouraged her for the sheer cuteness of it) And what’s a princess party without a princess dress, right?

Since I irrationally hate installing zippers and sewing buttonholes (also cutting pattern pieces from the horrible flimsy paper), I couldn’t resist picking up this ivory satin flower girl dress for $10 at Goodwill when I saw it on the “Halloween” rack back in October. It was the perfect size (or so I thought), it was nice and plain, and it would be a great canvas for the fancy princess gown of my her dreams. Sure, I could’ve sewn it from scratch, but $10 would barely have paid for the satin fabric, not to mention the pearl buttons down the back, the netting underskirt with lining, and the other notions that were already there in the existing dress.

Unfortunately, once I got it home and finally convinced (translation: bribed with the promise of candy) my daughter to try it on, I realized that while it was the perfect length, it was too small to button up the back by at least 2 inches. Apparently my not-quite-four-year-old is too big around for a size 5 dress. But never mind, I can improvise…

First I sketched. I knew it had to be purple– that went without saying. I was also informed that it should have flowers on it, and I knew from experience that her idea of a “princess dress” included puffed sleeves and sparkles. So here’s what I came up with:


There’s a bustled overskirt, with flowers and ribbon at the bustling points, over a lace panel in the front to add visual interest. I’ll add a layer of purple fabric to the bodice which will split in front (for more lace) and in the back (to let me use the original buttons and buttonholes), with some ribbon detail on the sides. Finally, there are slashed puffed sleeves (or to put it another way, “Snow White sleeves”).

Next I need to figure out how to accomplish the design structurally. The re-sizing is going to make things a little tricky, but since I’ll be covering up many of the original seams it won’t be too noticeable, or so I hope. I’m planning to remove the outer skirt from the waistband entirely, allowing me to put in the overskirt and then re-gather and re-attach. Also I plan to widen the original bodice at the side seams, adding 1.5″ panels to each side right under the arms, which will be covered by the new bodice layer. The skirt is full enough that I’ll be able to space out the gathers a little to encompass the extra circumference of the waistline.

Next up: finding just the right purple fabric!


3 thoughts on “Upcycled Birthday Princess Dress, Part I: Basic Dress and Sketches

  1. Pingback: Upcycled Birthday Princess Dress, Part IX: Done! | It's All Frosting...

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