When making the bodice it took me a while to decide how best to display the embroidery on the fabric. After much vacillating and even more pinning, I decided to use the existing bottom hem of the bodice, which would forfeit the pretty design along the top edge but which would let me have a more structured bottom edge. I took a deep breath and started disassembling the bodice.
Once I’d figured out what I was going to do, I had to prepare the bodice for cutting– that meant slitting open the side seams and removing the boning from the front, and then re-shaping the bodice entirely to change it from being curved over the bust to being flat (as 4-year-olds are not known for their curved bustlines).
So I finished the white underskirt, which I figured would provide the necessary structure to let me drape the overskirt and eyeball how to do the bustling. But first I had to make the basic skirt.
Once I had all of my fabrics and sketches I decided to start with what I hoped would be the easiest part of the dress– the white underskirt. I started off by simply cutting off the upper portion of the dress’s bodice, leaving a good 3″ of fabric attached to the skirt to make a waistband.
Next I turned my attention to the inside of the skirt– there was already a nice lining and net petticoat layer, but it wasn’t quite poofy enough. Luckily the lavender bridesmaid dress came with a netting layer that was exactly the same length as the white skirt, so I ruthlessly ripped out, gathered, and stitched it just below the petticoat lining. Presto! Poofy white satin underskirt!
Before I went any further I had to make sure the skirt would be the right length on my daughter, but since she hates to stand still (like any almost-four-year-old) I needed a substitute for fittings.
So, now that I’ve bought the bridesmaid dress to use for my purple fabric I’ve had to adjust my previous design sketches a bit. Partly because the fabric is so pretty that I can’t bear the thought of this being a one-use dress, so I’ll have to make the size adjustable– that’ll require some structural changes. The other reason is that the embroidery on the bodice just cries out to be displayed properly, which I wouldn’t have been able to do with my original design even if it had been adjustable to begin with. So I’m scrapping the bodice part of it, at least, and starting over.
Once I had my basic design idea I started looking for fabric. I originally figured that I’d get some lavender-colored jacquard or satin, possibly a lace or embroidered sheer for a skirt front panel, and call it a day. If I’d had easy access to a decent fabric store this wouldn’t have been a problem; however, my local store is hit-or-miss, so I turned to the internet. In searching online for the best price for jacquard (shipping is so expensive!) I had another idea– cannibalizing an old prom or bridesmaid’s dress.
Pre-worn formal dresses, particularly pastel satin ones that are clearly bridesmaid’s dresses, have a limited shelf life and an even more limited price range, whether at Goodwill or on eBay. With a full enough skirt the price-per-yard can end up being significantly lower than buying it off the bolt– and the dresses often come with beading or embroidery that’s just not practical to do by hand. I started sifting through auctions online, and found the perfect gown.
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…
As the weather has been cooling down I’ve realized that while my daughter may be excited to wear her princess costume for Halloween this year, it’s not exactly appropriate for a New England fall evening, not even with a turtleneck underneath. Remembering my own trick-or-treating years as a “ballerina princess fairy” (it involved a sparkly tutu, wings, and a tiara made of Christmas tinsel), I took a page out of my own mother’s book and decided to stitch up a cape made out of fleece to keep my daughter warm.
It would have to be purple, to match her costume and because it’s her favorite color. Happily, my local fabric store had 60″ wide fleece in a nice deep purple, so I picked up 2.5 yards and a yard of matching purple satin ribbon. The great thing about fleece is that it requires no hemming, and it’s thick enough to drape nicely as a cape without looking flimsy. I’d never made a hooded cloak before, but how hard could it be, right?