Monday, March 31, 2014

Frozen! An Elsa Dress Process Post

A few people have asked about the Elsa dress I made for Abby, so I thought I'd take a minute and do a little post.

While clothing construction doesn't intimidate me at all - I was a clothing seamstress before I was a quilter, after all - I'm not at all good with sizing or drafting patterns, so I started out with this basic costume pattern from Simplicity.  Abby is pretty much a size 5, although the dress was a little long - which is fine because her mommy and I wanted her to be able to wear it for awhile.

I scoured the internet for images of the Elsa costume that showed the detail of the gown, and made my plan. 
The costume pattern had much more fullness in the skirt than the Elsa costume, so when cutting, I took pleats in the pattern pieces to remove most, but not all, of the gathers.  Abby's mommy wanted this to be a dress that she could get on and off by herself, so a bit of fullness was desirable, if not totally accurate.

In addition, the pattern only comes with only puffy short sleeve options.  Since I wasn't home and didn't have access to a long sleeve pattern from my stash, I opted to pleat the fullness out of the sleeve until the measurement of the curve in the sleeve was about 2 inches larger than the measurement of the armhole.  Then I drew straight lines down both sides of the sleeve and cut it out.  The sleeve is a bit too long, but since we wanted the dress to be able to "grow" with Abby, the added sleeve length was desirable.

The bodice, however, was perfect.  Originally, I intended to make the top of the bodice and the sleeves out of just the sparkle tulle, but one brief fitting and Abby's comment that the tulle was "itchy" made me realize that if the dress was to be worn and enjoyed, comfort and practicality trumped authenticity.  I ended up using the tulle as an overlay instead.  It might have been better to use a lighter blue lining under the tulle to give it a more authentic look, but by then the "when will it be finished, Grandma?" litany had begun, and another trip to the fabric store just wasn't politic.

The floor under the sewing machine while I was working on the sparkle tulle.
 Abby's mommy had already purchased the fabrics - a stretchy dancewear lycra for the main part of the dress, the sequin fabric for the overlay, and the sparkle tulle for the cape. Perfect choices, although be forewarned that the sparkle tulle is MESSY!  Not just messy to work with, but messy as in all-over-the-house messy as the child plays.  After a washing or two the sparkles are mostly gone, so you may want to make another choice to begin with.  I think Amanda will be vacuuming up sparkles for a long time (the good news is that the children fight over getting to help vacuum!)

And, as I mentioned above, the sparkle tulle is itchy on a child's skin, so you probably don't want to run the risk of making a dress the child won't wear.  One last comment on the tulle - it is fairly fragile.  Abby's mommy told me just this week that Abby has already ripped the tulle while playing outside.  I think I might opt for a chiffon or other fabric in favor of the tulle.

To make the cape, I cut a piece of the sparkle tulle about 2" longer than Abby's neck-to-heel measurement and hemmed it on 3 sides.  I cut a scrap of the dancewear lycra 2" wide and about 2" longer than the width of the back of the dress, and used the lycra scrap as a placket to hold the cape.  I fully enclosed the gathers inside the lycra so they won't pull loose.  Then I topstitched the cape onto the dress along the upper back seam.  Since the cape isn't attached within the seam, if it is necessary to change out the cape, it should be a fairly simple matter to do so.

And Grandma's efforts are being soundly rewarded - my little princess is having a blast with her beautiful dress.  Her mommy said she has worn it every day since it was finished, which is, after all, the true test of dress-up greatness, right?

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