How I Made Thirty Doll Dresses

Two years ago, I made a promise to myself.

I will not make doll clothes. I WILL NOT make ANY doll clothes AT ALL. EVER. 

At the time, I think I was trying to save myself hypertension issues, because who in their right mind wants to make super tiny doll clothes?

Me, apparently.

The past two weeks I spent visiting my parents in the house where I grew up. Incidentally, I store my sewing machine in that house so it doesn’t distract me while I’m living my life in Colorado.

Two weeks before I left on vacation I bought a gazillion used Bratz dolls who came naked (of course), and I couldn’t find a cost-effective method of clothing them. Except making clothes myself.

I began collecting fabric that would work for dolls, meaning it had to have small print or no print at all, be in child-friendly colors, and be mix-and-match-able.

I tried to buy a pretty large variety of fabric, mostly so I don’t get bored while sewing. Buying such a huge variety of patterns and colors in amounts like “four inches, please” and “a quarter yard,” gets you some weird looks. But it may be that the ladies who work at my JoAnn’s Fabrics are just really judge-y.

Fabric scraps after I finished thirty dresses. And a chocolate bar....What? Don't judge.
Fabric scraps after I finished thirty dresses. And a chocolate bar….What? Don’t judge.

Pattern-making.

I hate buying patterns, but I recognize that sometimes they are a necessary evil. Picturing how clothing comes apart is a skill I don’t actually have, so I invested in some initial patterns. They were okay. The design was cute but literally everyone makes this dress, because it’s super easy and versatile. I wanted something different, but still easy.

Either way, I bought the pattern, made it, sized it up to fit a Moxie Girlz (why the ‘z’ MGA?!!)  doll, and that was all set.

I settled on a strapless dress with a full gathered skirt (because hemming circle skirts is the worst). To make the pattern I took a Bratz top I had gotten with the naked dolls, used a seam ripper to take it apart, and traced it onto paper with a seam allowance added.

That’s it.

Assemble!

I started my stopwatch.

Okay, my smartphone timer.

It took me twenty-five minutes to make a dress, starting from cutting the fabric. The twenty-five minutes doesn’t include sewing velcro onto the back, though. But some things can be sped up by assembly-lining, and I was tired of getting up and down and up and down and walking from the iron to the sewing machine and back.

So I started cutting out bodices and didn’t stop. I cut out enough bodice pieces to make about sixteen dresses.

I sewed the pieces together. Each side of the bodice (these are lined) requires three individual pieces stitched together. So the completed bodice takes six individual pieces.

The pieces sewn together (partly).
The pieces sewn together (partly).

After the front and lining pieces are stitched together for twelve dresses, I turned them all right-side-out and ironed them flat.

The bodice stitched together and turned right-side-out.
The bodice stitched together and turned right-side-out.
Pressed flat.
Pressed flat.

That’s the hard part!

Then I cut out twelve skirt pieces, which are just rectangles varying from about 11 by 3 inches to 8 by 2.5 inches. A shorter rectangle makes for a less-full skirt (8 inches as opposed to 11). You also have to be conscious of the fabric you’re using: stiffer fabric will make a fuller skirt, and thinner fabric will be less full.

Skirt strips.
Skirt strips.

Apparel fabric is my favorite to work with, for doll purposes. It’s thin but sturdy. A close second favorite of mine is lower-quality quilter’s fabric that has a relatively loose weave. It gathers neatly.

After I have all the skirt pieces I drag them over to the iron, press the sides in and press the hem up.

Hemmed skirts.
Hemmed skirts.

Then I sew around the sides and hem. Sometimes I’ll add some ribbon to the bottom, just to dress it up a bit more. Ribbon on the bottom will stiffen the hem and make the skirt seem fuller, however, so it’s best to not use ribbon with thick or stiff fabric.

Unless you want a tutu.

After everything is hemmed, I sew two basting seams across the top of each skirt so it can be gathered.

Then for the fun part: sewing the bodice to the skirt.

I start by pinning the edges of the bodice to the edges of the skirt. Then I gather the skirt to match the length of the bodice, and pin the hell out of it.

Pinned the bodice to the skirt.
Pinned the bodice to the skirt.

Stitch them together, and ta-da! A dress.

Now I add the velcro. I have a sticky velcro, but the destructive power of five-year-old girls is not to be underestimated, so I tried to stitch it down in a couple places for good measure.

NO NO NO! Do not use adhesive velcro, unless you want a gummy needle, gummy thread, and gummy sewing machine. I made the adhesive really, really sticky by ironing it in place after sticking it down, and I think it’ll hold against normal five-year-old wear and tear. We’ll see.

A few dresses didn't match the others, so they got left out of the picture. But I did make them, I promise.
A few dresses didn’t match the others, so they got left out of the picture. But I did make them, I promise.

There was one batch. I did the whole thing again with a different size of dress. The ones above fit Bratz, and then the ones below (my second batch of dresses) fit Moxie dolls.

IMG_3345IMG_3346…And there was the other batch.

And then I checked in to my flight 24 hours prior to boarding, as is recommended, packed up all my sewing stuff…

After  two weeks of sewing. But it probably looked about the same two hours after I began sewing...
After two weeks of sewing. But it probably looked about the same two hours after I began sewing…

… Swept the floor…

Fabric scraps after I finished thirty dresses. And a chocolate bar....What? Don't judge.
Fabric scraps after I finished thirty dresses. And a chocolate bar….What? Don’t judge.

… And went home.

Favorite my Etsy page for notifications when I have new dolls wearing these dresses!

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