I'm a bit embarassed to say that my daughter and I have never been big Barbie fans. As a kid, I almost always preferred dolls I could hug and snuggle up with, and my daughter is the same way. However...we both LOVE FASHION. So when the chance to make a Barbie dress came up, we dove into some research. We found tons of looks we loved, but Enchanted Evening Barbie was her absolute favorite.
Wisteria popped into my head as a base for creating this dramatic, pink gown. I drew it up with plans to make a couple small changes to the bodice, and some bigger changes to the skirt. I'll walk through these changes in the pictures below. (For reference, my daughter wears a 5/6 width and 7/8 length.)
Planning the bodice was a bit of a mystery because in nearly every picture we found, Barbie was wearing a little fur wrap that covered most of it. When we did eventually find a picture without the wrap, I knew I wanted to add the detail that made it look as though the top of the bodice was folded down. I'll call it the "fold" overlay.
I started out with my regular Wisteria front bodice pattern piece and determined how tall I wanted the finished "fold" overlay to be, settling on 1 3/4" (4.4cm). I drew it onto the original pattern piece, including a 3/8" (1cm) seam allowance on top and bottom, and then cut out my new pattern piece.
I used the new pattern piece to cut a main and a lining piece, placed them right sides together, and sewed all along the bottom edge. I trimmed, clipped corners, turned right side out, and pressed.
Next, I aligned the raw edges of the fold overlay with the armscyes and top raw edge of the front bodice main, clipped in place, and basted to secure. I then continued with the bodice according to the Wisteria tutorial instructions.
The only other change I made to the bodice (other than adding interfacing to the front main) was cutting the straps short and securing them to the inside of the back bodice with sew-in snaps.
I determined the strap length and snap placement by trying the bodice on my daughter, figuring out what was most comfortable for her, and marking with a removable fabric marker.
I trimmed the straps, restitched the ends, and hand sewed studs to the right side of the ends of the straps (finished, my daughter's straps are 12 1/2" long).
Then I sewed the snap sockets to the right side of the back bodice lining.
NOTE: I also considered sewing the front end of the straps into the bodice at a slight angle and tying the strap ends at the back of her neck like a halter. She preferred the snap option for her Barbie dress, but we plan to try Wisteria as a halter dress sometime too!
The skirt was definitely the most challenging part of this project. I researched side train dresses until I had an idea of what needed to be done. Then I went through 2 practice runs using fabric I didn't care about before feeling confident enough to cut into our Barbie dress fabric.
I began with the front gown circle skirt pattern piece, and extended one side out 18" (45.7cm) at the side seam (this was a little more than 1/2 the length of our skirt). From there, I drafted my own new "circle" shape until it reconnected with the rest of the original shape at the center of the hem.
I repeated this process with the back gown circle skirt pattern piece, being sure to extend the correct side so it would align properly with the front piece. I laid the pieces right sides together and clipped the side seams.
Then I sewed the modified gown circle skirt just as I would have sewn the regular one, but being more careful with the newly shaped hem.
Experimenting with Draping
Once I had the skirt sewn to the bodice, I put the dress on my daughter and tried my hand at draping the skirt fabric to mimic the look Enchanted
Evening Barbie wears so beautifully.
Unfortunately, at this point I was running out of time - we really only had one opportunity to get pictures in this dress before leaving on a trip, so I did not research this process nearly as much as I would have liked. I did my best with the time I had (literally finishing right before we left for pictures). This meant draping and VERY carefully hand sewing while my daughter watched a video.
I first made a few gathers on the side of the dress without the train and secured with hand stitches. Then I pulled fabric over and up near her waist, securing the same way. I did this on the back as well, trying to be sure I left enough slack along the elastic waist for her to get in and out of the dress. Next, I pulled fabric up from the side train a little bit at a time, securing each time with some hand stitches, until we were pleased with the look.
I finished it off by stitching on a pale pink silk rose that just covered the other stitches.
NOTE: If I'd had more time, I would have done this more as a bustle, still draping the fabric where I wanted it but then handstitching only through the skirt fabric, rather than sewing it directly to the dress. I could then have added small loops and buttons to hold the draping/train in place when the dress was being worn. I hope to do this to this dress before it is worn again. I also plan to add a small loop to the train that she can put around her wrist so trick-or-treating will be more managable.
The Faux Fur Wrap
I drafted a simple pattern for the wrap by measuring around my daughter with her arms down at her sides (and adding a few inches for overlap/snaps), and also by determining how tall we wanted the wrap to be.
These measurements gave me a rectangle to use as my base. I folded it in half widthwise and then lengthwise and trimmed on a curve to bring the ends to a point, as shown in the photo above.
I used my pattern to cut the main fur side of the wrap, and then cut the lining side (I used the same poly satin as the dress) 3/8" (1cm) smaller to ensure that the fur would curl in a little bit.
I laid the fur and lining right sides together and carefully clipped and sewed all the way around, leaving one 3" (7.6cm) gap in the center for turning right side out, and backstitching at beginning and end.
I turned the wrap right side out, gently poked out the points at both ends, and hand sewed the opening closed. My last step was to try the wrap on my daughter and mark and sew on snaps to close the wrap. I sewed the sockets to the lining on one side and the studs to the fur on the other.
The Final Product
While I still have some things to adjust, we both love how this dress turned out. She felt totally glamorous and that was the best!! We definitely made some memories turning her into a Barbie girl!
I hope you've enjoyed walking through this process with me! Thank you for reading, and Happy Costume Sewing! ~Angie~