"I'm Cruella. Born brilliant, born bad, and a little bit mad." - Cruella, 2021
Disney movies have always been an amazing resource for fashion inspiration. So when Cruella finally became available to watch on streaming, I couldn't wait to see what the costume designers had created for this classic. And they DID NOT disappoint! But out of all the incredible dresses and outfits that are showcased through this film, my absolute favorite was the "dumpster dress". Piles and piles of silk and tulle fabric in muted colors were contrasted with the bold black and white of the newsprint. I knew right away that I needed to recreate it, and the Camellia pattern would be a perfect starting point.
I started out with the v-neck and midi length skirt options for Camellia. The only modifications that I made to the pattern were to round out the neckline of the bodice to give it a sweetheart shape, and add some inches to the bottom of the skirt to make it floor length. I cut out 2 skirt pieces in a white/ivory cotton fabric for the lining, adding a bit of a "high-low" shape so that the front would be short enough not to trip over, and the back would look like a small train. Then I cut out 8 rectangle skirt pieces in an ivory tulle (I didn't cut the high-low of the tulle until after it was already sewn to the bodice to make sure that it stayed longer than the lining). For the bodice, I used a beautiful ivory shantung sateen for the main fabric, and just regular white/ivory cotton for the bodice lining.
When constructing the bodice, I sewed the princess seams together as directed. But instead of pressing the seams open, I serged the seam allowance, pressed it towards the outside of the bodice, then topstitched two parallel lines down the outer side of princess seams (using my serged edges as a guide for the width of the lines). These lines gave the appearance of the boning structure of a corset.
Then to finish that look, I used a heat erase pen and a cup from my kitchen to trace some half circles onto the chest for the "bra cups". I topstitched two lines for each half circle that matched the width from the lines of the princess seams made earlier. For the straps, I used a clear plastic elastic (like the kind used for knit or swim sewing) cut to the length needed from the pattern. I actually sewed the entire bodice together before adding any of the newsprint and gold fabric accents, because some of those fabrics would wrap around the entire bodice. However, it did make sewing them on my sewing machine a bit trickier. If I were to do it again, I would probably have added at least the newsprint fabric before sewing the front and back bodices together.
The newspaper embellishments are such an iconic part of this dress, and I knew that it had to be done right. It took me FOREVER to find a newsprint fabric that I liked, because I'm the type of person that wants to read ALL the text on the fabric to make sure it is child appropriate. So if you are like me, or just want to save time looking through the rather minimal choices of newsprint fabric, the one I found was called Story Modern Quilt Backs - Newsprint Spackle, by Windham Fabrics. For the front bodice piece, I cut out two rectangles of the newsprint, making the length measure from the bottom raw edge of the bodice to an inch or two above the top of the bodice. I began sewing the top edge and one long side, wrong sides together. Then sewed the other long edge, but left a 1.25 inch gap at the top. After turning the fabric right side out, I topstitched a line across the top of the rectangle, 1 inch down, to create a casing for 1 inch horsehair braid to be inserted.
Afterwards, I just used a whipstitch to hand sew the opening closed. I made a couple of long pintuck darts across the length of the fabric, and then attached it to the front bodice by sewing along the edges and at the top of the bodice.
For the newsprint on the back, I followed the same steps as the first newsprint piece, but made the length even longer so that it could be seen over my daughter's shoulder. Because of all the elastic casings, attaching the back piece is a bit more work. It can only be secured at the bottom of the bodice so that it doesn't affect the stretch of the back elastic. So how did I get mine to stand up if it's only attached at the bottom? I MacGyvered it with a bit of twill tape and small metal snaps so that it could be secured to the shoulder elastic.
I made three of these "MacGyver" snaps to help distribute the weight of the fabric on the clear plastic strap, making sure that it wouldn't cause stretching or warping of the elastic. The bottom snap is located right where the back bodice and strap meet, to keep the fabric held up where I wanted. The top snap should end right below the top of the shoulder, so that it isn't seen from the front of the dress. And the middle snap is just there to offer a little extra support.
After the newsprint has been attached, the rest of the dress is really just up to you and what fabrics you have available. I added some gold stretch fabric around the bodice and made some fabric pintucked rectangles that would drape on the front and back of the dress. Then I put a half skirt of pink embroidered tulle and some more of the ivory sateen at the back of the dress, on top of the tulle skirts, that would attach to the bodice to make a train of fancy fabric. All that was left was sewing all the skirt layers to the bodice.
I won't lie. I broke both of my coverstitch needles trying to finish the seam allowance of the skirts and bodice. It wasn't pretty. But I worked around it by sergering just a couple of the layers together at a time rather than trying to go through all of them at once.
To keep the embroidered tulle and ivory sateen from dragging on the ground, I sewed a couple of buttons to the back waistline.
Then hand sewed some thread buttonhole loops onto the skirts so that they could be bustled up while my daughter walks.
It worked so well that I decided to use a similar method to make a long detachable train for the "scrap" dresses, just like the movie. I cut a long piece of newsprint tulle that I had found on Etsy, hand sewed on A LOT of fabric scraps in random places, and then made 2 button holes at the top of the long train that could be attached to the same buttons I'd sewn on for the bustle.
This dress was an absolute dream come true. Even just a year ago, I never would have thought making a dress like this would be possible. I am so thankful to the incredibly encouraging ladies of the sewing groups, and the wonderful sewing companies, like Wild Seeds Patterns, that make learning new techniques and styles so much easier. Never be afraid to ask questions or try new patterns. You never know how much you can accomplish unless you try.