• Karole from Kimberling

Sewing for 18" Dolls, How Hard Can It Be?

January 23, 2018 -- My first post.

As a newcomer to the small world of 18" doll fashions, I hope to share my journey -- challenges, failures, and successes -- with other doll clothiers who may benefit or just like to reminisce. I plan to post once a week, every Monday, beginning January 29, 2018.

Over a year-and-a-half ago, I decided to sew clothes for the American Girl Doll, and other 18 inch dolls with a similar body type -- like Madame Alexander, Battat, and Our Generation.

I'd sewn before, and had a few ideas of what I would like to sew, so how hard could it be? I could sew one-of-a-kind outfits, and sell them on Etsy or eBay.

I considered that a plan.

If I am analytical about my efforts, I must say my biggest challenge was to overcome my compulsive addiction for buying fabrics, trims and patterns. Honestly, I haven't overcome it, but I periodically wield some control over it..

By March of last year, I had two large Rubbermaid bins filled with Ziploc bags. Each bag contained the components of an outfit and was marked with the pattern maker, number, and the view used, as well as a rough sketch of what the finished outfit should look like.

You might think, who in her right mind cuts out and packages over 100 doll outfits/kits before sewing one in order to find out what the challenges in execution might be?

'Tis I. (If you are disagreeing with the "in her right mind" part -- you are the sane one.) There are some of us who learn from others' mistakes, and others, like me, who make them for others to learn from.

So, in March 2017, I chose a Ziploc bag and began sewing my first outfit -- one supposed to resemble Scarlett O'Hara's barbecue dress. At that point I had purchased a beautiful pre-loved 18" Madame Alexander doll, which I used for fittings. I had also purchased a pre-loved American Girl doll on eBay, but she hadn't yet arrived. The pattern was a Butterick Retro '56 pattern for 18" dolls, a ball gown.

After fitting the Madame Alexander doll, completing her outfit, and then trying it on the American Girl doll when it arrived (an original one manufactured by the Pleasant Company), I found that:

  • American girl dolls don't have the exact same body shape as Madame Alexander dolls. They are broader in the shoulders, a little wider at the waist; and have fuller bottoms.

  • Original American Girl dolls manufactured by the Pleasant company don't have the same measurements as the newer American Girl dolls with the words "American Girl" on their necks. (I verified this in an article I subsequently found on a Google search.) Even the newer American girl dolls do not have the same body dimensions; so if a garment is to be very closely fitted/tailored for a specific American Girl doll, it is important to know the name of the doll, and get her exact measurements.

  • Re-issued Butterick Retro '56 patterns for 18" dolls have not been re-adjusted for the fuller body American Girl dolls (and "friend" dolls) that were first made thirty years later in 1986. I had cut six gowns with different fabrics and trims from this pattern. Fortunately, there was enough left of the fabric remnants to re- cut all the bodices.)

Disappointed with my first project, I made another dress, similar to the first, to fit my American Girl doll -- because my goal had been to make the dress to fit an American Girl doll, I am a compulsive achiever, and there was enough of the eyelet fabric left to make another dress.

Here are my first two 18" doll outfits.

The Madame Alexander Outfit

The American Girl Outfit

Hope to see you next week!

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