• Karole from Kimberling

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


I didn't need more fabric, I certainly didn't need to cut out another outfit, BUT, the power of some memories are irresistable.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers -- starring Jane Powell and Howard Keel -- is one of my favorite movies/musicals . My Mother took us to see it when I was ten years old, and a quarter of a century later, I bought the VHS tape so my daughters could see it too. From then on, we watched it, and White Christmas, every year during Christmas break. (You "younger" ladies might remember Howard Keel as Miss Ellie's second husband on the nighttime TV soap Dallas.)

Back to the fabrics

Very recently I found two cotton remnants in a thrift store -- one about a quarter of a yard, the other half a yard -- bought them, and while they were being pre-washed, looked online for pictures from the movie to get some ideas for sewing the dress.

This was Edith Head's sketch for one of Milly's dresses -- the one used for the promotion posters. Looking closely at the posters, the dress in the movie was very close to the one in this sketch -- especially the pointed sleeve caps at the shoulders.

I had just used a pattern with sleeve caps -- KeepersDollyDuds' Civil War pattern -- Simplicity 1391. The pattern includes a low mandarin collar at the neckline, close to the rounded neckline of the dress in the movie (not like the sketch.)

The Dress

I had already modified the dress in Simplicity pattern 1391, so that the bodice would be fully lined, instead of using facings on the bodice. The skirt needed to be lengthened so that it almost touched the floor.

After copying the pattern for the sleeve caps on my computer scanner/printer, I drew points at the edges of the caps (that did not extend beyond the original pattern) to achieve the look in the sketch. I chose to make long sleeves -- the cuffs were made wider than those in the pattern, so I could sew them closed..

The Pantaloons

The pantaloons provided in the pattern also needed to be lengthened, Three rows of double lace were added at the bottom of each leg.

The Simple Petticoat

A petticoat was needed to emphasize the fullness of the dress' skirt. Using the same medium-weight cotton blend fabric used for the pantaloons, and the same measurement used for the skirt length, it was simple enough to cut a piece of the fabric that length -- using the entire width of the fabric. A rich cotton lace was sewn over a narrow hem at the bottom, before sewing up the back of the petticoat. A casing could then be turned under and sewn at the top the petticoat. The last step was to pull elastic , through the casing. I considered making a drawstring to pull through the casing rather than the elastic, which might have been more appropriate to represent the period, but decided to go with the elastic.

The Bow

Two rectangles needed for the bow used up all of the remaining dress remnants. An alligator clip is sewn to the underside. The bow can be arranged in front on top of the hair, or at the back.

The Boots

The high topped boots (not fully seen in the picture with the pantaloons) were purchased from an eBay vendor in the US a while ago. Mostly brown, with the sage green faux leather on the toe and heel, they lace up the front, and seem most appropriate for a country gal in the mid-19th century.

So, what's next?

I still have 3 of the 5 outfits that I pulled out of my Rubbermaid bins a few weeks ago that are waiting to be sewn.

But during the week, several events have presented distractions: pretty embroidered tulle arrived from China (an order I had forgotten about); Walmart had sparkly felt that I was sure would make great hats using KeepersDollyDuds Downtown 1920s pattern; and one of my Facebook doll groups issued a "Back to School" challenge for August, so . . .

Hope you have a great week!

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