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  • Karole from Kimberling

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

Updated: Mar 26

What Type of Petticoat Is Needed for This Dress?

Usually, I make a doll dress, look at it on the doll, and decide whether it needs a petticoat. But for this dress, the petticoat is a critical component. What Dress? The one Anna wore in "The King and I."


Three months ago, I decided that making Anna's dress would be my next project, and have been dithering and procrastinating ever since.


My analytical self said, "Just begin -- "DO SOMETHING! -- Write down the tasks that need to be accomplished, prioritize them, and start on the first one."


I don't listen to myself very well, so it took a while, but I finally made a list.


The first task on the list was to list all components needed for this costume -- which are: the ball gown, the petticoat, the gloves, the fancy hair net, and the shoes (Since one cannot see the shoes, they can be purchased.) Task 1 complete.

The second task was to gather materials needed to make each component.

  • For the gown, I needed a pattern -- one I could modify to achieve the "look" of Anna's -- and, I needed fabric. I found a pattern that I thought would need only minor adjustments, and settled on a satin that, although not exactly the same texture and color as Anna's, was probably as close as I was going to get. [I will blog about the gown when it is finished.]

  • The accessories - gloves and hair net. I had fabrics for both, and a pattern for the gloves.

  • The Petticoat


I had a light cotton blend and a wide, heavily embroidered cotton trim that I could use for the petticoat.


I also had fabric-covered plastic boning, and cotton cording that I thought might work to shape the petticoat. I had never used either.


The third task was to determine the order in which the costume components should be made.

  • The accessories aren't needed until the gown is finished. They can be made last.

  • The skirt of the gown cannot be cut out until its length is established. The length of the gown depends on the width, shape and fullness of the petticoat underneath, so the petticoat must be made first.

Designing the Petticoat Looking at Anna's dress, two things are obvious:

1. The waist of the petticoat cannot be bulky; if it is, it will ruin the lines of the fitted bodice.

2. The shape and structure of the petticoat is critical to the shape and movement of the gown's skirt .


Petticoat Prototype

What you see on the right are two petticoats made with the same fabrics.

  • The top section of the petticoats are made with a lightweight lawn type of fabric. A wide bias strip made of the same lightweight fabric was used to make the waistbands. Quarter inch satin ribbons are threaded through the waistbands and tie at the back.

  • The bottom sections of the two petticoats are made of the same heavily embroidered cotton trim. The differences between the two are:

- The petticoat on the right has fabric covered boning sewn around the inside of the skirt approximately two inches from the bottom.

- The petticoat on the left has two rows of

bias tape sewn around the inside; one row about 2 inches from the bottom; the other row about 5 inches from the bottom. Cotton cording was pulled through each row of bias tape.


As you can see, the cording does almost as good a job at holding the shape of the petticoat as does the boning. The channel to hold the cording needed to fit closely around the cording. A little room was needed so that the cording could be pulled through the bias channel, but the snugger the fit, the firmer the cording, and its ability to hold the shape of the petticoat.


The petticoat on the right, with only one row of boning, falls more gracefully than the one on the left, and will look better under Anna's gown. The petticoat on the left with two rows of cording bells out at the hip, and would go well under a Tudor style gown.


Technical Notes

  • The top edge of the upper section of the petticoats is gathered at the waistband. To reduce bulk, the upper edge of these sections are not as wide as the bottom edge. (The bottom of the top sections have to be as wide as the bottom sections; in this case 36 inches.)

- The length of the top sections were measured to be the length from waist to right below the doll's hip plus 1/2 inch (for waist and bottom section seams.)

  • The bottom sections of the petticoats (made of heavily embroidered cotton trim) are 36 inches wide.

- The length of the bottom section of the petticoats was determined by measuring from the doll's waist to the top of foot; subtracting the length of the top section (without seam allowances); and adding 1/4 inch for the seam at the hip. (The embroidered fabric has a finished edge, so no allowance for a hem was needed.)

  • I used a bias tape maker to make the bias tape for the cording channels. Bias tape makers come in several widths -- I have a set with 4 different widths. These come in very handy when you need to use bias tape and want to match the fabric you are using for a garment. You simply cut bias strips out of the fabric you want (the bias tape maker packaging will indicate the width of the bias strip you need (or you can experiment); pull the strip through the tape maker; and press it with an iron as you pull it through. - Bias strips are strips of fabric cut diagonally across the fabric -- at a 45 degree angle from the selvage.

  • Wide bias strips of the lightweight fabric were cut to make the petticoat waistbands. These strips needed to be wider than the bias tape makers I had, so I cut the strips, and pressed one long edge under 1/4 inch before sewing the raw edge to the gathered top section of the petticoat.

  • To make the waistband of the petticoat adjustable, I chose 1/4" satin ribbon to pull through the waistband. Elastic would have added too much bulk.


Petticoat -- Done! (and it only took 3 months)

Gown, Gloves, and Hairnet To Go!







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