Saturday, September 19, 2015

Sewing Ariel's Blue Dress

I decided I would actually like to be something for Halloween this year. And so I sewed this dress that Ariel wears in the Little Mermaid.

Even though I don't do anything for Halloween but give candy to trick or treaters. An Ariel dress was a good choice because when you're a princess little kids love you, and you know me, always wanting to bask in the glory of being popular among the 2-8 age group. Also, my hair is red and my eyes are blue, so that's suiting. The difficulty of the dress seemed just right too. I knew I could do the skirt with no problem and quickly, since it's just a circle skirt. Same goes with the shirt being quick and easy. I would have been able to do them both in a day, except I ran into some sewing machine trouble. The challenging part of this costume was be the corset, but this was a really good choice for sewing my first corset, since the rest of the costume was a breeze. And sewing the corset ended up not being hard in the slightest!

The patterns I used are the Laughing Moon Dore Corset, since they were kind enough to send a copy to me. (Everywhere on the internet points to this pattern if you haven't made a corset before, which I hadn't.) For the shirt I modified this free downloadable shirt pattern by HulaKitty. And you don't need a pattern for a circle skirt, just math.

What you'll need to make this is: light blue shirt fabric, slighter darker skirt fabric, and navy or black fabric for the corset. I got all of mine from Joanns, each fabric for four dollars a yard. In addition, I got some heavy twillish stuff to add body to the corset, since the cotton was pretty lightweight. You will need other supplies for the corset, but I'll talk about those when I go into making the corset. Immediately after getting home with my fabric I washed it. This way, your fabrics will shrink before you construct the garment, so you avoid puckers the first time you wash it. If you have pinking shears, cut the raw edges before washing, to minimize fraying.

We will start with the undershirt. I sewed the undershirt and the hair bow in a little bit less than a day. I don't really like how the undershirt is in the movie, it's too baggy and loose, and would just overwhelm me, so mines not really screen accurate. I didn't want it to baggy, but I also didn't want it to be to tight either. I've noticed a lot of other people who've made this costume have done this too. If you are really going for screen accurate, I'd try using New Look 6732. I used a free printable pattern by HulaKitty, which can be found here. The pattern needs a few alterations, namely cutting off the excess flare at the hem of the shirt and adding cuffs. You will also need to eliminate the little dip in the neckline, but that's so easy it's hardly worth mentioning.

To do the alterations, download and cut out the pattern in your size. Then, cut from the armpit straight down on both the back and front piece. You can add a mild curve here if you want, but, at least for me, it wasn't necessary. Before you cut the pattern down, it flares out from the armpit in a wedge. We want a loose shirt, but we don't want tons of bulk under the corset. To make the sleeve cuffs, you'll have to make a new pattern piece. Luckily, it's just a rectangle, so it's not too tricky. Just get a piece of paper and cut a rectangle that's about two inches longer than the end of the sleeve. The width of the rectangle should be three to four inches. You will need to cut four of the cuff pieces out.

I couldn't find any knits in the right color at Joanns, so my undershirt isn't stretchy, which is something to consider, since shirts are generally stretchy, so you can get them over your head. It works fine for me, but you might want to use a knit, or know you might have to put a closure in, like a zipper or velcro. Or just use a knit, and save yourself the trouble. Mine has no closure, and works well though.

I'm hesitant to post too much about the pattern, since that seems discourteous to give away everything before you download it (it is free, so not really any reason why you shouldn't download it). I put the shirt together according to the directions of the pattern, and just added the cuffs. I did that by sewing two cuff rectangle pattern pieces together, but leaving an opening to turn the rectangle inside out. I then closed off the rectangle and stitched the cuff to the sleeve while also stitching down the hem on the sleeve end. It doesn't matter which side you choose going out, since both sides are finished. I choose to have the side of the sleeve I wanted showing, and then sewed that side on the inside. Sounds counter intuitive, making the side you want showing the wrong side, but then when you fold up the cuff it'll show. I should note that I sewed the cuff on to the sleeve before sewing the side seam of the sleeve. You could sew it on after, but it would be trickier. I'm sorry I didn't take pictures of this step that is actually the most confusing of the entire costume.

After sewing on the sleeve cuffs I sewed up the arms and inserted them into the armhole. Then I hemmed the shirt. Even though the pattern has a facing on the neckline, I used a rolled hem and topstiched the neck instead. Something looked a bit off, so I inserted some twine into the "hem" of the neckline, so I'm able to gather it up. This helped a lot, and makes it way cuter, but it still looks like a pajama shirt. Gathering the neckline also improves the fit of the shirt quite a bit, because I didn't use a knit for it, so I had to make the shirt large enough to go on and off. Shirt being big enough to get onto myself is obviously nice, but then it was too big when on, so the gathering makes it just great. And there'd be no way to make a shirt stay off the shoulder without falling down, without cinching it slightly.

All in all, with the amount of alterations I made to the pattern, it would have been easier to just make my own pattern. I think I'd still suggest the pattern for making an Ariel shirt, but just don't alter it way way too much and then have to add more back on like I did.

I had lots of extra shirt fabric because I shrunk up the pattern a lot, but still just went with the amount of fabric the pattern called for, since I'm lazy. This gave me lots of fabric to use. I made the bow following this tutorial. I made it slightly smaller than in the tutorial, since I have an abnormally small head, and no need to draw attention to it's smallness, and also, my hair being red, I'm not going to wear a wig. Making the bow was really easy, definitely use the above tutorial.

With bow and shirt done, it was time to make the circle skirt. I don't know how to explain the math behind a circle skirt, as circle math is hard and sad. Here's the calculator I use to make them, and there are already tons of tutorials on them, so need for me to explain. I made a half circle skirt, not a full circle, and easy it was. A half circle skirt only has one side seam, so if you use the fabric's selvage edge as the edges you sew then there's no need to finish the seam. Your skirt may look funny with only one side seam, so you can sew a false one on the other side. On the wrong side just sew a line down, so that your wrong side has a tiny little tunnel of fabric at the seam. Add whatever sort of waistband and/or closure you want.

If you have the time to, after sewing whatever sort of waistband you want onto your skirt, hang it up for a couple weeks. A circle skirt is indeed a circle, and because of this, the bias and grain is in different directions at different points on the skirt, so some places will stretch out over time. Let it stretch, and then hem it, so your hem doesn't eventually end up all uneven.

Corset now. I made the corset using the Laughing Moon Dore Pattern. I got it with a DVD explaining the process, and a good instruction booklet too. It also came with a chemise and drawers pattern, in addition to another corset pattern, the Silverado. I highly recommend this pattern. I made a mock up from what size I thought I'd be in the pattern. It didn't fit me very well, however it fit my sister perfectly, so I saved it. Another mock up and some alterations later and I was ready to sew the actual thing. I changed some things from the pattern, like not including a busk, and added in some fake gores. You have to understand that I have nothing going on. My torso is pretty much a rectangle, and there's only an inch difference between my waist and (lack of) hips. I have no squish, so my waist can't get much smaller. It doesn't matter too much for this particular costume, since the corset doesn't look that corsety on Ariel.

Then I made up the corset. I had a long and arduous debate with myself on if I should add a lining, because the fabric I used as my coutil (but not actual coutil, I'm too poor for that) had a really nice plaid wrong side. I eventually did go with a lining from the leftover fabric from the skirt.
plaid is nice, but alas, finished edges are nicer
I ended up using some heavy duty zip ties as boning, because there's a home depot where I live, but not anywhere that sells steel boning. Zip ties worked quite well for my purposes. I used these handy dandy little bias tape tools to make the binding for the top and bottom of the corset. Add in some grommets, and good to go. To lace up, I used some cording thing that I found at Michaels, it's pretty much a ten yard shoelace. That's really all I have to say about making the corset. Get this pattern if you want to make your first corset, it worked amazingly, even for me, a relatively beginner sewer. I don't think I can overstate how good this pattern is, seriously. When I have time, I'll probably write a review on it. I can say I very much enjoy sewing corsets.

And that's it! If I don't go into enough depth anywhere, or if you're confused, ask and I'll do my best to help you out. And now: pictures! Edit: Blogger is compressing the images which looks horrible, so click on the pictures to see them full size.

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