As I'm sure is the case for many, many other little girls (and maybe an almost equal number of not-so-little girls), my daughter wanted to be Elsa for Halloween. I perused the costumes in the stores and became increasingly disappointed. These were all generic princess dresses in pale blue and silver and white, and with Elsa buttons slapped on them. So I turned to Etsy and other areas, but again... disappointed. I wanted something movie-accurate (within reason, since the fabric of Elsa's dress seems to be something that isn't made anywhere on Earth at present.) I could not find movie-accurate, no matter how hard I tried. So... I decided I would make my daughter her very own, movie-accurate Elsa dress (minus the slit.) Maybe in spandex, so she could get it on and off by herself... and then sleep in it, as she tends to do with Halloween costumes. Oh! And with a detachable cape, so she can run around without worrying about getting stepped on! The plan was made, all that was left was the execution.
Step 1: STUFF.
This project certainly requires no small amount of supplies, and it is not for the faint of heart or the budget-wary. The amount of fabric I used will *not* be the amount of fabric or thread you will use. That will vary depending on the size of the person being fitted for the costume. Please figure that part out accordingly, that is what the fake dress fabric is for.
For the customized dress form I used:
- 1 trash bag
- roll of duct tape
- fiberfil, cotton stuffing, newspaper, tissue paper, or other suitable stuffing materials
For the dress mock up:
- bias tape
- 3-4 yards of plain, boring, throwaway fabric, I used cotton. Just the cheap stuff will do. This is just for mocking up pattern pieces, not for the finished product.
- 1 large spool of thread (any color will do for this part)
For the dress:
- 2 yards of soft, stretchy fabric for the lining, in a turquoise/aqua color. I used stretch jersey fabric (it feels like a t-shirt) that I purchased from Fabric.com
- 2 yards of stretch sequin spandex, in turquoise/aqua, purchase from SpandexHouse.com
- 1.5 yards of stretch mesh spandex in pale blue
- 1 spool of thread (large) in turquoise/aqua to match the sequin fabric
- 1 spool of thread (large) in pale blue to match the top
- 1/4" elastic for neck opening
You will also need:
- sewing machine
- rhinestones (clear/silver). I used a package of 144 7mm, 2 packs of (325count) assorted sizes, and a few hundred 3mm clear/silver rhinestones for the top
- Beacon Gem-Tac glue or other strong, clear-drying glue (not E6000 if you use acrylic rhinestones. It will eat away the silver backing)
- white eyeliner pencil, soft
- wax paper
- pens, pencils
- straight pins
- separating zipper, in white or pale blue, sized accordingly
- good, sharp fabric scissors
- seam ripper (optional)
The cape is a separate tutorial, otherwise this instructable will end up being 4 years long, not to mention it can also simply be an optional piece.
Step 2: Making Your Fake Child (or Fake You)
I think the duct tape dress form is the best and most fun part of this entire thing. This part is optional, but it sure did help me make sure the dress was going to fit my daughter. She has an unerring tendency to wriggle around, and she kept having to do things like sleep or go to school. Plus, I can jab pins into the dress, straight through the Fake Daughter, without the Fake Daughter screaming. I can't seem to be able to do that with Real Daughter.
To begin, you will need two people for this. The person the model is being made of, and the person who will be doing the taping. The person being taped up should don a trash bag (or maybe a very long shirt they no longer want.) Be forewarned, this will get unbearably hot for the duration of the taping. Duct tape does not breathe. The model must also keep very, very still and stand very, very straight for about an hour.
After donning the trash bag, begin the taping. If the person in question has any chest definition at all, place two strips of duct tape, across the chest in an X shape. Otherwise, just begin laying strips of duct tape across the torso, laying strip after strip up the body. Be sure to form shapes for the arm and neck holes. Once finished with the front, proceed to do the same for the back. I decided to put on 3-4 layers, to make sure it stayed really sturdy.
It wouldn't hurt to make an arm model, either, if you want. It isn't necessary, but it is nice for fitting sleeves.
Then, when it is all done and the model is cursing your existence, cut them out of it, but do be careful. They don't like it when you cut them, either.
Once the tape form is removed, use some more duct tape to tape the form closed again. Tape over the arm and neck holes, then proceed to stuff the entire form with cotton stuffing, paper, or whatever else you can find to fill it. Be careful not to overstuff, and also be careful to make sure the form keeps the shape and size of the wearer. Then simply tape over the bottom opening and ta-da! You have a custom dress form to the exact size of the model. Time to begin drafting your dress.
Step 3: Making the Fake Dress
Taking your bias tape, begin laying it out on the dress form, pinning it in place. The goal is to mark the shapes of the dress, primarily the top. This is for the sweetheart shape on the bodice, the neckline, the arm holes, the seams, the back, the waist, etc. The pattern for the this can vary depending on your personal tastes and preferences. You can opt for the Elsa boat neck style neckline, or bring it in closed to the neck. You can adjust the sweetheart shape, or where the neckline goes down to, where the point of the bodice goes, etc.
Once you have your shapes the way you want them, begin pinning the fake fabric to the dress, making sure to keep the fabric smooth and flat. When you have one portion of the dress pinned, being marking the shapes on the fake fabric and then move on to another section.
For the sleeves, I opted to find a sleeve pattern elsewhere. I have never made sleeves in my life. In fact, I hadn't sewn anything more complicated than a pair of pajama pants before, much less funky weird sleeves, so I took all the help I could get. Sleeves are genuinely odd, and the shape is hard to come up with by yourself. If you are unfamiliar, sometimes it is best to just get a bit of help, and there is no shame in it.
Continue draping and marking the fabric to make your pattern pieces. Once you have it all to your satisfaction, cut it out, leaving a half inch seam allowance.
Another option if you want to save time or just cannot manage to drape and draft is to find patterns for a long sleeve leotard with a similar neckline (for the top) and a full-length skirt. Then it is a simple matter of making your pieces from those and penciling in any adjustments. You will need a pattern for Elsa's sheer top and sleeves, and a pattern for the bodice/skirt combo. If you can print out pages, cut them out, and tape them together, the pre-bought patterns will work for you. Then you lay the patterns out on the fabric, pin them in place, trace them, and cut them out with a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Follow the directions for cutting out the fabric that are included in the pattern.
Now you need to sew the fake dress together, to make sure it fits the recipient well. Placing the right sides of the pattern together and pinning in place along the seam lines, begin sewing along the seam lines. I used a short, thin zig-zag stitch for this entire dress. For instructions on how to use a sewing machine, I suggest this link. It was a great refresher for me: Threading A Sewing Machine
I would suggest making sure to leave plenty of room for the wearer to wiggle into the dress. I ended up leaving one side of the bodice unsewn, and one shoulder as well. Once she was in the dress, I just pinned them in place. If you don't know how to sew in sleeves, don't worry. I didn't either and had to Google. I found this tutorial, and it is extremely helpful. I could try to explain it, but I'm not nearly experienced enough to be of any use. Sewing In Sleeves
At this point, the fake dress should fit reasonably well. It may be a bit big in some spots, or a bit small in others. Use more straight pins to make the adjustments, then use a pen (fabric, sharpie, or other) to mark the changes you need to make.
Then simply rinse and repeat until you get the dress fitting the way you want it. It is better to waste the junk fabric than the good, expensive fabric. When it does fit to your liking, congratulations, you now have your dress pattern! Now you get to feel like you are actually making progress and start in on the dress itself... after disassembling the fake dress.
Step 4: Silver (Or Turquoise) Linings
The formation of the dress began with the lining. Fold your fabric in half vertically. You are going to want to make sure the greatest amount of stretch the fabric has is going horizontally. Just give the fabric a few tugs in different directions to find where the greatest amount of stretch is. That is going to the horizontal direction of the garment. Fold the fabric in the direction of the least amount of stretch. You don't need a lot of give vertically, but anyone who has ever gorged themselves on Halloween candy can tell you that horizontal forgiveness is a must in a costume.
Pin your pattern pieces to the fabric along the fold (the fold creates a mirror image and saves you from having to cut it out or draw it twice.) This pattern should be for the bodice/skirt combo, both the front and the back of it. Using a pen of some variety, trace your pattern pieces and then cut them out, leaving a 1/2 inch space around it, for the seam allowance.
Un-pin the pattern pieces, and begin lining up the fabric, right sides together, and pin in place along the seam line. Then, using the same zig zag stitch on your machine, sew along the seam lines. Using a flat iron, press the seams flat. Make sure the heat setting is appropriate for the fabric you are using
Ta-da! You have the lining done. At this point, I used some of my extra fabric to make another mock-up of the top and sleeves, but this isn't a requirement. That was just to make sure I didn't screw up my measurement changes anywhere.
Step 5: Sequins, Sequins Everywhere
The sequin fabric instilled a dreadful amount of terror in me, but only because it was $20/yard. The actual sewing of it was not bad at all.
Repeating the same process as before with the lining, give the fabric a few stretches to determine the greatest horizontal stretch and fold it vertically, with the sequin side folded against itself. Pin your pattern pieces in place along the fold, and begin tracing out the pattern. Cut out your pattern (which is the exact same pattern as the lining), leaving a 1/2 inch seam allowance, and then sew along the seam line with the same zig zag stitch.
Sewing sequin stretch fabric is a daunting task, but if you follow a few basic guidelines, it isn't too bad. Go slowly and take your time, making sure to guide the fabric straight. You can trim off any excess sequins in your way, if you wish. Keep the fabric snug, but don't pull and don't make it tight. It will begin bunching and create wonky seams. Patience is crucial with sequin stretch fabric.
And be forewarner: cutting the sequin fabric will result in pieces of sequin being found all over the place for a few weeks. However, unlike glitter, all you need is a vacuum and the problem is solved.
Step 6: Gettin' on Top of Things Part 1
The top for this dress is the most difficult part of the sewing, so I will be dividing it into two steps. Not because of the shapes (though sleeves are nothing to sneeze at) but because the fabric I chose is extremely difficult to sew and requires a huge learning curve. I strongly recommend using some scrap pieces of the sheer, stretchy monstrosity to learn the best way to sew it on your machine. Otherwise, you will have to make an entirely new top from scratch when the machine chews up your work and spits it out... which may or may not have happened to me.
The prep work for the top is exactly the same as the other pieces, so that part should be familiar at this point, though the pattern pieces will be different: The top front, the top back, and two sleeves. Fold in half based on the greatest amount of stretch, pin your pattern pieces along the fold, trace, cut out with 1/2 inch seam allowance, pin the pieces together along the seam line with the right sides touching. All four of the pieces for the top can be cut along a fold, which makes this entire process a lot easier.
The next part is where it begins to get tricky. You are going to want a very small, very short zig zag stitch for this. Sew the seams between the shoulder and the neck opening first. This should give you an almost bib-like top, or something sort of resembling a dickie.
Then you are going to be inserting the elastic ribbon into the neck opening. To do this, you will begin laying the elastic along the neck hole on the 'wrong' side of the fabric, pinning in place as you go. This will probably require a lot of pins, and a lot of patience. Go ahead and sew the elastic in place and then remove the pins.
Taking the 1/2 inch flap of seam allowance and folding it over the elastic to cover it, pinning it in place as you go. You may find you need to make a few cuts along the curves, to allow the fabric the fold the way it should. Sew this in place as well, and then you are done with the neck opening. It should be secure, stretchy, and perfect to stick a head through. Next we will move on to sewing the sleeves in place and inserting them.
Step 7: Gettin' on Top of Things Part 2
The second stage of the top has to do with the sleeves and the side seam.
Begin by finishing the ends of the sleeves, near the wrists. I overcast my zig zag and sewed a rolled hem.
To do that, fold the allowance in half until it meets the seam line. Adjust your machine so that the zig zag will go into your fabric on the left side, but will miss or overcast the fabric on the left. This will cause the fabric to get tucked up into the stitching, and will create a neat and tidy bundled edge. Roll as you go, there is no need for pins for this. They just get in the way, anyway. Make sure to work slowly, and test out doing a rolled hem on scrap fabric until you are comfortable with it. This edging works particularly well for sheer, delicate, P.I.T.A. fabric, such as organza or the sheer mesh spandex I used for the top of this dress.
Once you finish the edges of the sleeves, it is time to attach them to the 'dickie' top part you previously finished. As stated previously, it is better if I link you to a great sleeve insertion tutorial, as I am still a novice at this: Sewing Sleeves Her tutorial is truly brilliant and so clear and helpful.
Once you get the sleeves sewn on at the shoulder, you simply sew from the bottom of the top up to the armpit, then out towards the wrist, making sure the 'right' sides are facing each other. Sew slowly and carefully, taking your time, then rinse and repeat the entire process on the other side. Flip it right side out, and you should have an intact, completed top to the Elsa dress.
Step 8: Avengers, Assemble! Wait...
Now that you have the sheer top, the sequin shell, and the lining, it is just about time to assemble! Hooray!
First, you are going to need to take the zipper for the cape and adjust the length of it so it will fit your dress, if necessary. Maybe you got lucky and found one the right length for your purposes, but in case you didn't, here is a tutorial for how to shorten zippers: How to Shorten Zippers. I would detail how to do that, but that would take some time seeing as there are many different kinds of zippers. For instance, I used a 12 inch, coil separating zipper, while you may opt for a metal toothed zipper, or a plastic toothed one. The zipper should be as long as you want your cape's width at the top to be. It should stretch from just under or behind one armpit to the same spot on the other side. For my daughter's dress, I needed to adjust it to about 9.5 inches.
Once you get your zipper shortened to your preferred length, you can then move on to attaching the dress pieces to each other. Put the lining on the dress form, then put the sheer top on the form as well. Adjust the lining so it lands exactly where it needs to be on the sheer top, then work your way around folding over the seam allowance and pinning it to the top. You can opt to stitch it in place before moving onto the sequin shell, if you want. I found it was easier to do that, actually. It is ok for the stitching to show, since the thread should match the fabric, and you will be adding rhinestones on top of the dress after it is all assembled.
Repeat the process for the sequin shell, but make sure to pin the zipper in as well, exactly where you want it to go. You are going to need to use the half of the zipper without the zipper pull, this way there isn't a large hard lump wedging against ribs or armpits when the cape isn't attached. The zipper is also going to need to be placed so the back of the zipper is facing outward, and the front of the zipper is against the back of the dress. Sew everything in place and remove the pins. At this point, you should have an almost entirely finished dress, all that is left is the hem.
For the hem, you can do another rolled hem just like you did for the sleeve edges, or you can simply fold the ends up and sew them in place.
Step 9: BEDAZZLED!
You are nearly done! Now you just need to glue on rhinestones. So many rhinestones. So very many rhinestones. Fortunately, this is the really easy part, and you can do this while watching episodes of Big Bang Theory or Once Upon A Time, like I did.
Map out where you want the bottom point of the bodice to be. It should be directly below the point in the sweetheart shape of the bodice. Then begin applying rhinestones, starting with the big ones then tapering it off to points.
Place a few dots of glue in the spots you want rhinestones to be. Then, using a white eyeliner pencil, a damp q-tip, or a special rhinestone applicator tool if you have one, begin applying the rhinestones. You don't want to put too much glue on, or it will dry before you can get to it. You can begin to get adventurous once you get into the rhythm.
Make sure to allow proper drying time before flipping over and working on the back.
For the sheer top and the sleeves, place the dress back on the dress form. If you have an arm for it, it will come in handy here. Put a sheet of wax paper between the sheer fabric and the dress form, and mark your designs on the dress with a pencil. Following the same procedure as the bodice, apply small amounts of glue at a time and begin applying rhinestones in your designs. Feel free to add rhinestones along the collar. The fabric glue works really well on stretch fabric, particularly if the fabric is stretched a bit when you begin gluing.
Step 10: Showtime!
Now, you should have a completed Elsa dress. All that is left to make is the cape, which is in a separate Instructable. and can be found here: Elsa Cape Instructable
Now you or your tiny human can run around as Elsa (magical powers not included) looking as gorgeous and sparkly as the snow queen herself .