Barbie, dressed for a 1958 high school prom
What does one do when visiting Cape May on vacation? Why make Barbie a prom gown, of course.
Cape May beach in September

I had taken my daughter on vacation, but she needs a lot of sleep, so as she slept I made the Barbie dress I had promised to bring to my high school reunion’s silent auction. The gown is layered with tulle, the style in 1958 when we graduated.

As I worked this is what I saw out my window. No better place to sew.

Fortunately the motel room had a plaid floor covering
making it easier to cut the fabric on grain.

Ironing the mussed tullenette
was difficult because the iron
was pretty awful.

Fortunately the motel room where we were staying had a plaid pattern in the floor covering, allowing me to lay the fabric out on grain for cutting. The tullenette was mussy from being packaged, so I pressed it with the motel iron, without question the worst iron I have ever used.

To make the skirt as full as possible, two circles would be sewn together. Since the easiest way to make Barbie clothes is to self-line, that meant cutting four full circles of the satin. The tullenette would not be lined of course, but to give body to the skirt 2 full circles of tullenette would form the underskirt, and to produce the 1958 styling, 2 full circles of the tullenette would form the over skirt.

The skirt pattern’s circle at the waist has a 1/4 inch diameter.
The length of the skirt pattern is 9 inches from the center
of the circle.

The skirt pattern, shown here in the process of being cut, is slightly longer than the doll from her waist to the floor.  The skirt pattern’s circle at the waist has a 1/4 inch diameter. The length of the skirt pattern is 9 inches from the center of the circle.

I’m using a different Barbie then will wear the finished dress. This is my fit model Barbie that I use to check the fit when I make Barbie clothes.

The skirt now cut, its time to sew the side seams together and then sew the hem.

Thank goodness for my little featherweight. Manufactured in 1943, it sews just like the industrial lockstitch machines (sewing machines that use bobbins) in the industry. A little slower, perhaps, but this machine has the same accuracy and the same beautiful stitch as the industry’s workhorses. And it’s light and easy to transport.

Sewing the lace to the sewn edge of the hem.

The hem and side seams sewn, the lace is now being sewn around the edge of the hem

The bodice pattern. Eliminating the side seams
eliminated fraying.

Eliminating the side seams from the bodice pattern eliminates fraying and makes the sewing faster. It’s often easier if one side of the pattern is cut on the selvage as that provides a natural seam finish which can lie under the other side in the back, but that wasn’t the case with the satin.

Cutting two plies of the bodice pattern so as to self-line is the
easiest way to sew the bodice. 

Cutting two plies of the bodice pattern so as to self-line the bodice is the easiest way to sew Barbie doll clothes. The darts are sewn separately, the neckline then is sewn and raise-stitched.

Before sewing the bodice to the skirt a slit was cut in the center of the back circle of the skirt. It was then bound with satin.

Sometimes one has to take a little time to determine
how to finish a dress. Here lace is draped over the doll
to try and determine how best to finish trimming the dress.

It was obviously impossible to sew the bodice to the waist on the sewing machine. So first the outside of the bodice was hand sewn to the skirt, then the lining was hand sewn to the skirt.  Then very small metal hooks and loops were sewn to the back opening.
The dress was supposed to be strapless, but Barbie proved to be unable to hold the dress up. So hand crocheted straps were added to the dress. 
Not sure of how to finish the dress  the excess lace is draped over the doll to see what would look the best. 
Then went off for a little dolphin and whale watching while deciding how to finish the dress.

We saw lots of dolphins, because they mate in the bay at Cape May.
Bit unfortunately, even though we went way out in the ocean, we
saw no whales. Turns out the whales come up to Cape May to feed.
They live on that food  while wintering in the Caribbean Islands. 
Time to take a break. After all, we are on vacation! 

With no bobbin or safety pin to pull the tie through the casing,
a presser foot was used and proved to work just as well.

How to transport the doll and dress home without snagging the satin? The only solution was to make a bag with the excess fabric and lace. But then how to pull the tie through the casing? Simple answer, thread it through an excess presser foot.  Worked like a dream.

Here’s Barbie at the silent action, waiting for bids. She’s sitting on her carrying bag.
What could be better than a happy
grandfather with a new Barbie, dressed
for the prom, to give his little granddaughter?
And here’s Bob, my high school classmate with his prize 
that he won for his little seven-year-old granddaughter.


I promise, I  will publish more of the Downton Abbey collection soon.
Until then, bye for now.

 Phone: 215 884 7065

© Laurel Hoffmann, 2014,all rights reserved.
All material on this blog is copyrighted by and is
the exclusive right of Laurel Hoffmann.

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