I had the incredible privilege to welcome my first niece recently, and I wanted to give her an extra-special gift. So, with my mother-in-law’s help, I was given my sister-in-law’s first Holy Communion dress to use to make a christening gown for baby Mary. It was a full-on 90’s acetate wonder, and I wish I had taken a few more photos during the process, but what I have is below. I also worked with fleece for the first time to make a couple jackets for that chilly Irish weather. Everything pictured here was ready for her baby shower back in September. Baby Mary arrived late January, as expected. Sister-in-law and niece are doing great, and she was baptized on March 4th wearing the dress. Photos of that to come, with her mother’s permission =)
I started with a commercial pattern for a simple baby dress, altered the pleats out so that I had a basic dress with high waistline, and tried it out in broadcloth. Unfortunately, I had miscalculated something and the neckline was waaaaaay too wide, so I had to tweak that. Always do a muslin first! 😉
This is the beauty I had to work with: 100% acetate, straight from the 90’s. It has a jewel neckline, back button placket, lace bodice with lace applique over the top chest, puffy sleeves, a basque waist with plastic pearl and lace peplum detailing, and a generous, creased hem.
the waist lace and pearl detail
The lace applique over the acetate-underlined lace bodice
To deconstruct the dress, I carefully removed those gigantic puffy sleeves at their seams and worked the skirt free of the waist seam and plastic pearl trim. All of those seams were sewn and serged separately and it took me a really long time just to get all the seams apart without shredding the edges of the fabric. Somewhere in there I was able to carefully remove the beaded lace applique from the bodice without doing any damage to the lace fabric underneath.
I had to do a little touching up with Shout on the hemline once I let it out, and with bleach on the applique, but it turned out pretty well.
My plan was to work WITH the dress as much as possible. Interestingly, the jewel neckline wasn’t that much bigger than the baby dress pattern, so I decided to preserve the neckline binding, back button placket and shoulder seams as-is and cut the bodice out of the dress in one piece.
Here you can see how I cut the entire bodice of the new dress out wile preserving the shoulder and neckline seams as well as the back buttons. Best. Idea. EVER. It saved a TON of work. I carefully pinned the lace so that it wouldn’t move while working with it.
You can see the lace “peplum”, the beaded trim, the intact sashes, the skirt, and the bodice appliques here. I wish I had more photos of the middle portion, but I just forgot to keep up.
You would think a little girl’s dress would be plenty long for a baby dress, but I had envisioned a flowing gown much longer than the baby, so I was faced with a choice: cut the top of the skirt straight across or fill in the triangle cutout created by the basque-shaped waist. I opted for the latter to preserve as much length as possible. I didn’t really do it quite right, or at least I think I could have done it better, but I decided to put the beaded appliques right over that part to hide the patch of extra fabric. That was interesting because the skirt was gathered at the waist, and the appliques overlapped both the flat bodice and the gathered skirt, I had to strategically hand-stitch every nook and cranny of the applique down to those gathers. That was the worst part of the entire project!
For the sleeves, I used the lace peplums. They were originally a length of rectangular lace that had been tapered in to complement the basque waist. So, I copied the tapered end of the lace onto the rectangular end at a length that would create a ruffle/cap sleeve.
The lace at the hem came from her veil, and I ended up using the plastic pearls as trim just below the neckline binding. It was the perfect length =)
Here’s the finished product at the baby shower with a photo of the mom-to-be wearing the original dress at her first Holy Communion.
From the back you can see the preserved buttons and buttonholes, which saved me a TON of time. You can also see that I inserted the original sashes into the side seams of the new dress.
A close-up of the bodice with pearl trim, peplum-turned-flutter sleeves, and the chest appliques now at the center waistline.
And those crazy puffy sleeves???? Yep! There was enough fabric for bloomers!
Being in a country with overall cool and dreary weather, I decided to also make a couple of fleece jackets. This is the smallest size of one commercial pattern and it’s big on her now even at 1 month old. I was really proud of myself for getting the ladybugs to all face the way I wanted with so little fabric (less than a yard remnant- much less than a yard if I remember correctly!)
This is the smallest size of a different pattern, and it was much bigger. I actually made it first before I realized I would need to try a different pattern. Compared to commercially-available baby jackets, it was measuring around 6-9 months, even though it was the smallest size in the envelope!
Overall, the coats went well, although I wasn’t completely happy with the zippers or the hems, but for the first time making anything of the sort, I was pleased.
If all goes well, I will get to meet the little darling when her family brings her to visit the States this summer. And she might just have a stack of dresses waiting for her- if I can manage to squeeze them in while I study for boards 😉
See previous post for her receiving blanket (pink with llamas) that I mailed for her arrival along with some simple fleece blankets for swaddling (didn’t get photos of those), also in llamas. (Her mom and her uncle have a thing for llamas, so I play along…. =D )
Maybe next weekend I’ll post some pictures of pieces I’ve promised extra photos of in the past, as well as a piece or two I’ve done for myself recently. Maybe even some flops lol! Not every creative endeavor ends well, and that’s ok =D
Go forth and be creative!