Monday, 11 July 2011

A sartorial emergency; or, how to make a Dorothy costume in a hurry

I hope that a nice weekend was had by all and sundry: I found myself in an emergency situation (not of the medical kind, thank goodness) when on Friday night a certain Princess informed me that she had decided that she and her black sheep were going to the agricultural show as Dorothy and Toto, and thus she would need a Dorothy dress and ruby slippers in a frighteningly short timeframe. Luckily I dissuaded her from going as Toto, and the sheep as Dorothy - a Dorothy dress for a sheep, or even a lamb, seemed utterly beyond my ken.

As time was of the essence, ordering in a Dorothy costume was out of the question. I thought I had the solution in a length of blue gingham left over from lining the Princess's crib in the last century, and McCall's 5458, which I made up in red homespun here. Skip the pockets, make the body in blue gingham, and the sleeves in white, and hey presto! Except the Princess is at the foal-like stage and there was no earthly chance of making a dress with a modicum of decency with only a metre and a half of fabric.

So off we went to the shops on Saturday, where in the first shop we found the perfect small blue check in Makower's Blue Gingham - except it was the end of a roll and only 1.6m ... Cue quick rethink: we decided on a skirt with bib and straps, and also bought two metres of red satin ribbon to tie round the neck of the sheep (I did struggle with how much ribbon is needed to encompass the neck of a very fluffy sheep, and erred on the generous side, just in case.)





Then the red shoes - oh dear, the red shoes! Thereby hangs a tale as long as your arm and back, involving a decidedly high-street shy mother and daughter visiting every single possible shoe emporium, and every possible emporium which might by a remote chance sell a pair of shoes that were remotely red, and remotely fitted a Princess with the most awkward feet, Cinderella-like in their slimness, and plum in the middle of every size interval known to man. My strength began to fail, and I was a-weary,  as I racked my brain for a solution to our dilemma.



So desperate did I become that I was begging my little Princess to wear shoes that did not fit, shoes that were truly uncomfortable, shoes with heels appallingly high for one of such tender years ... and finally as we entered the shop where we first started, where a pair of ruby red, kitten-heeled, excruciatingly uncomfortable-looking shoes, which I had rejected out of hand at the beginning of our outing, proved to be the most comfortable pair that a Princess had ever worn or set eyes on in all her born days - and so, dear readers, I bought them, on condition that the Princess took me straight to a coffee shop and fed me copious amounts of cake and intravenous caffeine, or failing that, half a scone and a latte, as long as I could go home and we never visited another shoe shop again, ever.



And then home to stitch, stitch, stitch - but luckily such was my dear girl's enthusiasm, she did a lot of the machining and some of the ironing, while I puzzled out how to make clothes without a pattern, which up until now has not been in Pomona's skillset.


 But she was very happy with the result - not entirely authentic, but surely up to the standards of the Young Farmers, although I am not sure how the shoes will go down, severely black and protective footwear being recommended for animal handlers.


For those who might be faced with such an emergency, I made a simple dirndl skirt - the Princess is svelte enough for one width of fabric to suffice (you will need one and a half to two times the hip measurement, so for bigger hips you would have two side seams, and two pieces of two-thirds width), which she stitched into a tube.


The length was calculated by measuring the length of skirt required, then adding on enough for a double fold narrow hem (say 1 inch, or 2 cm), plus enough for the elastic waistband casing, which is made by turning over and ironing about 0.7cm/1/4in, then turning over again by the width of the elastic (3/4 in/20mm in our case), plus a tiny bit extra to make threading the elastic easier.


So, first stitch along your side seam(s) to make a tube, then around the waist for your elastic casing, leaving a gap for threading, then turn up and stitch your narrow hem.


For the bib top, I cut a double thickness on the fold, 12in/30cm square (ie a rectangle 60x30cm/24x12in) - adjust this according to the size of child, which I did by holding the fabric against her body and folding until it looked right. Iron a 30cm/12in square of lightweight interfacing to the wrong side of one half of the rectangle, fold it in half right sides together and stitch the two sides. Trim the seams and turn right sides out.  We then folded the two open sides in by about 1cm/1/4in and ironed them.


For the straps we cut two long strips twice the final width of strap required, plus a seam allowance either side. This is best done on the body - we cut them extra long, and trimmed them to length at the end. Fold the straps right sides together, stitch along the long side, iron the seam open, then turn the long tubes right sides out, and iron flat positioning the seam along the middle back.

Then tuck the straps in the open bottom of the bib at the centre and fold back diagonally to leave the bib at the two top corners as in the picture, then pin in place. Topstitch the bottom of the bib closed, and topstitch the straps in place, along each side of each strap. We sewed buttons on the outside front of the skirt waistband, and buttonholes to match on the bottom two corners of the bib, working out the positions by pinning on the body. A large popper on the bottom centre inside of the bib fixes the centre to the skirt.


Then pass the straps over the shoulders and cross them at the back. They need to be quite tight to stay on - sew buttons at appropriate points on the inside of the skirt waistband, and make buttonholes in the straps - and hey presto! You just need a basket and a compliant dog (or sheep) and you have a Dorothy.


By making a detachable bib, it means that the outfit will have more than one life. We plan to reuse the skirt afterwards by shortening to a slightly more modern length by turning up a few cm and hemming, and removing the buttons to make a pretty summer skirt. We might even add a bit of ricrac or lace trim at this point.

The shirt was made using Simplicity 4206 (a sewing pattern for dummies like me!), and some white polycotton similar to school shirting, which I had been given some years ago, and never used. Be warned - this pattern comes out very small, so I made age 14 and added 4in/10cm to the body length, so that it could tuck in the skirt. By gathering tightly we achieved a puff sleeve effect.

So that's how I spent my weekend. I had dreamed of having fun with some fabric scraps and this lovely pattern, and perhaps completing another couple of Farmer's Wives, but never mind - a happy Princess in a Dorothy dress is enough to warm the cockles of anyone's heart, and easier to make than a Dorothy costume for a sheep, so I am thankful for small mercies.

42 comments:

The Weaver of Grass said...

My admiration knows no bounds and it does make me thank my lucky stars that my kids are grown up!

Lola Nova said...

Oh phooey, I really wanted to see a sheep dressed as Dorothy!
Excellent work, you are the Florence Nightingale of the sewing set (oh dear that makes no sense). The savior of young farmers with yellow brick road ambitions!?
You know what I'm getting at. I love it!

liniecat said...

Who needs a pattern! It looks just great and a bunch of memories in the making of it too lol

memmens said...

Well done you! I know the feeling! I've just sewed a pillowcase dress for Thursday's assembly where a 6yr old is required to be a duckling! A yellow dress is what she's getting and for 50p not bad!

KC'sCourt! said...

You did a wonderful job there.
Julie xxxxxxxx

harmony and rosie said...

Oh well done you, saving the day like that and at the eleventh hour too. I must say Princess Bunchy looks a dead ringer for Dorothy in that marvellous outfit but one thing puzzles me: Why are Dorothy, Toto and the other one in a queue. Was the agricultural show in your garden?

PS, so glad it was appreciated, it makes all the grief and anguish worthwhile, doesn't it?! x

Florence and Mary said...

Well you may have been given a difficult challenge but you certainly rose to it! The outfit looks fabulous,

Victoria xx

andrea creates said...

wow!what a great outfit in such quick time!

greenrabbitdesigns said...

I think she really looks the part, well done you!!
The shoes are wonderful, has she clicked her heels yet, I bet she has. :)
Vivienne x

Wendys Hat said...

Your costume turned out terrific!

Amy said...

That made me smile :)

Nicky said...

Well done Pomona that is a great success - my last effort at costume making was a Tudor princess dress and headgear which you can see here
http://mrsssewandsow.blogspot.com/2011/03/little-tudor-princess.html

I had quite a bit more time thank goodness but it was fun to do!

GardenofDaisies (Gayle) said...

LOL!! Your Dorothy and Toto turned out perfect!! I used to create costumes out of thin air for my kids too. What wonderful memories this brings back!

Caroline Lovis said...

I can only stand back in admiration of your response to this 99th hour request. Bet your daughter loved it!

Sandi said...

Oh the lengths a mother will go to, job well done. I used to go blank when asked to make 'costumes'
x Sandi

Menopausalmusing said...

I am in awe..........

Bluebell said...

Pomona, the award for supermum must go to you, you rose to the challenge magnificently!

gillyflower said...

Well Done you!
Your daughter looks fab in her Dorothy costume - Mum to the rescue!
Gill xx

Little Blue Mouse said...

Pomona saves the day!
Why does she want a sheep to play the part of Toto? Does the fancy dress have to include a farm animal?

Crafty Green Poet said...

that's very impressive! I have to say too I'd love to take a sheep to a fancy dress party one day...

When i had a job based at the local city farm, one of the sheep was guest of honour at my leaving party

Evelene S said...

Whew you are a saint!

Serenata said...

Supermum to the rescue! I can see your outfit now in my mind as I imagine your traipsing round the shops to buy some shoes - never a pleasant experience. Plus that fabulous outfit - well done you!

Julie said...

The image of a dorothy sheep is going to stay with me for quite a while! The dorothy dress is fantastic, you did a great job.
My heart went out to you completely with the shoes (it sounds strangely reminiscent of shopping expeditions with my mum when I was in my teens - neither of us like shopping and I have narrow feet)........Islay has cinderella slim feet too and I can just picture the troubles we'll have as she gets older, its bad enough finding something to fit now. Juliex

...Miss...Maddie's... said...

How cute is that!
Thanks so much for the sweet inquiry about my whereabouts these past weeks.
Up to my elbows in jam making, fruit picking and all those Summertime commitments.
Hope your Summer is pleasant.
Susan x

Gina said...

She makes a perfect Dorothy... and such beautiful shoes.
Well done you!

Jennyff said...

Beyond the call of duty, well done.

Chrissie said...

What a wonderful mummy! 'Dorothy' looks delightful!

Barbara said...

My, how clever and inventive you are.

Rowan said...

What a brilliant costume - you are very clever to have come up with that in such a short space of time. And the red shoes are perfect!

Hen said...

This is too cute and you did a really good job! No pictures of the sheep with her red ribbon though, I was a bit disappointed about that. Feeling restless and in need of treats, I just went surfing on Amazon (!) and ended up buying the Farmer's Wife book so I hope to be joining you on your quilty journey.
Hen x

melanie said...

Fab work, love the costume :) xxx

Suzy's Vintage Attic said...

Hi Pomona

It's good to see you back again. You ahave done a fantastic job of the outfit, the perfect Dorothy! Children have the knack of springing things like that at the last minute.
Isabelle x

Sara at Come Away With Me said...

Greetings from Southern California. I just came over at Barbara's suggestion (of Ramblings from an English Garden)...so this is my first visit. What a darling Dorothy costume! I think it looks just perfect, as do the red shoes. And I'd love to see a fluffy sheep adorned with lengths of red ribbon...not a sight I have ever seen before.

You tell a very entertaining story of your adventure, and the results look very successful to me.

Arianwen said...

Very cute outfit! Oriana would be in raptures for shoes like that. Though I think shoe shopping for children should reward you a sainthood. I always need a lie down in a darkened room after buying school shoes for three, that we all like and that are suitable, as they all have slim fittings and their own ideas. Though as an adult I have a half size and that proves to be an equal nightmare!

Rosa-Munda said...

Hi Pomona,
I've received my lovely book of Bunting and Pennants. Lots of great projects to try out. Thank you so much for your kindness. Ros

elizabethm said...

Like Weaver I am so glad that mine are grown. Never had any trouble with son as his hatred of all things fancy dress was deeply ingrained by the age of three. Daughter needed a variety of costumes, always about half a day before the event. Producing those was a whole lot easier than your shoe marathon but the red shoes are indeed a triumph, as is the Dorothy dress!

taylorsoutback said...

You are a seamstress extraordinare!
Well done!!

Helen Philipps said...

Well done on coping with this sewing emergency so well! I love the dress you came up with and the sweet red shoes complete the outfit perfectly!
Helen x

Sue said...

Well done you! I love the way children always wait till the last minute to come up with their wonderful ideas. Really successful costume though and hopefully she had a lovely day.

jan said...

Oh this did make me smile, your little Princess looked just like Dorothy, well done, I think it was just great the way you worked it all out to [your] hahaha benefit. Those shoes look sooooo comfortable too. Amazing what we mums can turn our hands to isnt it?

Louise said...

My goodness, how well did you do to save the day ... and you have a Toto too. Perfect. x

Leslie said...

YOU ARE A LIFE SAVER!!! I got this done in under 2 hours!! I am a an extreme novice when it comes to sewing.. Thank you so much.

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