Designer Challenge: 7 Hour Princess Dress

I’ve decided it’s time to start challenging myself and brushing up on my “skills” by accepting projects that have either a time constraint and/or are in an area that I’m not too familiar with. This challenge features a princess dress for a 5-year-old. This particularly picky princess wanted a rainbow dress, but she also wanted it to be her favorite color… and what kind of princess says no to pink?! So, it was decided that she would have a pink rainbow princess dress.

I was given fabric, slopers, and a basic children’s costume pattern in a size 6 and told that I had 7 hours to complete the task. YIKES! So, I gave myself 20 minutes to sketch…

Here’s what I came up with:

Sketches for Princess Dress

Princess Dress Sketch

After deciding on a final design (pictured to the left), I came up with a concept that I knew would be a challenge to complete given my alloted time. Let’s just say that I knew this was going to be a rough sketch. I’d have to play it by ear and see how it turns out. In the sketch you can see tiered layers of fabric under a larger, fuller skirt (which I hoped to make full length and detachable).

As for fabric choices, I had a huge selection of various fabric colors and remnants to choose from. I scoured and dug through bins to find the most sparkly, girly fabrics I could. There was organza, tulle, chiffon, an assortment of knits. It was every designers dream:  the fabric store had come to me! It took some time to come up with the perfect combination of pinks, but I finally narrowed it down to these:

Fabric Selection

Now here is where the challenge really begins…

Bodice Fabric Draped on Dress Form

I knew what I was imagining would come to life, but I was so impatient to SEE it, so I draped the fabrics on a children’s dress form to help get my creative juices flowing. I began to scratch my head as to how the pattern for this dress would manifest from the tools I was given, but I reminded myself that I know what I’m doing, I’ve done this before… I think. I didn’t have a second to waste, the clock was ticking and I was being watched….GULP!

Draping the Fabrics

To spare you with the very mundane and time-consuming details of pattern making, I basically took a little of this, trim a little off, a little of that, add a little here- and I had a basic pattern for a sleeve, bodice and skirt.

Next, it was time to cut and sew! After several rounds of pondering and fighting with the sewing machine (which always happens when I’m on a time crunch), I had the basic construction of the dress complete.

Here is the dress after 4.5 hours:

Princess Dress at 4.5 Hours

At this point, I decided to step away from the project and revisit it the next day. It’s always a good idea to step away from something when you’ve been staring at it for such a long time- I was starting to go cross-eyed! So, the next day I came prepared to put the finishing touches on the dress for the last 2.5 hours. These details included hemming the ruffles, putting in a zipper and gathering the sleeves, as well as other little details that take longer then expected. The last 20 min of the project were VERY intense, but I pulled it off to the point of it being ‘runway ready’. I didn’t have time to make the removable skirt, or the heart belt, but I did achieve the pink rainbow look, which was more the enough to satisfy the little princess.  She could not WAIT to try it on and show her Daddy!  Here is a picture of the final product:

The Princess Before the Ball

And now, a fun little video of this adorable child spinning in her dress. I would also like to extend a very special thank you to Judith from Custom Dancewear, for presenting me with this challenge. Thanks Judith!!!

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