When my daughter-in-law asked if I could make my “Princess” granddaughter a mermaid costume, I was both excited and apprehensive. I was excited because this would be a chance to be creative again after a long illness which had resulted in my recent retirement from my very stressful, strenuous, and very time-consuming teaching job. I was apprehensive because I had never made a costume for a little girl (I have 3 sons), and also because I did not have a pattern.
Making A Bodice Pattern
Making a pattern was not as difficult as I thought it would be. I used a dress that fit my “Princess” (size 4) as a guide to cut the width of the bodice. I drew the design on the back of gift wrap; it helped to have squares printed on the back. I drew the bodice to come to her waist on the sides and back and extended it 4 inches in the front creating a “V”.
Cutting the Fabric
My princess thought my cutting board would make a great castle, so I cut my fabric on my dining room table (protected by poster board).
I allowed an inch seam allowance and an extra inch on the sides so the dress could be worn over a long-sleeved t-shirt for Trick or Treating. I used washable yellow satin for the bodice and cut 2 sets of “backs” and 2 “fronts” so that I could line the bodice without using a facing. I cut 2 strips for the straps (approximately 7 inches long and wide).
Sewing the Bodice
Working lengthwise, I turned the straps under, pressed, folded the strap to the center, turned under 3/8 inch, and sewed a straight seam the length of the strap. I then sewed the side seams of the bodice. I added the straps and pinned and stitched the top and back of the bodice sections together, being careful not to catch the straps in the seam. I clipped the seams, pressed, and basted the bottom together.
Cutting and Sewing the Skirt
I folded the fabric for the skirt and used the bodice as a guide for cutting. I marked the center and cut a 4 inch “V” in the front. I allowed approximately 6 inches extra on the front and back. I stay-stitched on the seam line and sewed a long stitch to shirr the fabric. **I cut the middle of the skirt to the stay-stitching line. With right sides together, I pinned and sewed the bodice to the skirt. I finished and serged the seams as needed.
I then sewed the skirt together down the back, leaving open from the top to about 3 inches below the waist. I attached 4 sets of Velcro down the back opening.
Adding the “Bling”
Pearl-edged lace was added to the arm holes, and metallic gold lace was added to the waist. Gold lace tulle was cut into large circles. A row of gathering stitches shirred the tulle which was then sewn to the skirt in a “V” to indicate a “mermaid tail”. Metallic gold rickrack was added to cover the seam tulle seam and also around the bodice neck and straps. A broche was made by gluing seashells to a wooden disc, and a jewelry pin back was added to the back of the broche. The broche was pinned to the bodice along with strips of wired sheer iridescent ribbon. The Starfish hair ornament was made by gluing a Starfish to a ribbon-covered hair clip. Tip: glue cardboard to the back of the Starfish before gluing it to the clip for extra reinforcement.
This costume was magic for me because it allowed me to be “creatively alive” again while doing something special for my “Princess”! With my somewhat limited computer skills, it was also magical that I was able to complete this submission with photos! This costume can also be “magically” adapted to create other costumes:
• Princess: The ruffled tulle can be left off and add a tiara and wand.
• Snow White: Just reverse the costume colors to blue top/yellow bottom, leave off the “Bling” and tulle, and add a white collar.
• Fairy: Leave off the “Bling” and tulle, and add wings.
• Cool evenings: A long-sleeved white t-shirt can be worn underneath.
• Add a scarf around the shoulders for a pretend “evening out”.
Magical price: Since I already had most of the fabrics and lace/trims and cut my own pattern, the cost of this costume was less than $3.00! This has been the start of many “magical costumes” that I will create! Let the magic continue!!