“Fitted dresses are not very suitable for small children as they tend to have rather large stomachs“. I’m always amused when I read this sentence from Winifred Aldrich’s instructions on constructing ‘the Classic Dress Block’. To my imagination (fed on too much fiction), it suggests children to be a separate species: alien, greedy, inconvenient….
My daughter, who just turned eleven, is at the upper end of the height range for Aldrich’s girls block and I think this ‘fit and flare’ style really works. The first bodice was far too short and wide and took two more muslins to get right but they were simple to make and very little shaping was required: the side seams took care of the fit with the only darts being the 1.5cm wide nips from the back neckline to each shoulder blade. After making the bodice, I cut the skirt based on the measurement of the garment waist, working out the radius and cutting this out as a circle from the remaining fabric first folded into 4. (By Hand London has a really clever Circle Skirt App that does this more easily but I don’t think theirs is the most efficient use of fabric if you haven’t got much.)
Would you believe that this short skirt has more than 3m of circumference at its lower edge?! I bought some bargain bias binding and hemmed with that: it’s a much quicker way to hem a circle than all that folding and pinning.
But while sewing for girls isn’t as tricky as fitting a woman’s bodice, there can be, er, complications. Some children are very ticklish. Not to mention absolutely terrified of you coming at them with a tray of pins!
Oh the dramatics we had, and the cajoling…
This was made for the Year 6 Leavers’ Production of Peter Pan (Year 6 is when UK children leave Primary School). My daughter practiced hard and read for several parts in the auditions with the hope of being Tinker Bell – she of the emerald bodice, iridescent skirt and a doughnut in her hair! Instead she was chosen for the part of Narrator. There are some wonderful costume opportunities in Peter Pan, for girls and boys. I remember a sticker book of Disney characters I had as a child. How I loved Tiger Lily with her smooth black hair. I‘d have loved to dress in moccasins and fringed suede. But for the Narrator’s role, all that was required was an “occasion dress”. I kept it simple. Zip, velvet ribbon, bias binding and Japanese cotton fabric (from Stitch) cost under £15, so no great loss if she never wear this again – though she bloody well should!
I’m very proud of my daughter. She has tried hard to make her mark in a large primary school with 120 pupils in her age group. Over the years, she has produced work of super quality, played her ukulele in school concerts with confidence and calm and bounced back from setbacks with admirable resilience. She insists that I don’t teach her to sew so imagine my delight when from time to time she astounds us by producing gifts of soft toys she made by following internet tutes 🙂
Left to right: Crunchy, Lemmy Substitute and Kiwi