The Belle Dress: A Tutorial

Ha, totally fooled you guys!  I know you thought we were going to do a Sleeping Beauty dress after the success of Snow White, but we’re dealing with the whims of a 3 year old here.  So, a Belle dress it is.
Again, I used knit fabric to make this a super comfy dress-up dress, and a peasant dress pattern to make costume changes easier and eliminate the need for zippers or buttons.
 
You will need:
2 yards of yellow lightweight knit fabric
1 yard of a sheer yellow or white fabric with lots of drape (nothing stiff like tulle)
lots of 1/4 inch elastic.  lots.
 
Step 1: Cut out your peasant dress pieces.  The pieces below are still folded in half, and obviously you will need 2 sleeves.  As you can see, I cropped the sleeve so it would just be a slight cap sleeve.  The bodice pieces should be cut just past the natural waist.  The front bodice piece (pictured on the left) has a lower neckline and a pointed center.
 

Step 2:  For the skirt, you’ll need to cut a lot of rectangles.  Use at least 8.  The more you use, the fuller your skirt will be.  The length of the rectangle will be the length from the natural waist to the ankle plus 6 inches.  I used a width of 7 inches and I thought it worked pretty well.

Step 3: Cut all of your rectangles so they are tapered on the sides by about 2 inches and round out the bigger end, which will become your hem.
Step 4:  Estimate on your skirt panels where you want the swags to sit.  Mine are about 11 inches down. Measure across the skirt panel at that point.  Cut rectangles from your sheer fabric with a width of your skirt panel width plus 1 inch.  The length of the rectangle should be about 12 inches.  Fold your rectangle down (so your 12 inch side is now 6 inches).  Cut the bottom edges so they make a crescent.  That was painful.  Just look at the picture:
Step 5: With right sides together, sew the crescent closed and flip it right side out.  Press.
Step 6:  Pin each crescent to each skirt panel at the same height, making sure to scrunch up the swag on the sides.  Since your swag is slightly wider than the panel, it should gape a little bit in the middle as well.
Step 7: Sew all the panels together, catching the edges of the swags as you go.
Step 8: Sew your bodice and sleeves together using normal peasant top construction directions.
Step 9: Gather the top of the skirt to match the bottom of the bodice and sew them together.
Step 10: Finish the sleeves and neckline with elastic per peasant top directions.
Step 11: Cut 1/4 inch elastic to the length of the skirt panels minus 6 inches.  Pin the elastic to the waist seam on top of one of the skirt panel seams.
Step 12: Pin the other end of the elastic to the hem, again right over the skirt panel seam.
Step 13: Stretching the elastic taut, sew down the elastic, directly over the seam.  Once you’ve done that for each of the skirt panel seams, it’ll bunch up and start really looking Belle-ish.
Step 14: Using the same sheer fabric as you did for the swags, form a circular tube of fabric.  First take a rectangle that is 5 inches x the measurement around the upper shoulders plus a couple inches.  Sew the rectangle right sides together down the long side so you have a long tube. Flip the tube right side out.  Fold the edges of one end to the wrong side and press.  Put the edges of the other side into that side and topstitch down, forming a circular tube.
Step 15: Tack one side of that tube down at the neckline of your dress, centered on the shoulder.  Find the opposite side of your tube and do the same thing on the other side.
Step 16: At the front and back, scrunch the tube up and sew down directly at the center of the bodice.
Step 17 (optional): I made a little rose by rolling up a tube of knit fabric and hand sewing it to the center front bodice.
Now you’re finally done!  End the constant “is it done yet, is it done yet, is it done yet?” mantra from your kid.
Super optional Step 18: Use photo editing software to make the MOST RIDICULOUS pictures EVER, much to your daughter’s delight.
Any guesses on what princess will be next?

Comments

  1. says

    Pics are ha-la-rious! She is a riot! Mine used to be like that too. Dress-up all day, everyday. Thank goodness she grew out of it- dress up clothes on delicate are not my kind of laundry- this is way more my style! xxx-S

  2. Anonymous says

    Holy Moses…this is awesome! I am so glad my daughter is still sleeping, and didn’t see this, or all other plans for the day would be dashed in an attempt to sway me toward making this NOW!! Just bought a remnant of yellow knit, wonder if it’s enough….
    You rock!

  3. says

    thank you thank you thank you!!! I love this, i love that you used knit and my daughters adore it. I think we’re going to be princesses for halloween, all out of knit, and this is the perfect start!! (though… I haven’t sewn with knit yet, can I manage??)

    Any recommendations for types of knit? I know nothing about them. Can I just go to joanns and find what I need there?

    sarah8914 at gmail dot com

  4. says

    Oh my gosh – this is so cute and the best tutorial! Thanks!! I am super pleased my wee princess (who is Belle-mad)is not present right now to see this on my screen otherwise there will be no end of pestering. Now all I have to do is to go find some yellow knit fabric. Thanks for sharing this.

  5. says

    LOL! love the last pic! Thanks for adding to my ginormous sewing list. Sadie is into Belle these days, so I think she’d love this!

  6. says

    How cute! I have a blonde haired (nearly) 3 year old and a brunette 5 month old. I was going to have one be Sleeping Beauty and the other Belle for Halloween. This makes me feel like I can tackle the task. But I think I’ll use velour for a bit of extra fanciness.

  7. says

    Have I told you what an amazingly awesome idea this is? Now, if only I ever bought solid color knits, instead of lots of fun prints. . . And my bet is on princess Tiana next! ;0)

  8. Anonymous says

    Do ya think I could use elastic thread down the seams of the skirt for bunchy-ness? I am afraid I don’t have enough 1/4in elastic….

  9. says

    Hi Anonymous, I don’t have another way to reach you, so I hope you see this. I think you could try to shirr the skirt seams, but in my opinion it wouldn’t work very well. Even the lightest weight knit get too heavy, and you’d have to have several lines of shirring over each seam to make any difference. If you don’t have any elastic, I’d recommend using a basting stitch to gather up each skirt panel instead and then stitch over that with a regular stitch to secure it. Hope that helps!

  10. Anonymous says

    Adrianna-
    I am Anonymous. Thanks for your input! I see your point about the shirring, and may try basting and gathering…or maybe just get off my lazy rear and buy more elastic. I am planning to use an existing shirt for the top (big brother’s…not a fan of butter yellow on my boy). I think I can peasant-top it out. Thanks again…you are a god to me…hope you’re cool with that.

  11. says

    where do you get your knit? I don’t want to order online because I’m cheap and don’t want to pay shipping… buy my joanns seriously doesn’t have yellow knit. Like, none… and most of the knits are a cotton/poly blend and I’m not sure I want polyester… but maybe it’s fine? I don’t know these things, I haven’t sewn with knits!

  12. says

    Sarah, I get most of my solid knits at fabric.com. It’s free shipping over $35 (which is way too easy to reach :) They’re always having sales and discounts too. Sometimes cotton/poly blends can be really nice – they tend to have a better drape, but they can also be too stretchy or thin for this kind of project. That’s when it’s nice to be able to feel it. I used a super soft jersey for this dress and it worked really well.

  13. says

    I am SO excited to come across this post! My daughter’s birthday is in October and has been insisting on a Princess Party all year, and Beauty and the Beast just happens to be coming out in October too, so I’m thinking this dress would be a perfect party dress! Thanks so much for the tutorial!

  14. says

    You totally saved my butt here! This has to be the hardest princess dress there is, too! Do you think I could use cotton for this? And would it be possible to gather it on my serger instead?
    ~Lindsay

  15. says

    Well I just love this! I am just discovering your blog and I am absolutely smitten. My favorite thing about what you have done with your Belle and Snow White is that you have made it appeal to ME! My oldest daughter is well past this stage in life but the poor thing never had anything this cool. I hated the off the rack kind and wasn’t too fond of the froo froo hand made ones. I now have another girl who will be old enough to ask for these dresses and I will be coming back to your blog for inspiration and tutorials when this happens. Thank you so much for posting your wonderful work!

  16. says

    I loved your dress and kept it in mind when making my daughter’s dress. I used costume satin from Hobby Lobby. I used the top of a peasant dress pattern to make the top and then made tons of tapered rectangles. Burned the edges of all the pieces I was using to keep them from fraying, and then I shirred the skirt down each row of the rectangle patterns (I did three in tapering sizes)

    My daughter LOVES it and has worn it almost everyday since I made it and it has stood up to at least 2-3 dozen washings. I have several seams that I need to reinforce since a 2 year old isn’t very gentle putting it on and off, but it was SO cute!

    Here’s the finished project: http://thehargettfamily.blogspot.com/2010/09/tale-as-old-as-time.html

  17. says

    Hey, thanks for getting back to me! I realized that in spite of these awesome instructions, I don’t actually know how to sew. I ended up ordering a child’s dress online (it’s a kids ballgown, adult tutu which is perfect) and I’m hoping to just add a tank top (hopefully from Target!) to the skirt and add the trim back on the top. By hand, since I also don’t have a sewing machine. haha! Thanks again for your help, if you like you can check out my blog for the photos of me trying to cram into it…

  18. says

    Hello!

    We love your Belle dress! I’m writing from bulbinblue.com, a new, non-profit website for creative ideas and crafts. Bulbinblue.com provides a space for creative individuals to interact and share ideas, tips, and projects. We’d love to feature your tutorial (text and pictures) in our upcoming costume section. We would also like to translate your tutorial into French and German so that it can be accessible to an even wider audience! We will do all the work of putting the tutorial on the site and translating it, and you will be clearly indicated as the project’s author. If you are interested, please email us at blueteam@bulbinblue.com!

    Have a good day!

    Olivia from the Blue Team

  19. says

    This is amazing and I love your inspired title!!! Crafterhours is what happens in my house! My little girl is called Bella and we often call her pricess Belle so she would love this. I hope you don’t mind but I’m new to blogging as a mummy crafter in the uk and would love to add you to my list of inspiring blogs, hope that’s ok.

  20. says

    Thanks for the great tutorial. I made a belle dress for my daughters first trip to disneyland this weekend, and I LOVE it! She’s only 8 months old, so if we’re being honest, it is more for me than her. :)

  21. says

    Ok, I don’t know how the heck I missed this the 1st time but SO DARN CUTE!

    I was scrolling through the post & Sam was saying she wanted one, then I got to the last picture & went went “GASP! She dance with beast!!”

    You have to tell me how to do that…

  22. Anonymous says

    THANK YOU SOOOOO MUCH!!! I found something I can make for my little girl with sensory issues and something that I can make to fit her body. This is an all day wear to disney for us!!!

  23. Anonymous says

    Just finished this for my 5 year old for Halloween, SO awesome. I made a couple of mods…used elastic thread and stitched in the ditch for the shirring, tried the 1/4 inch elastic first and made a big mess…caught the swags on the way up the seam. Also, I couldn’t get the shoulder piece to look right so I left it off, finished the piece with a hem and a red rose. in love!~

  24. says

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    This was just what I was looking for for days!
    It’s easy to understand and follow and I am definitely going to try this soon!

  25. Maureen says

    My 14 year old grandaughter wanted a Belle dress to go to a fancy dress party in. i found your website and followed the instructions but when it came to sew the elastic on the seams of the skirt i found it impossible to strech it out and sew at the same time ,. any ideas. I dont have a sewing machine.tried pinning it but no luck

  26. says

    Wow! I’m about to make a ball gown style dress, and was trying to figure out how to do the ‘Belle ruffles’… Elastic! What a simple and wonderful idea! <3 Thank you for posting this!

  27. Chalene McGrath says

    Just finished my daughters. Thank you for sharing for people like me, who are craftopiers (craft copiers)! I hope tomorrow morning will bring dress up mania and a search for the beast. Thanks again!

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