Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Dorothy Dress

This week I am busy finishing up the boys' new medieval outfits for the Olde Enligh Faire this coming weekend but wanted to share a recently finished project before it gets buried under the influx of new projects as time goes on in this busy summer reenacting season.

That was a long sentence. Anyway.

I had an opportunity recently to sew up a costume for a highschool drama group in our church. My sister graduated highschool last month and she and her friends are performing at an upcoming youth convention at the end of June. It will be their last year being able to participate, so it is kind of special.

Their dramatic presentation is inspired by the story The Wizard of Oz. My sister is playing the part of the Tin Man and when one of her friends mentioned needing a Dorothy dress I begged her to let me make it! I have loved the Wizard of Oz since I was a child and have always dreamed of sewing up a dress like the one Judy Garland wears as Dorothy in the move adaption of the novel.

It was very fun researching and making this dress. I was able to find some information about the real dresses Judy Garland wore in the movies. I guess it helps that one of the original gowns was recently sold, so there was a lot of publicity about it. My version is not an exact copy but I wanted the general feel and look of the one worn in the movie, sized to fit a different girl with a modern figure.

It was really simple to construct. It is not a complicated outfit at all. The hardest part was the blouse, since I have never made a blouse that gathers into the neck before. I ended up just draping a basic jewel neck bodice on my sisters' friend and then slashed and spread the neckline from the neck to the hem to get some excess width to gather back into a simple band collar. The sleeves were basic puff sleeves with simple band cuffs. I could not find light blue rick rack to trim the collar and cuffs with so we settled for a darker blue rick rack. (I got everything quickly at Wal Mart, so, obviously, my choices were limited.) The blouse is made from a lightweight poly/cotton blend fabric. The blouse has a short placket at the back and the collar fastens with a single snap.

The jumper dress is made from poly/cotton blue checked gingham. The bodice is lined and interlined with firm white cotton for stability. There is very little shaping to the bodice - basically a tube with side seams that slightly shape the waist. The bodice is also cut a bit higher in the front than in the back, but otherwise, it's pretty much a  rectangle! The straps, bodice binding and waistband are cut on the bias, but backed with firm white cotton to prevent stretching.

The straps are simply topstitched to the finished bodice and I sewed on large white buttons at the ends in both the front and back. The skirt is 3 A-line panels, gathered to fit the waistband. I used the whole width of the fabric for the width of the hem of the A line panels so the bottom of the skirt is quite full. Perhaps a bit fuller than the original movie dress, but I'm fine with that. The girl who will wear this dress is taller than Judy Garland was, so it all works!

The hem is finished with a wide hem facing. I also realized at the end of making this that the original dress has a bias band stitched around the lower portion of the skirt. I had just enough fabric left to cut a bias band to trim the skirt with. I like how it looks! You can't really see it from a distance but still, it makes me happy to know it's there. :)

I had to modify the back a bit. For some reason the bodice came out a tad tight at the top. (I am still not sure how that happened. . .) so I added a bias triangle of fabric, finished and then topstitched to one side of the back opening. The other side of the bodice overlaps and closes with hook and eyes.

It was such a great project to work on! And it makes me happy I can do something to help the drama team in some small way. I hope they have a lot of fun!

Back to 14th c. sewing!!



  1. It turned out very nice indeed, and certainly have the feel of the movie costume! I love the bias details.

    I too am working hard on 14th century clothes at the moment :P

  2. How lovely. Such a beautiful version of the costume.

    I guess it must be medieval season - I too have 15th Century up next on my plate.

  3. Yeah medieval must be in the air!

    I find I always am drawn to that era more in the summer and the fall. I just wish I had not put off making the boys' clothes til recently. It would have been so much easier if I had worked on it bit by bit over the winter. :/ I finished 3 linen smocks and 3 linen coifs so far this week and am working on Malachi's woolen tunic now. . .I am not sure how I am going to get all this done by Friday morning.

  4. I've been procrastinating my medieval sewing too - always do. When the season is over in the fall, I am so tired of making medieval things, that I spend the entire winter sewing things from other eras. Then when spring comes, I feel the middle ages pulling at me again. We have an event coming up next week, and I have quite a few things to make for it :P

  5. oooh, love it. I want one. I blame the wizard of oz for my love of red shoes. ;)
    I don't supposed you took any detailed shots of construction as I'd like to make myself something simlilar?

  6. Lady D, thanks. I love red shoes too! I remember when I was little I had a pair of sparkly red shoes (they were glittered, I think) and they were my favorite thing to wear. I wore them with everything, even jeans. :P

    Unfortunately no, I failed to take pictures of the construction process. I wish now I had done so!

    Sarah, me too. Although for me the fact is more relevant to 1860's things since we mainly do that era. I get sick of it by the end of the season but by the beginning of the next start to get interested in it again. It's so hard to devote oneself to sewing for just one or two eras! It's so easy to be diverted with various eras especially during such things as this years Historical Sew Fortnightly (which I have loved participating in to some extent but it HAS taken me away from making things we need more!)

    I was wondering what seam finish you might suggest for woolen garments that are unlined? My boys' tunics are of medium weight wool and they are faced at the sleeve hems and neck, but unlined. The fabric is too bulky to do felled seams. It does not fray much so I am leaving them plain for the Faire as I don't have time to finish all the seams before then, but I want to finish them off nicely before our next medieval event.

  7. It looks really pretty! I've been searching for a dress exactly like the one in the movie and this looks perfect! I was wondering if you could make me one. I would give you the measurements and pay you and everything! Please, please, please!!!!!


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!