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girl’s dress

One_Way | Posted in The Archives on

I’m considering sewing a girl’s dress in a style I faintly remember. It has straps over the shoulders, then the bodice is like a stretchy sort-of-smocked-look tube. The skirt part is just the material extending from the “smocked” tube, but left hanging free instead of being gathered up. I was considering making the tube part by running parallel rows of zigzag stitch over lengths of thin elastic, then “gathering” this up for a tretchy tube. Anybody know what I’m trying to describe or have experience making one?



  1. Lorraine_Pierce | | #1

    I have not seen the pre-gathered fabric for this type of dress for over 20 years. I had a few of these dresses as a teenager, in the late '70's. These dresses were not little girl size, but I suppose you could make that way since now you have to start from "scratchh". The tube top bodice and skirt fabric were all one piece, all you had to do was sew a back seam and add some straps.

    You would have to load the bobbin with elastic thread (hand wind it) stretch and sew a long enough piece to fit around the waist of the wearer. With the elastic relaxed it will fit around the bust. The lines of elastic were not connected and they were maybe an inch apart, experiment. Also in thinking about the way the yardage was set up, I don't believe it was on the true grain, but rather a cross grain.

    1. Clairezbo_ | | #2

      *I agree with you completely , I made this dress in the early 70's for my daughter for a spring dance. The elastic thread was in the bobbin. It seems to me that the rows were a little closer together. used velvet ribbon for the straps, and it was adorable. I'm sure I had a pattern for this dress, as I am not clever enough to have made it by my self. I do remember it was fun to make and was adorable on my teenager. dot remember cutting on the cross grain, think it was cut on the straight.

      1. JackieF | | #3

        *I got a piece of that fabric about three years ago at Wal-Mart. They didn't have it on bolts, but on rolls like they do with the tablecloth fabric.It was by Daisy Kingdom, but don't know if it can still be found. Real cute. The kids loved it Jackie

        1. One_Way | | #4

          *Thanks for the answers - it sounds like people really liked these dresses, and like I'm going to have to try one myself! (Where will I find the time...?) At any rate, could someone tell me a little bit more (or a lot more, if possible) about how to make the stretchy top part? I had thought to sew a zigzag with normal thread on top and bottom, over lengths of elastic running against the inside of the bodice (although then it might be kind of scratchy, so I'd have to add a stretchy lining). But I've never done anything with elastic in the bobbin. What weight of elastic? And how far apart should the rows be? And what stitch do I use?... Thanks again!

          1. silkscape_ | | #5

            *Just looked at a burda magazine from last year that features skirts made in this way. They say to sew a zigzag over "shirring elastic" being careful not to stitch through elastic. Then pull up the rows of elastic and "sew in ends securely". That last part is what confuses me! Do they mean to stitch overr the elastic at the ends? If so, will that hold such a tiny elastic (I assume they mean like elastic thread.) Or perhaps you could make the zig zag very small at the ends adn knot the elastic thread on the seam allowance side of the side seam. Then when you sew the seams together, front and back, the knots could be caught in the seam allowance and then serged over.I did make an inset in the back of a couple of dresses for my daughter that were shirred. In those cases I used polyester ribbon for casings and threaded narrow elastic through, stitching down at the side seams. That way I felt it'd be comfortable. Though, if you make the casing with a fairly close zigzag, maybe even with wooly nylon (?), then I don't think it'd be uncomfortable. The elastic thread is so thin. And when you pull it up the zigzag will become even closer.I think you could line the bodice. It wouldn't have to be stretchy material. The dress material isn't stretchy. It's the shirring that gives it the stretch. I would attach the lining at the top, turn it in and stitch it at the bottom of the bodice. Then sew the channels about 5/8th inch apart, horizontally along the bodice. Of course if you start 1 inch below the top edge you'll have a 1" ruffle at the top. Come to think of it, I like this idea and it might be a fun thing to make for my DD this summer! Who knows, maybe even me!The nice thing about making casings for the elastic, whether with ribbon or bias or lining, is that you won't have a zigzag stitch showing on the outside.Shirring can also be done with elastic thread in the bobbin (you'll have to bypass the bobbin tension mechanism I think) and regular thread in the top. Just use a straight stitch. Again, the trick is how to finish the ends. I think you could pull the elastic end so the top thread comes through to the back, and knot them together. Then catch the knots in the side seam.Does any of this rambling help?Hope so!

          2. silkscape_ | | #6

            *I posted another message on this topic but now I don't see it, wonder if it got through. Anyway, I was thinking that in order to line the bodice, you wouldn't even need to cut a separate liining. YOu could simply cut it into the dress length. like making a folded casing for elastic-waist pull on pants. Then sew in the channels for the elastic.

          3. Sarah_Kayla | | #7

            *I remember my older sister making one of these dresses in a red & white gingham from Woolworths. And yes, I do remember the dress being scratchy in the inside. Lining the dress, or at least using a casing on the ribbon should kale it a whole lot more comfortable. The appeal of these dresses was their instant quality. I dunno - this whole return to 70's fashion is very depressing. Lots of those clothes looked terrible the first time around. They don't look much better thirty years later. That whole polyester clad librarian look that seems to be so hot now is just beyond me. (with my apologies to all the librarians among us)

          4. silkscape_ | | #8

            *I think the fashions from the 70s were feminine and fun (well, could do without those mini skirts). I think this is a wonderful style for a little girl, or even a woman with the right details. In any case, Did the information help you any, One Way?

          5. One_Way | | #9

            *Sure did! Thanks for the input! I still wonder how that works with the elastic in the bobbin, but maybe I should just try it and then I'll see! Another thought I had was to make a top layer, a lining, and then "casings" in parallel rows all down the bodice, to run the elastic through. I'd probably have to use fairly thin materials, so that the bodice wouldn't get too thick. Since I can't find the time to get to actually doing this project, at least I can spend a good while THINKING (and dreaming...) about it! I was also wondering if this kind of dress would look O.K. over a fitted-style T-shirt, or if there's a version of it which would.

          6. Sarah_Kayla | | #10

            *Yeh - we used to wear those dresses ovet tight tshirts. But if you were under 7 you could wear such a dress over a puffed sleeved blouse with a peter pan collar.

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