Two Holiday Dresses

Sewing for my granddaughters, ages 4½ and 2½, generally means I am sewing two of everything. As they get older, I suspect this will not always be the case, but right now, it seems safe to go with identical sister dresses. They live in a part of the country which can get very cold winters, and the specific part of their state where they live tends towards a casual lifestyle. Keeping those parameters in mind, I decided to look for warm flannel when planning for dresses which could see them through the holidays and into the winter months. I wanted the dresses to be festive but not too fussy. When I found this red brushed flannel check, I bought five yards – the details for adding “festive” to the dresses would come to me, of that I was sure!

I went back to a pattern I have been using over and over, adjusting the sizing as the girls have grown, and adding my own varying design aspects to make the dresses look new and different from one season to another. The contrasting collars and cuffs add interest to the dresses, through the use of various trims.

I have used View C of this pattern for birthday dresses, including the Strawberry-print dresses from last Spring.

Finally I did not want these dresses to look so Christmas-y that the girls would not be able to use them beyond the holiday season. I knew that if I made solid holly green the sole accent color, it would limit their versatility. That’s when I got the idea to look for some multi-color wide ribbon, preferably vintage, which could be used not only for sashes, but also for piping for the collars and cuffs. I found some of the most gorgeous plaid ribbons online, especially at Promenade Fine Fabrics. They have a bricks-and-mortar store in New Orleans and a website, but they also have an Etsy Store, and that is where I found this ribbon:

The ribbon is vintage French, of course (!) – 3 1/2″ wide.

Somehow I knew instinctively that the orderly flannel gingham check and the more random plaid of the ribbon would work together. (I have since found the term for this phenomenon, as clearly stated on page 84 of the wonderful little book, 101 Things I Learned in Fashion School by Alfredo Cabrera with Matthew Frederick: “Combining visual patterns – The most effective tool for the harmonious mixing of visual patterns is counterpoint. Scale counterpoint means grouping patterns of dissimilar scales, i.e. a larger pattern with a smaller pattern… If similar patterns are used together [in this case, two plaids], their scales need to be very different. …”) I also knew that making piping out of the ribbon to accent the collars and cuffs would tie the entire look together.

Normally with piping, I try to avoid too many seams, but the ribbon is lightweight and such lovely quality that I was able to piece together bias strips of it easily, and the seams are really imperceptible on the finished dresses.

This gives you an idea of how much piecing I had to do to make the bias strips for piping!

However, the plaid gave me very specific sewing lines when joining the bias pieces.

I made the collars and cuffs out of a creamy white linen and cotton blend, which matched the “white” in the flannel well. I also lined the bodices with that same fabric.

I couldn’t help myself – I put the zippers in by hand.

The buttons are vintage ones that I have had in my button box for decades, just waiting for the right application.

I originally thought I would place each button within a square of the gingham plaid, but it looks so much better to have the buttons straddle the squares.

I added sash carriers to the side seams, and the ribbon just gets tied in a big bow.

The longer sleeves will help keep the girls warm.

And here are Aida and Carolina, after visiting Santa, candy cane included!

This is very satisfying sewing, made especially so by two little girls who seem to love dresses! My daughter tells me they will be wearing them when they go to see a special performance of the Nutcracker Ballet. They may just steal the show!



Filed under Bows as design feature, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Sewing for children, Uncategorized

28 responses to “Two Holiday Dresses

  1. They are very sweet and very well made! Sewing the zippers by hand will always make a more predictable and professional look. My compliments.

  2. I absolutely love what you’ve done. Piecing the ribbon to make trim elevates the dresses to couture level. What a clever use of different plaids and they work extremely well together. I will definitely get a copy of the book you mentioned; it sounds like a great source of fashion ideas. The girls are very lucky to have such a talented grandma. Happy holidays.

  3. Lyrique

    Oh, what delightful dresses! They are absolutely lovely with clever detailing. Thank you for the link to Promenade Fine Fabrics, for they indeed have many lovely fabrics and ribbons. All those plaids… yum!

  4. Mery

    Just darling! Yes, at the performance and elsewhere adults and even the youngest children will recognize that these are good dresses. Good dresses shout to the world that these are beloved children. More important, the girls surely enjoy them. Happy holidays!

    • Thank you, Mery! It seems the dresses arrived just in time – they have already worn them to visit Santa and to attend Vespers. Of course, I am delighted and I think they are, too!

  5. Jeanette

    Beautiful! A great idea and you made it happen!

  6. The sweetest dresses ever! I love the details, Karen, and that piping is a labor of love!

  7. Heather Myers

    Another delightful project. That piping is amazing.

  8. Lovely! Your post made me nostalgic for the days when I used to make three Christmas dresses for my daughters.

  9. Jackie

    Just precious! You do amazing work.

  10. These really bring me back!!! I love your use of the plaid, and I’m sure the girls will wear these as often as their mom lets them!

  11. Susanna

    I wish I could leave a photo of the girls in their dresses today when we went to Santa! You should update the post with a new photo. 🙂 You are so talented, Mom. We are so lucky to have you. I told Aida today that I hope she has a daughter she can pass all of her dresses to! Love you!

  12. Marianne

    The girls look so cute in their pretty dresses! This brings back a lot of memories. My daughters loved wearing similar handmade dresses for Christmas and often requested outfits for their dolls as well!

  13. What lovely, lovely dresses! I especially love the piping detail — it made them even more special. And I love Promenade’s! I am so blessed to live in New Orleans. Thanks so much for sharing the details of your creativity.

  14. They look so cute! Those are two lucky little ladies to have such lovely dresses!

  15. Holy Moley! That piping must have been a labor of love.

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