Cordelia’s Christmas Dress

I’m on fire! Usually I’m lucky to find the time to finish one simple dress in a weekend, and this time I was able to finish Delaney’s holiday dress AND coat AND Cordelia’s Christmas dress! And I did things besides sew, as well. Though…cleaning my house was not one of them oops.

Cordelia’s Christmas dress demonstrated what I like to call my personal sewing style. That is, I start sewing and at some point realize something is horribly wrong. So I try to think how to mechanically fix it, which inevitably complicates the project, and I keep doing that until the outfit is finished but maybe don’t look at it cross-eyed or something might split. I’m exaggerating a bit, but my sewing motto sort of winds up being, every project is a learning process, and if you’ve got a couple pins stuck in dolls in the meantime, so be it.

Cordelia’s Christmas dress was inspired by a painting I found online a while ago and knew I wanted to mimic. “Portrait of a Young Girl Holding a Doll” by Emil Brack. Granted, I knew I’d need to “age up” the dress because this girl looks 5 or 6 and Cordelia is 9-10. But I liked that it’s a change to the typical suit-dresses I’ve been making, and doesn’t just reek of excess the way the fashion plates do. Which I love, but Cordelia’s family isn’t that wealthy.8e1ee240e10dcbac36f470a562dd8bec

Originally I’d bought crimson velveteen and broadcloth, but worried it’d look a little too Santa suity. Besides, the painting looks more plum. I couldn’t find exactly the same, but wound up liking an aubergine velveteen and plum satin.


I started with Crabapple’s Garden Party Dress Bundle but oh, I didn’t stop there. I used the bodice and skirt pattern for view C (the sailor dress), but made up my own fitted sleeve piece. I got the velveteen sewn together and fray-checked it like crazy. The purple velveteen proved WAY worse to sew with than the red had –this was almost as bad as velvet! But on the bright side, I discovered that my fray check smells like my Grandma. I thought I was going crazy.


Hoo-ey, look at those unpressed ribbons!

Anyway, got the bodice put together, got the skirt gathered, finally settled on how I was going to position the lace, and then I ran into trouble. Because when I put the dress on Cordelia, the hips didn’t fit. Even on my skinny Caroline doll. Wouldn’t come close. Furthermore, the short skirt was way too short for an 1880s girl of 9-10.


The really fun thing about velveteen is it likes to look weird in pictures. For instance, I’m not sure why the back of the bodice is gathering weird in this picture. I think I must have pinched her while moving her? It lays just fine.

So I decided to complicate things. My next step was to cut out another velveteen skirt piece, and gather it to a piece of white lining. Turns out I didn’t even make that long enough, so I wound up stitching that to a bit of grosgrain ribbon which is then tied to Cordelia’s waist like a petticoat. The end result of that is a ruffled skirt! That is just long enough to be more accurate.


And what about the gap? Blech. Well, the good news is, I hadn’t made the sashes yet! There are three in all (so far). One sewn into the dress, one tied around the neck, and a much thicker one tied around the hips. Have I mentioned how much I HATE turning ribbons? The one around the hips is still not how thick I’d like it, so I actually didn’t even bother pressing the ribbon yet. I’ll probably press it when I get back from Thanksgiving, though ultimately I may try one more time to make an even wider one, or else just look for just the right satin ribbon.

So now tiered skirt, limited visibility gap, time to accessories. The lace collar actually snaps onto a purple sewn-in collar, and the neckerchief just ties beneath it. It was hard to see what exactly was going on with the front of the dress in the painting, so I took creative license. I also didn’t put a bow on the front, to make it look a little more grown up.


Ta da! Finished. Took a zillion photos before the holidays, only afterwards realizing I hadn’t changed her boots and had better ones. And yes, I realize she’d be wearing black little boots but I just like the cream ones for festiveness. 🙂

There are still a few things I want to play with. I may shorten the neckerchief. I need to drape the sash a little better so it sits lower on her hips. But not bad for my first time piecing together a full outfit from a painting!


2 thoughts on “Cordelia’s Christmas Dress

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