Sunday, May 9, 2010

Barbie's Vintage Sundress

A few weeks ago, when Heidi was in the shop, I decided that I was going to sew a Barbie sundress (view four) from Simplicity 8281 by hand:

As you may remember from one of my award posts, this was the very first pattern that I owned.  I was probably about 9 or 10 years old, and for some reason I figured that I could sew the sundress by hand with needle and thread.  At that time I could sew on a button, but that's about all.  I don't know how I talked my mother into buying the pattern, but she also bought nearly identical yellow fabric and I managed to get as far as cutting out the bodice, skirt, ruffle, and straps.

Mind you, my mother was not a sewist although she owned a sewing machine, and neither she nor I could interpret the mysterious pattern markings or instructions.  Make a dart?  Gather a ruffle?  We had no clue, and I was terribly frustrated.  So I put the dress aside and completely forgot about it until I ran across the pattern at a thrift store or estate sale (I don't remember!) many years later.  I have no idea where the original pattern went.

As it turns out, this makes the very first vintage pattern I have sewn. It also marks the first miniature garment I have ever constructed, and there is no way I ever would have been able to sew this pattern as a kid without knowledgeable assistance.  So I find it very satisfying to have come "full circle," so to speak, and be able to complete this project so many years later:

I sewed the dress from a scrap of fabric I found in a freebie bin at sewing class.  It's a poly-cotton, and it frayed like the dickens.  I hated working with it, as I had to sew the straps and darts over and over again, as the material frayed beyond the seamlines. As always, it's not perfect.  For some reason, I found that my gathers had turned into box pleats, but I like the look.  I abandoned the hand sewing idea early on as Heidi had returned and I got impatient for quick results.

I actually had to buy a Barbie that I was willing to pull out of the box, as all of the others I have are collectible. I ended up with "Sassy" (she needs a better name), a Barbie "Fashionistas", because she was poseable.  When I brought her home I showed her to my husband, who immediately informed me that in she was dressed like a streetwalker:

Poor Barbie.  Still, I like her pink boots. 

Interestingly, the bodice of the dress I made turned out to be about a 1/2 inch or so too large, particularly in the waist.  You can't see it, but I had to pin the bodice in back to get a good fit.

This may be my imagination, but I do believe that this doll's waistline is even tinier than the Barbie dolls of old. Dear readers, have any of you sewn a vintage doll pattern for a contemporary Barbie?  I shudder to think that Barbie's ridiculously small waist measurement has become even smaller today than it was thirty or more years ago.  Please, leave a comment!


  1. Oh the waist is defintely tinier! I have both vintage and new(er) barbies and alot of things got thinner. I think the waist got smaller because they weren't allowed to enlarge her boobies anymore. :)

  2. Well that's disheartening to hear! Barbie's measurements were never realistic to begin with, and now they've become even less comparable to a real woman's body.

  3. WOW! I have been making a few Barbie dresses and posted about them! Not it? I used some 'free' patterns on line and only had luck with a strapless sundress. I need a real pattern! LOVE what you've made! I'm so glad I stayed to visit! ♥

  4. Can't wait to see your creations Lavender Dreamer! I'm glad that you stopped by and left a comment -- thanks!


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