Maud Humphrey

Maud Humphrey

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Gotz Abigail and How to Draft a Basic Doll Dress Bodice

Just look at this new sweetie that has come to live at my home...isn't she just adorable?
This is "Abigail", a limited edition, 22" doll produced by Gotz in 2008.
I recently discovered that Goodwill has an online auction site.  Oh, my.  As if I don't spend enough time on Ebay, now I have another site to haunt.  And this is where I happened to find Abigail.

Here she is, wearing her original outfit of a ballet costume.  This doll had never been removed from her box when I received her, so I was the first to free her lovely curls from a ponytail.
Isn't this profile adorable?
Of course, the first thing my daughter wanted to do was change her outfit, but since we mainly have 18" and smaller dolls, we didn't have anything that fit.  So what's a doll collector/seamstress to do?  First, let your 4 year old pick out the fabric.  Next, sew a dress!  Here is what I came up with:
Pretty cute, right?
It closes with real buttons.
Abigail looks pretty happy with the results, I think.
I thought I'd do a quick tutorial on how I go about drafting a simple bodice pattern.  I am by no means a professional, and there are probably other ways to do this, but this is what works for me.
First things first...grab a measuring tape, a ruler, a pencil, and some lined notebook paper.
Measure your doll around her waistline where you want the bottom edge of the bodice.  As you can see, Abigail's waist measurement was about 12".  Divide this number in half, which gives us 6".  I then add about 1/2" for ease, and another 1/2" for the seam allowances, which is gives us a total of 7".  Divide this number in half to get 3 1/2", since you are only going to draw half of the bodice front.  Now draw this line on your notebook paper like so:
Next, measure your doll from neckline to waist.  I got 3 1/4", to which I added 1/2" for seam allowances, making a total of 3 3/4". 
Draw this line on your paper, perpendicular to your first line, like so:
Measure your doll from armpit to waistline--I got 1 3/4". 
Add 1/2" for the seam allowances--I now have a measurement of 2 1/4".  Draw this line parallel to the other line you just drew, like so:
Measure over from the middle of your doll's neck to where you want her shoulder strap to begin.  In Abigail's case, this was approximately 1 1/2".  Subtract 1/4" for the seam allowance, giving you a total of 1 1/4" to measure over from the neckline.
Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of the next step...either I forgot to take it, or the camera deleted it.  But now you need to measure how far up the shoulder is from the neckline...about 1 1/4" for Abigail.  Add 1/4" seam allowance for a total of 1 1/2".    I also measured how wide I wanted her shoulder strap to be, which was 1". 
 Add to that another 1/2" for seam allowances, and draw the shoulder at an angle.  Take a close look at the following picture for how I drew these lines, and maybe it will make better sense:
The last line, the armhole curve, is the trickiest.  I don't have a magic formula for that...I simply freehand a curved line connecting the shoulder to the armpit.  It should look something like so:
You have now drawn half of the front bodice.  Place the left edge (marked "Fold") along the folded edge of your fabric.
I draw the back bodice the same way, only I add a bit more width to the piece to allow for overlap along the back edges.  The neckline is raised, and I also make the armhole curves smaller.  Here is a picture of the two finished pieces, side by side:
Before I cut my pieces out of good fabric, I make a mock-up out of paper towels and tape them together at shoulders and side seams.  I try this on the doll, and see if I need to make any adjustments.  This isn't a perfect science...sometimes I end up cutting three, four, or five patterns before I finally feel like the fit is right.  Other times, I luck out and get it right on the first try!
Here's one final look at the finished product.  I added a hem band in a contrasting fabric which is trimmed with ric rac.  The upper bodice is also done in the contrasting fabric and trimmed with ric rac, as well as cotton, eyelet lace.  I think I will make her another dress soon, but this time I will add sleeves.  This is such a fun dolly to sew for!  I would also love to make her a coat and bonnet, along with some cropped pants and a swing top.
I hope these directions weren't too confusing.  If you try this, let me know.  Have fun!



  1. What a buy! She's so cute too. Your tutorial is awesome, and you explain it very well! It makes it look so simple too, which is great! And the dress turned out very cute, with pretty fabric! (Good choice, Sophie!)

    1. Thanks, Marlina! I'm having a lot of fun, getting back into sewing for dolls!