Recently, a friend from my doll club asked if I could make a dress for her antique, china head doll. This is what she wanted me to use:
It appeared to be a vintage baby/toddler dress. The material was a soft, loosely woven, homespun-type fabric in a delicious shade of peach that beautifully set off the doll's coloring. I can see why my friend wanted it. However, once I started on the project, I began to wonder what I had gotten myself into. Notice how the dress is sleeveless? Cute for a baby, but not so appropriate for a late, 1800's style dress.
I placed the dress over the doll, just to get an idea of what I might need to do in order to make it fit. I knew for sure that it would need sleeves, but how was I going to make those when I didn't have much fabric to work with? I wanted to leave the bodice as it was, and gather the bottom of it to a waistband, which was a popular dress style for these dolls. I started by cutting the skirt from the bodice. Then, I removed the lace from the armhole openings and cut in armhole curves from the bodice. I discovered that there was quite a deep hem at the bottom of the skirt, so I decided to let it out. (It ended up being 4-5 inches in width) This still wasn't wide enough from which to cut sleeves, but I could use this extra fabric for the waistband and trim on the sleeves. Luckily, I ended up finding some cream colored, vintage fabric in my stash that worked perfectly for the sleeves.
After several hours of picking out seams and carefully planning how I was going to make this work, here is what I came up with! I was pretty proud of myself when it was all said and done.
I realize this photo isn't completely in focus, but it's the only one I took of the detail on the sleeves. Since I didn't want it to look like the sleeves were an afterthought, I added a strip of the dress fabric and the lace I removed from the armholes. I think this helps tie the sleeves to the dress.
A closer view of the bodice. Isn't this doll just gorgeous? I forgot to measure her, but I think she was around 28" long. Not sure of her maker, but probably Kestner or ABG.
Back view--the buttons and buttonholes were already there, so all I had to do was add a snap at the waist.
I took this little beauty to my friend today when we met for doll club. She was thrilled with how it had turned out. I was sad to see her go, but someday, I hope to own a beautiful china like this, also!