Several years ago I decided to make my 9 year old daughter a dress-up costume that looked like a Native American Indian dress. She already had some moccasins that I helped her make from a kit, so I figured a dress would go with it perfectly. By the way, those moccasin kits are crazy difficult to put together, so I don’t recommend them for small children. YOU will be the one putting them together in the end. For the dress itself, the most important supply you’ll need is some kind of faux suede fabric that does not fray on the cut edges. This means a lot less sewing and hemming is required and is going to be very necessary feature for doing all the fringe work. I found my ideal fabric in the upholstery section at the fabric store. I choose a pale brown that looked pretty close to the leather of my daughter’s moccasins.
This is the American girl doll that I used for the dress inspiration. Basically my daughter wanted LOTS of fringe for a good twirling effects. So I knew I wanted fringe at the bottom of the skirt. The fringe around the neck line ended up being super easy to add, just because I made it out of a separate rectangle-shaped panel and then attached it to the neckline with a single long straight stitch.
- Faux suede fabric (one that doesn’t fray)
- brown thread
- Leather lacing (can be shoe laces)
- Pony beads
- Sewing machine
- Sharp scissors
- Washable water color marker
For the basic dress pattern I used one of my daughter’s short sleeve nightgowns laid flat on the fabric and then added about an inch extra all the way around. Cut out 2 of these. Choose one for the front panel and one for the back. The back panel will need a long slit cut straight down from the neckline to make enough headroom for pulling the dress on and off. If your fabric is at all stretchy this might not be necessary. My fabric was not stretchy so my slit had to be about 12 inches long. The leather laces will be added to the top to keep it tied closed.
The size of the dress will vary depending on your child’s age/size. My daughter was 9 years old and her night gown measured about 4 feet from the neckline to the hem, so I knew that I would need at least 2.5 yards of fabric to be long enough. I ended up getting 3 yards just in case, but still had lots left over. We even made a small purse, with fringe to go with it.
Key to diagram above:
- Black lines = fabric outline
- Blue = cut lines
- Red = stitching lines
- Green = where the neckline fringe panel is attached
Cutting It Out
This is the 2 pieces of fabric after I traced around the nightgown and cut them out.
After sewing along the side seams and the tops of each sleeve, I carefully measured and cut the fringe at the bottom of the dress. I used my serger when sewing the side seams, but if your fabric doesn’t fray anyway, then a regular sewing machine will work just as well.
I pinned both front and back together and cut through both layers at the same time. The pinning was to keep it from sliding around while I did the cutting.
Next I cut a rectangle piece the same length as the neckline: from the end of each sleeve, across the neck and down to the end of the other sleeve. After hemming the top edge, I repeated the whole process of cutting the fringe as I did for the lower hem. This rectangle was then top-stitched in place across the neck.
I originally made a leather belt to go with the dress, but then one of my other daughters found these two macramé style belts that came with some fashion jeans and we used them instead. We used one as a belt, and the other as a purse strap for the little bag we made from scraps. The pony beads were added later at the ends of each piece of fringe on the purse. Just tie a knot under each bead to keep it from sliding off. Here is my daughter wearing the final results.