In the doll making world, most of the time artists put all of their skills and assets to sculpting the doll. It’s understandable because the doll itself is a unique form of art which is beautiful the way it is. But often enough, I’m looking at those beautifully sculpted dolls and missing one more thing. The costume. Why are we so rushing to finish the doll and releasing it to the world without suitable garments? It carries the doll to the whole new level and tells us a story about a character we have just met, revealing the most intricate details! Usually, it’s simply because we don’t know how to create one. All that sewing, embroidery, beading, patterns and techniques makes a mess in our heads. But what if I told you that you can create an astonishing costume for your doll without years of sewing practice? Let’s begin!
1. Collecting data
Before we get to the actual sewing, an important step is to decide how your doll should look like and what is her story. The easiest way to reveal your doll’s character is to give her a suitable outfit. To make this process more fun I like to create mood boards with the amazing costumes from the runaway fashion, designer goods or historical paintings. Looking for inspiration is crucial for me. Browse through my Pinterest board and see if you find anything you like! So, is your doll a fairy from an enchanted forest or a highborn lady with a miraculous dress from a baroque era?
With that vision in mind, it’s time to search for some sewing patterns. I like to use historical clothing patterns and adapt them to my dolls. My dolls’ have unique proportions, far from an actual human body, so most of the patterns are too short in length and too wide in general. That’s why I need to measure my doll and transform the patterns I find on the internet or in costume history books. I agree that it requires a little bit of practice, but you can learn all of this stuff in the costume creating course I’m offering.
The other extremely important thing I’m adding into this section is searching for the right fabrics. What we use for human clothes doesn’t always suit the dolls well. While looking for fabrics, ask yourself three main questions:
• How the fabric is woven?
You want something soft and lightweight.
• How the fabric drapes?
See if it looks like flowing and draping beautifully instead of looking stiff.
• Are the ornaments fit the doll’s size?
If you’re choosing a decorative fabric, inspect the ornamentation, lace or anything else that is in the fabric. You want small details, not big blobs that would look great on humans, but not on your dolls. The scale is one of the more important things while decorating the doll.
I’m not a sewing expert, but over the years by trying, failing and trying again, I’ve developed a lot of simple, but useful techniques. A crucial one is the sewing patterns adaptation. When you have chosen the patterns you like, adjusting them to your doll’s body makes all the difference. You can do that by measuring your doll’s body and use the measurements to adapt the pattern. The other way, which I really like, is to trace doll’s body on the sheet of paper and draw the patterns on top of the tracing.
Even though I have and use a sewing machine, I do most of the sewing by hand. Sometimes it’s really tricky to sew the tiniest details with a machine. Learn some prominent stitches by watching Youtube tutorials and that will be more than enough! My favorite one is “invisible” or “ladder” stitch. It comes really handy if the costumes of your dolls are permanently attached to the doll. Usually, it means that you’ll need to sew the clothing on an actual doll, otherwise, you won’t be able to dress it.
The whole sewing process is learned by trial and error. Try different things and see what works for your dolls. If you’re not sure if an idea is going to work, don’t use the best fabrics for it. Try to sew it using some cheap fabric and see how it goes!
That’s, hands down, my favorite part of costume making. Decorating your doll with those tiny details, laces, beads, rhinestones, embroidery is such an exciting process! It’s really important one too. Those decorative details help to highlight the character features of your doll. It helps to tell a story as well. Just after decorating my dolls thoroughly, I know that they’re complete.
Think what would enhance the doll’s presence? There should be one or two main decorations on your doll’s costume, for example, a substantial embroidery or additional object and a lot of complimentary ones like some lace around the edges, tiny buttons, and ribbons.