My Girls’ Easter Dresses: Simplicity 8851

Wendy was freezing so this is the only picture she’s in! She ran back inside right after I snapped this.

Well, after a couple of weeks of trying to get the girls to go fabric shopping with me, Wendy finally told me to “just not do dresses this year.” Kids are so fun. All the time.

But making Easter dresses for my girls and me has been a tradition since Wendy was born! And even if they couldn’t care less about it, it has become one of my very favorite traditions. Luckily, I’m an adult and don’t need permission from my 6 year old to make her a dress, darn it! Instead of having the girls give input on what I churned out, I just made my own choices on their dresses. Thankfully, the dresses are darling and the girls have given their approval!

Years ago the girls had a tiered maxi dress that made me want one in my size. The idea of it has resided in the back of my brain since then and has morphed over the years. The latest on it was that I wanted a tiered, color blocked wrap dress. I wouldn’t say I’ve been picky about the colors but I was kind of leaning toward an ombre-type effect, no matter the color I chose.

Finding the right color combination in a fabric that wasn’t too costly proved to be tricky. In the end, my color pairings happened a bit by chance. I recently bought the darkest shade of pink with a certain project in mind, but after I washed it I started wondering if it wouldn’t work for the intended dress. As I sat on it I wondered if it might match a fabric I had in my stash-the peach color you see in the middle. When I compared the two fabrics, I was excited to see that not only did the colors go together but they also seemed to be the exact same substrate. If they aren’t the very same type of fabric then they are at least incredibly similar-same lightness, even same weave as far as I can tell. I needed just one more shade to make the tiered dress I was picturing. I had bought the darker fabric online and I knew they didn’t carry any other shades of pink, but the peach fabric was bought at SAS Fabrics near Phoenix. I thought it was worth a shot to see if they carried a light pink. I checked it out the next time we made a trip down there and they did have some light pink! We were in business!

About halfway through this fabric journey I realized that I could make the girls a tiered, color-blocked wrap dress as well and we could be twinning for Easter. Luckily, I already had the Simplicity 8851 pattern in my stash that would work really well for the girls’ dresses. The pattern is for a wrap dress with a scalloped neckline. I had to alter the skirt pattern pieces so they were tiered which wasn’t difficult to do.

The fabric is pretty thin and lightweight. Having used the peach fabric previously to make the girls’ Christmas jammies, I knew that it’s kind of a difficult fabric to work with. It’s shifty and has a looser weave (not loose loose, but definitely not tight and crisp). To try to combat the shiftiness, I bought some starch and starched every inch of the fabric as I ironed. This was my first time trying this hack and I’d say it did help! It didn’t turn it into quilting cotton or anything but it did give it some structure which helped a lot with the cutting and the sewing.

The shocking thing to me was just how much fabric I used up with these three dresses. I had 3 1/2 yards of the light pink, about 2 yards of the peach, and 5 yards of the darker pink and I used up nearly all of it! I had maybe a 1/4 yard left of the light pink but otherwise was left with unusable scraps! I think a big part of this was that all the bodices had a lining and with wrap dresses, you’re overlapping the front of your dress and essentially doubling the fabric requirements of what you’d normally see. In fact, the hem of the girls’ dresses measured over 12 feet! So crazy!

The sewing process was good but it definitely held some challenges for me, luckily not in a bad way, but just that I had to be more mindful as I sewed. One challenge was the scalloped neckline, which is adorable, but took a lot of precision and a lot of notches! I’ve worried that the looser weave of the fabric won’t hold up well to the all the notches I had to make, but it is interfaced so hopefully the interfacing does its job well! I sewed the sleeves in the round. I felt like, for a big four pattern, that these instructions were actually very explanatory. The only thing I notices was missing was instructions to finish seams, but otherwise it really did a good job at explaining what to do and how to do it.

After completing the bodice, I moved onto the skirt. The skirt actually has 4 pieces, which I turned into 8 pieces with my tiers. The bodice is lined and I went back and forth on whether or not I should line the skirt too. The light pink is definitely sheer enough that it needs lining but the peach is less so; it’s on the cusp of being totally fine without a lining. In the end, I decided to line it just because Kids. However, the front is essentially self-lined so I really only needed to line the back part. The skirt was already totally assembled at this point, so I cut out the back skirt lining piece and sewed it across the top of the back skirt. Then I just tacked it in two places down each of the side seams. This might seem weird and if the skirt weren’t tiered and a wrap dress I think I would have done things totally different, but here I think this worked just fine.

I did end up doing some hand sewing–a slip stitch on the inside seam attaching the bodice to the skirt. Of course, it’s machine sewn on the outside of this seam. And I’ll admit that I tried to machine sew the inside as well with a stitch in the ditch, but after only an inch or two I knew that wasn’t going to look good at all. So I stopped and pulled out my hand needle. It does look much nicer with the hand stitches.

I also had to sew in some snaps. The pattern calls for one snap but I ended up sewing in two, one for securing each side of the bodice. Of course, the left side has the tie to help secure things, but I’ve seen what ties on my girls’ dresses tend to do AND what my girls say when I offer to retie it for them. Trust me, more is better here! And actually, I bought 1/4 inch snaps online from WAWAK without really considering how small 1/4 inch is. It’s pretty teeny. I may end up replacing the ones I put in for heftier ones, just for more insurance. You can never be too careful with wrap dresses! (Maybe I need to buy some for my dress too, ha!).

While I made the bodices and then made the skirts, I had some serious reservations about the dress. It didn’t seem to be coming together. But once I attached the tops and bottoms I could see that they they were going to turn out and I was really excited. I held them up for my girls but again, their reactions were just terrible. In their defense, it is really difficult to picture a wrap dress on when it’s all arms out. But once I finished them save for the hems, I had the girls try on their dresses and the response was glowing! They love them! Wendy has commented several times on how comfortable the dress is (for all its problems, the fabric really is soft!) and she’s asked every day this week if she can just wear her dress now instead of waiting for Easter. I’m so happy that they’re happy!

The pattern was great and the details on the dress are so cute. The scallops turned out really well and the skirts are so full–they’re the skirts that dreams are made of! Everything was very well drafted. The dress had some trickier parts to get through but overall I had a lot of fun making these and am really happy with the results!

Pattern: Simplicity 8851
Size: 4T
Alterations: Added a tier to the skirt. Extended sides on bottom tier just a bit to create gathers. Added 1-2 inches extra length to bottom tier
Fabric: Dark pink-coral rayon challis from Raspberry Creek Fabrics; peach and light pink from SAS Fabrics
Cost: (for all three dresses-mine isn’t pictured in this post) 5 yards dark pink fabric $40; light pink fabric $14; snaps $1; pattern $1; interfacing, thread and peach fabric from stash
Would I make this pattern again?: Yes! It was fun to make and the results are fabulous!

Now wish me luck as I haven’t even started sewing my dress!

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