My favorite time of year once again provided weeks of craft projects and quality time with my kids. I love late September and the entire month of October. I have always enjoyed the fall, but it’s extra enjoyable now that I’m a mom. I absolutely love making my children’s Halloween costumes. I love searching through stores for the right clothing and fabrics. I love sewing, hot gluing, and crafting everything together. And I absolutely love the excitement they are filled with when they dress up on Halloween. This year did not disappoint.
This summer while on a vacation with our closest friends we were introduced to Sofia The First. We knew of her before because Georgia received a great gift for her birthday – a book that came with miniature figurines. She loved reading the book and playing with the toys, but it wasn’t until she saw that show that she was hooked. After that we set our DVR to record every episode.
For those of you who don’t know, Sofia was a girl in the village doing all right, then she became a princess overnight. (It’s all in the theme song.) Her mom married the king and she became a princess and gained twin step-siblings – Amber & James. She wears a necklace (her amulet) that gives her magical powers when she does something nice. One of those magical powers is the ability to talk to animals.
Here’s the main reason we LOVE Sofia – she is nice. And, honestly, that’s my main focus while raising our children. I just want them to be nice human beings. So after watching a couple episodes, I gave Sofia my “Mom Stamp of Approval” and I too became a little obsessed with the kind princess. This is where advertisers can get you! One romantic date night at Target with Chad, I almost couldn’t help myself. I wanted to buy every item with Sofia’s face on it. I knew Georgia would just love it. Looking at our shopping cart, we felt a little ridiculous, so we paired down the items to a Sofia The First thermos and some stickers.
When Georgia announced she wanted to be Sofia for Halloween, I was equally as excited. I knew this could be my last chance to make Georgia’s costume. I am determined to keep this holiday focused on her and am savoring every second she wants me to be a part of the experience! To get her excited I knew I wanted to have her help with as much as we could.
First stop – a fabric store in the burbs! We found the closest JoAnn Fabrics to my grandparents’ house and stopped there one weekend while we were visiting them. I know many blogs post tutorials about how to save money by making your Halloween costume yourself. This is NOT one of those posts. The Sofia dress was on sale at Target for $20. I could have easily bought it and been done, but I wanted to make it with Georgia. Georgia and I were in heaven at the fabric store…each aisle got prettier and prettier. It’s hard to say no to a four-year-old when you too want to buy the gorgeous sparkly purple chiffon fabric. So I didn’t. I said yes and we were giddy.
When we checked out we had spent $60 on everything from fabric for the dress, jewels for Sofia’s amulet, and some extra fabric that would be perfect for a custom Elsa cape! I had to mentally fight back my slight physical anxiety attack creeping up. This was for the experience – and that’s priceless!!
Now if you’ve read about our past Halloween costumes, you know I kinda just wing it when it comes to sewing. Winging a peach costume or a draped Statue of Liberty costume is one thing, winging a dress is a little more nerve-racking. Because I didn’t want to ruin the luxurious fabric we had bought at JoAnn’s, Georgia and I stopped at our neighborhood fabric shop and picked up a couple yards of basic cotton fabric for under five dollars. I used it to wing my own pattern.
I started with the skirt. I guessed on the length and then folded the fabric into what I thought was six panels. Sofia’s dress is scalloped, so I cut a rounded edge on the bottom. When I unfolded it, it turns out I had eight panels, but luck was on my side and the fabric was so long I was able to cut off two panels and still had plenty of fabric.
When Georgia got home from school I held my “pattern” up to her, determined the length, and cut the extra fabric off the top. Next I ironed the purple satin fabric and pinned the pattern to it.
Once it was cut out, I then held it up to Georgia and eyeballed the pleats. I sewed one inch pleats all the way around, tried it on her again, and sewed one more pleat on each side so that it fit her correctly. We had a skirt!
For the top I made a “pattern” using the cotton fabric based on one of her dresses. I tried it on Georgia and it wouldn’t even fit over her head. I went back to the cotton fabric, tried two more times, and determined the right size. I then pinned it to the purple satin and cut it out. Nothing fancy, just a simple top.
Now if you are a true seamstress, you might be thinking, “Why doesn’t she just use a pattern from the store? That would be a whole lot easier.” And the more I sew, the more I agree with you.
This is where I truly believe my sewing machine is magic. It was my grandma’s machine and I feel so connected to her when I use it. Sewing with it allows me to share her story with Georgia. As I sat in front of the machine, I imagined how I could sew the top and bottom pieces together so that when I unfolded it, it would be a dress with all the right sides facing the right way. I asked my grandma for guidance and went for it. After I ran it through the machine I slowly unfolded it, shook it a couple times, and volia! I sewed a dress!! I was amazed!! It was an actual dress and Georgia loved it!!
I decided to sew in a zipper to make it much easier to put on and take off. I didn’t incorporate any elastic, so the dress didn’t have much give. I used a 16-inch zipper that went down the back. I simply pinned it where I wanted it to go, cut the dress in the zipper opening, and then sewed the zipper to the dress. Pretty straight forward. Completely unorthodox!
Now the real fun began: embellishing!! I worked on the embellishments over the course of a week, doing a little at a time whenever I could find a moment. I hand-sewed a string of pearls along the neckline and the bottom of the skirt.
Next I used a string of dark purple sequins to sew the loop design on the front of the dress. Also, on the front of Sofia’s dress are two vertical purple lines with bigger pearls spaced out. I had forgotten to get some single pearls while at JoAnn’s. The day before Halloween I went back to our neighborhood fabric store. I bought a handful I thought would work, but when I got home they lay flat against the fabric. They sort of hung there sadly. As a last resort, I raided my button stash and found several iridescent buttons that worked beautifully.
We started this project in late September, but somehow Halloween crept up on us. The week of Halloween I realized I didn’t really have a plan for Sofia’s signature flower design on each scallop of her dress. I had my husband stop at Michaels on his way home from work to buy some white fabric paint. I googled “Sofia Flower Template” and found the design. I sized it in Photoshop, printed it out, traced it onto cardstock, and cut out a simple homemade stencil.
I then traced all the flowers on the dress. I decided to use a yellow marker because I thought it would show up the least. I am glad I didn’t choose purple because in fact when I painted white over the yellow marker it bled a little. Luckily, no one even noticed. I thought it is worth noting here so if you are trying this at home, you won’t make the same mistake. You’d be better off using sewing chalk or tracing paper. I painted the flowers and let them dry under a fan overnight.
Sofia also has an additional layer of pearls draped midway down her dress. This is where I used that beautiful jeweled chiffon fabric. I simply cut two U-shaped pieces, hemmed them, and then pinned them to the dress.
I pinned the middle and the back first and then pleated where I needed so that it was tight against the fabric. I hand-sewed it on. If I were doing this ahead of time, I would have incorporated this in the step when I sewed the top and bottom together. The addition of this fabric truly made the dress look magical.
Sofia’s signature accessory is her magical amulet. It’s her necklace that gives her special powers when she is nice to people. I knew this would be a fun DIY project Georgia and I could do together.
We worked on it one afternoon in early October while Conroy napped. We bought two packs of purple beads from JoAnn’s and one big teardrop crystal.
To make it purple we mod-podged glitter on the backside of the crystal. We used a simple wire to secure it to the string.
Originally we bought thin elastic for the necklace, but it wasn’t thin enough to go through the beads. As a quick solution, we used purple embroidery thread and tied it to the hardware of an old necklace. This worked out pretty nicely because it made it easy to get on and off.
As a special surprise for Georgia, Conroy and I bought her a Clover doll at Target. Clover is Sofia’s rabbit friend. He’s voiced by Wayne Brady, which is extra fun for me since my first job in television was on The Wayne Brady Show. She loved it!
Very late the night before Georgia’s school Halloween party I embellished an old tiara with purple glittered hot glue. Have you used this? I saw it at the craft store and impulsively bought it because – Hello, it’s glittered hot glue!! Obviously, I would need this in my life. And that night was the exact time I needed it. When I showed her in the morning, she was thrilled.
What made this dress a true princess dress was the southern belle underdress we found at a yard sale. One weekend while visiting my parents I spotted it while driving by and quickly made the nearest U-turn! It has two hoops in it and makes the dress puffy. It had pink ribbon on the bottom, so I simply sewed a purple ribbon over it.
To complete the whole look, Georgia wore purple sparkly dress shoes I found at H&M.
I truly enjoyed making this dress. This past month I took Jess Lively’s online class – Life With Intention. In it she told a story about how you could make someone a gift. Say it takes you three hours, then you give it to the person and they don’t really like it. Immediately your “ego” takes over and ruins the whole experience for you. The ego has taken away all the joy you had those three hours. While I was sewing the dress (and listening to some of the Life with Intention Member Stories), I was truly immersed in the creative process and allowed myself to enjoy it 100%. Another way of saying this, to quote a recent episode of Sofia The First, “It’s about enjoying the process, not making it perfect.”
The icing on the cake here is – Georgia loved it!! She had a blast at school and trick-or-treating with her friend Zach in Boston.
On our way home from Boston, Chad asked Georgia what makes her happy. She said, “Wearing my Sofia dress, of course.” I essentially burst into tears in the passenger seat of our minivan! How great is this kid?
We hope this inspires you to get crafty and share the experience with someone. If you have children it’s never too early to let them enjoy creating things by hand and use their imagination. Until next year, I will be thinking of excuses to dress my kids up in costumes we craft together!