Monday, June 2, 2014

The Little Mermaid- Ariel's Town Dress

I finished this project in March, and unfortunately I did not take many photos of the process (well, none really...) But I'll try to talk through it.

The Little Mermaid- Ariel's Town Dress

Ariel is my favourite Disney character; I also get to play her on occasion for children's birthday parties! She is a character whom I want to dress up in ALL her outfits!
As I feel like I'm still tip-toeing through this learning process of sewing, I thought I would start on her 'easiest' outfit.
I say 'easiest' because I already knew how to make a simple circle skirt and a hair bow. Haha!
The shirt and corset, however, would be a challenge.

Fabric-wise, for the skirt I chose a cotton sateen (I not-so-secretly love cotton sateen) as it has a nice weight and drapes beautifully, plus with its slight sheen really gives a regal look without being over-the-top like satin. I used a very light-weight cotton for the blouse and bow (some people choose to use a different coloured fabric for the bow- but that's really their choice as the colour of the bow isn't consistent throughout the scenes) and a dark-blue stretch velvet for the corset cover- more on that soon. I also got some light off-white cotton and lace for the under-skirt.

I wanted a full skirt- there really is nothing like swishing around in one! So I got 6 meters of cotton sateen, 6 meters of off-white cotton and around 6 meters of off-white cotton lace, and a zipper and two buttons. There was left-over fabric, might I add, as I have a habit of buying too much...
Here is my set-up for drying fabric after washing it. Conveniently watching a Disney movie and Simba looks horrified at the mess.

No photos of the skirt-making process, I'm afraid... But you can find tutorials online everywhere for a basic circle skirt.
I cut out the blue and white fabric in two halves, with about an inch less length on the white underskirt, and sewed them to their respective partners - leaving a 20cm gap in one top seam to hide the zip. From here I sewed the white underskirt to the blue overskirt at the waist. I added the zip and then did a basic bias waist-band (which I only recently learnt how to do! Woo!), then let it hang for a day or two before I hemmed it.
After hemming both, I sewed the white cotton lace to the underskirt (this is where taking the inch off the white underskirt helps, because the lace only peaks out when moving, which is super pretty). And the skirt was done!

Shirt & Bow:
I took NO photos of this process... but to be honest, its not fantastic, and I'd like to remake the shirt!
Simplicity to the rescue!
Having never made a shirt before, I found a pattern with similarities to Ariel's shirt: the full-length puff sleeves and easily-to-alter neckline.

Altering was easy, I just had to widen the neckline and not add buttons. My regrets come from the fabric itself: it was super light and wasn't at all suited to making a shirt with. But somehow it came together!
I will certainly remake it in the future, though.

The bow was super easy to make, I was taught how to make them by a seamstress friend almost 4 years ago!
At first I made it TOO big (like eating my head big) so I re-did it twice until I was happy with the size. I then stuffed the bow itself with some scrap organza, to give it shape but not make it too stiff or heavy.
To attach it to the wig I just used bobby-pins, but I may attach a clip to it later.

Here's where I cheated a little ;)
Time and skills were not on my side, so I decided to try something different! I had a very old corset from when I was 14- it was a crappy plastic boned thing which somehow had held up after 10 years. I only wore it under things to 'smooth' out lines, but after recently finding a new steel-boned one, this old corset was out of a job!
I was inspired to try covering my old corset!

I followed the instructions in the tutorial, but to be honest I was doubtful it would work for me. I'd chosen a stretch velvet as it was cheep and pretty, but I wasn't sure how it would look if I didn't cut out the pieces correctly and it had the likely possibility of stretching strangely.

It took some trial and error; basically I cut out the correct shapes and spent a few hours pinning it to the corset on my dummy, and taking it off again and re-pinning it.

...Honestly- I think it was luck. haha!
Yeah, its not great, but considering I was using stretch velvet AND I'd never done anything like this before, I was very surprised and happy!
(Interestingly, the corset can do all the way up on me- without a gap- but not on my dummy, I think its because I'm squishy, haha!)

Somehow it looked OK. I then sewed (using my machine- VERY CAREFULLY- as the plastic boning threatened to break my needles) the top and then the bottom onto the existing corset. I hand-sewed the seams under to give it a cleaner look.

And Ariel's town dress was done!

I first wore it to a special screening of The Little Mermaid, and had lots of people asking for my photo! Then I wore it again to Oz Comic-Con in April. I quite love this outfit, its comfortable to wear but also makes me feel princessy!

Worn Photos:

I love this photo because you can see the underskirt!! :)
(Photo credit: I Got SuperPowers. com)

(Photo credit JATS TV) 

Showing the full width of the skirt, haha! All 6 meters of it!

Time to Complete:
 If I'd worked on it from dusk til dawn, this outfit probably took me about 4 days total to make. But I did my usual bits-and-pieces working on it in the evenings and weekends. The longest time spent was on the corset, thanks to the meticulous cutting and pinning and hand sewing.

As it was quite some time ago now, I cannot remember the total costs!! Spotlight (where I get most of my fabric from) always has sales, so I wouldn't be surprised if I purchased most of this on sale. It would've been below $100, with the most expensive thing being the cotton sateen for the skirt.

Final Thoughts:
I love this outfit! And I'm really proud of myself for making it without too many screw-ups. haha! I'm wearing it again to Disney On Ice this weekend.
When I have spare time, I would like to re-make the shirt, and also make the corset from scratch to be more accurate to the film.
But for now I really love wearing this costume! :)


  1. The Little Mermaid- Ariel's Town Dress. I finished this project in March, and unfortunately I did not take many photos of the process (well, none ...

  2. hi, I absolutely adore this costume, and would love to replicate it. Is there any way you could post your sources for the materials?