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Simplicity 5638 - Christmas dress

I like to make a Christmas-y dress for my daughters. In an attempt to be reasonable about how much time and money I have to spend, I decided not to make my younger daughter a new dress this year as the Christmas dress I made for my older daughter three years ago fits her now and looks quite nice. (I am well aware that I probably seem to be begging for comments full of bitterness and resentment from younger sister types that suffered through years of hand-me-downs).  So, this saga involves my older daugher only...

The Fabric

I didn’t have enough time to order something online and wait for it to be shipped to me, so I was at the mercy of my local Fabricland. A few weeks ago I saw some taffetas that would have been nice for a Christmas dress, but I was thinking that it would be wise to make something not too dressy and not too holiday-ish so that it could be worn longer into the winter. When I got around to shopping for the fabric, not only were the taffetas were gone but I had a really hard time finding anything at all that I liked for a little girl. It was bleak. I was about to leave the store with nuthin’ when I decided to cruise through the Home Dec department. I found this striped fabric on the clearance table and pondered it for a bit.

Certainly not love at first sight, but maybe it could work. I didn’t want the whole dress to be striped, so I headed back to the other side of the store to look for something to coordinate with it. Satin was really my only choice. I guess this was going to be a dressy dress after all.

The Pattern

It has been a really long time since I bought a pattern, fabric, and all the notions for a single project in one trip. That’s what I wanted to do with this dress. Then I’d just go home and sew it up without needing to stop to change this part of the pattern or draft that piece, or stop for a trip to the store to pick up whatever. Alas, that was not to be. I looked online at patterns so that I could just pick up what I wanted when I got to the store and spend most of the trip looking at fabric. I chose New Look 6771. When I asked for it at the counter, I was told it was discontinued. Great.

I guessed at yardage amounts for the fabrics I picked out and headed home to see what patterns I could use.

I found Simplicity 5638, an older, out-of-print pattern someone recently gave to me. I liked the sweetheart neckline, and the full skirt. I didn’t like the lack of long sleeves or bow option. Since I liked New Look 6771, I thought it would be simplest just to try copying it.

I used the sleeve and sash pattern pieces from Vogue 7958.

The Alterations

For the bodice, I started with a size 4 and added 1/8" to the pattern at CF.  The bottom of the bodice curved downward - I don't know for sure, but I think this is to accomodate a rounded toddler tummy.  Since my daughter has no such tummy and I wanted the bow at the front, I straightened out the bottom edge.  I also added 1.25" in length.  The back bodice piece was already cut out in size 3, so I just used that, adding 1/4" at the side seams.  I also added the same length as the front.

The sleeves from the Vogue pattern were also a size 4, with 2" of length added.

The skirt on the Simplicity pattern is intended to be floor-length.  I wasn't looking for floor-length.  When I measured the size 4, I liked the length it would turn out to be with a deep (2.5") hem.

The Zipper

I almost always do an invisible zip. With the right foot and variable needle position, I think it is much easier to get it to look good. I don’t always have much success with a lapped or centered zipper.

So, I put in the invisible zip in this dress and somehow messed up the zipper. I’m still not sure what happened, but it wouldn’t zip up. It wasn’t stuck on anything and there weren’t any stitches through the teeth. But, when I ripped it out it worked okay.

In Threads # 145, there is an article about getting the top of a lapped zipper to look good. I read that and decided to use the same invisible zipper, but use a lapped application. Unconventional, yes, but again – saving time (no second trip to the store) and money.

I’m satisfied with how it turned out. I think I’ll still stick with invisible zips most of the time, but it’s good to have options.

The Purse

The original New Look pattern that I wanted included a purse. I thought that would be fun to do and it turned out that the Simplicity one I used also had a purse.

The pattern suggests using a snap to close it. A magnetic snap would work well, but I thought a regular snap would be too fussy for small fingers. I used Velcro instead.

I think it is a pretty cute little girl purse. The darts at the bottom give it a good shape and the handle is a good length.

Okay, if you're still with me after all that, here's the finished product:


  1. She's too sweet in her Christmas outfit!

  2. Woweee; so cute! I wasn't sure about that stripey fabric, but in this arrangement it's really nice!

  3. It was well worth the time and the fabric worked out perfect. The dress is absolutely adorable. She looks beautiful. A perfect dress up outfit and the purse is a wonderful accessory. You did an outstanding job :)

  4. As the younger of two girls in my family, I know I had lots of hand-me-downs while growing up. I didn't know any different - so there's no long-term damage for you to fret over! Love, love, love the dress and your daughter looks beautiful in it! And I'm sure your younger daughter will look beautiful in it too - in a few years!

  5. I love the purse! So pretty - what a wonderful thing... Have a merry Christmas!

  6. What a special outfit. The purse is really cute.
    Have a blessed Christmas with your family.

  7. Beautiful dress and dd! You did a fantastic job, as always! Merry Christmas!

  8. Beautiful dress! Your daughter looks lovely and very happy in her Christmas dress.


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