At some point in junior high or high school, I became really interested in learning how to sew with my mom’s sewing machine. My mom took the time to walk me through the basics of how to use it, but she didn’t have much time to spare beyond that, so she set me loose to learn on my own. When I asked her for a place to start, she told me, “I learned to sew by making Barbie clothes. Why don’t you experiment by making some doll clothes?” So, armed with a bag of fancy scrap fabrics and a couple of glamorous 80’s Barbies, I set to work.
Most of the clothes I made at first were glorified tubes. Who am I kidding? Just about all of the clothes I made were tubes! But after awhile I got bored, so I started to jazz my tubes up with some interesting details. Let’s take a look at some of the fancier outfits:
This was my first foray into applique (though at the time I didn’t know that’s what it was called). I cut a rectangle of yellow taffeta along with a bunch of random geographic shapes. Then I meticulously turned the edges of shapes under using my fingers (No iron! Yikes!) and machine sewed them onto the rectangle. I finished the skirt off by sewing it into a tube and then made a little boat neck top to go along with it.
This next outfit seems to be the project I used to teach myself about ruffles and pleats. the skirt is a simple tube (see? I told you!) with a wide ruffle added to the bottom. I’m pretty sure I had a skirt like this at the time. The top is a boxy v-neck with a quarter inch pleat all along the bottom. I finger-pleated this baby, too! No iron! Look at me with my crazy self.
This sequined mini skirt is a very special tube. Why is it so special? Because I hand-sewed every freaking one of those sequins on that skirt, that’s why! It took me forever. I worked on it for a few minutes every night after I finished my homework and I did a fabulous job, if I do say so myself. Granted, it hasn’t been handled very much in the mean time, but 25+ years later not a single sequin has fallen off. That, my friends, is quality craftsmanship! It is also the reason why I’ve never sewn a sequin on any garment since then.
And finally, I want to show you how I loosened garments that were too tight to fit over Barbie’s excessively wide hips. (Kidding!) Instead of measuring Barbie and the fabric as I was cutting dresses out, I always just eyeballed everything. So sometimes after I finished a dress it didn’t quite fit and I couldn’t get it on the doll. Usually I didn’t leave enough seam allowance to let anything out, so instead of discarding the dress, I just attacked it with a seam ripper. This gold lame number — so very pretty and reminiscent of Solo in the Spotlight from the front — needed it’s seam ripped in an unfortunate place.
Poor Barbie! How embarrassing!
How did you learn to sew? Did you make clothes for your dolls? Did you ever inadvertently make them look like sex workers like I did?