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Colonial Formal Dress for 18-inch dolls
The dress is designed to fit 18-inch dolls like American Girl, Our Generation and other 18-inch dolls with a similar body. For embellishment, we used embroidery designs from the Blue Ornament Set.
All designs are for the small hoop (4" x 4").
Photo of a 18-inch doll modelling the formal colonial dress decorated with the machine embroidery

You will need :
  • embroidery threads, either polyester or rayon, in your choice of colors,
  • about 1/2 yard of solid colored fabric (cotton is preferred), in your choice of color,
  • a fat quarter of white fabric (cotton preferred),
  • 1/4 yard of white cotton fabric for the underskirt,
  • small amount of light-weight cotton fabric for the lining,
  • light-weight cut-away embroidery stabilizer,
  • 18 inch of lace for the sleeves and about 1 yard of lace for the underskirt,
  • a piece of one-wrap Velcro tape or 3-4 snaps,
  • 10 1/2" piece of 1/2" wide elastic for the underskirt,
  • chalk pencil or marker,
  • quilter's ruler and rotary cutter,
  • scissors,
  • iron,
  • sewing threads of matching colors,
  • needle for hand stitching,
  • printer.
Embroidery
Graph the solid colored fabric into 4 rectangles measuring 11" H x 13" L each. Do not cut the fabric yet because some adjustment might be needed after the embroidery.
Choose a design from the Blue Ornament Set which you'd like to see on the hem, upload it into the machine.

Stabilize the fabric with light-weight cut-away stabilizer and embroider the ornaments in a line about 2 1/2" from the edge of each drawn rectangle.

Embroider all 4 rectangles.

Trim them to 10 1/2" high and 12 1/2" wide.
Photo of the rayal blue rectangle with stitch-outs of the offered design

On a piece of white fabric, draw a rectangle 11" high and about 9" wide.
Repeat 2 motifs on the hem, 2 1/2" from the edge, embroider any other motifs in the center.
Trim to 10 1/2" high and 7 1/2" wide.
Photo of the skirt inset with embroidery

For the stomacher, embroider the design we show below.
Photo of a piece of fabric with embroidery.
Dress

Download the template file for the stomacher, bodice and sleeve. To open and print the template, which is a PDF file, you will need Adobe Reader or a similar program. Adobe Reader is free to download and install.

Template Download (PDF file)

Print out the templates and cut them out.
Note: Seam allowance of 1/4" is included with the templates.
Stomacher
Position the stomacher template over the embroidery. Trace and cut out.
Photo with a piece of fabric and the template of the stomacher over it

Using the same template, cut out the lining.
Photo of the cut-out pieces of the stomacher

Position both parts face to face. Stitch along the upper line shown in red.
Photo of the stomacher demontrating how to stitch the upper edge

Trim the seam allowance to 1/8".
Photo of a stomacher demonstrating how to trim the seam

Turn right side out. Press.
Photo of the finished stomacher

Bodice
Cut out the bodice parts out of the outer and lining fabrics.
Photo of the cut parts of the bodice

Lay the back and front pieces face to face and sew them together at the shoulders. Press the seam open.
Repeat for the lining.

Staystitch the armhole of the lining with seam allowance 1/4".
Photo demonstrating how to sew and press open the showlder seams

Face to face, position the stomacher over one of the front pieces.
Photo showing how to position the stimacher over the bodice for further sewing them together

Cover with the lining. Align at the shoulders and the edges. Pin.
Photo demonstrating how to position the lining, stomacher and bodice in order to attach them together

Stitch along the edges, shown in red.
Photo showing the where to make the seam along the edge

Notch the curve on the neckline.
Photo showing the notches along the neckline

Turn right side out. Press.
Photo showing the attached bodice, lining and stomacher from the right side

Repeat for the other side of the bodice.
Photo showing the attached bodice, lining and stomacher from the right side

Sleeves
Zig-zag or serge the side and lower the edges of the sleeves. Fold the lower edge 1/4" back and press.
Photo showing how to finish the raw edges of the sleeves

Cut 2 pieces of lace, 9" long each, baste the upper edge. Pull the thread and distribute the pleats evenly on the sleeve edge. Sew in place.
Photo showing the attached lace to the sleeves

Attaching Sleeves
Fold the lining so it's not in your way, pin the sleeve to the armhole of the dress. Sew. Notch the curves.
Press the seam towards the bodice.
Photo showing how to pin the sleeve to the bodice

Repeat for the other sleeve.
Photo showing thebodice with attached sleeves from the front

Photo showing thebodice with attached sleeves from the back

Finishing the Bodice
Fold the lining out of way, align the underarm seam, back and front edges, and sleeve edges. Pin. Stitch.
Repeat for the other side.
Photo showing how to make the seide seams on the sleeve and bodice

Press the seam open.
Photo showing the seam pressed open

Align and pin the front and back edges of the lining. Stitch. Press the seam open.
Photo showing how to stitch the side seam of the lining

Turn the lining in place. Notch the armhole curves to the staystitch line, but be careful not to cut through it.
Photo showing how to notch the armhole of the lining

With your fingers turn and press the seam allowance inside. Handstitch the lining in place along the armholes.
Photo showing the hand-stitched lining armholes to the sleeve armhole

Photo with the finished bodice from the front

Photo with the finished bodice from the back

Skirt
With right sides togehter, position the white part of the skirt on the right edge of one of the solid-colored skirt rectangles. Align the edges. Measure 2" from the right corner along the upper edge. Place a ruler to connect the lower right corner and the mark. Cut along the line.
Photo showing how to position the ruler to cut the fabric on the skirt parts

Stitch along the cut line.
Photo showing the parts of the skirt with cut corner stitched together

Repeat on the other side of the white part.
Photo showing how to attach another part of the skirt to the central inset

Zig-zag or serge the seams, press them towards the sides.
Photo showing the unfolded skirt with the white embroidered inset in the center

In the same way attach the remaining 2 rectangles to each side of the skirt. Zig-zag or serge the seams and press them towards the back. you'll get a long strip.

Zig-zag or serge the short ends of the strip. Fold them 1/2" back and press.
Fold the working piece in half, align the seams. Measure 1/4" along the folded line, place the ruler to connect the mark and the edge of the dark fabric. Cut along this line.
Photo showing how to cut the upper edge of the inset to make it V-shaped

Unfold.
Photo showing the upper edge of the white inset

Baste along the upper edge of the white part.
Photo showing the baste lines on the upper edge of the inset

Now baste along the upper edges of both dark parts of the skirt. Start at the back fold and stop at the white insert.
Photo showing the baste lines on the upper edge of the skirt

Assembly
With right sides together, align the point of the stomacher with the center of the white insert of the skirt. Align the seams of the white insert with the seams of the stomacher. Pull threads to make some pleats, distribute them evenly. Stitch in place.
Photo showing how to attach stomacher to the white inset of the skirt

Now pull threads on the skirt to make pleats, align the side seams of the skirt and the bodice. Align the folded ends of the skirt with the end of the bodice. Pin.
Photo showing how to pin the skirt to the bodice

Stitch together. Remove the baste threads. Finish the raw edge with zig-zag or serger. Press the seam up.
Photo showing the bodice and skirt stitches together

Put the dress on the doll and mark the position of the closure on the bodice. Sew on the one-wrap Velcro or snaps.
Photo showing the attached hoop and loop closure to the bodice

Unfold and align the back edges, sew them together from the hem up about 6". Press the seam open.
Fold and press the hem to the desired length. We made it 5/8". Finish the hem.
The dress is done. But it needs an under-skirt.
Out of white fabric, cut a strip 9" wide and about 32"-36" long. Zig-zag or serge all edges. Sew lace to the hem (one of the long edges.)

Fold the upper long edge 1" back and press. Unfold.
Align the short edges and stitch them together. Press the seam open. Fold the upper edge back along the pressed line. Topstitch it in place to make a casing for the elastic. Leave 1" unstitched. Through this opening insert elastic, sew the ends together. Then topstitch the opening closed.
Put the dress on the doll, put the under-skirt on after the dress.
A close-up of the finished dress

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