Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What Do Little Girls Want?

As the Background Dress of Doom nears completion, I've started to set my sights on the next VoNBBS project: the Little Girl's Party Dress. Obviously, this project is the anomalous one in the book - it's the only one not intended for the reader to make for herself. But that's not the thing that I find challenging about this project. Here's the big hurdle I anticipate: I find myself somewhat confounded on how to go about choosing a fabric and trims for this project. It's quite a different beast from deciding how to style these projects for myself, you see. And so I turn to you, dear readers.

Okay, here's the pattern. The VoNBBS version is the Peter Pan collar variation, not the unfortunately named Bertha collar version.

As for fabric recommendations, VoNBBS suggests a starched dotted swiss for a party dress, or alternately gingham for a school dress or silk taffeta for Sunday School.

Now, the size I have is supposedly for an 8-year-old (or a 26" chest). I don't know a lot about what the kids are wearing these days, but am I right in thinking it's not starched, puffed-sleeve party dresses? Especially for 8-year-olds, right?

Given this conundrum, my interest was especially piqued during Project Runway's "A Little Bit of Fashion" episode this latest season, in which the designers created looks for some adorable little ladies, and then corresponding designs for their regular models. Seth Aaron was the winner, with the punk-inspired look above. A dad himself, Seth Aaron seemed especially in touch with what little girls wanted - fun, comfy clothes with just a little bit of an edge. In other words, NOT this look from Emilio who went with a more traditional silhouette, which this poor little cutie is just swimming in. According to the judges, this was just all kinds of wrong.

I think my 8-year-old self probably would have been psyched by the princess-y nature of this dress, fit issues aside. But what do I know of the modern little girl? Times have, in all likelihood, changed.

So what do little girls really want? The only thing that seems fairly clear to me is that little girls want PURSES. They can't get enough of them. When Seth Aaron's little model was asked what she liked most about her outfit, she replied firmly: "the purse." Likewise, I had a bit of a bag obsession as a youngster that my father loves to remind me about: apparently I had a habit of walking around proudly with my handbag, asking everyone who'd listen, "Wanna see what's in my purse?" So purses seem quite enduring for the little girl set. (I don't care to know what Freud would make of all this.)

But back to the VoNBBS dress. So what do you all think? Is this pattern hopelessly outdated for an 8-year-old? Is the idea of "retro" lost on an 8-year-old? Should I try to give it a bit more of a modern edge with fabric choices - and if so, what? Or should I go traditional and make this a frilly, frothy cupcake of a dress?

As for what to do with said dress? I'll admit I have a soft spot for this project for one personal little reason: I want to have a baby (singular intended) in the near(ish) future, and just between the 1,064 of us, I'd be especially psyched if it were a girl. Name's picked out and everything. (And yes, I know I'm 31 and I need to get cracking. Shut up, biological clock. I have things I need to sew!) So of course part of me is tempted to squirrel this dress away for the hoped-for wee lass in the future. But some of you lovely commenters gave me the idea to auction it off for charity, which I think would be a wonderful thing if there are actually people out there who will bid on this. So please let me know if you think there will be interest in that sort of thing and I'll start looking for an appropriate children's charity to donate to. Thanks, lovely readers!

93 comments:

  1. Wow. I definitely had dresses like that when I was little and I loved them!(I'm your age). There was a green gingham(?) one in particular that was my Christmas dress and it was awesome. It had a smocked front, can you please do a smocked front? Please please please? It's so pretty! *sigh*. I think auctioning it for charity would be a great idea, no suggestions though...

    http://www.smockeddreams.com/rompers/images/Daddys_Girl_Smocking.jpg

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  2. This might break your heart, but I would advise cotton jersey. Every little kid I know gets especially hung up on whether an outfit feels soft on the inside. I think because they don't have the tolerances that adults have.

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  3. Having two daughters, 9 and 10, the puffed sleeve, smocked dresses just left the station with a tearful good bye from their Mom! At 8 years old I was still able to get them in a dress like this one for special occasions. It all depends on personality of the child. Don't be intimidated by the sizing--a 26 inch chest for a girl could fit a 5 year old fine esp. with a tie in back. I always bought them bigger and they always got at least 2 years out of them. It is the length that really matters and sets the tone for a little girl (shorter younger and knee/calf length for older).

    I love pink gingham for the dress! Simple is best in my book! Also, remember a younger girl would wear this everyday while roller skating, and love it. An older gal (above 6) will only wear it for dressy events when told. Just my two cents from experience!

    Good luck.

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  4. Hm. My little girl is four. Her favorite clothing has to be: soft to touch (on the outside), soft to wear (fabric and no binding/restrictions), and girly and fun in color and styling. That means hot pink over blush pink, the more print patterns and appliqué the merrier, etc. She has no sense of fashion yet, that might be different with an 8-year-old. I wouldn't really advise sewing and stashing away for a future child. I found that children suit very different clothing styles, regarding their looks as well as personalities. I adore a traditional style for children's clothes in earthy, neutral colors and classic fabrics. I haven't put this on my children once. DS looks and feels good in bright, summery colors and modern styles. DD would look great in a brown linen shift, but I'd have to blindfold her to get her in it (see above)!

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  5. I would go with a really bright popping colour like jade green or bright blue and then black and white accents so it's a bit more edgy. It's actually fairly popular in the UK for kids to dress rockabilly. Avoid pastels like the plague or it will look outdated!

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  6. I don't know anything about styling for little girls, but if you consider giving it away for charity would there be an online facility for a raffle rather than an auction? You might raise more money for the charity that way.

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  7. My daughter loves anything that twirls (she's almost 7). If you leave off the puffy sleeves and give it some pockets on the skirt, it might even look a bit modern.

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  8. I think this is the first time that I am commenting on one of your posts. I have been reading your blog for a while now and love it.
    Being the mother a four year old and seven year old girl, I can say pretty certainly that both my girls would love to have a twirly little dress like that. My 7 year old is starting to like black clothes, but still wants to be girly. I recently purchased old Burda Moden magazines from ebay here in Germany and my girls both love the little dresses in them. My older daughter requested a dress with a very similar silhouette to the vogue pattern you have and picked out the fabric, which is white with little green and blue flowers. And yes, they both love purses.
    I think a dress like this is the perfect birthday party dress, and probably always will be. The clothes that are currently available for little girls aren't usually what I want my girls wearing, so I sew most of their clothing myself and receive many compliments from people that tell me how cute they look. I have also been told on many occasions that the age appropriate clothes are a nice change from what a lot of kids are wearing now.
    Oh, and having kids is the greatest- you are going to love it!

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  9. I have two girls, now aged 9 and 11. While my eldest would not have wanted to be seen dead in dress like this, my 9 year old would still wear it as long as it is NOT pink.

    Also, I would make the dress longer.

    So, it really does depend a lot on the child. But anything white with embroidery seems to be liked by most girls of this age group.

    Adding a purse is a great idea, you may also think of adding a bow for the hair or some other accessory.

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  10. I have two daughters, six and three. I often get it wrong with them. But they both love pink, and both love twirly skirts and flounces. My six year old would probably be thrilled with a cupcake of a dress. For her more is more! And, it goes without saying almost that more is more for my three year old.

    On an aside, my younger sister Ingrid has a blog of children's fashion spotted in Central Park. Maybe this will help you figure out what the "cool kids" are wearing. http://shortcakechronicles.com/

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  11. Well my daughter is only 2 so I can't give a lot of advice here but for fabric I would suggest you go to an Heirloom sewing store either online or in your area. I like to use batiste and sometimes babycord or broadcloth for most of my smocking projects. Though I did a similar dress last year out of nice quilters cotton that you can see at the top of my blog if you want. We haven't had too much trouble with seams as long as I use good soft fabric.

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  12. When my dd was about 4 or 5 I wandered into a childrens store on Madison or Lexington and bought her, on 50% off, two French cotton dresses very much in the style of your dress, the one that was smocked was her absolutely favorite dress. I have pictures of her in it and she will still remark on how much she loved that dress. She's 24. It had a sash that tied in back. These dresses are classic little girl dresses and while by 8 they may want hip adult type clothing, they still love this sort of thing, When she was older she had a matching dress to her American Girl doll and wore it until she outgrew it.

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  13. I think you can leave the style alone, it's so classic that it should be fine. But update it with a really whimsical modern fabric. There are so many prints that little girls like..for instance I saw a cute "Cheetah Girls" print in pink and black. I think that Barbie even has a few really cute prints. I swear to god I saw "my little pony fabric!" -Backseat Betty

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  14. *ahem* Well, just between you, me, and the other commenters: I've been buying and squirreling away little girls vintage patterns lately for that hoped for Future Daughter. ;) (Only knowing the ironic turns my life tends to take, I'll end up with all boys! Still fun, but no chance for girly clothes... haha!)

    Not having had any little ones of my own yet, one thing I have observed among today's little girls is that they are all very different, and most parents are willing to let them make a certain amount of choices about their own styles. One of my good friends has two little girls (about 18 months apart). The oldest is very much the girly-girl of the bunch; I helped make her a twirly Wendy costume last year for Halloween, and she loved how girly it was! The younger girl is very much a tomboy. ;) My best advice would be to make it a girly little dress (since after all, there will always be girls who like frilly things!), but put your own spin on it. Inject a little bit of the Gertie aesthetic!

    ♥ Casey
    blog | elegantmusings.com

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  15. As a elementary school teacher I see the kids wear every kind of style. We have our fashionistas that wear versions of their mom's Anthropologie clothes to sporty wear and punk clothes. I think it really depends on the child. I still see little girls in the frilly cupcake style dresses, and whether they like wearing it or not, they do look adorable. You might look at the children's department of a Nordstroms and get inspired by their fabric and trim choices, they always have some gorgeous clothes for little girls.

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  16. The most important thing would be that the fabric is washable, doesn't wrinkle easily and doesn't stain easily. Aside from that, little girls DO like poofy party dresses...especially if the skirt twirls REALLY well. They generally aren't that picky...it is their parents who are.

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  17. Hee, I have 20 years on you and Mz. Whitney, and I wore dresses like that as a girl. No daughters, so I can't give you advice in that dept. And I'll recuse myself from giving advice on the "make it and set it aside" issue, too--I have a box full of pink baby sweaters I knitted back in my single days (and I had a girl's name all picked out ... DS says he'll use it for one of his daughters, how sweet. Although I hope he doesn't wait as long as I did to get married, or I'll be too old and feeble to sew for my granddaughter! lol). I did sew a lot of onesies and knit pants and shirts for my DS when he was a baby, then Hallowe'en costumes, now fleece tops and hoodies.

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  18. I'm not terribly fond of children, but I'm even less fond of children's clothing that grossly enforces gender stereo types.

    So, *personally* I would avoid anything for a girl that smacks of princess like the plague. (I know I know, it's what they want, but who's the adult in the relationship after all?) Likewise, I never understood why children's clothing isn't more of a scaled down version of adult clothing. Must the only choice be cutesy or fun? Can't they have sophistication?

    That said, what about doing something in a nice soft loose weave organic cotton? Somethign rumply and casual to juxtapose against the fancy-ness of the dress. Maybe on a celadon green or a taupe? Or a blinding white edged in navy blue?

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  19. I've made a couple of dresses for my niece, who just turned 8. She loves classic "girly" styles like this one, but in very colorful (NOT pink!!) fabrics. I've had a lot of luck using funky printed cottons with big, graphic designs (incorporating two fabrics in contrasting colors can look really cool) and even made one in African wax cloth.
    She's been really happy with these dresses and I personally love the way the vintage lines mix with the unexpected fabrics.

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  20. I had a dress with a smocked front too! In blue gingham. I'm sure if it was cotton it wouldn't be too itchy and the child could always wear a t-shirt or something underneath if they had to. I think a little girly dress like this is a must in any little girl's wardrobe.. despite having no desire to have kids whatsoever I adore the sewing patterns for children from the 50s and so on as they were so clearly for kids rather than the "grow up too fast/mini-adult" stuff from today.. I have a whole stash in my cupboard!

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  21. Disclaimer: I do not have kids and never will, and when I bought clothes for my niece they were usually functional things that she could play in, not dresses.

    I distinctly remember being 8 years old in 1984 and wanting nothing more than to dress like Boy George. I even had a Boy George T shirt that I loved (and took a lot of heat for, wearing proudly into second grade). Shortly thereafter we got cable and I discovered MTV and Madonnna's Lucky Start video, and much to my mother's horror (and my 17 year old sister's delight) I wanted to dress like the Material Girl. I remember watching the movie Desperately Seeking Susan and pining for a pair of tight black jeans and a funky leather jacket. I also remember my mom finding a dress that looked a lot similar to your Vogue pattern, in a flowy layered light blue chiffon with flowers embroidered on it, and buying it for me (at age 9) and several arguments ensued when she wanted me to wear it for special occasions. I think I wore it once, it hung in my closet for years and I always felt guilty for not liking it, because I knew it cost a lot of money that she did not have. She wouldn't let me leave the house dressed like Madonna (a good thing, in hindsight), but I think we came to a compromise where I got to wear black corduroys and leopard print sweatshirts and all was well with the world.

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  22. If you are going to make it and take the time to make it look great, make it classic, in the right style. Go for heirloom for a fancier look or classic dressy. I know some of the comments say it's out, but classic is timeless, especially for dressy events. An 8 year old is still in the little girl category, that's about the cut-off. If you want an everyday look, gingham or something of that nature. I would auction it, too, considering your following, maybe for a children's shelter, Project Linus, something of that nature. One word of advice, vintage patterns are short in skirt. Measure and compare length to a modern day pattern length. I usually add 2-3" for my daughter and she is not overly tall, but I like calf-length.

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  24. I have two girls 10 and 8, so this is a topic close to my heart. I made quite a few dresses for them when they were little, then discovered sewing for myself and since then they've barely had a look-in! My 10year old has veered off into skinny jeans, T-shirt and Converse territory in any case, so if I do sew for them, it's mainly for the youngest who still loves dresses (and purses!).

    Funnily enough despite her new fondness for jeans, my eldest has really enjoyed wearing a vintage 50s dress my grandmother made for my mother when she was about the same age and which hadn't been worn since then. It's a green/blue/red/white gingham which looks like the green dress on your pattern, with the addition of a smocked front. My daughter has now worn it for two summers running, and will only reluctantly pass it on to her younger sister if it has become too small/ short. I've never been a big one for smocks, yet somehow that dress really works - largely because of the lovely gingham fabric. The skirt isn't too pouffey and the hem is much longer (worn below the knee).

    So while I think it's absolutely true that a dress like that is timeless, I would lengthen the hem (the opposite of what you do with all your vintage patterns!) and wouldn't necessarily go for anything too girlie if you're not making it with someone specific in mind. A bright summery gingham does however seem perfect and right up your street!

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  25. i loved dresses like this, when i was a little girl, and they had to be pink ^^. actually my mom was quite fond of them too, till today she is crazy about how easy they were to wash, and how they always were kind of "presentable".

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  26. I'm currently making a party dress for my 8-year-old. I think the only thing about that dress that isn't current is the length and the suggestion of starched fabrics. (I don't think today's mothers own starch and it also seems to be the mothers who recoil at the thought of short dresses.) At least a little below the knee and probably mid-calf is more formal today. Otherwise girls haven't changed, they love special dresses, they don't want to skimp on frills and puffed sleeves are still around and loved. Eight might be the cusp of wanting more mature styles but they usually will still wear younger styles, too. If you want to update, how about a modern fabric, like something metallic coated, they are elegant but probably wouldn't have been available to a little girl of the 50's. This is the pattern I'm using

    http://www.ottobredesign.com/lehdet_js/2010_3/sivut/7.html

    and I think it is intended to have a retro feel but that also may mean more to the mother than the girl.

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  27. I was thinking a retro mod sort of fabric--something in a sort of Amy Butler style, with birds. But definitely machine-washable.

    On the other hand, on Easter, I saw a little girl, maybe 6, outside a nearby church, and she was wearing an even pinker, puffier, frillier dress than Emilio's version, with a tiara, and you could tell she LOVED it.

    I like the idea of auctioning, but if you didn't want to do that, any shelter for the homeless would certainly love it, or perhaps Dress for Success would be able to make a suggestion.

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  28. Well, I have a 8 years old sister and she wouldn't wear this dress in a million years, but my other sister (12yo) totally would - so I think it's a matter of taste.
    Second -I think the problem with Emilio's dress is the fit (or lack thereof) and the fact that it was such a literal interpretation of the little girl's classic dress.
    Third - that said, I think you're safe with this pattern. I would go for a solid fabric (could be bright, but definitely not pink! I personally would go either in the red or the navy direction) and add some striking piping/trim, or maybe soutach braid? that way you'll receive a more striking, classy look, that doesn't go out of fashion.
    For inspiration, check out Ottobre Magazine (http://www.ottobredesign.com/) . I always get great ideas for kids from them.
    I wish you luck on the girl thing- I was just like that and I got a boy (the cutest on earth, might I add.)

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  29. Oh, this brings back memories...my mother put me in dresses like that pink one when I was small and I L-O-V-E-D them. Until I went through tomboy phase. Let's just say I wasn't designed to be a tomboy...

    In any case, I think it's entirely possible to make a fun dress that isn't too sweety-sweet. Maybe using an orange or navy gingham with some snazzy buttons. That would be retro without being nauseating...maybe? Maybe.

    Also, purses were totally the best thing ever when my sister and I were little. I used to smuggle my Snow White chapstick, a book, and a box of tic-tacs "borrowed" from my mom in my awesome little purses.

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  30. Thought I'd toss in my two cents.

    1)Don't worry about it not being used. Little girls will always need dresses for things like church. Heck, I can buy modern patterns for dresses that look very similar! And I've made some for my niece!

    2) Lengthen it. What you do is when you're browsing in the local fabric store, check out the 'child' patterns in size 8. They should give you a finished length. Most dress patterns these days are knee length, and it should give you the number of inches you need to add to the skirt.

    3) It will not turn out as poofy as it look on the pattern envelope. Whoever ends up wearing it will not have the 50s undergarments to make the skirt look so poofy, so it will look more modern than it does on the pattern envelope.

    It's a very classic style, Gertie. I've made Evie four or five like it. Granted, she's only two, but it's a style she won't grow out of for years. I've done them in solid colors, quilters' cotton, and gingham. Gingham is probably the least expensive, though. And with what you're used to paying for fabric, if you go the quilters' cotton route, it should be fairly inexpensive.

    I should warn you about swiss batiste, though--for a simple cotton, it's horrifically expensive at $24+ a yard. It seems to me that if you go to anyplace where it's labeled for a purpose, and the price jumps exponentially. I mean, an expensive quilters' cotton runs around $9 a yard, plain colors go for around $6. Most of what I buy is usually around $3. In my local Joanns, gingham lives in the homespun fabrics section, and goes for a bit over $2 a yard.

    Aside from the length, the only change I might make to is would be to add self-made piping around the collar, sleeves, and waist for a more high-end look.

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  31. I agree with most of the suggestions in the comments before me - an inch or two longer, something not pastel would update the look just enough that you could probably keep most if not all of the details on the pattern. Maybe even use a "grown up" pattern like navy and white polka dots to make the dress slightly less dated. Another thought that just came to me would be to make the bodice out of something like a white swiss dot and to make the skirt out of a darker fabric. Toss in a sash and voila, now it looks like she's wearing a skirt and shirt.
    Auctioning it off for charity or entering it into a raffle is a great way to make some money for a given charity or group.
    My mother used to make me doll clothes and would often enter the leftovers into my elementary school raffle. Let me tell you, they sold like hotcakes. I can imagine that anywhere you took your dress, there would be a hoard of mothers fighting over it.

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  32. The two favourites my daughter had were a dress made from knit and a dress made from lace with the scallops cut off and resewn around the hem and the lining layer underneath. She wore both of those over and over but the knit one especially. My advice would be JUST HAVE FUN. It's a blank canvas to experiment with. - Myrna

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  33. Little girls LOVE feminine details, and they love lace. They do NOT love subtle colors. Is it too extreme, too cute, too too TOO? Your little girl will love it. Or at least mine would (but she's in a size 10). Also, they're quite fond of pink, purple, and sparklies. She's not-quite-six, for reference.

    Mine also loves to dress up up up... not for every day, but for church and some times just because.

    A 26" chest is probably going to fit a non-giant 5yo now.

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  34. I collect vintage patterns, and sewed many a vintage style dress for my daughter as she grew up. She adored them...as they were never exclusively for "dress up" and I didn't care if they got dirty. Edgy modern fabrics, funky buttons and cool detailing make the difference. In cotton or other soft fabrics, they are comfy to wear, ventilated in the summer and easy to layer in colder weather. Every time I made her a dress, I thought "Well, this might be the last time" but, at 21, she still wears vintage, and the vintage style clothes I make for her, and is studying to be a designer, herself. She never wore a pair of jeans, by her own choice, until she got to college. For us, it was a good way to model being nonconformist--and fashionable--as an empowering way to live.

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  35. Love your blog Gertie! I have an 8 year old granddaughter who loves dresses which allows me to indulge my fantasies of ruffles and lace! She does not wear these to school but on special occasions and on her own fashion shows for the family. I currently sew a size 6 pattern (big4) for her and lengthen the bodice and skirt. She also enjoys parading around in her mother's saved dresses most of which were Gunne Sax inspired from the early 80's. I'm so glad I saved them! I say make the retro pattern in a fabric that makes you happy.

    Karen in Houston

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  36. My sweet little 6-year-old, Psalm, loves anything I make for her, but she has to style it in HER OWN WAY! I think that one dress can suit many different types of girls' styles. For instance, the dress that you are planning to embark on would, in our home, ultimately be paired with pink cowgirl boots or flip flops and a mane of free flowing hair. The main thing for her is the color and pattern of the fabric, comfort and how well it twirls. My Niece on the other hand, would pair it with a beret, a smart little bobbed hairdo, a scarf and crazy tights, and you wouldn't be able to convince her otherwise! I do think that no matter how you dress a girl, she should be allowed to pick her own shoes! When I sew for my daughter, I usually go for quilting fabrics because they are easy to work with, they get softer and softer the more you launder them and there are so many wonderful patterns and colors that are scaled down to little girl size. When I was a little girl, my Nana sewed for me and I still have dreams that I am wearing those wonderful dresses. I can still see and feel the chick-yellow dotted taffeta party dress and the so-sweet smocked pastel plaid sundress that she made for me.

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  37. Cute dress, but not for an 8 yo. That ship has sailed by that age. Toddler yes, they'll wear anything.

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  38. Definitely second the twirling, and the pockets (pockets are like a built-in purse, right?)
    Even at 23, my favourite dresses have good twirling and pockets!

    I had a dress similar to the Vogue pattern when I was about 8. My Nana made it for me, and it was my favourite in the world. But, it had a lower waist (closer to hip) and a longer skirt (cut on the bias, I think, for maximum twirling!). The biggest difference was that it did NOT have puffy sleeves; the sleeves were maybe a gathered cap sleeve.

    And, it was a soft cotton jersey.. as another commenter mentioned, and I can verify, kids are usually picky about how clothes feel. But don't despair, you can find nice comfy fabrics... my fave childhood dress that I was describing above was seafoam with a print of hippopotamus ballerinas!

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  39. Um no. Not for an 8 year old. That's about the stage my daughter decided she wanted to be a goth.

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  40. My daughter is five and would have went for the first photo of the black and white ensemble. The pale pastel loose fitting dress is lovely but was created more for adults than kids. My daughter also adores purses.

    I don't think the peter pan with puffed sleeves is "un-funkable". A lot of women's fashions are offering a puff sleeve with a long sleeve knit underneath as a contrast, or as part of a girlie jacket. Little girls are taking this stuff in, and the idea of adding a tee, could mean putting some kind of embellishment on the t-shirt that complements the entire look. A tee would make the stiff parts of the dress comfortable, and you could even add a funky knit petticoat to match.

    The bodice of the dress is shown in a different material and on a little girl would be so straight that you might do some wonderful ornamental work and deliberately take those classic details and edge them up with color. For example, instead of white embroidery on white linen, it could be hot pink on black and white gingham.

    You get what I am saying. It is going to be a fine line between classic and funk, but what fun! I can't wait to see your dress. (Just remember-you have to make a purse too! :)

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  41. I sew for my two girls. IMO you can't put anyone over 6-7 into a puffed-sleeve party dress like that. (Also, you have to lengthen the hem--that 50's style short hem with dirndl skirt does not work any more.)

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  42. Don't underestimate the fashion sense of little girls! I think a little vintage can go a long way. Little girls that age (and older!) are very romantic. Tafetta sounds so fun when it is swirled - which any dress should do! Do you have any little models you could use for fittings? I would be wary of making the collar and sleeves too constricting, but I think you can go bold with the fabric. As long as it's not itchy or tight you should be good.

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  43. I don't have daughters (yet, love to some day), but I'll add my thoughts based on what I liked at that age. I liked my floral print party dress and my stiff taffeta party dress but it was annoying only being able to wear them once or twice a year (I totally loved the smocking and sashes, I agree with commenters who said that). But the clothes I remember really loving were the ones I could wear all the time, like a red brushed cotton skirt, and aflower-printed needlecord skirt.

    If I were going to make a dress for a child like me to really love and wear, I would make this pattern in a fine soft needlecord, ideally in a warmer colourway like navy or brown or purple or red, with a print of some kind. I would leave off the puff sleeves and make it as a pinafore (jumper) that a girl could wear over a turtleneck sweater and tights. That way she'd get lots of wear out of it going to school (which is in winter most of the time in my part of the world) and it could be feminine without being sugary.

    But I accept that that would be going pretty far from the spirit of the pattern. If you want to auction it for charity then you should make a traditional girly confection (perhaps take the edge off it by using a colour that isn't pink) because that's likely to raise the most money for a good cause - i.e. people will be likely to bid more on a beautiful, unique party dress for a special occasion.

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  44. That is the perfect classic style, and I made several like that for my daughter (who is now 22). They are especially cute with a smocked bodice (I know, not something you're into NOW... but if you have a little girl...). Anyway, she stopped wearing that style at about age 7 though. Still, a size 8 will fit a smaller girl, especially with a sash.

    I would make it in an Amy Butler/Heather Bailey style cotton that's easy to care for, but kind of retro. No starch, no silk taffeta, no dotted swiss (unless it's for a 2 year old for Easter).

    Since you're really into books, you might want to check out The Busy Mother's Guide to Sewing Children's Clothes (you know, for when you have children) by Nancy Coburn. She has so many great construction tips as well as measuring and fitting with a little French heirloom machine technique thrown in.

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  45. LOTS of comments! I love traditional kids clothes, but also enjoy some modern elements, especially in fabric choices. I just don't like the kids' clothes that look like they belong on prostitutes! My 6 year old watched PR with me, and I was delighted that her favorite was Emilio's. I'd be tempted to do the dress in a very classic fabric. But I think a bigger challenge, with a migger payoff, would be to try something more modern. Jesse made a grey dress for his little girl in that same PR, he just made the yoke asymmetrical and added a red peter pan collar and vertical piping in the yoke. I loved that-- except for the asymmetrical yoke, and the judges agreed. Oh, and I would lengthen the dress. Unless you put on a big crinoline slip, the dress won't be poofy like that, and I think it would look so much better longer.

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  46. I like the way the pattern handles View A, however I would eliminate the band on the sleeves and have flutter sleeves (I know, it goes against the book, but...) Also there are so many great funky floral and graphic fabrics out there this could be made out of, just try Moda, Alexander Henry, or Anna Maria Horner's voile.

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  47. I'm looking forward to seeing your spin on it. You always seem to pick great fabrics, so I'm sure that when you get to the store (or the stash) you'll be inspired. The great thing about auctioning it would be that you could pick what you would want to make it with, and buyers can self select. If you had one child in mind, you might have to be more concerned about pleasing her, but since there will be lots of people who might be interested, you can make something that you find interesting to make, and be assured that others will find it interesting, too!

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  48. First things first, 31 is SO not time to worry about getting cracking! You have time :)

    I think that dress could work- With the right fabric (some of the funky cottons from Patty Young come to mind) and maybe skip the Peter Pan collar? And skip the poofy sleeves too... But then you're veering pretty far from what's in the VoNBBS, so I don't know if you want to do that?

    I think my 5yo daughter would wear it as is, but I am trying to think whether the little girl friends of my 8yo nephews would... Maybe to church if they go to a dressy church, or maybe to a wedding? I think all little girls like to feel fancy, so scratch what I said about cotton and do it up fancy, shiny prettiness might help an 8yo get over the "old fashioned" worries.

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  49. My daughter is only four so I couldn't tell you for sure what an 8yr old would like but I know that I had, and loved, dresses like that at 8 and 9 years old. But then again my mom was firm believer in little girls dressing like little girls. I know that my 4yr old would adore something like that and she has some slightly older friends who also would love it. Washable cotton is what I use for most of her stuff. It's breathable and comfortable. When it's not too structured for the pattern I use quilting cottons because they come in such great colors and patterns.

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  50. Eight is too old. By that age I was wearing flare legged jeans and trying to dress like the spice girls. The second graders I taught to crochet when I was in high school were creepily dressing like middle schoolers and wearing more make up than I was. I definitely think a younger girl would love those. I wore dresses like that up through kindergarten for special occasions or just to play dress up. My mom made them for me: http://theandipants.blogspot.com/2010/01/sewing-better-than-vintage.html

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  51. I haven't read all the posts.

    I would go ahead and make the dress. My little sister would wear it for sure. Granted, she's 6 1/2, not 8, but she's a pretty big kid and generally wears a size 7. I think some girls would wear that and some wouldn't.

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  52. The lovely miss in the pink froth looks just like my Neice. For her, everything was ONLY pink. If it was not pink it may as well be thrown out. Extra bonus if it had sequins. Anything country-ish was also out (so gingham or country picnic style flowers, even if they were pink). Now it seems pink is out and orange is in.
    So now I buy her books instead.

    (I would be tempted to keep it, even if it won't get worn for many a year)

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  53. also remember eight year old girls at that time were smaller then they are now
    (my grandparents still had the measurment marks of my mother and a bunch of other children from various generations on their kitchen cupboard, and it was always fun to see how much taller one was than the others,at about six i was as tall as my mother was at eight, and she was eight about ten years after your pattern was first issued),
    so the dress might fit a six year old even better, and as most other commenters before mentioned most six year old girls love twirling dresses

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  54. I have a four year old, so my advice might not be entirely relevant, but I'd say the first thing is that adding pockets is very important for little treasures. As to fabric, I think a soft voile (Anna Maria Horner has some sweet ones in her Little Folks line) would be pretty. My daughter is really into trims, like adding ric rac or piping to every seam. And she would advise you to go big or go home, as far as trims, color, and fabric. And she would second your intuition about purses. And last, about having the child -- do it! It's awesome, and you will have a blast sewing for your child (less fabric and quicker results, and practically no fit issues -- my daughter has the same waist, hip, and chest measurements, so cute!).

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  55. Here's a similarly styled dress I made for my eldest, who was 2 at the time.
    http://www.jakebixby.com/stella/year_3/28_months/stella_28_months_14.JPG

    At that time she was very insistent on wearing only the frothy pink business, so the skulls were my subtle protest. It's a quilting-weight cotton, fully lined in batiste so there were no bothersome seams and it was breathable enough to get sweaty in.

    Gertie, my advice to you is that children are individuals and far more opinionated than any of us can possibly imagine before we are parents. I would recommend making the dress and either selling it in an Etsy shop or donating/auctioning it for charity, because it's tough to predict what your little one will love.

    I also want to address what Binkydoll said:

    I'm not terribly fond of children, but I'm even less fond of children's clothing that grossly enforces gender stereo types.

    So, *personally* I would avoid anything for a girl that smacks of princess like the plague. (I know I know, it's what they want, but who's the adult in the relationship after all?) Likewise, I never understood why children's clothing isn't more of a scaled down version of adult clothing. Must the only choice be cutesy or fun? Can't they have sophistication?


    I'm more interested in fostering my daughters' individuality than imposing my will on them. I'm proud that they want to make their own decisions about how they present themselves to the world.

    And I think the problem with children's clothing today is that much of it is scaled-down versions of adult clothes, which is entirely inappropriate since they are not miniature adults but children. I can't tell you how my heart breaks when I see little girls dressed like sex workers.

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  56. I am no help with the "what girls want" question, but am wondering why the bertha collar is "unfortunately named"? The "bertha" goes back to at least the Victorian period, and shows up in design from time to time. Or do you just hate the name Bertha?

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  57. I have an 8 yrs old daughter, normally the clothes she wears are like teen style, BUT, in some special ocassions she likes tow ear dresses like the one in your vintage pattern; in fact last week she told me "Mom, I don't want to get dress like a teen the next days, can I wear only dresses?" so, she has been wearing dresses all these days and she feels confortable!
    She also likes to wear that style of dress because she "is disguised as a 50's girl" and she likes when both have a "50's disguise"

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  58. Love your blog!

    I would say, that this style of dress could either be a hit with a girly-twirly girl, or a no-go.

    I am the mother of a 5 year old, and she definitely loves soft, strechy and twirly things. In her opinion sleeves and collars are totally irrelevant, it's all in the twirl.
    If it has some tulle on it - even better!

    I think the Peter Pan collar and the puffed sleeves are a bit too much, leave out either or, and choose a stretchy fabric or cut it larger and add some smocking.

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  59. I think you're asking the wrong people. :) If I were you, I'd go right to the source...Do you have a little girl in mind for this dress? A neice, a friend's kid, etc.? If so, ask her. Size 8 would be for an 7-9 year old - certainly a kid old enough to know her own taste. Girls come in all types - tomboys, princesses, and everything in between. I can't wait to see your finished product!

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  60. I suggest you look at Kari Mecca's book "Sewing with Whimsy." It has adorable details that would be fun, regardless of the dress style.

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  61. I agree with the reader who said to ask the actual little girl who will be wearing it.

    You could also make it as a flower girl dress. Do you know anyone getting married in need of a flower girl dress?

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  62. It definitely depends on the girl. When I was 8, I would have loved that kind of princess dress. My daughter is 4 1/2 and she is in the throws of pink, princess, and twirly dresses.
    My boy, on the other hand, hates getting dressed up and loves to alternate wearing two different shirts.

    OT: By the way, if you ever want to sew up some vintage maternity patterns, email me! I have a huge collection of 1940s (love the convertible styles!!), with a few 1930s, and some 1950s and 1960s that I'd love to share with you.

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  63. You can't possibly second-guess what your own daughter will like at 8. She may love the dress or may refuse to wear anything other than shorts or trousers, or be somewhere imbetween. As well as lengthening the dress, as many other people have suggested, I would increase the width at the waist, although not as much as the pink one in the photo. The tight waist narrows the range of girls who could wear it and decreases its comfort. I wouldn't use white. It will look perfect for about five seconds and then it will get dirty somehow. A piece of fruit will get a stain down the front, sitting down will mark the back. Children are dirt magnets without meaning to be. And I think its terribly sad if a little girl alters her behaviour for fear of spoiling her clothes.

    Bel

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  64. i wrestled with similar issues recently sewing an alice in wonderland dress for my just-turned-7yo. i wanted to dabble in vintage patterns and i had blue fabric on hand which happened to be vintage dotted swiss so i went the whole hog and did full-on vintage with ric rac and everything. but my concession to wearability was to leave off the collar and lower the neckline for comfort, and i finished it as a sleeveless sundress/jumper with basted-on puff sleeves just for the party.

    my girl isn't a girly girl, but she totally lit up when she put on the dress! the crispness of the dotted swiss worked really well to hold the skirt out and give that real vintage shape, i added some tucks and that helped too. i could totally see a plain navy version, maybe with a few tucks here and there, with red trim/buttons looking quite sophisticated, but keeping the retro charm.

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  65. I'd like to point out, since sparkle donkey mentioned it, that when I said "be scaled down versions of adult's clothing" I was thinking more of sophisticated adult clothing, not trampy whore-wear.

    I'd no sooner have a (hypothetical) child of mine wear a midriff baring tank top with leggings than I would a poofed up Disney princess abomination.

    I was told what to wear when I was a child, and I still grew up with a oodles of individuality. I also grew up without the sense of self entitlement that is so rampant today, and which I believe is caused allowing children to run their parents lives. It really is OK to tell a child "No". Their self esteem and sense of worth and individuality won't permanently be damaged, I promise.

    But you know, those are just my thoughts...after all, it's only a dress, and hopefully, whomever does end up buying if it's put up for auction, will buy it for a little girl who will adore it.

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  66. Binkydoll said:
    I was told what to wear when I was a child, and I still grew up with a oodles of individuality. I also grew up without the sense of self entitlement that is so rampant today, and which I believe is caused allowing children to run their parents lives. It really is OK to tell a child "No". Their self esteem and sense of worth and individuality won't permanently be damaged, I promise.

    If you believe that clothing is of such little consequence to development, what was the point of your first post?

    There is a HUGE difference between letting a child wear what they want (so long as it's safe and appropriate for her/his age and the situation) and letting them run parents' lives. Believe me, I tell my daughters "no" plenty! But they're good kids and I don't see the harm in letting them wear pink or any other color. Does my eldest occasionally pretend she's a princess? Yes... but no more than she pretends to be a chef or a robot or a pirate or a monkey.

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  67. Why don't you do it like a dress that YOU would have liked as a girl or that you would like to see on a girl?

    Every girl has a different taste. But I'm sure there will be a few who would like it your way ;)

    I wouldn't worry to much about colour or fabric (unless it's itchy or scratchy), either.

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  68. A little 8-year-old I know would love this dress especially if it had a petticoat. The more twirl and pouf the better!

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  69. Little girls love frilly still, and puffy, the big thing is the feel of the frabric. Something is even slightly scratchy they will refuse to wear it. Making a matching little handbag would be cute too.

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  70. My little one is 6 and her favourite peice of clothing at the moment is a black and white gingham dress with a 3 meter wide skirt!! It twirls,the gingham is soft,she wears it with cute little pink shoes and she also wears her chucks with it.Black and white works,it can be girly and pretty, or it can be toughened up.

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  71. My 9 year-old daughter has a dress that has puffed sleeves. But it manages to not look too young by the fact that the top of the dress resembles a blouse and the skirt looks as if it's a separate skirt all together with a matching belt. I think it depends upon the fabric you use, staying away from a lovely classic like seersucker (which I would adore, but my daughter would roll her eyes at). Also, the fact that her dress had a belt and not a sash with a bow in the back also made her feel more grown up without looking older than a 9 year old should look. :-)

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  72. You are going to love my comment:

    Make it any way you please! Someone will love it. I am the mother of 3 girls, and I can say confidently that different girls like different things. There are a lot of little princesses out there (thank you, Disney) who would ADORE a frothy confection. They are still sold for holidays, and are perennially popular with grandmothers.

    My nearly-eight-year-old has a lot of "tomboy" going on. She insists on "getting fresh air", collects leaves and rocks, sneaks outside to look at the moon, builds with her erector set, and waxes rhapsodic about "Science!" but... she would prefer to do all of that in a play dress. They are often jersey, but she will wear wovens if they are pretty and comfortable. She usually wears leggings under them.

    So, really, you can't lose. Just be sure to finish the insides nicely and cover any scratchy bits. A 26" chest is now size 7 in Vogue patterns so I'm sure this dress will fit a younger child than you imagine.

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  73. The dress in the Project Runway photo suffers since it looks like a sack.... A well fitted dress would look gorgeous.

    And as a 39yr old, first time mother to be - dont stress about that biological clock! Although I would love to see what you would make for babies and children! (And... we are having a girl apparently!).

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  74. Is this pattern hopelessly outdated for an 8-year-old? Is the idea of "retro" lost on an 8-year-old? Should I try to give it a bit more of a modern edge with fabric choices - and if so, what? Or should I go traditional and make this a frilly, frothy cupcake of a dress?

    8 year olds are people, and their preferences vary, just like grownups. My advice is to find a girl to sew for and ask her help to design! (depending on the child, she may take an active role but probably you can do most of the "steering" on this one).

    I do this for my kids and they always like the end result (when they were smaller, they liked whatever I made them but now they're involved in every step of the way).

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  75. Hi Gertie,

    Just from observation, I would say girls under eight love to dress in bright, simple dresses that resemble fairy or princess gowns. I just visited a garden museum where there was a 'swarm' of little girls in this age range and ALL of them were in adorable dresses that had fun prints. Reminded me of Amy Butler prints so they had a modern flair to them for sure! Some girls also had peasant skirts, you know, the ones with three or four tiers. So sweet! I cannot wait to see what fabric you choose!

    Visit this site for inspiration!
    http://www.amybutlerdesign.com/products/fabrics_top.php?fabric=daisy-chain&flid=14

    Sincerely,
    Rebekah
    http://www.artandneedlework.blogspot.com

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  76. I work in foster care, so I'd recommend you donate the dress to your local agency. We are always needing clothing and other items for our kids, especially those cared for my relatives or family friends, who receive little to no financial assistance. It would likely be the nicest thing that child's ever worn.

    I'd make it as a church dress. I don't see a child wearing that to school or on the playground. :)

    What do kids want? They vary widely, but all would agree on something that doesn't itch. lol

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  77. I have 3 yr old twin girls and there's no way they will wear ruffles or puffy sleeves. Heck, i have a hard enough time getting them into dresses, period. They do love purses, though!! And 31 is not old; it's a great age to have a kid. And girls? They're way cool. :)

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  78. My daughter is nearly four. She would adore a dress that was pink/purple, sparkly, fairy princess ballerina mermaid (yes, all those together at once) and adorned with butterflies. We're living the cliche here.

    My tastes would be very different but we're learning to compromise.

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  79. I have observed that little girl styles tend to vary geographically. Little girls in the US South and Southeast still tend to wear very traditional dresses, even with puffed sleeves! At age 8 or so, they may begin preferring a cap sleeve or straight sleeve. As others have mentioned, this vintage size 8 may not necessarily correspond to an 8 year old girl.
    If you plan on keeping it, I would not use one of the trendy quilting cottons that have been mentioned. In my opinion, that would date it even more than the pattern possibly might.
    There are many wonderful lawns that would make a beautiful dress. The softer lawns would also not make the sleeves or skirt as puffy as the heavier quilting cotton fabrics. There are several pattern companies and publications still very popular in the heirloom sewing and smocking world with patterns very similar to this. I own a small heirloom sewing and smocking store, and see this type of dress still made and loved by both little girls and their mothers.

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  80. Double check the measurements against, for example, the sizing charts on Oliver&S or Ottobre. I think the age range you're making it for would affect fabric/print choices a fair amount.

    Make it a classic party dress and make it out of fine silk and blow some little girl who likes to play dress up princess with how much incredibly nicer it is than her nylon disney princess costume from walmart.

    Or make it modern and get some anna maria horner voiles.

    Or make it classic and modern at the same time and make it out of a small gingham check with accents in contrasting modern print.

    Or make it a classic, modern, and deliciously fancy party dress all at once and use a gingham check silk broadcloth (NYC can deliver, right?)

    But seriously, if you're not making it for some real particular girl, make it suit your own style -- you'll have the most fun making it that way. And as for the people who keep warning you to make sure it's comfy from the inside: lining and careful/professional finishing techniques. Done!

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  81. If my nieces are anything to go by, the shinier, frillier, sequinner, more-bits-stuck-on-it-er the better. Style seems to be less relevant than bling! But don't listen to me, listen to parents and kids!

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  82. I have to agree that the kiddies love the soft fabric, we have a range in target here in australia that is designed by The Veronica's (an aussie girl group with great girlie/punk style) maybe you could look that up for some inspiration, going by my step daughter the girly girly stuff ain't so popular anymore :-( I have a little boy but always find myself in the little girl section ooh-ing and ahh-ing, lol.

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  83. I was the little girl at 8 that wanted the 1950s retro dress...and got them.

    I don't think I wore "normal" clothes until I was about 12. Other then that I wore a lot of party dresses and as an 8 year old, I would have liked Emillio's better then SA's. (As an adult I just want SA's jacket).

    Kids are also bigger now, so the whole pastel, cuppycake nature of it will probably not be worn by a kid 8 years old, and given the nature of what you want to do with it you should do what you like.

    My son wears retro, which is where my experience for little kid sewing begins and ends. I make him clothes from the 30s-50s and by and large, he's got ideas of what he won't wear (knee pants, stuff that looks too girly) and things he will (Hawaiian prints, ascots, button up vests) and I tend to make mini-adult clothes for the boy in adult prints. Largely I let him choose his own fabrics, and he chooses things like kelly green brocade, tattoo prints and lots and lots of skulls. If I tried to do anything fancy he would have a screaming fit at me, and has.

    Since this is not for any kid in particular, just go with what you want to do. Some kid out there will like it.

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  84. I would go all out and make a retro-girly confection. Loads of girls like to dress up, or at least play dress up.

    Kids have different senses of style, just like adults. There's no one particular style of dress that will please all 8 year olds (or even their mothers). Just look at what's available at crewcuts vs. gymboree vs. department stores.

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  85. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  86. i loved old-fashioned clothing when i was 8, probably because i spent as much time as permitted reading...things like the "little house" series and the "betsy-tacy" books. i would have LOVED a little gingham or flowered ("pink-sprigged calico") dress with a "twirly" skirt and peter pan collar. but i've always been a bit of an anachronism. ;)

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  87. A lot of good points have been made above. Little girls and boys vary quite a bit in their fashion preferences, just as we do.
    This is my favorite source for little girls' fashion inspiration:
    http://katiedid.squarespace.com/
    So Many Amazing Outfits!
    I also like to browse the Oliver & S Flickr group for inspiring fabric combinations. Also, any Japanese pattern book for girls.
    I love the look of black gingham, which can range from cotton to silk, and looks modern while still being adorable.
    My cousin, who is four, totally loves pink and puffy and princess, but has been completely thrilled with the items I have made just for her- a purple velvet jacket and skirt, and a blue polka dot dress that ties in the back.

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  88. As the proud mommy of 2 girls (7yo & 4yo) I can tell you that they both LOVE dresses of any and every kind. And yes, purses too. And sparkly shoes.
    They've never complained about different fabrics being itchy, though I can see how that would be a good consideration. And I agree with other posters that bright colors would be preferable to pastels. Pastels are for babies and Easter dresses only.
    They would likely wear any dress anytime, but I normally dress them in modern clothes (with lower hemlines- I despise the mini-hoochie fashions) for everyday wear. But as far as they're concerned, the fancier, the better. I've never heard them complain that something was too pretty. ;)

    Now I can't help but respond to the few comments expressing displeasure with frilly dresses and gender stereotypes. I have never forced my daughters to wear frilly dresses, and I would never force them NOT to. An anti-stereotype is still a stereotype. We discuss "princess" behavior and why it's undesirable. They play sports better than their male cousins. I go out of my way to show them real, strong female role models. And I encourage them to find their own happiness. They shouldn't feel pressured by any man OR woman to fit an ideal. Gender roles are far more complex than they were when we were girls. I think it's bad enough that boys are so strongly discouraged from expressing themselves in "girly" ways, I'm not about to do that to girls too.
    ahem. Thank you. *steps off the soapbox*

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  89. This spring, I made my four-year-old daughter an Easter dress from a vintage Simplicity pattern. She was very clear she wanted a green dress, so I jumped in with a green gingham plisse with white trim. The dress turned out fun, feminine, and modern without being at all fussy. The bolero jacket that went with it had buttons up the back and a Peter Pan collar, so it still had a very vintage vibe, without looking too much like a costume.

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  90. I realize this is late and all but...have you ever checked out Oliver and S? That lady (Liesl Gibson) is amazing at creating childrens' patterns and her instructions are like a sewing class in themselves. Her fabric choices are always right on and I don't think she picks it unless her daughter would wear it. My girl is two so I can wrassle her into anything. But I do think that little girls (12 and under) should stay little girls for as long as they can, and should therefore DRESS like little girls have almost always dressed. I am currently loving brightly colored taffeta plaid.....

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  91. Wow! I don't know if I am quite ready for that! My little girl is almost two, it should be fun though. Thanks for the great site!

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  92. puffy sleeves and tulles are great for a Girls Party Dresses.

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  93. Nice blog. I also suggest one best online shopping store for latest kids wear that is Moppet isle. buy girls Clothing India

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Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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