first communion dress

last year i made a first communion dress for my oldest daughter that i was pretty disappointed in at the time. it was missing that special something and i vowed to do better next time! as it turns out, that dress i was so meh over has been pretty useful over the year now that she’s grown into it (and after hacking off several inches in length). it was her birthday, christmas, and easter dress with the addition of a belt or tie sash.

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daughter number two, Sylvia, is much easier to sew for, given her affinity for all things fluffy and over the top. i used a new look pattern (i think… can’t be bothered to look it up…) for the bodice because i like that it has darts for shaping. the skirt and sleeves are self-drafted. i actually muslined this bodice to check fit. however, it’s pretty hard to fit an 8-yr old who couldn’t stand still to save her life, so the finished dress was a touch gape-y at the neckline. i used a cotton/poly sateen because i was determined not to put her in that horrid poly satin that is not only the devil to work with, but not exactly breathable.

i scooped out the back neckline and drafted a cap sleeve. i’m really proud of my cap sleeve, as i came up with a clever way to make them. i cut a football shape on the bias, folded it in half and draped it directly on her shoulder while trying on the muslin. the bias cut allows for movement, and folding it in half eliminates hemming for a nice soft look. i cut it to have no ease throughout the sleevecap, but since it’s on the bias and naturally stretches, i probably should have cut it smaller than the armhole. it appears to pucker slightly in places, though i assure you the stitching line is completely smooth! oh well, not a big deal.

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i used every inch of the 8 yards of tulle to make a nice fluffy over skirt, and i think it has just the right amount of volume. the tulle is in three doubled layers (6 altogether) and ugh that was a hassle. hate that stuff! underneath is an a-line gathered skirt from the main fabric, and the whole dress is lined under that. i hemmed the underskirt with wide bias tape to stiffen the hem and give it body.

the zip is hand picked because it’s just easier to navigate all the layers, and i like the hand-made touch on a dress like this. then after agonizing and searching everywhere, i finally found the perfect width of perfect beaded/sequined lace for cheap at my local fabric dive, which i hand-tacked down in several places.

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while this dress has no practical uses post-ceremony, it was a fairly simple make and received many compliments. she has no shyness in proclaiming her hand made goods, so i spent a bit of time explaining what sewing is to a few of her classmates. who knows, maybe we managed to spark an interest in a younger generation!

—lisa g.

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22 thoughts on “first communion dress

  1. dokucug says:

    It turned out so beautifully, and she looks so sweet! But boy – as much as I love the look, I don’t envy you having to wrangle all that tulle!

    • lisa g says:

      thank you gail! and yes, tulle is such a pain… i should have hand stitched the layers together right after cutting, would have saved me some wrangling!

  2. debbieiles says:

    Beautiful! And of course it has practical uses post ceremony. Tea parties, ballerina games, just being gorgeous for no reason… It looks way too special for dress ups, but then I’ve long since thrown out the window the notion of preserving special clothes I make my girls or I’d never see the joy they get from wearing them. She looks pretty pleased!

  3. Carol Gaskamp says:

    Lovely! She is not wearing home sewn clothes (like I did growing up!), but hand tailored couture — very special! Carol

  4. Masha says:

    My daughter has a much-loved flower-girl dress very similar to this (though made out of that nasty satin you speak of). It is often used to play princess, or more frequently, bride. Do 8 year olds play that? I don’t know – but if so, this dress will definitely have a use. It is lovely. The cap sleeves are perfect. I like that the fold-over method gives them a little more structure, too.

  5. Florencia Lombardo says:

    You did a fantastic job on the communion dress, your daughter looks like an angel! I have to confess that after seeing your daughter’s dress I’m very tempted to do make my daughter’s 1st communion dress for next year.

    • lisa g says:

      oh you should! it’s fun to make something totally fluffy and impractical. plus it was nice to work out a design together and go fabric shopping. she actually found the fabric i used after thinking i was out of luck… may have been totally different without her help!

  6. Katie says:

    This is so beautiful — what little girl wouldn’t love to make her first communion in this dress? Kudos to you on mastering all that tulle! My daughter LOVES tulle but so far I haven’t had the motivation to tackle it.

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