Belle Princess Dress – Costume Pattern and Tutorial

Little Hannah was coaxed into being Belle for Halloween this year when her big sister insisted on being Cinderella. Hannah loves to be like her big sister, and wanted to be a princess as well. I just couldn’t resist dressing up that pretty Armenian skin she inherited from daddy with yellow and gold – so I decided to make her a little Belle dress. mMMmm.
I set out to make these dresses with a vision in mind, but had no idea they would turn out so dang cute – especially with a cute little girl to match!

But really, I am seriously in love with this dress. It is so beautiful with all of its pretty ruffles – and really, quite simple to make. The secret to all of those ruffles: fabric. Lots, and lots, and lots of fabric. This 13-inch long skirt used 2 yards. But, so worth it!

Surprisingly, even with all of the fabric, this dress is so comfy and flexible – the shirring lets little Hannah dance and play just like a princess should.

Both the Cinderella and Belle dresses begin with the same shirred bodice – so, you’ll notice that the photos in the first few sections are shown using the Cinderella dress. Just use the fabric in the color you need for your dress!

Bodice Pattern

First, we need to create our bodice pattern. You can use mine, adjusting to the size you will need, or create your own.



To create your own – find a shirt, or dress that fits your princess well. Lay it out on a piece of paper – and mark at these six points.

Then, connect the dots – and fold at the two center points.

Fold in half and cut around the pattern. Cut two pattern pieces – one for the front, one for the back.
For the back, draw a horizontal line at the bottom of the neck line (1), then draw two vertical lines separating the bodice into thirds, approximately (2). Then, connect the intersection of those two lines diagonally to the inner shoulder (3). 

Cut along the vertical and diagonal lines, like this.

Now, for the front. This time, draw a horizontal line 1-2 inches lower than the neck line, and a diagonal line connecting the inner shoulder to the bottom of the bodice. Just eyeball it – whatever looks good to you.



Cut along both of the lines.
After I created my pattern, I decided that I wanted the bodice to be a little bit shorter – hitting at high waist. I ended up cutting a few inches off the bottom of my pattern. Make sure that you measure your pattern and adjust it how you would like.
Pattern done. Now, let’s start sewing.
Bodice Sides
Use your pattern to cut out the bodice pieces. You will need two pieces (opposite of each other) of both your front and lining fabric, so – 4 pieces total. I used the same fabric for both.
If you created your own pattern, place the side “seams” together to create one piece, like this – and cut about ¼-½ inch outside for seam allowance.

If you are using my pattern, the seam allowance has already been added – just cut on the dotted line. (The outside line for Cinderella dress, inside line for Belle)
Now – finally time to turn on the machine! With right sides facing, fold each piece in half and stitch or serge the at the shoulder seam.



Shirring
Next, you’ll make your bodice middle pieces by shirring a long rectangle of fabric using rows and rows of stitched elastic thread. These pieces will be what allow the dress to be so comfortable – by allowing it to move and stretch easily.
Take both your back middle and front middle pattern pieces and lay them side-by-side, with a little bit of wiggle room in between. Cut a rectangle of fabric equivalent to their height, plus two inches, and three times their width. (If you are using a very thin fabric – use up to four times their width.)
For example, for the 2T pattern – the pieces are about 8.5 inches high, and 9 inches wide side-by-side. So, I cut a piece of fabric 10.5 inches high, and 27 inches wide.
Start by hemming the fabric across its length. I serged the edge, but you could also use a zig-zag stitch.
Now, the fun part begins – wind your elastic thread into an empty bobbin. I know many people do this by hand, but I like to use my machine to help me out. I hold the elastic thread on a pencil, and guide the tension and direction by hand while my machine spins the bobbin. Make sure you don’t wind it too tight, though – you want a little bit of tension left in the thread.

Pop the elastic thread in your machine and run a manual stitch through so that you can pull the elastic thread up through the bottom. Set your machine to its longest stitch length. Iron the hemmed edge of the fabric back about ½ in, and sew your first row, hem side down – about a ¼ inch from the top, so it looks similar to this…
Sew the second row with the hemmed edge folded out, just so you don’t accidentally stitch over it again, about 1/4 – 1/3 inch under the first row.



Here’s what the back will look like after the second row.

Continue to sew rows of elastic thread down the entire piece of fabric. After the 5th-6th row the fabric will really start bunching – make sure you gently stretch the fabric from both the front and back, so that it feeds flat under the foot. Don’t worry if your rows vary a bit in distance – you’ll never know once you’re done!
Once the entire piece has been stitched (whew!), use your iron to steam the elastic thread. Rather than ironing back and forth, just lightly press the iron down on the fabric, giving it a good amount of steam as you go. The steam will help the elastic to shrink up and give it even more stretch.
Attaching the Bodice Front
Now you will attach the bodice sides to the middle sections. First, you will attach the front middle. Place a piece of tissue paper (I used two sheets), or a tear-away stabilizer to the back side of the shirred fabric, then place the pattern for the front middle bodice section on top, aligning both top edges (the wide end of the pattern to the hemmed edge of the shirred fabric.) This is to ensure that your nice diagonal line stays diagonal, and doesn’t get stretched out of position.

Straight stitch around the pattern, through both the tissue and fabric with about ¼ inch seam allowance (same if you are using my pattern or your own). Then, trim around your stitch, about another ¼ inch out.

Match up your bodice side pieces so that the left front and left lining pieces match up, as well as the right front and right lining pieces. Remember, both the lining and front pieces will meet up with either wrong sides together, or right sides together.

Take one side – doesn’t matter which, and lay out your lining fabric right side up. Place your middle bodice section along the front edge (the diagonal side) right side up, lining up the edges.


Then, take your matching front piece, and lay it right side down on top of both pieces, matching up the diagonal edge, and bottom edge of the lining. Pin in place.


Now, sew across the straight line where all three pieces meet. Do not continue to sew up the neck line. Just baste the shirred middle piece in place for now.
After you have finished one side, baste the other side of the bodice middle in place, repeating the exact same steps, only opposite.
When you are done, fold it right side out – it will look like this in front.
And this in back.
Now let’s put the back on.
Attaching the Bodice Back
Even though you cut out a pattern for the bodice back, you won’t really need it – other than as for a guide. The bodice back is just rectangle – and can easily be adjusted to be either larger or smaller, depending on how you want the dress to fit.
First, you’ll need to trim your remaining shirred fabric so the side edge is straight and perpendicular to the top edge. You can trim the bottom edge if you want now, too – I just left mine as-is.

Now, lay your bodice out with the front facing right side up. Then, lay your shirred fabric, right side down on top of the back edge, matching the top edge of the shirred fabric to the slight angle change in your fabric.



Your shirred fabric is now laying on top of the side piece with the lining underneath. You are going to take the lining piece and bring it all the way over and around the other side of the bodice, and back on top of the shirred fabric.
See how the opposite side pieces are rolled up inside? If you aren’t sure if you placed the fabric correctly, gently fold the piece inside out after you have pinned it where you think it should be – you will be able to see then if it is pinned to the correct section.



Now, baste along the edge, sewing only where all three pieces meet, just like you did with the front edge.



After you have basted one side, fold the bodice right-side out. You will now need to trim the shirred bodice back. You may want to measure it on your little princess before you sew the other side, so that it fits perfectly. Or, just use your pattern as a guide of how wide to trim it.

Repeating the same steps as before, baste the other side into place.
Turn the bodice back right-side out to make sure everybody is in place correctly. Tear off the tissue paper or stabilizer on the front piece. Now, we are going to finish the two seams that run along the neckline and through your basted middle pieces.



Turn one side of the bodice inside-out so the right sides are facing.


Sew or serge along the entire seam.

Do the same to the other side. Turn the bodice right-side out again. 
Hand stitch trim, if using, along the outside seams you just sewed along the neckline.

You did it! Bodice, done. Now – on to the sleeves and skirt.

Skirt

Begin by cutting your skirt pieces. Make sure to use a verylight-weight fabric. I used a “costume satin.” You will be using so much that you don’t want to weigh down your little princess with a heavy dress!

First, you will need to cut out two “A-line” skirt pieces, only – very elongated. You will want the top part (the waist seam) of each piece to be equivalent to the entire waist measurement + 1-inch for seam allowance. So, when both pieces are together, it will be 2x the waist size.
The bottom needs to be 1.5x as long as the waist + 1-inch for seam allowance, so 3x when both pieces are together.
The length of the skirt pieces needs to be 5-6x, yes, five to six times, as long as how long you want the finished skirt to be.
So, your pieces will look something like this…
I was able to cut my pieces out arranged like this on my fabric, because my little princess is so tiny.
If you are making a bigger dress, you may need to arrange them something more similar to this.
Cut out your pieces, then sew or serge along the lengths with right sides facing. Hem the bottom. I just used a three-thread serge stitch – you won’t see the bottom hem in the end, it just needs to be prevented from fraying. Then, press each side into fourths.
 Set your machine to it’s longest stitch length. Raise the tension to its highest setting as well. These settings should result in a little bit of instant gathering (and instant fun!). Stitch along each pressed edge and seam. You should end up with something like this. Don’t worry if yours doesn’t bunch as much, we are going to pull in the gathers even more in just a sec.
Cut out 8 strips of fabric equivalent to your skirt length + ½ inch, by about one inch. Serge or zigzag the edges so they will not fray.
Now, use these strips as a guide to gather your skirt to the correct length. These strips will also stabilize the gathers in place.
Turn your skirt inside out. Pull the bottom thread of each line of stitching to help gather the skirt even more. Arrange the gathers along the strips of fabric, turning the bottom hem over the strip about ½ inch. Keep the top ½ inch of the skirt gather-free.

Turn the skirt right-side out. Stitch along each of the gathered hem lines, easing the ruffles under the foot of the machine. Remember, your needles are underneath – be careful!
After all of your ruffles have been stitched in place, your skirt will look more like this.
Using the same method as in the Cinderella dress, gather the top of the skirt with elastic.
- Sorry, going back to Cinderella photos for just a sec –
Cut a piece of ¼-inch elastic to the same size as the waist of your bodice, adding 1-inch for overlap. Zig-zag stitch the elastic closed, and pin in eighths.
Pin the top of the skirt in eighths as well. Match up the elastic pins and the skirt pins to distribute the elastic evenly. (For this dress – just use the 8 gather seams as reference for the skirt pins)
Carefully and slowly, stitch the elastic to the skirt by stretching it out as you sew, in order to align it with the pins. Since you will be stretching the elastic as you sew it – use a straight stitch. (If you are sewing elastic while NOT stretched, always use a zig-zag stitch.)
- Okay, back to yellow - 
Now, we will stitch the bodice to the skirt.
Turn the skirt inside out, and then tuck the bodice inside (upside down, so that the waist seams meet), so that the right sides are facing. Because the elastic was cut to fit the bodice, it should line up pretty nicely. Align the gather seams so one is placed in the directly in the middle of both the front and back, and on the sides.
 Pin the skirt to the bodice by first pinning the front and back shirred sections, and then the sides. If you find yourself needing to stretch the elastic a bit to fit correctly, make sure you do it on the sides, not over the shirring. You want to make sure the shirred sections have as much stretch as possible to them.
Stitch the skirt to the bodice with a straight stitch directly on top of the elastic. When you get to the shirred sections, either switch to a zig-zag stitch, or make sure to stretch out the elastic as you go.
Do a mini victory dance, and pop open a Diet Coke. You’re SO close!
Now – take a piece of decorative fabric (I used a shiny gold) to drape across the dress. I used a 9 inch strip by about 38 inches long. Make sure that it is plenty long enough to make it around the dress.
Fold the strip in half, length-wise with right sides facing. Sew or serge along the length of the strip. Turn over so you have a long “snake” of fabric.
With the seam side down, gather (by hand, or use your machine) the strip in the very center until it is about 1-2 inches wide. Pin about 1/3 of the way down the skirt on top of the front center gather and stitch into place.
Continue to do this with each gather, lowering the placement of the ruffle about an inch or so each time, so that the fabric tapers downward toward the back. The gathers are pretty forgiving, so don’t worry too much about exact placement – just do what looks right. When you get to the last gather, sew the two ends together so that the seam will face toward the dress.
           
Gather just like you did before, and sew into place.
Now – we just need to hem the sleeves, and add the fabric that drapes over the shoulders.
Hemmed Sleeves
Cut two strips bias tape (cut on the diagonal) 1 3/4 inches wide and long enough to wrap around the armhole of the bodice.
Cut the end at a diagonal, and press the end up about ¼ inch.
Then press in half.
With the dress right-side out, align the end of the bias tape to the bottom of the armhole. Pin the bias tape in place around the entire edge, with the bias tape open and the fold coming toward you.
Continue to wrap the bias tape around, overlapping the beginning of the seam. Trim the bias tape to overlap about one-inch.
Sew a straight-stitch with about ¼ inch seam allowance around the entire edge. You should then have something that looks like this…
 Now, gently iron the raw edge of the bias tape under so that it meets with the existing ironed edge. (You could also do this before even sewing it on.)
Fold the bias tape along the pressed edges and pin in place. Using a ladder stitch, hand stitch the hem closed.
Finishing Touches
To make the fabric that drapes over the shoulders – take a long strip of sheer fabric about 12 inches wide (give or take) and long enough to wrap around Belle’s shoulders. You will also need a flower or some type of pendant for the middle. I made a simple rolled rose with the extra fabric I had leftover from the dress. (Search Pinterest for DIY fabric flowers – there are tons of great ideas!)
First, you will need to hem the edge of the sheer fabric. I was able to just singe mine with a candle flame.
Hand-gather the end of the fabric with a needle and thread, and trim the edges. Using a hot glue gun, glue the end of the fabric to the back of your flower with a small drop of glue.
This piece of fabric is intended to wrap around Belle, draping over her shoulders. Double check the length on your princess if possible – it may be hard to tell how loose or tight it should be with just a measurement.
Trim the fabric at the correct length, gather, and glue onto the back of the flower.
I added a small circle of fabric on top of the two gathered ends just to clean it up a little, and to give a flat back to the rose. Either way – finish with a small line of glue and a jewelry pin. I decided to make this part removable just in case in was bothersome, or if the dress needed to be washed.
After Belle puts her dress on, just pin the rose to the front center of her dress, and drape the fabric over her shoulders.
And that’s it! You’re Belle dress is done. Look forward to many hugs and kisses from your little Belle, she will love be in love with her new princess dress!
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Comments

  1. says

    I just found this and i just amazed by how well detailed your tutorial is. I been thinking of doing one belle dress for my girl, just is turning 5 this coming august…as we are going to celebrate this day at Disneyworld, Fl. After watched your post i feel very confident about this idea….thank you very much!!!!

  2. says

    These dresses are soo cute! I’m going on our first Disney cruise this October to celebrate my daughters 2nd birthday. I was thinking of trying this instead of buying it from the store…I’m not a user of the sewing machine though. Would you be willing to sell? Email me if anything please emylouu@gmail.com

  3. Michelle says

    Did you use the same fabric for both the top and bottom part of the dress? It looks different in some pictures and similar in others. Thanks! This dress is beautiful btw.

  4. Amanda says

    I am having trouble with the front of the bodice. When I go to line up the middle piece I line up the middle piece right side up with the liner piece right side up, but then my matching bodice piece would be the wrong side if I put it right side up. Can you tell me what am I doing wrong?
    Thanks!

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