Create a Fabulous Elsa Gown

Disney’s animated movie Frozen introduced many young girls to a dramatic character named Elsa. If you personally know a young girl who is wishing for an “Elsa” gown/costume, there are scores of helpful websites and blogs offering DIY instructions. With a bit of research, you’ll find the one that matches your sewing abilities and the type of dress for your Elsa.

Granddaughter Ruby, happily modeling her Elsa gown.

Many people have asked me to elaborate on Ruby's Elsa gown. I am happy to share some of the process. Though this entry is not a step-by-step DIYit provides thoughts on enriching the process – for both the maker and the "princess"!

While watching "Frozen" together, Ruby points out the particulars of Elsa's gown.

First, I would suggest that you pay careful attention to what your little Elsa imagines. Listening to your young one fantasize about creation is sheer delight. Don’t miss out on this part by jumping straight to sewing. Take the time to watch the movie together, one more time. This time, watch, not for the story, but for "research" purposes. Pause the action when important details of the gown are revealed. During the film, Ruby offered her thoughts and input while I took notes and made suggestions. Later, we each made simple drawings of the gown, discussing the details. The collaboration IS the magic!

In preparation for creating the gown, Ruby and I visited both a fabric store and Goodwill Industries. It is surprising how many yards of lovely, inexpensive fabric can be found while shopping in the Goodwill formal wear section. Together, we found a bodice that could be used as a pattern, as well as a perfect-color, floor length prom dress; one just aching to be re-purposed for Elsa's skirt!

Perfect color prom dress from Goodwill Industries.

Instead of purchasing an expensive pattern for the dress, I decided to simplify the entire concept. It made better sense to sew a separate blouse, bodice, skirt and train; items that could be donned separately.

Gesturing like Elsa, Ruby's costume is three simple parts; blouse, bodice, skirt and train.

The blouse was made from very fine tulle, with snaps along the opening. When it was near completion, I slipped cardboard inside of the blouse and carefully painted snowflakes Stickles on the tulle. Ruby made her own memory while applying “pearls” (made of glitter glue or Stickles) along the neckline and wrists. The time we spent working on the project together was a true treasure!

Making a memory of her own, Ruby applies the "pearls" of Stickles to the edges of the gown's neckline.

Glitter glue or Stickles can be found at most arts and crafts stores. It is not washable.

For the “stays” of the bodice, I used zip ties purchased at Home Depot. Sewed into the bodice, then trimmed to the right length, their reinforcement acted much like whalebone in the corsets of yesteryear. When the bodice was complete, I added old-fashioned hooks and eyes to the back for closure. To complete the look, I sewed many beads and metallic snowflakes to the bodice.

I used the same sheer, turquoise-colored tulle for the train as was used for the blouse. To prepare it, I lay homemade stencils of snowflakes all over the material. A very light dusting of enamel spray paint left subtle designs on these many yards of fabric.

Cover a table with a sheet before spreading the tulle. Place paper stencils on the tulle, then dust lightly with spray paint.

Later, I applied a snowflake design to the tulle, freehand. If you want to follow a pattern, chose a snowflake pattern from web and print it out. Slip this printout into a plastic Ziploc bag and slide it under the tulle as a guide, then carefully apply Stickles glitter paint to the tulle. Gently lift the material from the pattern, moving it to a completely new area. Stickles dries within a few hours. I returned, again and again, to add additional snowflakes.

Apply snowflakes with Stickles, freehand or with a pattern.

Before gathering the edge of the train, I lay the entire piece of fabric flat. I used a scissors to cut a curve on along side edges and bottom, then applied Stickles pearly drops all along the side and lower edges. These edges will NOT be gathered.

I used the long basting stitch of the sewing machine to gather the tulle all along the top edge. Two paralell rows of stitching work best for gathering or drawing up fabric into folds. I used some shiny satin to encase the top edge, leaving long tails on each end. These tails were later be worked into closed loops that can be slipped on each arm, train flowing.

The loops that bear the gown's train are slipped on each arm, holding the train at the shoulders.

To finish the costume, I created a simple crown from a covered headband, adorned with an ornament. Using leftover fabrics, I made an Elsa gown for Ruby's American Girl doll.

Hopefully, your adventure with an Elsa dress will be as satisfying and fun as ours was. Good Luck!