As an adult, I now see that the cliché phrase about the grass being greener on the other side is a suitable summary for the story of Ariel, The Little Mermaid. She longed for a world that was not her own. As a child, however, I loved the character of Ariel – as told through the 1989 Disney animated version of her story – for the curiosity, spunk, courage, and determination she manifested. That special feeling of connecting to my first princess ‘heroine’ character has not faded after all these years…I can still sing the movie’s songs by heart! Now that a remake of her story by Disney is on the big screens anew for 2023, I am excited to take advantage of the opportunity to showcase yet another one of my “Pandemic Princess” projects and happily revisit Ariel’s character once again.
My other two Ariel inspired projects focused on her being a mermaid with connections to the sea (see this post as well as this one), even though they were trouser outfits. For the third iteration, I wanted to focus on the magical, sparky, fancy dress Ariel receives from her father when she finally becomes human…part of our world! I have a staunch loathing of glitter for many reasons, so for me to actually make a dress in a glitter fabric shows just how much I was driven to recreate this particular Ariel inspired project.
I still despise glitter, but at least I had a good reason to try and see if this dress could be the redeeming reason to make an exemption. It is everything I could have wanted for my own version of Ariel’s “Transformation Dress” so it is indeed the only reason I have to ever deal with glitter. For once I actually enjoy a sparkly trail everywhere…it’s as if I’m leaving a memory of my presence in the car, at a restaurant, and everywhere I sit! Most importantly, the light blue background of the glitter fabric makes me feel like a human embodiment of shimmering water…just what I was aiming for. However, my husband says the dress reminds him of something worn by Vanna White from “Wheel of Fortune” instead! Oh well. Either way, my dress is a success and definitely something new and different.
FABRIC: a “Casa Collection Super Shine Metallic” polyester knit fabric from JoAnn
PATTERN: Vogue #7669, year 1989
NOTIONS NEEDED: nothing but thread
TIME TO COMPLETE: It took about 10 hours and was finished in July 2022
THE INSIDES: as the fabric does not ravel the inner edges are left raw
TOTAL COST: $24 – I found .9 of a yard as a remnant on sale for $3.50 but one yard was not enough….so I had to pay the regular price of $20 for another one yard
My dress is basic in design and simple in its pattern lines but it became such a complicated, difficult, and slow-process to sew. This trouble was not entirely due to the problematic fabric. The pattern had its issues as well and I exasperated them by trying to adapt the lines. The Vogue pattern was sized generously with ample wearing ease and proportioned as if for someone who was tall. Yet, I found this out a bit too late. In my rush to ‘dive in’ making this, I cut and slashed the pattern at the lines for the bust-waist-hips to change it to a full length gown. I ended up with a shapeless sack that was way too long on me. Oh boy, I got myself in over my head!
I had to rework much of the shaping to have the dress turn out using what I had – one front panel and one back panel. I did not want to rebuy more of this glitter fabric or waste what I had! First, I brought in the side seams in and then shirred (gathered) up along those seams from the waistline through the hips. The shirring feature actually gives the dress a very appealing detail, and a mermaid-like aura! The waistline is defined without a tight fit by adding the side seam shirring. I like it better now than how the pattern showed the dress, but it was crazy difficult to get to gather in the tricky, sticky fabric (more on this later on).
Next, I sewed in the droopy shoulders to pick up the last of the overly long body length of the dress. This meant I had to newly recut the arm openings and make them even, too. Finally, I added a small pleat along the neckline and above the point of the front tapered hem to add further shaping and elegant draping. With the profuse refitting I had executed, it was too tricky to use the original neckline and armhole facings, and so I simply turned those edges under once. Every little thing I changed meant I had to adjust something else, like a chain reaction. When the need for fitting tweaks was no longer repeating itself and the dress looked natural on me, I knew the overall construction of this project was finally over.
After all my adaptions, I wished I had just drafted my own design rather than relying on a pre-printed pattern. Nevertheless, by using the pattern I chose I was trying to refer back to the year of the original animated film – just as had been done with my other two Ariel inspired projects. As far as I have come since I started blogging about my stitching adventures, I still learn with every sewing attempt. I wouldn’t have it any other way, though.
The unusual novelty fabric was an education in itself, and not necessarily a good experience. I would not recommend this fabric in the least, even if I did successfully sew a dress out of it. What amazes me is that the JoAnn’s summary for the fabric calls it “perfect for beginners”. Pfft – I had the utmost difficulty and I see myself as the opposite of a beginner. At a basic level, the fabric is unstitchable. No matter what trick I tried, my sewing machine would not sew through the fabric. Thus, my dress was entirely hand sewn. I am ashamed that with all the fine fabrics I have and all the high-end garments I have made, buying some cheaply made fabric forced this odd glitter dress to be my first solely hand-sewn garment. As nice as that may sound, my handiwork is sloppy looking inside – the fabric prevented me from stitching as cleanly as I would’ve liked to. I do not expect the dress to last all that long beyond a few wearings and washings, as the fabric quality is so low, and “good enough” hand stitching is all this dress was getting. However, my dress fulfilled a dream, an idea, a challenge, and for that alone it was worth my time. This was a very grand and standout gown to wear for the first time to celebrate my birthday (last year)!
There were multiple layers of issues with the fabric. Firstly, the glitter does not stay but is always shedding. I did a hand wash of the fabric before cutting so as to (as I thought) knock off most of the loose glitter. The tub contained enough loose glitter to fill a vial with just that first wash. A glitter coating was left on the floor when I was cutting the fabric out, it fell everywhere as I was sewing, and ends up sticking to my skin in a way that only a full shower will take care of. I think the fabric may go bald soon enough. Secondly, I’m assuming the ‘glue’ which permeates the fabric is intended to keep the glitter adhered but it doesn’t work and only becomes part of the reason sewing was so difficult. The incredibly sticky glue seems to permeate the overall fabric both front and back. The glue coated my hand sewing needle so heavily after a few inches of stitches and doesn’t wipe off unless you use a chemical solvent. Finally, I dislike how the fabric is supposed to be a knit yet there is no forgiveness in the stretch. I had to be so careful when sewing, but especially when putting the dress on. Once a spot is stretched, that area stays wonky and rippled out of shape. I fixed this issue a few times along a seam just by pulling in the thread tighter. I’m hoping such a sewing nightmare is a one-time thing for me to deal with.
Nevertheless, I do have a memorable “tall tale” kind of story to share about the aftereffects of introducing glitter into your home. After my dress had been finished, and I thought I had wiped, swept, and vacuumed the floor in the living room well enough to barely leave a trace left of the project. Yet my story takes place one late night a week or so after my dress had been worn and put away in a bag. That night, everyone else in the house was already asleep but I was at the dining room table catching some quiet time and a snack before going to bed. I noticed (by the light of the one small sconce which was on in the living room) that there was a tiny intermittent flash coming from the floor and moving its location at every blink. I was very tired, so the unpredictable flashing made me half-suspect I may have been seeing things. I called for my hubby to wake up and be an eyewitness. Out of my seat and turning on all the lights, I went to check out the source of the flashing because there *had* to have been a sensible explanation…right? There was an unusual one, indeed! An ant was traveling across the living room floor holding a small single square of glitter in its mouth! I am not making this up. Truth can be stranger than fiction.
I have so many questions that will never be answered. Did the ant hill have a party going on? Do ants have Disco parties? Was this ant going to impress the Queen? What did the ant think the glitter was? Were they going to try to eat it? Why did it want a piece of glitter to begin with? I left the ant go his way and leave our house through a crack under the front door with its piece of glitter. If Ariel wanted to be part of our world, I don’t think she fully understood how wild and unpredictable it can be. Seeing an ant carrying around a piece of glitter is one of the weirdest human experiences I have had.
It is perhaps one of the most basic philosophical questions to reflect upon what it means to be human. Ariel was a big thinker for a mermaid of 16! However, looking inward rather than outward comes more easily and big questions are often brought up when there are big problems. I am not here to offer a philosophical rant, though. What I do know is that a major part of the human experience is to make mistakes. What defines us is how we persist through our difficulties, though, and learn from our failings. Ariel made a mistake making a deal with the Sea Witch in a quest to follow her heart, yet learned what was really important from the terrible outcome that came of it. She then did her best to make things right again and had her “happily ever after.” I learned from my mistake of buying glitter fabric to not be taken in by an eye-catching fabric that promises a pretty dress far so away from the sensibility of my sewing room. I found that glitter is never a good idea and hand sewing a dress is not as bad as that may sound. In the same breath, I also hope I have also taught you to persist in making that dream ideal sewing project and persist in bring it to life. Glitter can be good when you want to try something different and sparkle like a mermaid out of the water!