Out of all the princesses in the Disney franchise, one of the most divisive topics seems to be the personal color preference for the gown of Aurora, also known as Briar Rose, aka Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. It doesn’t help the matter that the fairies who magically whipped up her gown couldn’t decide on blue or pink, either. If only the third fairy had been the tie breaker in the matter, this would not be a controversy! I have my own opinion on the “blue or pink” subject which I will explain in another post. Since Aurora is practically my favorite princess (mostly on account of the movie’s songs, artistry, and overall aesthetics), there will be some follow-up, further ‘inspired-by’ outfit…or two! Nevertheless, I took a neutral stance with this, my main Sleeping Beauty inspired dress, as it was made as part of my “Pandemic Princess” series. Thus, I chose a fabric that includes both pastel tones of blue and pink. This is much more of a fashionable combo between those two colors than the magically splashed version as seen in fairies’ quarrel during the film!
As I mentioned in my flagship post (here) announcing my series, I took the route of interpreting most of these princess outfits through a pattern related to the year the animated film was released. Disney’s animated interpretations are very much a product of their times, and here the year 1959 “Sleeping Beauty” has the most enchanting medieval spin on a mid-century outlook (explained in further detail in this “Frock Flicks” post). Looking at design lines, common color preferences, as well as fabric choices of circa 1959 women’s clothing, I easily saw a natural way of interpreting Aurora’s dresses in a way that would be just as dreamy and feminine yet also wearable on an everyday basis. My finished inspiration dress is perfect for twirling, light enough in weight for summer, comfortable, and in such pretty colors. It is perhaps my most subtle princess referenced outfit from my “Pandemic Princess” series, but I definitely love the way it is such a practical luxury and a comfortable, useful wardrobe staple. Its reference is like a little personal secret that makes me a very happy girl when wearing it! I’ll admit it makes me break off in random spurts of swishing and twirling around while humming the tune “Once Upon a Dream” or “I Wonder”.
Next to Disney’s animated “Cinderella” film from nine years earlier in 1950, “Sleeping Beauty” is also heavy with sewing referenced scenes…and I absolutely love it! Please follow my link here and watch the whole thing for yourself. It is a hilarious representation of the trials and challenges of people new to the craft. “It’s simple – all you do is follow the book!” exclaims Fauna to Flora, who has never sewn before. She starts with cutting a hole in the middle of the fabric (why yes, do start with the hem) because “…that’s for the feet!” At least they had proper enthusiasm, if improper approach. The fairies are so snarky with one another the whole time, I am in awe every time I watch. When Merryweather, who was told to “be the dummy”, comments that the finished dress looks horrible (and I agree) Flora tells her, “Well that because it’s on you, dear.” Ouch! Sewing difficulties can bring out one’s ill-tempered side, that’s for sure. Sadly, however, the rest of us do not have wands to magically, quickly remedy our troubled projects – which is why I am blogging about my princess creation, sharing its progress steps and related inspiration. Enjoy!
FABRIC: a Madras semi-sheer 100% cotton imported from India from “Fibers to Fabric” shop on Etsy
PATTERN: Simplicity #3039, year 1959, from my pattern stash
NOTIONS NEEDED: lots of thread, interfacing, bias and hem tape, six large snaps, and one hook n’ eye
TIME TO COMPLETE: This dress took me at least 25 hours’ of time, and it was finished by July 1, 2020.
THE INSIDES: cleanly bias bound
TOTAL COST: The only cost was the fabric, which cost about $15 for 3 ½ yards on a clearance sale…all else that I needed was on hand already in my stash
A classic shirtdress pattern with fine details from 1959 gets the royal treatment here! Yet, for being ‘just’ a shirtdress, this was quite a long haul of a project to make. Collars and plackets are not a challenge for me any longer, but they still take time. Mostly though, there was a lot of fabric to wrangle into a tailored dress. The bodice, sleeves, collar and front placket pieces together took just under ¾ yard which left me with a full 3 yards plus for the skirt alone. Even still, I was short on material enough that I had to adapt the pattern for the skirt to be pared down and thereby somewhat matched up. Buying 5 yards for a shirtdress seems over-the-top to me…somehow I feel better splurging on something fancy. Also, pleats are time-consuming for me to achieve, since I am the exacting type that wants to mark, fold, sew, and iron them perfectly. Here are multiple clusters of four tiny pleats around the waist for further details that are amazing once finished but a headache to do. Finally, hand sewing over half a dozen closures was a whole chunk of time and patience in itself. Whew! This princess dress may appear unassuming but it was just as much ‘work’ as any nicer piece. That’s okay! A finely made basic is much appreciated and most appropriate for my ideal princess collection.
I chose my pattern because not only was it from my stash but it had the similar design lines in the skirt as Aurora’s. The quadruple pleats are grouped up into sections between blank, flat spaces so that the skirt has a controlled fullness combined with a detail that fine tunes the look. It ends up being very elegant and certainly hides the fact there are several yards of material in the skirt alone! Aurora’s skirt to both her woodland outfit and her princess gown have been drawn so that something similar seems to be the case. When she twirls with her prince, her skirts open up to an amazing fullness. When at rest, her skirts fall into what looks like concentrated sections of multiple pleats which give the appearance of a slimming bell shape.
Animation back then was not as literal and uber-realistic as the digitized films Disney releases today (such as “Tangled” or “Frozen”) and so I am filling in with my imagination for the drawn stylized elements. Although, in the same breath, Disney animators for “Sleeping Beauty” did draw from live models in full costume (see this article for more info), and actress and dancer Helene Stanley in her woodland Briar Rose outfit (see video here) does have pleat clustering to her skirt just as I was supposing.
A plaid is great to pair with any garment which is pleated. I knew that 50’s decade had a lot of plaid dresses, and such a print is a great way to combine colors which normally do not go together, such as a soft pink and blue. Then – without looking for it – I just so happened to run across an Indian Madras plaid cotton which was exactly what I had hoped to find. Don’t you just love when a project idea starts to come to life before your eyes?! It’s always so exciting. The best part about going with a plaid is the mathematical aid it provides when you are pleating. For the quadruple clusters, I could depend on the first pleat being folded on the beginning of the grey vertical stripe, the second folded through the middle, and the third on the other end of that color strip. The fourth pleat was folded at ¾ inch into the pink tone. Plaids help pleats be precise and predictable and this way can give a very sharp look.
This leads me to explain how I adapted the skirt. As I mentioned above, this dress’ skirt was supposed to be almost a yard fuller and I pared it down to keep this garment manageable for me to wear and make. Making the skirt smaller in width messed with the pattern’s pleating layout so I reconfigured it myself. This step literally hurt my head, but I knew it was just a matter of mathematics. I knew what finished waist size was needed because I had sewn the bodice first, and I chose how many clusters of pleats I wanted. Then I chose how deep I wanted the pleats. I mostly worked with the plaid to help me make some of these decisions, because (as I mentioned in the previous paragraph) that I wanted the pleating to be aided by the predictability of the lines to the geometric plaid. If you notice, I have the pleats fanning in towards each center for some slight visual drama!
The simple, more deeply folded center back box pleat was my favorite part to my personal choice in drafting this skirt. I hate the way complex pleats which are at the back end of a garment become so messy in a hot minute. By the first time they are sat on, especially in a soft cotton garment like this dress, pleats over the booty become frazzled and wrinkled. Here, I simplified the center back pleat to the point that doing something necessary like sitting doesn’t ruin the overall look of the dress. The folds are deep enough to reach over to the next pleat cluster so that everything back there stays in place. I tend to either floof my skirt up around me when I sit, which takes up half of our couch or all of a seat and makes me totally feel like a princess, or I do the old fashioned, prim and proper thing where you use your hands to smooth out the back of your skirt as you sit down.
After all that thinking which went towards figuring out the skirt, my use of snaps rather than buttons down the front was a matter of indecisiveness. I could not find buttons that I liked enough to commit to, nor did I want to break up the crazy plaid. I merely couldn’t make up my mind anymore regarding anything for this dress. I was tired but excited it was almost done, and so snaps were chosen. At least I find oversized snaps so much easier to sew and match up than tiny ones. If I were to consider a technical take on my chosen closures, this would no longer be a shirtdress because of its lack of both buttons and belt. If I ever find my ideal buttons for this dress – ones that are clear with inlaid roses in their plastic or acrylic – then I’ll make buttonholes.
For my accessories, I am wearing some ceramic rose earrings, Charlie Stone brand sandals, and the Bésame Cosmetics “Sleeping Beauty” pendant locket that they released back in 2019. I love the novelty of wearing my makeup’s case as part of my accessories for the day – it makes something pretty and handy out of something which would clutter my purse. It is also a useful combo of either crème rouge or lip tint in a whisper pink color, contained in a rose gold mini book that imitates the one seen in the intro of the film for a further reference to my inspiration. I am wearing the crème on both my lips and my cheeks so I can take my slumber in royal fashion. Hopefully my prince will wake me from this rose garden! Oh wait, he’s busy taking my picture at the moment…