Something that is in high demand in the world today can be in high supply since it stems from an infinitely renewable source. I am speaking of kindness – a gift that can be so hard to share but costs nothing to give. It is a universal language of communal understanding. A plentitude of kindness is sorely indispensable. Even if I fail all too often, I do try my best to fill the need, even though the effort is often disheartening. “Be the change you wish to see in the world” is a cliché phrase but kindness is infectious and the key to someone’s good day can really begin with just one person. Being kind in heart is a very beautiful, strong, and attractive personal quality to find in people, too. This is why I would like to pick up (a year later) where I left off posting my “Pandemic Princess” blog series by featuring the most famous fairytale princess – Cinderella.
Cinderella is the fictional rags-to-riches princess who practices indiscriminate benevolence, patience, perseverance, and understanding. Her story is ancient enough to span many centuries, ethnicities, and interpretations but in all of them her honest beauty, radiating from the heart within, saves the day so goodness can prevail. I love with a passion the Disney interpretation of 1950 (the animated film) as well as the live action retelling from 2015. However, I am a sucker for a creative spoof on the story – my especial favorites are Ella Enchanted from 2004 and Ever After from 1998. The catchy songs and the strong sewing references to the original 1950 animated film have me hopelessly hooked, nevertheless, and the live action interpretation from 2015 is a glorious treat for me. “Have courage and be kind. For where there is kindness there is goodness and where there is goodness there is magic.” These are the best words ever to summarize Cinderella’s story and can be found in the 2015 live action film.
I never fully finished sharing all of my Princess inspired vintage creations after launching my “Pandemic Princess” blog series at the beginning of 2021. I would like to revisit it to wrap up the last remaining themed projects within the next few months. As I said in that post which launched the series, I mostly interpreted my Disney princess inspired sewing in relation to the year that their original animated movies were released, and my Cinderella dress follows suit as the early 1950s fashion works perfectly for a full, swishy skirted dress, headbanded updo for my hair, and a pretty pastel blue tone. Yes, I was inspired by the fairy godmothers magic dress for Cinderella since my Snow White interpretation was a similar looking work dress.
I wanted something wearable and not a costume though, so this merely carries the spirit of and references to the associated heroine. I did not make these princess dresses because I had someplace to wear them – each was truly a splurge project in the truest sense. Disney bounding, as is the frequent term for an adult whose assembles an outfit loosely inspired by a fictional character, doesn’t have to revolve around whether or not one is capable of actually showing up at a theme park. It relies on the ability to dream, have a bit of fun, and appreciate a bit of fantasy…all from right where you are. Cinderella says that “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes” in her first song for the 1950 animated film. This post’s sweet and calming floral blue dress reminds me that it is important to keep one’s dreams alive, hold onto hope, and stay kind like Cinderella. Sewing helps me make some of my dreams a reality, and keeps me creative enough to continue making magic with fabric and thread.
FABRIC: 100% cotton for both the solid blue, the print, as well as the lining layer underneath
PATTERN: McCall’s 8898, year 1952, original pattern from my personal stash
NOTIONS NEEDED: This was a fussy project that needed lots of thread, one zipper, 10 covered button blank sets, yards of binding, and a good amount of interfacing.
TIME TO COMPLETE: This dress took 15 to 20 hours to finish in July 2019
THE INSIDES: cleanly bias bound
TOTAL COST: The printed fabric was $12 for two yards ordered through “Simply Fabric” of Oakland, California on Etsy. The solid blue cotton was from my local JoAnn Fabric shop, again two yards for about $12. Then I had to buy a solid white cotton muslin for lining the whole dress – 6 yards for about $18. All the notions added up, especially the buttons. The total for this dress is about $50.
This was my first princess inspired dress even before I thought of making a slew of them and turning it into a theme. Less than month later, I whipped up my 1992 Beauty and the Beast animated film inspired dress (posted here) as a treat to myself for my birthday. It was then I realized I wanted to keep going with this good thing I had started. The blue is for Cinderella’s ball dress, while the climbing floral print is for both her sweetness to nature and the garden plants that were magically turned into everything needed to take her to the ball. My embroidered headband further calls to mind Cinderella’s ball outfit, but mine has sparkly crystals to add just a touch of finery. A jeweled butterfly brooch from my Grandmother refers to all the butterflies which rested on Cinderella’s gown in the 2015 live action movie.
Beyond any princess reference to my outfit, I had been aching to try out a dress that contrasts its print with large panels of matching solid color, anyways. It is almost like color-blocking, but with half of the contrast being a complimentary toned fabric print. Add in the fact that the front closure is asymmetric, which I am a complete sucker for, and this dress becomes the best way for me to dive into this style. For a few years beforehand, I had kept a whole folder of similar 1950s dresses to encourage what I felt may have been a crazy idea. It is interesting how mixing up prints with solids in paneled dresses has become a popular trend in both the sewing realm and also the sphere of true vintage sellers since last year. I was ahead of things in 2019, apparently!
Besides the interesting way I took advantage of the paneling in the dress, there is another neat detail that was added to this pattern. There are V-notches cut into the sides of the neckline, the hem to both sleeves, and the center back neck. These spots were tricky but fun to sew and require nothing more than firm interfacing, precise stitching, and the clipping of the seam allowances. This small V notching along hem edges of a bodice is a feature I love to see because it is unmistakably tied to early 1950s designs. See Butterick 5739 from 1951, Butterick 6091 from ‘52, Butterick 6960 from ‘54, and McCall’s 3235 from 1955 for some examples from sewing patterns. Now you can understand why I attributed this vintage Martha Manning suit in my wardrobe, with its notched neckline, (see it here on my Instagram) to be from the exact same time frame, as well. Asymmetry was likewise a popular element on dresses and bodices of the early 1950s, as well, so this dress pattern combines both into one fantastic design, similar to what both Vintage Vogue 1043 from 1953 (see my version here) as well as Vogue 9105 from 1954 have going for them. This post’s dress pattern is from 1952, and has more little V notches along the edges than any pattern I have seen elsewhere…I love it!
Was this ever a complex project and a fabric hog, though! The asymmetry meant I needed to pay attention to the right side of the front pattern pieces and cut them single layer. The cottons – both printed and solid – being slightly sheer meant I needed to cut every pattern piece twice to interline individually. There is 10 yards in total fabric here! So much fabric means it is a heavy dress for summer, even though that is the season it is for being in a bright white print. Making 10 fabric covered buttons became overwhelming pretty quickly, too.
The fit was really funky making it as-is and turned out to be an ill-fitting dress that needed all sorts of adjustments. Even the length before hemming was down to the ankles on me! To counter all this bother, I cheated with the asymmetric front and installed a side seam zipper. The entire button front is for looks only at this point and not a working closure. After everything the dress put me through to reach a point where it was wearable, there was no way I had enough energy to sew in and cut open 10 buttonholes. Even with sewing down the asymmetric front, the neckline is rather fussy to keep closed. I am so glad I opted for ‘cheating’ on the front closing. Even still, I had to add some tiny hook and eyes to keep the perfect V of the neckline over my chest.
I am not as naturally gifted as Cinderella, and so the birds you see in some of my pictures are actually vintage plastic bird models that I and my dad built when I was kid. Search up Bachmann’s “Birds of the World” and you’ll see what they are. The scarlet tanager was a model my dad did as a kid himself (in the early 1960s) but the barn swallow in my hands for the first picture was one I made as a teen. The birds were packaged in pieces like a plane or a car model and needed to be painted and glued together. When they were finished, the scale was the same as the real life birds they were portraying. I came face to face with a hummingbird once when she thought I was a flower, and I did some bird banding with the local Conservation Department as a teen, but otherwise these models are as close as I will get to my favorite songbirds. I just had to include the models in my pictures because Disney-bounding Cinderella is about having a sense of fantasy…so why not pretend I do have feathered friend?! After all, “be kind to every kind, not just mankind” as the phrase goes.
The print struck me as perfect for channeling her in a Disney-bounding dress for a very good reason. It was similar to a cotton floral I picked out as a young teen to make myself a wearable Cinderella skirt for my birthday. Looking back, I am proud at how I made exactly what I had hoped for but repulsed by the fact I actually wore that. It was a long full skirt in a sheer floral cotton, lined in blue for a soft tint, and draped with swagged bows just like Cinderella’s first ball dress (the one the sewing mice made and her stepsisters destroyed). A two yard cut on its own is not enough for a full skirted 1950s dress but I really had to make this fabric work for my idea. Besides, I felt that the floral was too quaint and overall busy looking on its own without a solid tone to calm it down. Cinderella only wore solid colors, so incorporating a large swath of blue to the print was merely properly following the call of crazy creativity. I have properly reinvented something I wanted to do as a teen, and done it in a much better manner.
I suppose I need to learn how to practice kindness towards myself, particularly when looking back on some dubious fashion choices of my past! Being easy on yourself is especially hard to do, from a maker’s standpoint, and takes real effort and courage. “I could have done this better” or “this is far from flawless” is frequent to think or say for sewists. I know my perfectionism is too strong more often than not. While it is admirable to set such high standards, such an attitude merely ends up with you being harsh on yourself and often setting unrealistic goals. Cinderella’s kindness is often misunderstood as a doormat for others but if you look closer – as this article does – you can see how she was so busy being kind towards others she ‘forgets’ to be kind to herself. Try to take one special step today to be understanding and gentle on yourself in the spirit of Cinderella, but especially in regards to whatever aspirations or dreams you cherish!