Several weeks ago my local Goodwill had a really nice bright neon green Prom dress with a lovely tulle skirt in stock. I looked at it multiple times, but each time, I walked away. It was in great shape, but WHAT could I do with neon green???? About the time I had the inspiration to do a Tinkerbelle dress . . . it was gone. However, as luck would have it, I came across a different neon green tulle dress, and of course, I immediately snapped it up. When you have a vision, you just have to DO IT!
This is the base dress:
This was a size 22, corset back, strapless dress by Morilee. It was in excellent condition. The bodice was fully lined and boned. The bodice was decorated with beads and sequins. It came with the back modesty panel (bonus!) and the corset tie (double bonus!).
I began by examining the dress and found the dress showed signs of previous alteration. It had push-up bra cups and some hand stitching at the waist.
The skirt was a huge mass of tulle, with a total of seven layers of fabric including:
An underskirt (with two layers of petticoat net), a single layer of petticoat net, and the main fashion fabric skirt:
And 4 layers of tulle:
I do want to make a comment about the tulle. While initially I didn’t notice any difference, later as I was sewing them, I realized that the top layer was a nicer quality tulle with more stiffness and body than the three under layers. It wasn’t a huge difference, but, I am guessing it was a cost-cutting measure. Just something to make note of for future assessment of a dress.
I began at the bottom. I decided to leave the underskirt and the bottom layer of petticoat net to help give some poof to the skirt. Using a pinking shears, I cut the underskirt off just above the second row of petticoat net.
At this point, I realized that the underskirt was not even.
I trimmed off the petticoat net, and then trimmed the bottom of the skirt to even it up. I later had to go back and remove that visible ridge of petticoat net as it was catching on the tulle.
Next I cut the single layer of petticoat net with a large zig-zag pattern. I deliberately made the points uneven in width and length.
Next came the fashion fabric skirt. First I used the dress model to estimate how long I wanted that part of the skirt.
I misplaced my yardstick, so I marked a dowel with the height I wanted. Then I marked that level with a heat-sensitive pen. And . . . it was time to cut more zig-zags.
After that layer, there were four layers of tulle to individually cut.
Here is my dress at this stage of the project:
This is what I cut off:
The dress looks pretty good at this point, and I probably could have left it just like this. However, I had all those yards and yards of tulle and it seemed a shame to just let it go to waste.
So, because I am crazy like that, I trimmed all those layers down:
What should be noted is that these pieces were curved the wrong way. I used the jagged-edge as the bottom, and it was actually smaller that the top, since the original skirt was flared. I considered whether this would be a problem, and in the end I decided it wouldn’t because the pieces would be quite gathered, and if anything, the shape would cause the strips to poof at the top and pull in at the bottom, which I thought would suit the skirt. And, if worse came to worse, I could periodically cut the strips apart to help them hang freely.
Once all four strips were trimmed, I squish gathered them to the dress. I put one layer at the waist under the top layer of tulle. One layer at the top of the underskirt, one layer farther down on the underskirt and one layer someplace else that made sense at the time!
I wanted the skirt to have some bling, so I added string sequins to the skirt. This also provided a row of stitching to stabilize this edge.
I scattered some hotfix jewels on the skirt. These will provide a subtle glitter through the layers of tulle.
Here is the skirt with the added layers of tulle:
I wanted some all-over glitter, so I used this glitter spray paint on the skirt.
First I masked off all but the top layer of tulle. I tried spraying it on, but most went through the skirt on to the plastic. I tried swishing the tulle on the plastic to pull up most of the paint. Later I switched to making a clump of tulle and spraying it, and/or spraying my hand and then spreading it on the tulle.
This glitter attempt was less than successful. The skirt does have a subtle shimmer when you shine a flashlight on it, or in bright sunlight, but it doesn’t have the intensity of glitter I was hoping for, especially in light of the cost of the glitter paint and the amount of time I spent putting it on. I considered trying a tube of glitter paint, but that really wasn’t the look I imagined, and I wanted something washable, so that eliminated the other glitter paints I had on hand.
Instead I scattered gems over the skirt. I secured these with E6000 glue.
I added some green ribbon for optional straps. It is just pinned in.
I also made a modesty panel for the front bust line. I measured across the front bodice between the seams, and then from the top of the bodice into the sweetheart shaping, and ended up with 9″ x 3″. I cut a piece of scrap fabric this size, and covered it with some weeded waste left from the cutting of heat transfer vinyl “sequins”.
I stitched several layers of tulle over the top. This panel can be pinned in place, or could be basted in.
I made a scrunchie out of some of the leftover tulle. I cut a piece of 1/4″ elastic and tied it in a circle. Then I tied randomly sized pieces of tulle around it until I was happy with the fullness.
I also made a pair of matching bloomers. I used the left-over fashion-fabric layer of the skirt. I just found a generic pattern for PJ pants.
I added a drawstring casing at the top, and gathered the leg opening using 1/4″ elastic.
The finished dress:
Here is the link to the YouTube companion video.
This was a super fun project. While it took time to do all of the cutting, and I did choose to add back in the extra layers of tulle, this could easily have been a no-sew upcycle. Add some wings and you would be good to go with this costume. I think it would look good over a white shirt and leggings.
I do want to figure out a better way to add glitter to a tulle skirt–I’d love to hear feedback if you have any good methods. I do not want it to be heavy, or stiff, or to shed a lot, and it would be nice if it were washable.
This costume will be offered in my Etsy store in the “Upcycle” area. You can also find a section of “costume possibilities” . . . where I am beginning to list some of my “great finds” that I am hopeful will inspire a project or two, because I am running out of storage space, and don’t have enough hours in the day to act on all my good ideas.
This week is moving week–two college kids moving into an apartment, so probably no sewing for me as I will be making multiple trips back and forth with all of their stuff.
2 thoughts on “From Prom dress to Pixie: A Tinkerbelle (Fairy) upcycle”
So many thoughts about this! First of all do you ever thing “what were they thinking” when you see a dress, especially in a larger size and in a style that would not be flattering at all. And neon green no less. I have a few and the kids always ask, “do you think someone really wore this?” But, what you did with it is amazing. It is the perfect Tinker Belle.
I think one of the things you do really well is not stop too soon. I usually stop one or two steps before you would, but, the last embellishments are often the ones that really make the costume pop. This is one of those. That extra layers you added really made it special.
Spray glitter – oh yes – I thought it was going to be heaven when I was costuming for the dance troupe. When I sprayed it on a costume it looked great but then we backed off a few feet and it disappeared. Even respraying didn’t make it work. It is too subtle for the stage. What did work was spray adhesive and glitter. I would spray the adhesive and then sprinkle glitter. Even better and lasts forever (honestly I have costumes that are almost 20 years old) is one of the white stretchy glues brushed on and then glittered over. I do also love the hotfix but it is labor intensive.
I try now and this will come in handy this year to take things one more step in the embellishment. This does not come natural to this navy blue and white wearing lady.
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Thanks for the kind words. I have been hesitant to try glue and glitter because of the shedding factor, but, I should give it a try. The question of when to stop and when “more” is too much is a difficult one. When I was a little girl, my mom used the phrase “made with tending loving hands” to describe crafts, garments etc that looked home-made (in a derogatory sense). That is always the fear . . .