A Beach Dress for Jemima: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Jemima in Costume Parade mode

My sister had sent a list with all of her costume “needs” on it and one of the items they still needed was a dress for Jemima to wear to the beach.  They wanted something “beachy”, but leaning more dress than a bathing suit.   I happened to see this dress at a thrift store and was inspired.

The dress was a strapless sundress in black micro-dot print.  It had a zip back, self fabric sash, and was trimmed with black satin ribbon.  It is shown on my child-size dress model.

I don’t know what Caratacus and Jeremy will be wearing in that scene,  but I did know what Truly would be wearing, and I thought it would be nice to make the dresses coordinate.  The dress below is the base dress that was the start of the beach dress for Truly.  I don’t have pictures of the finished dress as my Mom did this remodel.

Truly beach dress--base before remodeling

I envisioned doing a few little alterations to the sundress, adding some trim (including blue) and hopefully make a dress that would blend with Truly.

I quickly noticed that someone had previously done some alterations on the base dress.  The bodice side seams had been taken in.  While the extra fabric was left in the seams, the band at the top had been cut and restitched.  Not a problem for this project, but you just never know what you will find.

previously altered at the side buist

I took some additional tucks in the front to remove more of the bust shaping.  I also wanted to lower the front of the bodice (since it no longer needs to go up and over a bust) and to make it look more like a jumper than a strapless dress.  I made another tuck horizontally across the front right under the top band.  I did not cut the excess fabric out at this time since I was unable to do a fitting.  Ideally, a fitting could have been done before adding the embellishments.  Instead, when I added trim across the front, I cut the ribbons longer than they needed to be, and tucked a folded “tail” under, so that the ribbon could be picked off, the bodice made bigger, and the ribbon replaced.

I added rows of wide blue ribbon to the bodice (as described).

front detail


You can see the seam line from the tuck across the top . . visible close up, but not from a distance.

I embellished the lower skirt with rows of black lace, black satin ribbon.  The hem was lengthened with wide pre-ruffled eyelet, and trimmed with a three-tiered white and blue lace.  The existing underskirt was lengthened with some scrap white fabric and edged with lace.  I just left the existing ruffle in place.

The top of the dress was made with a linen blend blouse that I had picked up not only because of the fabric, but also because it had a lot of nice tuck detailing.

Initially I thought I might remodel the blouse so that the back was in the front, as it has that nice yoke, but, it didn’t hit the horizontal lines of the dress well, so I discarded that idea.  The collar is turned up because I planned to alter it.  The collar did not have a band, so I just folded it in half and stitched it in place.  I trimmed it, and the bottoms of the 3/4 length sleeves, with more of the three-tiered blue & white lace.  The lace around the collar needs to have tucks here and there to help it go around the curve nicely.

bodice detail

I added tucks over the center of the shoulders to pull up the sleeves and decrease the width of the front and the back.

tucks over the shoulder

Excess fabric was removed from the underarm.  I stitched a line of straight stitching, then a row of zig-zag and then cut out the excess fabric.

I added some narrow white cord to use as straps to hold the sundress up.  I have those just pinned in place until a fitting could be done.  A small piece of velcro closes the collar, and a white Kam snap was added between the collar and the top blouse button.

And . . that was it.

front detail

This was a fun evening project.  I wish my piece of blue ribbon had been a bit longer so I could have added a row around the bottom of the skirt, and made a hair bow.  As it was, I think I had less than 3″ left.   I like how the dress turned out, and I think it has a nice generic “period” feel and could be useful in a number of different settings and eras.

Cost:  dress $5.88, blouse:  $2, plus blue ribbon, black ribbon, black lace, three-tiered lace and eyelet.  Trim could kill you on a project like this.  The ribbons were both long-ago leftovers.  The three-tiered lace and wide eyelet I just purchased at 90% off  at a fabric store that was changing locations (I just happened to stop in . . and only had about 30 minutes to grab stuff . . . which was probably a good thing!).  The black lace comes from a bulk roll I picked up from saleandbargain at some point.

If I had to pick one thing to stockpile, it would be trim.  Trims can be very expensive.   If you can find them in bulk at a wholesale kind of cost, or thrift/resale so you can pay pennies on the dollar . . then you can add a lot to your costumes, and it will help raise them above “good enough”.   Occasionally random rolls will show up places, and it pays to scout out your local thrift stores because thrift stores can vary a lot depending on location and who tends to support them.


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