When you love both miniature sewing and creating whimsical avant garde clothes, it’s only natural that those two would eventually end up in the same tutorial. Meet sculptural doll clothes!
Sewing at a tiny scale means that you can actually create all kinds of sculptural constructions. I put together four outfits and will show you how I drafted the patterns and a few notions on the sewing, too. I have a more specific tutorial here for sewing tiny clothes.
You can find a free basic pattern set to download in the side panel. On mobile it will end up at the bottom of the page. All the patterns here are based on those. My Barbie represents the new shape with a larger waist and smaller bust.
As for fabric, look for something that is lightweight and stiff at the same time.
So, the first look consists of a top with spiked shoulders that you might remember from one of my earlier sleeve tutorials, and a folded skirt. The folds form loops at the upper edge as they have been stitched at their base.
The Spiked Shoulders
To create the spiked shoulders you need to modify the shoulder line of the bodice and the sleeve cap shape.
First, rotate the bust dart away from the shoulder. I united it with the waist dart. Modify the neckline shape if you want.
Then, draw the new shoulder line. Aim for a similar shape both front and back, and unite the new shoulder tip with the armscye line, as shown.
The sleeve will also have a pointed cap shape. The size should match with the armhole. I ended up raising it more than the shoulders.
Here are the pattern pieces. You’ll get the neckline facing piece by tracing it directly from the bodice neckline. Alternatively you could line the piece, but make the lining without the spiked shoulder.
Sewing the Spiked Shoulders
Generally when sewing sleeved tops for Barbie, you should prepare the sleeve and top separately at first, but without closing the side seam or the underarm seam before attaching the sleeves.
So, the same goes here. I closed the darts and sewed the shoulder seams. You need to make a few clips to the seam allowance as it’s curved.
Hem the sleeves while they are still laying flat.
And then you can attach the sleeves. Although the armhole has a particular shape, it’s still an armhole. Sew the front and back sides separately to create a nice shape. Trim the seam allowance around the spike before turning the right sides out.
I find it easier to attach the facing/lining at this point, too, while the side seams are still open.
Finally, you sew the side seam and the sleeve’s underarm seam in one go, just like when sewing tops in a knit fabric.
The Folded Skirt
Start by tracing the basic skirt pattern. Trace the front and back pieces aligned at the side seam.
Divide both pieces into three sections. Divide the darts into two smaller ones, as shown. Number the sections.
Then you will add volume between the sections with the slash and spread technique. Measure 6cm between each section at the top edge. The lines can be completely straight. The darts will remain inside the folds. The front piece will be cut on the fold, so add only half of the volume there.
The skirt will have side seams, so separate the pattern in two halves. There will be an opening at the c-back. Therefore, cut the back piece twice.
Sewing the Folded Skirt
Just a side note: this was an absolute nightmare fabric to sew with! Couldn’t be ironed as it melted even with the lowest temperature. Anyways…
I started by closing the side seams and hemming the top edges of the folds. You will end up with these tiny bits of seam allowance (see the arrows), that will be attached to a waistband once the folds have been finished.
Then, I sewed all the folds at their base, trying to follow the shape using the pattern as a reference. The ones at the side seams are easy, as you can simply follow the seam shape: see the second picture.
Before closing the back seam I hemmed the skirt and attached the waistband.
In case you’re wondering what’s up with the tufted look, I cut the waistband from the fabric selvage. That way I didn’t need to finish the waistband edge. I just folded it once and stitched on top. The tufts remain on the inside. Although you can also leave them on the outside as you will see later.
So, that was look number 1 of sculptural doll clothes.
Here’s the second look. I made a sculptural raglan top and combined it with a very simple sculptural skirt. The skirt is made of the same fabric as the previous one, but I stitched a second layer on top using the other fabric to make it more interesting.
The Sculptural Skirt
Let’s start from the easier one: the skirt.
Basically you only need to measure your doll’s waist and decide how long you want the skirt to be.
Here’s the pattern. Divide the waist measurement by 4: the piece will be cut 4 times.
These are just reference measurements from my skirt. You can make yours in a size you prefer. The pink section in the center is what I used to cut the central pieces in another fabric. They will simply be sewn on top.
The back piece will have a seam in the center so that you are able to leave an opening.
Sewing the Skirt
I prepared the three large pieces first by stitching the smaller pieces on top, and closed the c-back seam. Then I sewed the pieces together, hemmed the skirt and attached a waistband.
As a final touch I decided to topstitch the corner seams for extra structure.
The Sculptural Raglan Top
First you obviously need to turn the basic bodice into a raglan. I made the sleeve elbow-length.
Rotate the bust dart towards the side seam. In this case there’s no need to close the gap.
Draw straight lines from the armhole notches to the shoulder tips and measure the lines (A & B).
Then, draw a horizontal guideline on top of the sleeve cap.
Draw straight lines from the sleeve’s armhole notches towards the guideline, using the measurements A & B from the bodice. The idea is to match the measurements. Find the center point along the horizontal guideline. It might match with the original cap notch or not. Draw a line straight down.
Complete the sleeve shapes as shown here below. Give a millimeter of extra width to the sleeve pieces. Then, trace the front and back sleeve patterns and attach them to the bodice, aligning them with the straight lines you drew earlier.
Draw the slightly curved raglan seams starting from the armhole notch and ending at the neckline.
Now you need to trace again. I colored the bodice piece in blue and the sleeve piece in pink to give you an idea. If you want a facing piece, it’s easier to trace it from here.
The basic raglan pattern is ready, so here’s how I transformed that into the final pattern:
I absorbed the darts into these curved style lines and added curved shapes to the sleeves, too. Try to match the sleeve seam lengths as they will be sewn together.
How to Sew the Raglan Top
Prepare the front and back bodice pieces first by attaching the side panels. Then, unite the front and back sleeve pieces and hem the sleeves.
Now you can attach the sleeves by sewing the raglan seams. This is actually easier than attaching regular sleeves at a tiny scale.
Sew even the facing in place before closing the side seams and underarm seams.
The back seam will remain open. I just folded the edges.
Here’s the third look! This time I made pants with an undulating side seam and a top with a large…collar(?) that remains raised behind Barbie’s head. I was hoping that the fabric would maintain the shape on its own, but in the end I had to resort to a lightweight interfacing.
The Sculptural Pants for Barbie
This one’s actually really easy to draft.
Just trace the basic pants block and draw this undulating shape to the front side seam. The highest points are CA 1cm (or 3/8in.) away from the original side seam. Then copy the shape to the back piece. The back side seam shape is slightly different, but you can adjust the lines around the hip curve a bit.
Sewing the Pants
Sew the two pant legs separately at first, starting from the side seam. Trim the seam allowance and press.
Then hem the pants before closing the inseams.
Turn one pant leg right sides out and slip it inside the other pant leg to sew the crotch seam. Remember to leave an opening at the c-back.
Then, sew the waistband. Here I decided to leave the “hairy edge” on the right side as a design element.
The Large Collar Top
The front bodice is divided into two with a style line that absorbs the darts and the collar will be sewn into this seam. There’s an opening at the c-front to keep the collar intact.
Align the back pattern piece with the front piece at the shoulder to draft the collar. Enlarge the neckline. With 7cm’s height at the c-back you will get a collar like the one in the picture. It’s slightly bigger than the back pattern piece.
The bodice back piece is ready as it is. You basically just altered the neckline shape. It will be cut on the fold. The collar piece is cut twice on the fold. Interface one layer if needed. Mark a notch at the bust point.
Sewing the Large Collar Top
Sew the two collar layers together starting from the bust notch (see the arrows), trim the seam allowance and then press flat. You can add the interfacing also later, before closing the neckline, if you want to try to make it without one.
Topstitch around the edge for more structure.
Then, unite the two front bodice pieces sandwiching the remaining collar seam allowance in between.
Close the back darts and sew the shoulder seams.
This time I wanted to try lining the bodice to finish both the neckline and the c-front in one go. This is a rather bulky construction so I don’t think a facing would’ve been enough.
My lining piece only has a dart in the front, I didn’t divide it into two sections.
Unfortunately I couldn’t finish the armholes due to the collar, but I did get a nice hem by topstitching.
I closed the side seams of the two layers separately and topstitched even the c-front as it was so bulky.
For the final look Barbie is wearing a sculptural panel dress. There are lots of seams and as you can imagine, this means lots of possibilities to mess it up as little errors will quickly become very noticeable.
Sculptural Panel Dress
I have often made patterns with this technique, so this will probably seem really familiar. It’s also an easy way to create sculptural doll clothes.
Trace the basic bodice block and lengthen it until you reach the desired dress length. In my case, I added 9cm from the hipline down.
Then, divide the front and back pieces into 3 panels, absorbing the darts into the seams, as shown. You can move the back dart towards the c-back to create a nicer line. I also changed the neckline shape and removed the ease from the back shoulder.
The triangular shapes of the panels start around the waist. Decide where the highest point will be and draw a horizontal guideline. Decide also the height of the tips. Mine are 1.8cm high. You measure from the original panel’s edge.
I tried to make the shapes more or less the same. The important thing is that the seams that will be sewn together will have the same shape. Trace the panels. As an example I’ve colored panel number 1.
Here are the pattern pieces. Each will be cut twice and there’s an opening at the c-back. You can create a facing that covers the neckline and the armholes.
Sewing the Sculptural Dress
Although it might take some time, this dress is quite easy to sew. Just keep track of the pieces so that you sew them in the right order. To attach the facing more easily, keep the front and back sections separate until you’ve attached the facing. For some reason I didn’t and had to sew the shoulder seams by hand.
Trim the seam allowance, especially around the tips before turning the right sides out. You can also topstitch the seams. Hem the dress before closing the c-back seam.
Alright, there you have all 4 looks of sculptural doll clothes! If you’re into miniature sewing, you should definitely try making some. It’s quite fun!
See also my other Barbie-themed blog posts here below.