Last summer I made my niece a Mermaid Dress using the Tinley Tee from GYCT Designs (affiliate link) – since the pattern is on sale ($4!! Today only!!!), I figured today would be the perfect day to post the tutorial for it! There is also going to be a sewalong for this pattern next week in the GYCT Facebook Group – be sure to join in the fun!
Since my niece is only six, I wanted to have the idea of the seashell “bra”, but in a modest way. My solution was to add seashell lines to the bodice.
Gather your supplies:
- Tinley Tee Pattern (or other tee shirt pattern – the puff sleeves and slim fit were perfect for the look I wanted)
- Fabric – I used a large clearance tee for the bodice (the exact yardage is available in the pattern instructions), 1/2 yard for the skirt (the scale fabric is from JoAnn’s), and 1/4 yard of tulle for the frill around the waist – this is for a size 6
- Freezer paper
- Gold paint – I used acrylic paint instead of fabric paint because the seashell is so small
- Seashell Template – I included several sizes
Begin by tracing your pattern onto the freezer paper. We’ll be using the full bodice (not just half) so be sure to leave enough room on your paper for the mirrored side. I like to make a few marks down the center (or “fold”) of the bodice to make it easier to get things lined up.
Cut out this half (leaving it connected at the center) and fold on the center line. Then cut around the other side using the cut side as a guide.
Measure your child to find the natural waist – for the size 6, I measured down five or six inches from the bottom of the armscye. Trim at this line.
Fold the bodice in half again and start making the “shell” lines. I just free-handed these. If you have a set of French curves, you could use those to make more accurate lines. I used a Sharpie so I could flip the paper over and trace the lines onto the other side, giving me a symmetrical pattern.
Be sure to number the pieces so you remember which order they are supposed to go in! Also, be sure to mark which way the stretch needs to go so you don’t get mixed up.
A couple things to keep in mind when you’re cutting your pieces out – since you have the full bodice traced out, you’ll be cutting a single layer.
Also, these do NOT have seam allowance added. You’ll need to remember to add that (to the curved lines that you just made only) when cutting. All the edges that were part of the original bodice edges already have seam allowance added.
Reassemble the bodice. I like to use pins to hold the curves together while I’m sewing. Press the seam allowances away from the center and topstitch. I used a straight stitch for all of this – because most of the lines are either vertical or at a diagonal, they don’t affect the stretch of the bodice much. The few parts that are horizontal don’t make much difference – and there is still enough ease in the back of the bodice for it to be comfortable.
Trace the seashell onto freezer paper (be sure to measures first and make sure you use the size that will fit best) and cut out with a sharp Xacto knife. Take your time, especially in the center where those lines get pretty small. Iron the shiny side onto the center of the bodice and paint.
Let the paint set for a few minutes, then peel off the freezer paper. When the paint is fully dry, go over the edges with a fine-tip Sharpie. This really makes the shell stand out. Heat set with a hot iron for about 30 seconds.
Finish the bodice following the pattern instructions.
For the frill, cut a strip of tulle 5″ wide (or whatever width you prefer) by the full width of the fabric. Fold it in half lengthwise and run a gathering stitch along the raw edge. Gather it to fit the bottom of the bodice, tilting the short edges in at the center as shown below:
Sew around the bottom edge with a stretch stitch and trim the edges.
For the skirt, I made a tube from my fabric by sewing the selvedge edges together and then attached it just like the frill. I added a band at the bottom, but I wish I had just hemmed it instead – it’s a little heavy for this fabric.
And you’re done!