How to make a stunning Barbie ball gown fit for the Oscars

by Claire

I was inspired by the all of the gorgeous ball gowns gracing the Academy Awards red carpet (which was actually pink – Barbie would definitely approve!) to make a two piece ball gown for a Barbie doll. You’ll find everything you need to make this stunning Barbie ball gown below – including full instructions with photos of each step, a free pattern (to fit a standard Made to Move Barbie) and details of what you need.

My dolls needed something to wear to the Dollslife Magazine Awards – a black tie event to celebrate the Dollslife Magazine’s first year of publishing. You can read the magazine on Adrian Dollslife blog https://dollslifemagazine.blogspot.com/ and see all of the fabulous gowns on the red carpet on Instagram (@adrian.dollslife #dollslifemagazineawards). Here are my girls posing for a photo shoot on the red carpet.

The inspiration for the gown design was this beautiful shimmering sequinned gold two piece Valentino Couture gown worn by Carey Mulligan to the Oscars. My version is a skirt featuring a wide waistband and panels which flare towards the bottom to give the ball gown fullness. The netting underskirt gives the skirt volume and shape. The strapless bandeau bodice is fitted and flattering. I hope you’ll be inspired to make your own version of this Barbie ball gown.

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What you need:

  • Gold fabric (the darker gold is a lame – you can find this from My Fabrics, the pale gold is an upcycled top which had some stretch to it). The amount of fabric depends on width of fabric – if it’s over 130 cm (4′ 3″) wide then 30 cm (1′) should be sufficient. If the fabric can only go one way up, then you’ll need 60 cm.
  • Tulle – 50 x 150 cm (19.7″ x 4’11”) (the navy with gold is upcycled from a girls dress, the pale gold has a pink sparkle tulle underskirt)
  • Ribbon -13 cm (5.1″) length of 1 cm (0.4″) wide (colour to co-ordinate with the tulle)
  • Fasteners (1 x small snap, 1 x hook and eye, hook and loop tape)
  • Small zip (5cm/2″) (I buy my doll haberdashery from Etsy shop CharleneluDesign)
  • Matching thread
  • Ball Gown Pattern – FREE download below

General tips before you start

I made the first version of this outfit in the gold lame and I realised that the underskirt makes the main skirt appear shorter – so bear this in mind. To resolve this I made a feature of the underskirt as I love the navy gold sparkly tulle fabric showing under the gold. I altered the pattern to provide a longer skirt – you can play around with the hem if you want more underskirt showing. You may find that the top of the skirt panels are small so it can be tricky to sew with the machine – if you’re having problems with sewing by machine then I would recommend sewing the top of each panel by hand. The seam allowance I used is 0.5 cm.

When adding the last few skirt panels, keep measuring against your doll to check the fit – if it’s coming up too big you can miss a panel off, or add a panel if it’s too small. Just remember to finish on the panel with the tab for the closure. I also sewed the bandeau top by hand. If you want the skirt to have even more volume, you could make another underskirt and attach it to the ribbon waistband.

Difficulty level: Intermediate

My ‘mini-me’ doll making the ball gown

Step 1: Make the Ball Gown skirt

Cut out all of the skirt pieces and the waistband piece.

Right sides together, pin and sew the first panel (the one with the back opening tab) to the first panel without the tab.

Repeat to add all of the remaining panels, finishing with the other panel with the back opening tab. Press the seams open.

Sew the side seam, leaving the back opening unsewn (where the tabs are).

Fold each side of the back opening under and pin the zip in place so it is hidden by the fabric. Tack in place then sew close to the zip. I find it easier to do this by hand.

Pin the waistband in place, right sides together, and stitch. There should be about 5mm overhanging at either end. Press the waistband and seam up.

Turn the 5mm seam allowance on the long unstitched edge of the waistband to the wrong side and press.

Finish the ends of the waistband by folding in half lengthwise. Pin each end and stitch. Trim the seams and turn right side out. Push the corners out so they are square.

Press the waistband to the inside of the skirt along the central foldline. Pin turned under seam allowance to skirt and slip stitch folded edge to the seam line.

Check the fit on your doll, then attach fasteners to ends of waistband.

Hem the bottom of the skirt. I love how it forms a circle!

Step 2: Make the Ball Gown underskirt

Cut a length of ribbon 13 cm (5.1″) long (the waistband will sit on your dolls hips, rather than her waist). Carefully seal the ends with a flame. Cut the first tier of tulle (see pattern for sizes of each tier). Sew a row of gathering stitches along one long edge.

Gather to the same length as the ribbon and pin to the inside edge of the ribbon. Tack in place.

 Top stitch close to the bottom edge of the ribbon.

Gather the second tier and pin to bottom of first tier. Sew. Repeat with the third tier.

Measure 4cm down from the top of the waistband and mark with a pin. Pin and sew the remainder of back seam (from your marker pin to the bottom of the skirt).

Add a small piece of hook and loop tape to each end of the waistband. The waistband should sit on your dolls hips rather than waist (so the skirt over the top lies smoothly).

Step 3: Make the Ball Gown bodice

Cut out your bodice pieces. Lay them out to make sure they are the right way up.

Sew each of the front side pieces to the front centre piece, to form the front of the bodice.

Sew each side piece to the front of the bodice.

Press the seams. Press a hem all the way around the bodice, then hem by hand using a slip hem stitch (so it doesn’t show at the front of the bodice).

Check the fit on your doll and mark the position for the fasteners. Sew fasteners in position. It should have a snug fit so it stays up!

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning how to make a Barbie ball gown! I love seeing what everyone creates using my patterns – please share on Instagram using #galaxiadolls and tag me on the picture (@galaxiadolls). Happy sewing!

Claire x

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