It happened! Kiki started kindergarten! It goes without saying that this momentous occasion merited a new dress . . .
I started planning this dress ages ago, when Kindergarten was just a vague idea of something that would happen someday. The idea really came together when I was looking through the very thoughtful photo book that my parents put together for me when I turned forty. (Yes, that happened . . . a couple of years ago.)
In the book, there’s a picture of the dress I vividly remember from my own first day of kindergarten. It was a red gingham seersucker sundress with shoulder ties and an apple appliqued to the front. And, most importantly, my mom made it for me 🙂 Here it is . . .
When I set out to find the right pattern to make one of these for Kiki, I found a few with the shoulder ties, but none with a bodice that dips down in the front like mine did. I decided that detail wasn’t crucial, and I went with the Petite Fille Style Dress from Puperita, which I found on Etsy.
(In retrospect, I think I could have modified the Oliver + S Swingset Tunic into something like this dress, as the shape in the front and back is similar. Maybe I’ll try that one for Lulu’s first day of kindergarten. Luckily, I have two years to figure it out.)
It’s actually designed with a criss cross front, which I really like — and I’m sure I’ll make one as originally intended one of these days. But, of course, a criss cross front would have made the applique impossible, so I modified it a bit. All I had to do was find the center line on the front pattern pieces (which happens to be marked on the pattern — what luck!). I drew in a new, rounded neckline and cut the front on the fold. Easy.
There are also two cute pleats on the bottom of the skirt. Sadly, they don’t show up much on this gingham, but I bet they’d be really great feature in a tamer fabric.
I didn’t want this dress to be a strict copy of the 1978 original — it should be her dress. So Kiki chose the gingham color as well as the applique design.
She originally chose a seersucker from Fabric.com. But after a week or two went by and the fabric never arrived, I called them and learned that it had never been sent and there had been some kind of screw up. This isn’t the first time this has happened to me with Fabric.com, and I was none too pleased. Since kindergarten was only a few days away, I cancelled the order and reordered some very nice Riley Blake cotton gingham from Hawthorne Threads. I would like to note that my package was shipped the day I ordered it and it arrived in no time. Now that’s good customer service. Thanks, guys!
Anyway, for the applique design, Kiki and I googled “flower applique” and came up with this one. I just printed it out, enlarged it a bit on my home printer/copier, and made it happen with solid scraps I had lying around and some fusible webbing.
If you don’t know about fusible webbing and are thinking about doing some applique, check it out. It’s similar to interfacing, is fusible on both sides and comes affixed to paper. You draw or trace your design onto the paper in reverse, iron it onto the wrong side of your applique fabric, cut it out, peel off the paper, place it on your garment where you want the applique to be and iron it on. Then it stays put while you zip zag the applique in place.
The pockets were a last minute addition. And by last minute, I mean midnight the night before the first day of school. Kiki’s bottom two front teeth have been loose for ages. I can’t believe they didn’t both fall our weeks ago. Anyway, in anticipation of the critical moment soon to come, Kiki has wanted to wear only dresses with pockets — so she she’ll have a place to stash her teeth if they come out while away from home. Very practical, I must say. I didn’t think to add in side seam pockets, which would have been the thing to do. But, needless to say, midnight is not the time to take things apart and add side seam pockets.
I grabbed the patch pocket pattern piece from the Geranium Dress and cobbled these pockets together from leftover applique fabric still sitting on the cutting table, with binding along the tops. If I had the time, I would have added heart appliques to these pockets, but that was obviously out of the question.
I did have time to add in one little surprise, though.
I cut a heart out of two pieces of pink felt and sewed them together, with a ribbon sandwiched into the top. When I sewed the left pocket on, I stuck the other end of the ribbon in on the side. You can see the little tab of ribbon on the side in the pic below. That’s just the end of the ribbon tucked into the side seam of the pocket.
Kiki was a little nervous about her first day, so I thought this would be a nice surprise for her.
You may notice her unusual necklace . . . It’s plastic beads, along with photos of our family glued onto cardboard and strung along with the beads. Kiki is often unsure about starting a new school year, and we tried this “family necklace” idea last year on the first day of preschool. It really helped, and she asked for a new one this year. She made sure we made it long enough for her to be able to look at the pictures while wearing it. Yes, very practical! It did give her confidence to go out on her own and have some fun.