From the Archives: A Pink 1860s Summer Dress for an American Girl Doll

An American Girl doll wears a pink 1860s dress and a wide straw hat trimmed with roses

Bella is a mid-century summer costume – a pink 1860s summer dress for an American Girl doll, inspired by several mid-19th Century fashion plates showing breezy summer dresses worn with wide straw hats.

1850 Fashion Plate 1

I had a specific goal in mind for this costume – I wanted to use up remnants of materials i already owned, and repurpose vintage materials in as many was as possible. Doll sewing is perfect for this sort of project -the quantities needed are so small that a little goes a very long way!

I drafted a simple summer dress with a gathered bodice, and sewed it out from half a yard of pink and white striped cotton, trimmed at shoulders and waist with a remnant of antique velvet ribbon. The skirt of the dress is ornamented with self-pleats, placed to take advantage of the pink stripe in the fabric. 

An American Girl doll wears a pink striped 1860s dress with velvet trim at waist and shoulders

The pelerine is made from half of a vintage cotton collar, tucked slightly at the shoulders to fit, and fastened at the center front with a hook-and eye.

An American Girl doll wears a white cotton Pelerine over a pink striped 1860s gown

The shawl is sewn from a scrap of silk charmeuse left over from the skirt of my Regency ballgown.

An American Girl doll wears a fringed silk shawl embroidered with pink ribbon roses

The silk shawl is hand-hemmed and embroidered with silk ribbon roses – the ribbons also being tail-ends from my ribbon scrap bag! I did have to purchase the silk fringe – the shortest fringe in the local fabric shop was four inches wide – i stabilized it with strips of clear packing tape and chopped it short with a rotary cutter.

The wide summer hat is made from half of a vintage straw purse that i had found in an antique shop in Boston. Using a teacup as a mold, I steamed a rounded crown into the flat straw plate, and trimmed the hat with wired silk ribbon roses from my wired ribbon box.

Beneath her dress, and over her hoops (courtesy of Pleasant Company) Bella wears a lace trimmed petticoat made from a hem salvaged from an old cotton summer dress. Underneath everything she wears a pair of pantaloons sewn from the very last scraps after my mother made a blouse of white cotton batiste!

close-up of 1860s hoop petticoat and drawers on an American Girl doll

As an ensemble, Bella has options for all sorts of summer weather! I later added two more styles of hat – this pink summer 1860s dress can also be worn with a straw bonnet made from a craft store basket!

An American Girl doll wears a pink dress and a straw bonnet made from a craft store basket

and also with a smaller summer hat absolutely smothered in roses!

An American Girl doll in a pink dress wears a straw hat covered in wire-ribbon roses

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