Girl sewing, Pattern Review

One birthday dress, coming right up!

Cute birthday girl, huh?

Creative Counselor: Fairy Tale party dress
The Minnie Dress. Pattern: Oliver + S Fairy Tale Dress. Photo courtesy of Kati B.

My college friend Kati asked me to make her daughter a party dress for her third birthday party — a Minnie-themed tea party. Kati seriously does up the birthday parties, so I knew that the dress had to match the decorations and activities that Kati, who apparently has endless energy and creativity, would come up with.

The idea was to suggest Minnie without making her a Minnie Mouse costume.  Since the classic Minnie wears either a red polka dot or black polka dot dress with a poofy skirt and puffed sleeves, we decided to go with the black polka dots and red accents and a slightly more subdued, vintagey pattern.  I think it hits the perfect note!

I actually finished this dress at the end of October, but waited until pictures were available to post my review.

The pattern is the Fairy Tale Dress pattern by Oliver + S in View B with a few modifications. The Fairy Tale dress is designed to be a special occasion dress so it fit the bill nicely for this purpose.

The fabric is black and white quarter dots by Michael Miller with red Kona cotton for the contrast. This dress would look really sharp in fancier fabric like satin, taffeta or silk dupioni, but this little lady is 3, after all. Machine washable is very important!

Although the birthday girl is now 3, I made the dress in size 4T.  I think the pattern actually runs pretty true to size — she is tall and broad-shouldered and wears size 4-5 in regular clothes too.

This is among the most difficult of the Oliver + S patterns, but anyone accustomed to sewing adult clothing will find it pretty straightforward.  It uses many of the techniques that are common in women’s clothing — darts, lining, invisible zipper, etc.  All that made it a lot more time-consuming than your average girls dress, but nothing was particularly difficult.  Any issues I had (one in particular) were due to the slippery lining fabric and not the pattern.

So, now for the details:

Creative Counselor: Minnie dress
Little Sassafrass.  Photo courtesy of Kati B.

Pattern: Oliver + S Fairy Tale Dress, View B.

Size: 4T

Fabric: Main — Michael Miller quarter dots in black and white and red Kona cotton.  Lining — black lining fabric.  Underskirt — red tulle.

Modifications:  (1) The pattern as drafted attaches the sash at the side seams only and just ties in the back.  I always think that looks incomplete, so I added what is essentially a cummerbund on the front so that the sash had the appearance of completely encircling her waist.  (2) The red binding at the sleeves is a total cheat.  I was having a b&*$^ of a time getting the sleeve bias tape facings to cooperate with the slippery lining fabric.  After I ripped it out for the third time, I said f&*# it and went with red bias-bound sleeves.  I think it works.


  • This dress is a nice complement to the Oliver + S lineup.  It’s definitely dressier than most of the other Oliver + S patterns, but certain occasions just call for a fancier dress.  But like all Oliver + S patterns, the instructions and drafting is top-notch and the styling is classic.  This will never go out of style.  I will undoubtedly use it for N (though I may omit some of the fussier details like the lining and underskirt), and will be equally able to use it for my grandchildren.
  • I love the little Peter Pan collar — adorable.
  • Optional tulle underskirt for a poofy, twirlable party dress.
  • Great details, typical of an Oliver + S pattern — invisible zipper fully enclosed in the lining for a nice, clean finish, hand-stitched hem, darts for a more fitted look (note that the darts are in size 2T and up, not the smaller baby sizes).
  • Very basic, classic silhouette.  If you eliminate the lining and tulle underskirt, this dress goes together really fast.


  • Because of all the additional details, this dress is more time-consuming than your typical little girls pattern.  Honestly, while I plan to use this pattern for special occasion dresses, i probably won’t use it that often.  If I’m going to spend a week of sewing time on a garment, I’d rather that I be able to wear it when I’m finished 🙂  Yes, I fully admit that I am a selfish seamstress.
  • The lining fabric was a real pain in the butt to work with sometimes. Particularly at the tiny sleeve openings (as noted above).  It might not be so bad in the larger sizes.
  • Because of the bust darts, it really is a good idea to make a muslin, which just adds to the sewing time (though you’re likely to get a cute second dress out of it).
  • Lots of hand-sewing.  Very time consuming.  Hmm, I notice that most of my “cons” relate to the time it takes to make this dress.  I guess that’s because I’m just not used to kids clothing taking more than a few hours of sewing time, and this does.

Overall grade: B+.  It’s a great special occasion dress with classic styling, but a bit fussier than I generally prefer in a kids’ sewing pattern.

Creative Counselor: Minnie dress
Back view.  Photo courtesy of Kati B.
Creative Counselor: Minnie dress
Peter Pan collar — love it.  Photo courtesy of Kati B.

0 thoughts on “One birthday dress, coming right up!

  1. What a perfect party dress! Love the fabric choices for Minnie (I’m kind a minimalist dress up maker) and great pattern review! This is another pattern I’ve been eyeing. 🙂

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