Homemade Dress-Up Clothes (Part 1: Butterfly/Fairy Wings)

Frugally encouraging imagination is a common theme in our home. Gifts I choose for my children are often given with this in mind. Over the winter, I promised to share with you some of the gifts I was sewing for my children. Now that I have finally unpacked my camera cord, I can start showing them to you!

Gen turned three-years-old in December, and I have been thrilled to see her creativity and imagination blossoming. I strive to provide her with a daily setting of encouraging her in these pursuits, and decided to create a set of costumes/”dress up” clothes. I enjoy hearing about all the ideas she thinks up in her world of pretending!

I began browsing through some natural toy catalogs, and was impressed by the variety of items available that were created with quality materials (made to last though lots of play!), and featured classic designs (instead of TV characters, for example). However, my gift budget would certainly not cover the cost of purchasing her an entire new costume “wardrobe.”

Calvin and I began brainstorming over what the “essentials” would be, as we watched her play. Gen loves to act out various Bible stories, often pretending to be royalty of some sort. She also loves Max Lucado’s Hermie, and specifically asked for “green and pink wings”(not knowing I had already decided to make a set of “dress-up” clothes). I decided upon a few “staple” items, along with a budget of $15-$20 for the total set.


I will be sharing the creation of the items in our dress-up costume bag with you in a series of blog posts. Here is Part 1: Butterfly/Fairy Wings!

I was initially daunted by the thought of creating Gen some costume wings. I didn’t want to make something that would fall apart after a short time of play, and mulled over the possibilities of different durable materials. (Wood? Fabric? Felt? Rope? Certainly not paper or cardboard!)

In addition to something durable, I needed a material that was lightweight enough for a small preschooler to run and play while wearing, but something that would still have enough “stiffness” to stand up like the wings she was imagining.

When pricing dress-up wings for sale, they appeared to range in price from $30 and up; I knew I could make a quality item for much less. I finally found the perfect materials at the fabric store.

I took Gen with me for a “mommy date,” and she immediately gravitated to the beautiful bridal section (of course). She found some glittery organza in pastel pink and green colors, which I purchased to make the colorful wings.

I decided to make the top wings larger than the bottom wings. I purchased 1/2 yard of the pink for the top, and 1/4 yard of the green for the bottom wings. (A 40% off coupon really helped, since this was rather expensive fabric! Now that we’re nearing the prom/bridal season, it tends to go on sale.)

In order to stiffen the wings, I decided upon crinoline. Crinoline is often used in formal dresses/petticoats to make those “puffed” skirts stand out a bit. It is sold inexpensively on fabric bolts just like other fabrics, but it has a stiff quality. (In the store I purchased mine, it was sold in the section with more utilitarian fabrics such as ripstop nylon, although the clerk told me it is sometimes sold in bridal sections as well.)

  • First, I sketched out a pattern on a large piece of heavy paper. (Make sure to draw it large enough to allow for seam allowances, while making it an appropriate size to your child’s body proportions.) I traced a large “teardrop” shape on the fold of the paper for the top (pink) wings, which unfolded into a heart shape. For the lower (green) wings, I just drew a single “teardrop” shape (not on the fold) to cut out individually. 
  • I pinned the patterns to my chosen fabrics, and cut them out. (Make sure to cut out matching pieces from both the colorful fabric of your choice and the crinoline.)
  • I used coordinating colors of thread to sew the wings, but you could also use invisible thread, if desired. Since I was using fabrics that were rather difficult to handle (a bit “slippery” and a tendency to fray), I decided that a “turned and stitched” method of sewing would be best. 
  • Sew each wing piece separately at first (the one large top wing piece and two smaller wing pieces). Pin the organza (or other colorful fabric of your choice) and crinoline right sides together, and stitch around the edge. Stop sewing a couple inches away from where you started, in order to leave an opening to turn it right side out. After turning it right-side out, sew the open area closed, and continue topstitching around the edge of the wings.
  • Once you have three completed wing pieces, you can begin attaching them together. First, overlap the pointed ends of the lower wings, and sew them together. (Your stitching line will end up being triangle-shaped, as you follow the edge of the overlapped pieces.) Then, overlap the pointed ends of the top and bottom wings in a similar manner, stitching in a triangle shape on the overlapped pieces.

To allow Gen to put on/take off the wings without constant help, I didn’t want to add any ties to the wings (since she doesn’t know how to tie a bow yet). I decided to use generous amounts of elastic.

  • I measured the length needed from above her shoulder, to near her waist, with plenty of extra to allow room for her to grow and use it easily. There are two pieces of elastic, to cross over her chest. 

Instead of trying to make fabric casings for the elastic (which would have been complicated with the types of fabric I was using, plus I had limited time), I just stitched the lengths of elastic to a wide pink satiny ribbon. (Choose a coordinating color of your choice.)

  • Lay the elastic on the wrong side of the ribbon (the less shiny side), and begin stitching it down. (I like to use a zig-zag stitch for added stability.) Then, while sewing down the length of elastic, gently pull on the elastic, stretching it out as you sew. When you have completed sewing the elastic and ribbon together, it will “scrunch up,” giving it a delightfully ruffled look; perfect for any butterfly or fairy! 
  • Then, double fold the edges of your ribbon, and pin it to the necessary locations on the back (crinoline) sides of your wings. (The locations will be approximately in the upper/middle of each wing, just above the child’s shoulder, and near their waist.) When you choose the locations for the edge of your ribbons, make sure to space them far enough apart, so they aren’t around the child’s neck (but always monitor play to prevent choking hazards). 
  • Cross each ribbon/elastic piece from a top wing, across and down to the opposite lower wing. (Keep the ribbons on the crinoline side of the wings.) Sew each folded edge securely in a square stitching line (sew around a few times to make sure it will stay securely fastened). 

That’s it! You’re done! Now slip the elastic/ribbons over your child’s head (crossed over their chest.)  If you have questions about this tutorial, or decide to give it a try, leave a comment and let me know. I’d love to see your finished wings! If you’re really ambitious, you can embellish these wings even further by adding embroidery or other decorations.

Save your leftover crinoline! We’ll use it on another dress-up costume item in the weeks to come. Bookmark this blog in your reader, so you don’t miss the next installment. Stop by next week to see the next item in our dress-up costume bag!

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57 comments to Homemade Dress-Up Clothes (Part 1: Butterfly/Fairy Wings)

  • Dionna @Code Name: Mama

    What a great idea for a series of posts! I haven't introduced the concept of dress up much w/my 28 month old, but I think he might be getting close to the age for it. We have a homemade "Superman" cape that he has put on very briefly once or twice – his imagination is developing rapidly though, so I'll pull it out again and see if he likes it.

    [Reply]

  • Michele @ Frugal Granola

    Fun! :) Yes, I think a cape would be an essential. I'll definitely have to do a "boy costume" series in a year or two when my son is older (He already loves digging through his sister's costume bag!)

    Blessings,
    Michele

    [Reply]

  • Lenetta @ Nettacow

    Hmm, this post made me realize that I need to write a post of my own on how I "made" my daughter's wings. Basically, I found a near-ruined set at the thrift shop (and another at a rummage sale), removed the fabric covering, and realized they were just panty hose! I bought some cheap colored knee-his, stretched them over the frame, and tied them tightly. I then covered the middle area with felt, and attached elastic. You can paint or embellish as you wish, or leave them plain. Once I wrapped my mind around what I was doing, it went really quickly!

    After I made them, I found this link which basically outlines what I did.

    [Reply]

  • Michele @ Frugal Granola

    Lenetta,
    I've seen such wings as you've described. But I was determined not to make the wire/pantyhose type, as I knew my hard-playing kiddo would destroy them in a day (no joke!). :) So, I had to come up with something more durable.

    I'm sure the wings you described would be a great option for a sweetie that is a bit gentler with her toys. :) Thanks so much for sharing!

    Blessings,
    Michele

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