Sewing Tips

Pattern Hack: how to make the Mini Romper Dress

If there’s one look that’s the epitome of “fresh vintage” for little girls, it’s the 1950’s short dress with full skirt:

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Originally these styles were designed as two-piece outfits:

  • either a romper plus a wrap-skirt
  • or a dress plus matching bloomer

Recently this silhouette has been updated as a one-piece-circle-skirted-romper by coveted children’s-wear designers such as (Pinterest pics left-to-right):

  • Little Minis
  • KaiKai Creations
  • Liboosha   “Peggy”
  • Well Dressed Wolf “Innocent”

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These rompers sell for around $90, and re-sell for several hundreds. I’ve wondered for awhile while an indie pdf hasn’t appeared in this silhouette….at least I haven’t seen one yet. Why not mash together a romper-plus-skirt….or a dress-plus-bloomer?  I decided to combine 2 Tadah (previously Fresh Patterns) patterns:

  • the TADAH “Tea Party Dress” (for BODICE and SKIRT)
  • the FRESH PATTERNS “Nappy Cover” (for BLOOMER)

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BODICE:

The only tricky part of this mash-up is adjusting the bodice of the “Tea Party Dress” from closely-fitted raised-waist, to slightly “blouson” regular-waist-length:

  1. Increase bodice width at the waist.  Slash-and-spread to change the side-seam angle to a straight vertical line (this is easiest to do while placed on a gridded cutting board):

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2. Checking the bodice pattern waist width against the “Nappy Cover” pattern, the bodice needs to be increased for a match, to make sewing the waistline together easier:

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Slash-and-spread the bodice by 3/16″:

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(You’ll note that the grading on the bloomer is 1/4″ while the grading on the bodice is 3/16″.  Since the bloomer is very full, the grading can be decreased by 1/16″ without seriously affecting fit.)

3. Increase bodice length from slightly above-waist, to just below-waist, then add length-ease to create a slight blouson effect. Slash-and-spread by 1″:

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4. Trace the adjusted pattern for ease of use:

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5. Repeat for the back bodice pattern. The back bodice waist width will NOT match the width of the back bloomer; the bloomer will get tucks to ease in the fullness when sewing to the bodice at the waistline.

(These increases are for sizes 0,1,2,3….larger sizes require an additional 1/8″ in bodice width and 1/4″ in bodice length….but I generally make rompers only in infant and toddler sizes.)


BLOOMER: the Tadah “Nappy Cover” is used for the bloomer. Since the grading on the bloomer is 1/4″ and the grading on the bodice is 3/16″, I decreased the grade on the bloomer to match. The back bloomer will need  two 1″ tucks to match the back bodice at the waist; you can mark these on your paper pattern if you like:

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You also need to cut two pieces of 2″ width scrap fabric for finishing the crotch area to add snaps (instructions later):

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SKIRT: to mimic the trendy mini-rompers, shorten the Tadah Tea Party skirt pattern to these lengths (includes 1/2″ waist seam allowance  for elastic casing, + 1/2″ allowance for the hem) :

  • Size 6 months: 8 3/4″
  • Size 12 month: 9 1/4″
  • Size 2: 9 3/4″
  • Size 3: 10 1/4″

If you plan to add ruffles or trim to the hem, you can shorten the fabric pattern by the width of the trim.

The skirt waistline is already very full (it gets gathered in to match the bodice) so it doesn’t need to be increased in width, even though the bodices were.


SEWING: (shown in size 6 months U.S. or Aussie size 0)

Construction steps are slightly changed because the eased blouson-fit allows the finished garment to be pulled on over-the-head without skirt placket. Basically the construction is:

  1. Bodice: stitch  to lining, turn inside out, stitch  side-seams, add snaps
  2. Skirt: stitch  front to back, hem bottom edge (add optional trim)
  3. Bloomer: stitch  front to back, stitch elastic to leg openings, finish crotch ends
  4. Waistline: pin bodice to bloomer, sandwiching skirt; encase elastic

Steps with Photos:

  1. Bodice
  • Stitch bodice to lining, turn inside out:

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  • Stitch bodice side-seams:

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  • Add buttons or snaps:

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2. Skirt

  • Stitch skirt front to back, hem bottom edge (add optional trim)

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3. Bloomer

  • Stitch panty front to back, stitch elastic to leg openings:

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  • Finish crotch ends:

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  • Add buttons/buttonholes OR snaps to crotch

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4. Waistline

  • Final step is to combine the bodice with skirt with bloomer:

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  • Baste  two 1″fitting tucks at back bloomer waist:

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  • Pin bloomer to skirt at waist, baste together:

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  • Pin the bodice to the skirt/bloomers along waistline, stitch together. Overlock (or zig-zag finish) raw edge of seam allowance, press up to bodice. Cut elastic per Fresh Pattern “Nappy Cover” pattern chart, create loop and zigzag ends together.  Please elastic loop on machine arm, then stitch waistline seam allowances to bodice lining, creating elastic casing  (process described in more detail in this post):

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And….Tadah!  Here is the finished mini-romper-dress:

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Possible changes I’d make:

  1. Switch to the “Tea Party” pattern lower armhole?
  2. Draft a vee back neckline?

Once you have the basic body drafted, there are unlimited neckline options you can pull from your pattern collection.

Happy Sewing!  Best, Janet

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