To assemble the dress, you begin by sewing the sides together. Unfold the dress
so that it looks like a T, and pin the sides from the opening at the wrists down
to the knees. Finish the seams, and press them open. I used my serger; it makes
a really nice finished edge!
Repeat the process with the second piece of fabric, so you have two identical dresses.
One version will be the outer layer of the dress, and the other will become the
dress lining. Sew the two dresses to identical proportions; no size adjustment is
necessary. Yes, they look quite big at this point... but have you noticed how baggy
Leiaís dress was around her torso? Theyíre supposed to be that way!
I highly recommend sewing a line of stay stitching around the neckline of both the
dress and the lining at this point. I found as I worked on my dress (and tried it
on multiple times) that the fabric started to unravel and stretch a bit around the
neckline. I immediately sewed a line of stay stitching around each neckline at that
point, but I could have avoided the problem if I had put in the stitches from the
start. A simple row of stitches around each curve can make a big difference!
When the seams for both dresses are finished, turn one of them inside out. If you
have a dress form (which I highly recommend), place one dress inside out on the form.
This will be the lining layer, so the seam allowances are pointing away from your
skin. Next, put the second copy of the dress over the top of the lining. This time,
it goes on the dress form right side out. Now, the two dresses both have their seam
allowances touching in between them, and when the dress is finished none of the allowances
will be visible from the outside.
Next comes the mindboggling part. The two dresses have to be sewn together at the
sleeves, the side slits, and the keyhole opening. The trick to this is sewing it
so that the seam allowances are on the inside. I spent hours working on this part
of the project, pinning and repinning and threatening to throw the whole deal out
the window.... but eventually I got it all figured out, and Iím very happy with
the results. Sometimes it comes in handy to be stubborn!
It didnít seem to matter where I started, so I began with the sleeves. With the
dress still hanging on my dress form, I chose a sleeve and turned the hems of both
layers to the inside, the way a finished seam would look. I pinned the two layers
together as I worked slowly around the circumference of the sleeve. The pins were
on the outside, however, so once I had everything laying neatly together. I had to
turn the sleeve inside out so that I could repin it correctly. I carefully pulled
both dresses off of the dress form, reached up inside the two layers of the sleeve
from the bottom of the dress, and took hold of the pinned hem. Pulling the sleeve
inside out without catching the pins on anything took slow and careful work, but
it was possible. Keep in mind that there is a LOT of fabric in those two dresses,
and it all looks alike, so you have to keep hold of that hem when youíre pulling
it through. A few times while I was working on the dress I completely lost track
of what piece went where. I had to turn everything right side out and reorganize
the dress before I could continue!
Once the sleeves were pulled inside out, I removed the pins from the outside by pulling
them through the gap between the two layers of fabric, and I replaced them on the
inside so that I had a nicely pinned hem all ready to be sewn.
Donít you wish I had a picture to show you what Iím talking about right now? Me,
I sewed the dress and lining sleeves together as if they were a normal seam, but
I tried it with a basting stitch first to make sure it would work. I then turned
the dress all right side out again, and breathed a huge sigh of relief when I had
a properly sewn sleeve with no visible hem. Whew! So, I turned the sleeve inside
out again, serged the seam, pressed it, and turned it back yet again. Then the dress
went back onto the dress form, and I repeated the process with the other sleeve.
My next task was the keyhole opening at the back of the neck.
The first time I stood behind a costumer with a Leia dress on, I noticed the length
of the keyhole opening in the back of her dress and I thought, ďItís a shame that
hole is so big. It looks distracting and unprofessional to have such a large area
of her back showing.Ē And then later on I saw a picture of the back of Carrieís
dress, and sure enough there really is supposed to be a big keyhole opening! The
keyhole on Leiaís dress goes down to her mid-back, about the same height as her armpits.
The fan dress I saw had been accurate.
I cut the slit on the back of my dress to 13 cm. It isnít as large an opening as
Leiaís, but itís large enough to get my head through when I donít have the buns on.
(I put them on after Iím dressed.)
Once again I turned the seam allowances of the dress and the lining to the inside
and pinned them together. Then I turned the dress inside out from the bottom so
that the keyhole seam allowances were on the outside. I repined the keyhole, making
sure that everything lined up well, and then I sewed the two layers of fabric together
with a basting stitch. It took me a couple tries to get this seam right, since I
wasnít sure of how to sew the end of the keyhole, but once I had it figured out I
sewed the two layers together properly and then sewed a line of reinforcement stitching
near the bottom of the keyhole, just to be safe. I couldnít use the serger for this
part, so it was all sewn with my standard sewing machine. When I turned the dress
back to right side out the keyhole puckered a little bit, but a light touch with
the iron solved that problem. I doubt that I did this part correctly, but Iíve never
sewn a keyhole opening before so I had to make things up as I went along!
The next step was to sew together the slits on the sides of the dress. With the
dress positioned on the dress form, I made sure that the dress and lining were lined
up correctly, and then I pinned the two layers together with the seam allowance on
the inside again, the same way I had pinned the sleeves initially. I probably could
have pinned the slits without going through this step, but I wanted to make sure
that the fabric lined up well, so I worked cautiously. Once everything was pinned,
I turned it inside out and sewed the two layers together with the seam allowance
on the inside, between the two layers of fabric again. It was a lot easier to get
to this seam, since the whole bottom of the dress was still open. Those seams were
pressed, and then it was time to work on the collar and the hood.
Oh, look... Weíre on an easy part now, so I have pictures again!
I started by tacking the dress and lining together around the neckline. I could
have done this with the sewing machine, but I already had the darned thing on the
dress form, so I just hand-sewed a quick line around the neck. This kept the two
layers lined up correctly while I was working.
The hood is sewn on at the same time as the collar. This makes a LOT of fabric to
work with in that seam, but it does work and looks pretty cool when youíre done.
Before the hood can be sewn onto the dress, the hems need to be finished. Leiaís
hood was rolled and hand sewn, so thatís what I did, too. Turn the edge twice, press
it, and then sew a blind stitch to hold the hem in place. You will need to repeat
this process on both sides of the hood.
Next, you will need to gather the ends of the hood. Sew two lines of wide stitches
across each cut end of the hood. Then gently pull on the threads to gather the ends
into a section that will be narrow enough to fit from the center of the shoulders
to the back keyhole.
The hood will look like this when youíve gathered both sides. Notice that the top
of this hood has a lot more curve to it than the bottom edge. The side with the
longer curve is the front of the hood.
Next, you will need to pin the hood onto the back of the dress neckline. The front
edge of the hood should come to the middle of the shoulder. The back edge should
be even with the keyhole opening. Try to distribute all of the gathers evenly between
those two points, and use a lot of pins to keep everything in place.
Oops... Lost the pictures again. (Can I blame the camera?)
Once the hood is pinned in place, the collar is pinned over it. The ends of the
collar should match up with the keyhole opening in the back. Like I mentioned before,
there is now a LOT of fabric pinned together in the seam at the back of the neck.
There is the lining, the dress, the gathers of the hood, and one side of the collar.
I hand sewed it all together first, while it was still on the dress form so that
I knew everything would stay in place. Then I pulled it off the form and sewed everything
together with my sewing machine. From there I made sure it all looked right, and
then I finally serged the seam. It was a lot of steps, but it insured that nothing
went awry while I was working. After that, it was a simple task to sew the back
edges of the collar closed and then hand sew the final piece around the neck. If
you donít know how to install a collar, I recommend checking a book or a set of patten
instructions so you can see how it looks before you begin this part of your dress.
The final step was to add hook and eye closures to the top and the bottom of the
collar, and that part is done!
The finished dress was baggy and lifeless, and I found that it didnít stay bloused
over my belt the way that Leiaís does in the movie. The weight of the dress just
pulled everything straight, so I decided to add an elastic waistband to the dress.
The movie stills show that there were sections of elastic shirring around the waistline
of Leiaís dress, but since you canít see it, I prefer to use elastic. Initially
I was going to sew a casing to the inside of the dress, but then I had a ďduhĒ moment
and remembered that I already had two layers of fabric to work with. There was no
need to add the extra bulk of another layer. So, I put on the dress and pinned a
piece of white 1Ē non-roll elastic around my waist. I put the leather belt on over
that and made sure that the elastic was directly under the belt so it wouldnít be
visible. I then stood in front of the mirror and adjusted the fabric blousing until
I got what I thought was the correct look. At that point I removed the leather belt
and carefully inserted a line of pins above and below the elastic. These lines would
mark the casing area. I took the dress off again, and then sewed a line of stitches
along each row of pins. I had to cut a small hole in the back of the dress lining
to install the elastic, and then I hand sewed it closed again once the elastic was
At that point, all that was left was to hem the bottom of the dress. You should
always let a dress ďrelaxĒ overnight before hemming it, so put it back on the dress
form and left it alone for a while. The film-used Leia costume had a standard blind
stitch hem on the bottom, so the next day I folded both layers together at the bottom
of the dress and stitched the bottom hem by hand. I ironed the dress one final time
to set all of the seams, and that was it!
I know that I didnít get the ďR2 PoseĒ quite right in this picture, but I chose it
for this page because it illustrates an important piece of the dress design: the
slits on the side! When the dress is sewn, you only sew the front and back together
as far as the knees. Below that it is left open, and this is one of the key places
where the dress is sewn to the lining.
Unfortunately I lost most of the dress construction pictures I took due to a digital
camera glitch (aka user error), so Iíll have to explain some parts of the construction
process without offering any pictures to illustrate what Iím talking about. Sorry!