How to Sew A Fifties Style Bikini For Your Doll In Under an Hour

29 Jan


I hate sewing from patterns. I do it sometimes, but it makes me irritable. I make up nearly everything I sew as I go along, which is much more fun. I do this by sewing on the doll, which means know it fits so I`m not wasting my time.

I`ve been promising to write about this for quite some time. I`ve had so many projects on the go and sewing is so time consuming, sewing something specially to show how to sew something kept getting shoved to the bottom of the pile. Plus, its not rocket science or anything. I was going to show you the first thing I worked out for myself – making a bikini top – but its so easy I kind of thought, what`s the point? So I had a re-think and I decided to show you how to make a whole bikini instead – I made this one in under an hour, and that included stopping to take pictures. I love pin-up style and normal barbie bikinis are ten a penny, so I thought I would show you how to make the sort of bikini my Mother used to wear on the beach with cats eye frame glasses in the 50s (honestly, she did).

You will need:

* A doll with the body type you are sewing for. It doesn`t have to be a Barbie. Just beware – the needle can end up scratching her, so if you`re fussy about these things, use a stand-in. I am using 7 Days of Style Lea, which worked out well because of her resemblance to Betty Page.
* A good pair of sewing scissors
* A teeshirt you don`t need (no large prints and not too old and bobbly – on a small scale, wear shows up more). Make sure the material is nice and stretchy and the tighter the weave, the better. I used an old sports shirt which had obviously been worn maybe once, which I picked up for about 50p from a charity shop.
* Thread that matches your material as closely as possible.
* A needle (!) and a few pins.
* Two sets of snap fasteners, or poppers.
* I also used some tiny 4mm buttons, but if you haven`t got any you could use sequins, or little bows.

1. Cut a piece of material from the sleeve of your teeshirt (see picture one). One side should be the hem on the edge of the sleeve. This piece should be wide enough to go round your doll`s hips, leaving you somewhere between 2 and 3 cms over. It should be twice as long as the area from the top of your doll`s thigh to just below her belly button, and 2 or 3 cms over. Don`t worry if its a bit messy or uneven. If its really slanted, you might want to fold it into a triangle so you can cut off the excess on one side to make it more rectangular.


2. Snip off the factory sewn hem of the sleeve. Cut CLOSE TO but NOT OVER the stitching (see picture two). Put the sewn hem to one side, you will need it later.


3. Fold your remaining material in half (see picture two) so that the double fabric is now as long as the area from the top of your doll`s thigh to just below her belly button (it might not come up this far now the hem isn`t on any more, actually). MAKE SURE THE “RIGHT SIDE” (the side of the fabric you want the world to see when the outfit is finished) IS ON THE INSIDE OF THE FOLDED MATERIAL. You should be sewing on the wrong side now. Sew the loose ends of the fabric, opposite the fold, together. Just sew a line parallel to the edge, you don`t need to be really neat and you don`t need to bind the edges together. You should now have a tube. Turn it inside out again (so you can see the “right side” of the fabric).

4. Flatten the tube down and make sure the seam is at the top edge, nice and neat. Wrap it round your doll (it should be long enough to do this with a little bit spare, remember?). Don`t pull it so tight it would be hard to get it off the doll, but make sure it is nice and snug. If it gapes a bit at the top where her waist starts to curve inwards, don`t worry. When you feel you have got the fabric tension right, insert a pin into the bottom two thirds(see picture three). Make sure the pin is secure, as you now have to take it off the doll to sew it up (or if you`re feeling very lazy or particularly worried about the fit, you could just sew it up while its still on her).


5. Once you have sewn up the bottom two thirds, take out the pin. Now snip the unsewn hem of the top third away, up to the line of the stitches. Then, sew over the top of the seam on each side, so that there is no longer a hole into the fabric (see picture four) If you prefer (and depending on the material you have chosen, it might look neater) you can just make a horizontal cut so that you can turn the fabric in and make a hem on each side of the top third, but I prefer to do it the former way to make the fabric lie as flat as possible at the back. It should look OK, as long as your thread colour is a good match.


6. Now turn the tube inside out again and put it back on your doll. You should now have a sort of very short tight skirt, which is open at the back.

6. Turn your attention back to the machine-sewn hem of the sleeve, which you set aside at the start. Make sure that where you cut CLOSE TO but not ACROSS the edge of the stitches is nice and neat. Hold the hem short end up and tuck it up the front of the doll`s skirt, so that the top edge is level with the middle top edge of the skirt. Now, you can either pin it there, or sew it in place while still on the doll (see picture five). Make sure you only sew through ONE thickness of fabric, so the securing stitches are not visible from the outide of the knickers.


7. Now feed the machine-sewn hem through the doll`s legs to make the crotch of the knickers. Tuck it up past her bum, and just before it meets the gap where you left the top third open, pin it in place (see picture six). Make sure it fits closely between the legs, then take it off the doll, being careful not to disturb the pin.


8. Where you have put the pin, sew the machine-sewn hem to the back of the knickers. Again, make sure you only sew through one thickness of material. Snip off the excess machine-sewn hem, which will be sticking out of the top of the back. Don`t throw this excess bit away!

9. Use your last bit of the factory-sewn hem to go round the thinnest part of Barbie`s waist, just above her belly button. Check it fits, with an overlap big enough to attach a popper. I was lucky in this because I was using very stretchy material, so it just made it – depending on the fabric you are using, you might need to go back and steal a longer bit from the sleeve of your teeshirt. Remember it should be nice and snug round her waist, though.

10. Sew up the short ends (you can make a little hem, or just close the hole as before). Attach poppers – position them closer to the edge where the fabric is folded over, as the edge where the rows of stitches are (where you cut it away from the rest of the fabric) is going to be at the bottom of the waistband. Remember, the male and female parts of the popper need to go on different sides at the ends(see picture seven). Experienced sewers are probably rolling round laughing at all this by now, ao I`ll just tell you anyway – I`ve lost count of the number of times I`ve sewed the poppers on the same side then had to go back to unpick one of them. Depressing. Anyway, now fasten the waistband round Barbie`s waist. If she hasn`t got the rest of the knickers on, put them on.



11. Now, you`re going to need to sew the waistband to the rest of the knickers (see picture eight). Make sure you sew so that the top seam is just inside the waistband.


12. Your knickers are finished! You just need to make them look a bit nicer. Weave your threaded needle in and out in a line upwards, just inside her hip on each side. Pull the thread tight to wrinkle the fabric. This creates the rouched effect that was so popular around this time for hiding a little tummy (and if your doll is skinny like a Barbie, it makes her look a little more curvy). I also added some micro-buttons in rows on the waistband, but I think little bows, or just some piping round the waistband about halfway up, would also look good.

13. To make the top: cut another piece of material from your teeshirt, big enough to go round your doll`s boobs and overlap at the back by 2-3 cms again (see picture nine). It should be deep enough to cover her boobs comfortably AND as deep again, because we are going to make another tube with it.


14. Turn the material wrong side out, and start stitching again. When you have a tube, turn it inside out (for thinner tubes, I find it is handy to push it through on the point of your closed scissors). Check it goes round her OK. Hem up the short ends. Attach poppers to each side (on on the front and one on the back!)


15. With the bra on the doll, create a rouche in the middle by weaving your threaded needle in and out then pulling the thread tight again. Finished!



So, there you are – if you gave it a go, I hope you like it (let me know). At some point, I will show you how to make a fitted sheath dress quickly and easily, without a pattern.


One Response to “How to Sew A Fifties Style Bikini For Your Doll In Under an Hour”


  1. Swimsuit Special – So In Style Pin-ups « barbiebeauties - July 4, 2012

    […] while back, I wrote a post explaining how to make a fifties-style bikini for a fashion doll. I liked the look of this outfit so much, I decided to make some more for my swimsuit special. My […]

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