Take a Bow

Tis the season for weddings, prom dresses, debutante balls concours d'elegance. Whatever your doll plans on attending, she is going to want new dress for the occasion. One of the oldest staples of high fashion design is the bow. Flirty, coquettish, girly, super-feminine, the bow is a design element that goes back to the 17th century French courts and has survived the test of time. Admittedly, I've always hated bows that wrap women like gift packages or bows tacked onto a dress as an afterthought. But not all bows are created equally. There are bows and there are.....BOWS! 

First, let's start out by making a beautifully tied bow so that you don't have to go out and buy them!

1. No matter the length of ribbon, find the center and form two evenly sized loops.
2. Cross the right loop over the left one.
3. Fold the right loop behind the left then thread it through the hold that is formed in the center.
4. Pull both loops tight into a knot.
5. Adjust the length of each loop.

You can use anything you want.... store bought ribbon or fabric cut into strips. Quite naturally, commercially produced ribbon is sleeker, more finished while fabric strips can be more uneven, rough cut, unpredictable. Be it velvet, silk, satin, taffeta, grosgrain or sheer, it all depends on the look you want to achieve. I suggest you experiment....that's how original designs are born!

Okay, so now that you've decided to participate in this design project, how do you go about designing something? Making drawings is one way but you can "sketch" in a 3-D sort of way.
I made bunch of these little bows, then laid down the doll and arranged the bows around her body. This is a instant way to get ideas. Take photos to document each "look." You can even take an existing dress or fabric and arrange the bows around it to make a brand new look!
Bows come in all sizes. Large ones can be used to create the style of the dress. If you want lots of volume for a train, for example, cut a length of fabric necessary for the length you want times three, then trim one third of the center down to the width of about 1-1/2" (4 cm). It will resemble a giant bow tie before it's knotted.

1. Fold into loops. They should be uneven.
2. Pinch in the middle and stitch to the dress.
3. You can add it off-center to the front of the gown.
4. Or, you can create a bow and add to the back of the gown. In this case, the bow can be the train.

Let's begin with something quick and easy. 
You don't have to make a new dress for this project. Take something you already have on hand and let's do something very simple. Adrianna's 1-shouldered gown gets a new look with the addition of a ribbon tied into a simple bow attached to the shoulder. A bow added at this point gives the illusion that the drapes radiate from the knot of the box. While you could actually tie the dress with the ribbon at the shoulder, it is easier to control the movement of the bow by creating the bow first then stitching onto the dress.

In this case, the dress and bow were created as a unit. I started with an evening length version of the strapless sheath gown. I added a bit of pleated fabric around the top of the dress. Then I created a long tube from the brocade fabric used for Lynn's gown. In this instance, the bow is transformed into a train that trails from the low back of the dress to the floor. In the following case, we are not going to tie a bow because the knot would add too much bulk.
1. I cut a length of fabric equal to the length measured from just above the waist to the floor, times 2 1/2. Fold in half and stitch all around the stitched edges leaving an opening a couple of inches so you can turn everything right side out. (Then stitch that opening closed by hand.) You can iron this flat, but I wanted a puffy effect, so I left it unpressed. 
2. Find the center point and form two loops. 
3. Pinch this in the middle (but do not tie).
4. Take another small length of fabric and wrap it around the midpoint of the bow and stitch down or tie at the back.
5. Once finished, this is attached to the back neckline of your dress.

The result has a 1960's (Jackie Kennedy) elegance!

You can place bows almost anywhere on a dress. Look at Vanessa's one-shouldered sheath. Here we've used a sheer ribbon with wired edges. This type of ribbon allows you to control the movement and perceived volume of the bow. This is ideal for creating a "fluffy" note to your dress.
1. Take a length of ribbon and form two sets of loops. Pinch this in the middle.
2. Tack this onto the dress. Create a belt by wrapping another length of ribbon around the center. 
3. You can tack this onto the dress as well, leaving it loose at both center back points of the dress so that it can still be tied at the back. You can leave this as is.
4. I wanted to pick up the lavender of the embroidered design of the dress, so I added a silk flower bloom at the center of the bow.

The possibilities are really limitless. Case in point....let's do a modern version of Marie Antoinette's bustle dress by added giant bows at the sides of simple sheath.

As you can see, this is a very basic dress. I wanted to add contrasting ribbon. I imagined adding giant bows to either side. And to balance the bows, I also decided to add a small strip of the same color around the neckline of the dress. The fabric I used for my bows here is a sturdy silk faille.

1. As I have done in the last two styles, I begin by creating an uneven bow. This one is really two separate strips formed into bows held together with a small ribbon. You will notice that the edges of my fabric has frayed. I decided not to hem it, but instead, to let the frayed edges add to the design.
2. Tack onto each side of the dress. Fold and tack the loops down so they are flopping down. You can adjust how the bows position themselves on the dress simply by tacking down the loops down at various points if necessary.
And here is the result. I decided it had the look I was going for. However, you can put more volume in the back with a third set of bows!

But let's go back to my photo "sketches" at the top of this post. Giselle's dress is a strapless taffeta gown. I made lots of sheer small bows which I stitched all around in various directions over the top neckline of her dress.

 I added a few more small bows at the back and one larger bow to the left side.

Same concept, different fabric, color and texture for a very different look.
This started with a dress my dolls didn't like. This is from an early period where I used the wrong fabric for the wrong look. Instead of tossing it away cutting it up into something else, I tapered the silhouette of the dress and added black satin bows (made from inexpensive, commercially bought ribbon) all around the neckline. Bows are such a great way to spruce of an old dress!

Have a good time with this project. Play around with different types of ribbon; make different sizes of bows. Pile it on or make a statement! Here's how we made the dress on the cover.
Again, I started off with a flared strapless dress cut from ivory taffeta. I made  two large bows by creating loops and tying in the center with a long stretch of 1/2" (1cm) ribbon. This bow was turned sideways and tacked onto the back of the dress.
I made a bunch of tiny bows. Then, one by one, added them to one side of the dress until I felt it was enough.
Here's what the result looks like from all four angles.
With or without the black evening gloves, what could be more elegant! 

Before we wrap up this post, let's have one last bit of fun. This is for when you have a doll or two that needs a fun party dress and you don't have much time.

If you're like me, you've been saving all of those fancy bows that come with well dressed gift packages. 

Take a ready-made bow....like one of those fancy satiny bows from a beautifully gift wrapped package, along with a simple, mini-dress foundation. I've used a sheer foundation. But I think a satin foundation matching the ribbon would allow for the bow to be better incorporated into the total look.
Position the bow so that the center of the bow falls at the waist of the doll. Move the loops around the doll and tack in place. I've pinned this to the foundation first. Before you tack it down with needle and thread, move the loops around until you achieve just the right effect. 

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