Here’s what you’ll need:
- Crochet Elastic Tutu waistband in the color you want: Think of these as a bigger version of the crochet elastic headbands. These are a little difficult to find, but etsy and ebay are two good places to look. I got mine from Kissyfacecreations here. The larger one will work well for 4-7 year olds. For smaller kids buy smaller bands. These headbands are very stretchable so one size would fit many. You could also skip the waistband and use a 1 inch wide waistband elastic. However, I prefer to use this kind of waistband because it defines the top of the dress and separates it from the tutu skirt. It also provides a great base for embellishments.
- 100 yards 6-inch tulle rolls in desired colors: You could easily find them in any wedding supply store online. I got mine from here.
- 25 yards 6-inch tulle roll in a coordinating color (optional)
- Coordinating ribbon scraps
- Fake flower in coordinating colors
4 to 6 hours depending on the costume and embellishments chosen.
Fold the waistband in half and try it on the child. It should be a snug fit but not uncomfortable. Now measure from the waistband end to the desired length of the dress. (The dress on this mermaid costume will hit right at the toe. A princess dress could fall anywhere below the knee to the ankle; a fairy dress like Tinkerbell’s might be short and stay above the knees; a ballerina dress would be even shorter staying on the thighs; so take measurements accordingly.) Let’s call this length L.
How to Make It:
With this one basic method you could make any kind of princess/fairy/mermaid costume. These dresses are so pretty and so easy to make that making them is kind of addictive, so be warned.
Here I’m going to show you how to make a mermaid costume because it is slightly different than other princess/fairy costumes. I will add notes after each step to show you how you’d make a princess/fairy dress. Once we are done with the dress I’ll also talk a little about accessorizing/embellishing it to complete the costume.
Tutu and Pettiskirt
Take the 100 yard tulle roll and cut strips of length L1 = (L+1) * 2 inches. (In other words, take the length you measured earlier, add an inch, then multiply that by 2.)
Keep cutting until you finish the roll, or have at least 30-40 strips cut.
Now fold the strip in half and thread it through one of the crochet holes at the edge of waistband. Thread the folded end inside out as shown in the picture above.
Now pull the loop down and pull the ends through the loop as shown above to make a knot.
Gently tug the raw ends to tighten the knot.
Now leave the next hole and thread tulle into the one next to it. (Every other hole.) Tie the knot the same way you did earlier.
Note: Since we’re making a mermaid costume, we want to keep the dress part less full (and more fish-like), which is why we thread tulle in every other hole. If you are making a princess/fairy dress you should tie tulle in every hole so the dress is more full. After folding the waistband in half, you could also tie tulle to the other edge (on the inside) to make the dress even more full.
Keep going until you have finished the whole circle. Now fold the waistband in half as shown above.
This is the basic costume for any costume you want to make (mermaid, princess, fairy, ballerina, etc.). Now the fun part: turning this plain tutu dress into a specific costume.
For the mermaid costume, I decided to make a turquoise fish-tail. To do this we have to divide the tulle strips in three parts. Two halves in front, one in back. Tie these strips with a rubber band to keep them separate. Note that the parts are not even: the back part is slightly bigger then each of the front ones. I will explain why in a moment.
Now cut 10 inch long pieces from turquoise tulle. Cut about 50-60 pieces first.
Let’s start with one of the front fishtails. Take the rubber band off and let’s get started.
Tie the first piece of 10 inch tulle to the strip in the center front about 7-8 inches above the end.
Tie another 10 inch strip at the same point to the other half of this strip. Take the next strip (let’s start to the left) and tie the turquoise tulle about 5 inches above the end. Repeat this for the closest 3 strips to it on each side.
For the next strip tie the turquoise tulle about 3 inches above the end. Repeat this for the closest 3 strips.
Get the second front turquoise bundle and repeat the process that you did for the first half.
Now, for the rear fishtail.
Cut about 16 12-inch long tulle strips. Take the rubber band off the back section start tying the turquoise strips about 3 inches above the end. This will result in the strips hanging off the green tulle. That is fine. We want a fishtail train behind the dress. Having it only the back will ensure the child doesn’t trip on it and the gradual progression in the front will make it look like a fishtail. Tie 8 strips on both sides in the back.
Next, cut 16 tulle strips, 15 inches long each. Tie these in the center about 2-3 inches above the end. If these strips don’t cover all the green strips in the back, cut more 15 inches long strips and tie them too.
These strips not only make the dress full, but they also add a different color at the bottom to make the dress more attractive. For the mermaid costume they also help shape the fishtail.
Note: For a princess dress you could just tie 10-inch strips at 5 inch above the longer tulle strips all around.
For a Tinkerbell/fairy/ballerina dress you could skip tying the smaller strips. I made the dress above using ruffled fabric, but you could also use a red waist band instead.
Adding the Shoulder Strap
Take a 10 inch long piece of turquoise Fold Over Elastic and tie it at the top of the dress by threading it through the crochet holes. Secure it with a knot on both sides. Having a shoulder strap gives us something to embellish the dress further, and it will also keep the dress stable, while your little mermaid walks and runs. I like knots better than sewing the elastic , because you could easily adjust the knots if you want to adjust the length of the dress or where the band falls.
Cut 3 pieces of tulle, each 30 inches long. Center them over the center of fold-over elastic strap and cinch them by tying them with a ribbon scrap. I also added some violet tulle just to add a touch of color.
Take another piece of foldover elastic and thread it through the center of crochet band, start about 4-5 inches below the top, go up to the top and then thread it back 4-5 inches below the top, as shown above. Now you have two both loose ends of the foldover elastic 4-5 inch below the top edge.
Pull both ends gently to gather the band and tie a knot to secure both ends.
Do you believe in mermaids? You better! One of them is coming to your living room…soon!
Accessories and embellishments for other dresses:
For embellishing this princess dress, I bought some fake flowers from the dollar store, removed the stems and stalks, and then sewed multiple flowers together. Then I tucked them onto the waistband by hand-sewing them in a cascading fashion.
Most of these costumes have 2 essential accessories that you need to complete the look.
- The headpiece: for princess kind of costumes its mostly a tiara.
- The backpiece: A pair of wings, or a cape
I usually buy them from a dollar store or a party supply store online.
Other accessories – For the fairy you have to get a magic wand, for princess and ballerinas its glass slippers or some kind of delicate shoes, you may also want to make a pair of gauntlets to go with princess costume.
You girl may or may not want to be a princess/fairy etc, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make her a tutu dress costume. Some of my favorite tutu dress costumes are neither of those, but they are just unforgettable. Here is an Audrey Hepburn Tutu dress that just oozes style, here are witch and lion dresses that are a cuteness overload. You could also follow my tutu dress pinterest board for many cute ideas of making costumes with tutu dresses.
Most of all however, you should let your creativity run amok and have fun making them. Try different lengths, mixing in colors, adding fun embellishments like boa, faux petals, stars. Add fun accessories and see what happens. In no time you will be whipping out tutu dresses that will induce oohs, aahs and awws! whenever people see your little one wearing them. Now that will be fun! Won’t it ?
Thanks for having me Jennifer!
What a great idea. I love how you can turn that idea into three different costumes – so clever!!
Here are a few other Great ideas from Blooms and Bugs: