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Tablecloth Play Dresses

I've always wanted to make dress up clothes for my daughters. I made an Elsa princess dress a few years ago that I enjoyed creating, but not much else since then. A few weeks ago around my youngest daughter's birthday, a lightbulb went off. 

You might remember from my last post that I created birthday table displays using inexpensive party decorations, including plastic tablecloths that cost about $1. As I was picking up the latest display, I got the idea to recycle the tablecloth into a play dress! The first one I made was from the pink tablecloth in the display shown above.

I felt I had to create at least one more so they wouldn't fight over one dress, but it soon escalated to a total of four dresses that I made over the following weeks. I bought more tablecloths, solely for the purpose of making dresses this time. It was fun stocking up on different colors, hehe. I drafted my own patterns to my girls' measurements, and I had fun getting creative with different colors and styles. After the pink dress, I made a Cinderella blue ballgown. The white parts were actually made from a (clean) white trash bag.

Then they requested a Rapunzel dress, which was the most complicated with the striped sleeves and front lacing detail. I used the same pink curling ribbon from the birthday gifts and display to embellish the front part. I just glued the ribbon onto the front panel.

On the same weekend as the Academy Awards, I created a red carpet–inspired dress. My four-year-old enjoyed getting glammed up and accessorizing herself.

There are several advantages of using plastic tablecloths to make these dresses. First is obviously cost. I spent just a dollar or two on each tablecloth. In fact, the thread was probably more expensive, but I just used what I already had on hand anyway. Since the materials weren't precious, I felt it was easier to improvise and work quickly. These were just for play, so I wasn't worried about perfection. Each dress probably took me 3 hours or so, including pattern drafting, cutting, and sewing—all done in an afternoon or evening.

Below I share some of my tips specific to sewing with plastic tablecloths. I won't outline the actual sewing procedure in this post. If you are already familiar with basic dressmaking, you'll just follow those same steps, just using the tablecloth in place of your fabric with these tips in mind.

Plastic tablecloths and/or large garbage bags
Dress pattern
Clear packing tape and scotch tape
Thread and general sewing supplies
Velcro strips

Tips for Sewing with Plastic Tablecloths:

  • Don’t pull too hard on the plastic while working with it and feeding it through your sewing machine. Plastic tablecloths are quite susceptible to tearing.
  • Avoid ripping apart seams and resewing since the plastic will tear easily where it's sewn. Buy extra tablecloth to recut new pieces if you think you will mess up a lot.
  • If you're worried about poking holes in the plastic with pins, use an alternative such as clothespins or paper clips to hold things together.
  • I found it's a good idea to reinforce seams and weak spots with packing tape, especially around the back where the velcro is applied. There will be a lot of tugging there as the dress is put on and taken off. Just place the tape right over the seam on the wrong side.
  • No pressing is necessary of course. You wouldn't want to melt the plastic!
  • Work with two layers of plastic together either by just doubling up your pattern pieces or using a lining layer. This will both strengthen the dress and make it so it isn't too sheer. The cheaper plastic tablecloths can be quite thin.
  • Velcro strips work well as a quick, easy fastener. I sewed mine on with a zig zag stitch.
  • To help the dress last longer, you can reinforce weak spots and holes with clear tape applied to the wrong side of the dress.
  • Circular tablecloths are handy for making circle skirts.
  • Don’t try to make the dresses perfect! (Believe me, mine certainly aren't!) The materials aren't precious, so just improvise and go with the flow.


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