Here is my tutorial for making the "Star Wars: A New Hope" Princess Leia senatorial gown with a waist seam. The movie accurate way (as far as we can all tell) is to make the gown in a basic "T" shape, with the sleeves stretching from seam allowance to seam allowance and the length of the fabric folded at the shoulders. However, many of us ladies have longer arms than the 60" wide fabric would allow for. I decided to make mine with a waist seam so I could use the fabric differently and get a bit longer sleeves. Here is my tutorial, also including how I made my belt and hair buns.
I highly recommend also viewing Pam's tutorial for the gown sewn in the classic way.
For the dress, I created 3 pattern pieces
- The top
- The skirt
- The collar
The top and skirt pattern pieces.
I began by cutting out the top pieces. You will need two of everything because this gown is self-lined.
The collar pieces cut out.
The top and skirt pieces cut out.
Start by sewing the under arm seams of both top sections.
If you have a dress form, place the lining layer of your top on the form with the seams facing out. Then, place the outer layer of your top on the form with the seams facing in. This should result in both layers with their seams facing each other.
Fold under the edges of the sleeves toward the inside and pin them in a few places, like this:
Then, take the top pieces off the dress form and turn them so you have the seams facing out on both layers. You will need to re-pin the sleeves so that the pins are on the side you're working on. It should end up looking like this:
Sew the seams of both sleeve ends and turn the top pieces right side out. It should look like this:
Sew both sections of the skirt at the side seams, making sure you leave a slit on both sides that comes to about knee height. Then, place the skirt lining and outer layers right sides together. Pin both layers together at the slit and hem. Sew. (*Note: The original gown has a rolled hem, sewn by hand. If you prefer your gown to be as accurate as possible, do not sew the hem of the gown at this time, wait until you have your gown complete, then roll the hem and stitch by hand.)
The collar can be sewn at any time.
You will need to sew a keyhole opening in the top of your gown. You will need to cut a small neck opening with a slit down the back. Start out small and try it on. If it doesn't fit, don't force it (or you will make the knit fabric snag and run). If needed, trim a little more off the neck opening and try again. You should be able to put your head through the neck opening with the slit. After you have the neck opening and slit big enough (keep in mind the seam allowance will make the hole and slit a bit larger), turn the top wrong side out, so the seams are facing you. Pin the raw edges of the slit you just cut together like this:
Sew the slit edges together.
When you turn the top right side out, your key hole slit should look like this:
Now for the tricky part. You need to sew the top sections to the skirt sections. Choose which layer you want to start with and pin them together, much the same way you did the sleeve ends. (You will need to pull everything through the neck opening.) Once you've pinned and sewn one layer, you will need to sew the second layer so that the lining sections are sewn together and the outer sections are sewn together.
Your gown will look something like this now:
Now, you need to sew through both layers to create a channel for elastic. Make sure you leave an opening to insert the elastic. Once the channel is sewn, insert elastic and pin. Try the gown on and adjust the elastic if necessary. Sew the elastic together and finish the channel, to enclose the elastic inside the gown. Now your gown should look something like this:
Next, is the hood. Your hood should be roughly trapezoidal in shape. The longer edge is the front edge. You will need to hand sew a rolled hem on both long edges of the hood. Then, gather both shorter ends of the hood and pin them to either side of the key hole slit. The front of the hood should be pinned where a shoulder seam would be if there was one. The back hem of the hood should be pinned at the keyhole opening. Repeat this for the other end/side of the hood.
Sew the hood to the neck of the gown. Now, your gown should look something like this:
You will need to test fit the length of the collar to the opening that you cut. If necessary, adjust the neck opening and/or the collar.
Once you have the neck opening and collar adjusted to the proper size, sew one layer of the collar to the neck opening. Trim the seam, and turn the collar up, pressing the seam allowance inside the collar. Turn the seam allowance of the second layer of the collar to the inside and hand-sew the inside edge closed. Sew two hooks and eyes on the edges of the collar to keep it closed.
For my belt, I chose to make it out of white, non-shiny, vinyl "pleather". Here is how I made mine:
Cut two belt sections out of the vinyl, making sure you put a curve in it so that it will lay properly once it is curled around your waist. Also make sure that the belt is proportional to your size.
Using tin snips, cut the belt plates from a sheet of aluminum, making sure that the belt plates are proportional to your size and to your belt as well.
Sew white Velcro to the ends of the belt, making sure that the two ends will meet when you have the belt sewn together and the ends overlapping.
Sew the two layers of belt right sides together, making sure to leave an opening to turn the belt. It is easiest to leave the opening somewhere near the middle of the belt, at the bottom. Clip curves, turn right side out. Then, top stitch about 1/8" from the edge, making sure you flatten the belt as you go.
Prepare the metal plates by filing and sanding the edges smooth. Also, drill holes large enough for your button blanks' shanks to fit through them.
Place the plates on the belt and adjust the spacing. Mark the centers of each plate hole and remove the plates. Beginning at the center, use an awl to punch a hole in the vinyl belt at the center hole. Put the plate on the belt, and push the button blank shank through the center hole in the plate and the belt. (You can either work on one plate/button blank at a time, or you can punch all the holes and pin them in place through the button blank shanks at the back of the belt.)
Using a curved needle and thick thread, catch the button blank shank on the back side of the belt.
Thread a small white button onto the needle...
...and sew in place.
Trim the ends of the thread. I recommend putting some glue on the thread knots to be sure they don't work themselves loose over time.
Repeat steps for all plates/button blanks until all plates/button blanks are sewn in place .
Try on your belt and bend the metal plates slightly so that they match the curve of your hips. Remove the belt and apply glue to the backs of the plates, securing them to the vinyl belt. It may be necessary to clip the belt and plates together while the glue cures.
Your belt should look like this:
I created little buckram bowls and placed hair extensions on them so that I had permanent buns. This way, I don't have to worry about getting the bun to look perfect every time, I just need to pin them over my own hair and I'm finished. In this tutorial, I've also included the pictures of my ESB End Scene Gown hair bun as well (it is the larger "bowl").
Determine how large you want your bowl and trace the circle onto buckram. (I chose a Corelle "dessert" bowl as my ANH bun base and a larger "soup?" bowl as my ESB bun base.) Cut out two circles for ANH buns, one circle for an ESB bun.
Wet the buckram and place it over the bowl, pressing it down and creasing the buckram where needed.
Cover the first bowl and the wet buckram with a second bowl of the same size.
Once dry, remove the top bowl and carefully pry the buckram bowl off of the bottom bowl.
Trim the edges so the buckram bowl is a smooth round circle.
Sew bias tape on the edges of the buckram bowl(s).
Next, take your hair extension and un-braid it.
Open the extension up and find the middle. Sew the middle together and then sew it to the center of your buckram bowl.
Following images of Leia, curl the hair into a bun and glue with clear glue. You may need to use clips to keep the hair in place while the glue cures.
This is one of my finished ANH buns:
You will probably want to sew in a hair comb to help the bun(s) stay in your own hair.
Here is my finished ANH Leia outfit with the gown, belt, and buns together:
If you happen to have access to a R2-D2 you can even re-create the famous ANH scene with Leia and R2!
Have fun with it, now you're Leia: everyone's favorite galactic Princess!
You can also use this gown for the End Scene in "The Empire Strikes Back":