How to Make a Child's Pageant Dress Out of Dress Up Clothes
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Create a show-stopping pageant dress from left-over dress up clothes.

As a mom, you want your toddler to look her best, but the average pageant dress costs between $200 and $1000 (See References 1 and 3). Is the idea of a pageant mom on a budget a paradox? Not with some ingenuity and thrifty creativity! You can create a stunning pageant dress by transforming cast-off dress-up clothes. Before choosing your materials, check with the costume guidelines of your local pageant and consider whether your toddler's event is a natural or glitz pageant. With a few simple alterations and embellishments, you’ll convert her dress from cartoon princess to beauty queen.


  1. 1
    If you want your toddler to catch that judge’s eyes, consider adding rhinestones or embroidery appliqués to the bodice and base of the gown. Before using iron-on embroidery patches, take into account the type of fabric. If you buy rhinestones or crystal appliqués, select from the sew-on style or flat-back for gluing. Test a small section of the fabric on the under-side of the material first to ensure that your selected method of attachment will adhere properly.
  2. 2
    Who can afford a custom-made $8,000 gown multiple times a year -- especially when toddlers seem to grow into a new size every time you blink? To create the illusion and fit of a custom-tailored dress for your child, cinch the back of the bodice with a decorative corset. Use ornamental ribbon or piping in the same color as the dress to fashion four or five loopholes down each side of the back of the bodice. Thread a thick ribbon through the loops and tighten the dress to the desired fit. If you'd rather avoid making changes to the back of her bodice, try the effect of adding a 2- to 3-inch-thick sash in an alternating color. Sew on a few rhinestones, flowers or appliques to match the bodice decoration.
  3. 3
    If your toddler is participating in a glitz pageant, add glamor to the skirt of the gown with a layer of translucent organza over the skirt. To create more drama, gather up the organza overlay slightly off-center at about hip height. For another option, add tiered layers of iridescent organza. If the dress-up is too short for your daughter's event, attach a two-inch layer of pleated or ruffled fabric peaking out behind the bottom of her skirt.
  4. 4
    Elevate your toddler's dress to a dramatic silhouette with a hoop skirt or puffy tulle slip. For full skirts with ample fabric, add a classic hoop skirt underneath. If the dress has less fabric, sew extra layers of tulle underneath the skirt or invest in a crinoline petticoat. Have your child practice walking and sitting with the full skirt to make sure she can still move gracefully.

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Categories: Education and Communications

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