Inky: a little doll with a dream.
Every year when Inky goes to the Nutcracker, she loves watching all the performers — but the polichinelles, the mischevious little children who dart out from under Mother Ginger’s voluminous skirt for a few brief moments, have always captured her fancy.
What fun it would be, Inky thought, to hide beneath a giant skirt and then dart out to dance across the stage in a fluff of candy-colored satin, tulle, and ribbon! She already had the perfect ballet slippers, but it seemed as though the rest of the costume would remain a dream only.
Then Colette, Inky’s owner, told us of Inky’s dream. We were only too glad to help!
We looked long and hard for all the right materials — white silk charmeuse, Cinderella-blue satin, and ribbons and laces of many types and colors! There were many different materials to find, and it took us several trips to find them all, but we wanted to be sure Inky’s dress would be as beautiful as the one in the original ballet.
Then we set about making the pattern. It posed a few challenges, as it wasn’t clear from the photos Colette had sent us how some parts of the dress were constructed. In the end, Melody and I decided to make a separate undershirt to go beneath the dress — it seemed much more ‘user-friendly’ than trying to permanantly construct the dress bodice and undershirt as one piece. This also allowed us to finish all the edges much more tidily than if we’d tried to sew it all at once.
Once we’d finished the dress, undershirt, and pants, it was time for the embellishment. As you can see from the original photos, there are quite a few trimmings on the costume of Inky’s dreams, and we were not about to leave off this very essential part of the costume!
The ribbons were fairly straightforward to find and sew onto the pants, tulle underskirt and main dress skirt. The lace was a bit more complicated, but Melody made quick work of gathering it to the collar of the undershirt and the cuffs of the pants and the main dress sleeves for little ruffles everywhere. The biggest challenge was the many, many pompoms!
I decided right away that it would be almost pointless to look for pompoms of the right size and color — while they’re fairly easy to purchase in human sizes, I didn’t want to spend hours scouring the shops for pompoms in a doll-sized scale only to find a color that was close but did not match exactly. So I decided to make my own (you can read the post we wrote about our pom-pom making festival here). Although it took a lot of extra effort, the end result was definitely worth it! The pompoms match perfectly, and they shake and wiggle as the dress moves. Melody, who is modeling the dress, didn’t want to stop twirling!
The last thing left to to make was the hat. We built a frame out of buckram, a material commonly used in millinery, since the stiffener in it allows you to reshape it almost however you wish. We then wired the edges of the frame for support and covered it in fabric and ribbon. Lastly, we stitched on two more pompoms on each edge, and then sewed little thread loops on the inside for bobby pins so that Inky would be able to dance the night away without her hat falling off!
At last, we’d finished the dress of Inky’s dreams; and next year, when Inky goes to the Nutcracker, she can dance along with the rest of the polichinelles!
Inky loved her new ballet dress! Here she is, dancing in Lincoln Center: