The choice of fashion fabric for your doll clothes can make or break how the final costume will look! It is very important to stay in scale with your doll when you choose fabric for her clothes. Busy prints with large patterns will look horribly out of scale on a doll. You can always be safe with plain fabrics, but that's boring after a while. Prints and plaids can be tricky though.
Be sure the scale of the print or plaid is small enough to look plausible on your doll. Barbie dolls and Fashion Royalty dolls will be harder to find suitable fabric for than Tonner doll Tyler or an even larger doll such as the Tonner American Model. It can be particulary difficult to find fabric with tiny prints for the smallest dolls. Large ball-jointed dolls—BJDs—will be relatively easy, since you can use larger patterns with them. They are also a lot easier to sew for, being as they are quite large.
Stand back and image how the pattern will look on a small doll. Will it overpower the doll? Or will it look like a perfect miniature? Be picky! Don't settle for second best fabric.
Another thing to consider when choosing fashion fabric is how thick and heavy is it? Lighter-weight fabrics are better on dolls than heavy-weight fabric. You can even find wools in very fine weight meant for mens suiting.
For Barbies and FRs, you may have to use much finer fabric than you would for a larger doll. For instance, for a coat, you may choose flannel or light-weight wool. On a small doll, this type of fabric will resemble the heavier coat fabric, like camel or tweed, you would use for a person. In general, the larger the doll, the heavier a fabric you can get away with and the large the pattern you can use. Just be sure whatever the fabric is, that it looks in scale with the doll.
Natural fabric is easier to work with than synthetics. Polyester can be made in many textures and types of fabrics, but it is harder to press, and it doesn’t take creasing as well as a natural fabric. Plus it is often heavier in weight and hand than its natural equivalents like silk fabric or cottons. Light-weight cottons, silk fabric, wool fabric, linen fabric, and even rayon fabric will work well, especially for the smaller dolls. Batistes, lawns, and china silks work well for linings.
You will have a bit more leeway with 16-inch dolls or 18-inch dolls. Doll over 20 inches and up will be the easiest to find appropriate doll clothes fabric for.
The main thing to keep in mind is—how does it look on the doll? If it looks like a perfect and believable miniature, go for it! If it looks too big and the word “clown” pops in your mind, it’s probably not right.
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