My very first white dress was a replica of Princess Leia’s formal gown from the 1977 Star Wars film, “A New Hope.” If that sounds like a lot it, it is. Almost ten years later and reading this old blog post helped me recognize my growth as both a writer and a designer.

My first experience with replicating for a client was complicated. Not only did have to solve a design puzzle I also had fit issues. When a client doesn’t come out of the dressing room promptly, something is wrong. I call them the what have I gotten myself into moments? This was a lucky one and it was an easy fix of lengthening the shoulders.

Back then, with no patterns for this dress we hacked a Simplicity Greek Goddess pattern, used blog instructions from another designer, and modeled from two printed out photos to design everything.

At that time, I was certain this was two different dresses in the photos. The sleeves and the bodice didn’t look the same. Even worse the online costumes look nothing like this. I had very precious little resources to pull from.

carriefisher02 Tracy McElfresh


I used two stitched layers of chiffon for the shell of the dress, a lining and draped the sleeves. Two problems with this is that chiffon has no stretch which means it is not forgiving for fit in the slightest and chiffon has a stiff drape.

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I made a few of these Leia dress custom orders in those early years. If I were to make the Princess Leia dress now I would do it all differently.

The most important thing I would do differently today is to make a muslin to check for fit! A muslin is a mock up of the garment, all baste stitched with no finished seams. It is extremely important and saves you time.

Instead of the two layers of chiffon I would use a stretch chiffon, double georgette or crepe material to help with fit.

I would sew it almost entirely on my serger to save time.

I would consider not using those photos and grabbing shots from the actual movie of the dress, especially video that showed the dress in movement.

I would not over think every detail. I would ditch the goddess pattern and drape the design on a form, making the neck more scooped, sleeves less full and design more 1970s, not greek goddess.

If you are new the best advice I can give is that mistakes will be made, projects will be scary, overwhelming and challenging. You must do the work, and learn from your mistakes to grow. You are responsible for your own creative growth, so just do it. The worse that can happen is you get to do it again.

If you are advanced I hope this reminds you of when you were new. It’s hard to sew garments!



Behind the scenes-

Throw backs, The Sew Dayton years, 2014.

Sew Dayton

My brother and I when we were Sand People Halloween, 1977.

Tracy McElfresh

More recently, I made this lovely outfit last week and it sold right away. Stay tuned, the next blog is about sewing for almost free.

Thank you for Reading,

Tracy McElfresh

Dream it! Sew it!

Tracy McElfresh
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