DIY Knit Live Action Belle Dress
Beauty and the Beast was my favorite Disney Princess movie as a little girl, yet my own daughters have never been drawn to Belle until they saw the trailers for the new live action Beauty and the Beast. I knew I wanted to make a Belle dress hack for my girls to play in. My oldest daughter has outgrown most of our dress-ups, but still loves to be fancy and pretend. And Nut-Nut is starting to wear dress-ups all day instead of just a couple minutes at a time. It really is a fun stage! Fortunately, this stage also calls for some Handmade Dress-ups! 🙂
I looked through lots of PDF patterns searching for a dress I thought I could use for a Belle dress hack and was so excited to stumble upon the Town Square Dress/Top from New Horizons (affiliate link). The pattern has several elements I thought would be perfect for a live action Belle Dress hack. Square neckline, cap/dolman/raglan sleeves, circle skirt, and color blocking side panels. I’ll do a full review of the pattern later, but today I want to focus on how to take the pattern, make some adjustments, and create a comfy, Belle inspired dress.
First off, this will make a comfortable knit dress with a strong nod to Beauty and the Beast. Pick out a knit you like. This version is in a cheap jet knit from Joanns. The 2-way stretch of my fabric is great for hemming and for supporting the weight of the skirt, but isn’t great for comfort around the arms. The arm opening is a bit tight because it lacks some stretch. I bought 2 yards of this knit to make a size 6 with half circle skirts. You will probably need more like 3-4 yards if you plan to make a full circle skirt in this size.
One of the great things about hacking this pattern is the straight lines! The sides seams are straight, the side panels are straight, the bottom hem is straight…makes for easy altering!
Trace the pieces using the length for band or ruffle. This live action Belle dress hack doesn’t really need the trim at the top of the bodice, so merge the side bodice pieces to the main bodice pieces, and then the trim pieces to the bodice pieces by overlapping 3/4″. Overlap the back to bodice piece (with the sleeves) to the Back bottom piece by over lapping 3/4″. At this point there is one front bodice piece, one front sleeve piece, and one back bodice piece (which includes the back of the sleeves).
Angle both bodice pieces on the bottom (hem line) from center bottom to about 4 inches up the sides. (I also took 2 inches out of the bodice length all the way across. That might have been just a little too much.) Keep note of how much higher the sides are than the center-you will need to know when attaching the skirt to the bodice.
Create ‘princess seams’ on the front bodice that mimic the style lines of the ruffles on the dress from the movie by slashing a diagonal line from the sleeve seam to the bottom hem. This diagonal should hit the bottom of the bodice around 2 inches from the center. Add 3/8″ seam allowance along the slash. You can also think of this as recreating the side bodice pieces in a triangular shape, so it mimics the live action Belle dress.
On the back bodice piece make a diagonal slash from 1/2-1 inch off the center back to the underarm. Then add 3/8″ seam allowance along the slash by taping more to your pattern pieces or marking it really well so you remember to add it when you cut out the pieces.
Shorten the sleeves by making a straight line from the bottom of the sleeve to the top, parallel to the grain line. Make this adjustment to both front and back sleeves pieces.
Now you should have 5 pattern pieces to create the top of the dress. Front bodice, angled side panels, front sleeves, back sleeves, and back bodice. (If you really want you could make back side panels that are angled too.)
The skirt portion is easily changed to be a Belle dress hack. Essentially, we cut three skirts at varying lengths.
Trace out the longest dress skirt piece. I chose to just trace out one pattern piece and adjust the lengths of each layer during cutting. For this Belle dress hack I just did as long as I could with the width of fabric for the longest layer and then divided the length into thirds to determine the length of the other layers. I also chose to only cut one skirt piece in each length so the skirt is a half circle skirt. Because I chose to do a half circle skirt, I also had to do some math to adjust the top part of the circle skirt so the length would match the bodice. Cutting out two of each length will make it fuller at the bottom and you won’t have to do any math-but you’ll use more fabric. Give and take…
In general, you can follow the instructions in the pattern for sewing up the dress. But here is a general overview of sewing the new pattern pieces together.
Sew the two angled side bodices to the main front bodice, the back sleeves to the back bodice, then the front sleeves to the back bodice at the shoulder seams. Continue with neckbands and the rest of the bodice per Town Square Dress/Top instructions.
Sew the longest layer together to make a circle (or half circle) skirt. Mark center front, center back, and center sides. Sew the pieces for the middle layer together along one seam if you chose to make a full circle skirt. Do the same for the pieces of the shortest layer. If you chose a half circle skirt, do not sew any seams. Finish the edges that would normally be sewn together.(If you want. Knit doesn’t fray, but this particular knit sometimes gets ‘runs’ so I decided to finish the edges)
Place the middle layer on top of the longest layer, matching the waist lines, so the opening of the layer is at the center front of the dress. Slide the edges of the middle layer away from the center 1-2 inches and pin to secure. Take a pleat on each side about at the side seam to make the two skirt tops match up again.
Do the same with the shortest layer, sliding it about an inch farther from center from than the middle layer. Take two small pleats on each side to make the tops match up.
Baste all three skirt layers together along the top edge of the skirt. Now you should have one circle skirt with three layers.
Attaching the skirt to the bodice may be the trickiest part of this Belle dress hack. There is probably a better method for doing this-please share if you know of a better way! But in the meantime…here’s how I did it.
Turn the skirt right side out and the bodice inside out. Place the skirt inside the bodice with the waists facing the same direction. The right sides of the fabric will be facing each other. Match the side seams of the bodice to the side seams of the skirt. Pin. Take the center front point of the bodice and pin it to the center front of the skirt the same amount you cut the sides higher when angling the bottom of the bodice pieces. (If you cut the sides 4 inches higher than the front, then pin the center front point 4 inches down the circle skirt.) Repeat for the back center point.
Manuever 1/4th of the skirt at a time getting the bodice smooth against the skirt. Pin in the middle of each section. Sew along the bodice edge taking care to pivot at side seams and at the front and back points.
You can be done without doing any more finishing. However, as I mentioned before, the knit I used sometimes gets runs so I finished the hems of all three skirt layers. My machine has a rolled hem foot, which made hemming very fast. It wouldn’t have been as fast had my fabric had 4-way stretch.
You could also add some ribbon or elastic ruffle detailing on the bodice to mimic the ruffles on the live action Belle dress. I also put some pettiskirts underneath to add some fullness to the dress. You may not want that depending on how full you want it to look and if you chose to use a full circle or half circle skirt.
And that’s it! A comfortable, durable dress inspired by the new Beauty and the Beast movie. Want to make your own live action Belle dress hack? You can buy the Town Square Dress/Top by clicking here (affiliate link). Be sure to share photos of your creations!
Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small affiliate commission. This helps fund fabric for testing and reviewing patterns. Regardless, I only recommend what I believe is quality.