But then we caught our first glimpse of 2016 American Girl® Girl of the Year® Lea Clark® and her beach- and rainforest-inspired collection, and we dove into a month-long odyssey through inspirations from beautiful Brazil!
We combed runway images from São Paulo Fashion Week, collected pictures of Brazilian children's clothes, studied the fairytale-lovely dresses, cascading beads and elegant headwraps of the beach community Baianas. And of course, we listened to glorious Brazilian music — smooth bossa novas, bright sambas, and driving, percussive batucadas.
Through all the fashion inspirations, one essentially Brazilian silhouette kept reappearing: a blouse or dress with a neckline that cuts straight across the body in one unbroken line from shoulder to shoulder.
This silhouette resembles both the mid-twentieth century samba dance dresses of Brazilian icon Carmen Miranda, and the late-twentieth century "peasant" styles of easygoing bohemians — but it's a sleek, modern version of the silhouette, with a fitted bodice wonderfully suited to 18" dolls. There's no extra fabric bulk to tuck away in the garments we designed around this silhouette, and no neckline elastic to pop off when your doll moves her arms.
Pair our beachy, fun SAMBA TOP, with its slightly cropped waistline, with separates from the Lee & Pearl pattern collection. The top looks great with our Pattern #1004 Cargo Shorts, Pattern #1033 Cuffed Shorts, and Pattern #1041 Denim and Pencil Skirts, shown on the left.
Add the easy waistband, skirt and ruffled underskirt included in this FREE gift pattern, and you've made our tropical-inspired BAHIA DRESS — the perfect project for easy-to-sew cottons and this year's splashy, bold prints.
But we couldn't stop there! Since so much of Brazilian style depends on amazing styling and accessories, we've included a page of instructions to turn the Bahia Dress into a lacy white Baiana Dress with tiered eyelet ruffles. And we've included directions to make your own BAIANA "CROWN" HEADWRAP to go with the dress.
Best of all, we've included a Lee & Pearl first — a fifteen-page INTRODUCTION TO JEWELRY MAKING e-book tutorial section that walks you step-by-step, tool-by-tool, and material-by-material from absolute beginner projects like pendants and hoop earrings, all the way up to boho-fabulous feather drops, glamorous chandeliers and cascades of colorful beads. Follow our directions and you will learn how to make jewelry for your dolls — and for yourself as well!
Our Samba Top and Bahia Dress are rated EASY/INTERMEDIATE for the curved sleeve hems, zig-zag elastic insertion, bias binding neckline finish and limited hand stitching on internal facings. The Baiana Headwrap is rated EASY as there isn't any stitching required. And the Introduction to Jewelry Making Tutorials are rated from EASY to INTERMEDIATE as they take you from one project to the next in a clear sequence of developing skills.
As always, Lee & Pearl's photo-illustrated directions and computer-drafted, guaranteed-to-fit-together pattern pieces make each step of each item in this pattern as easy as possible.
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Since launching our Etsy shop with a single 18" doll pattern in July of 2013, Lee & Pearl have built a reputation for quality patterns that sew easily and fit perfectly. You will never find a mis-matched curve in a Lee & Pearl pattern! But along with those reliable pieces, clear directions and carefully drafted measurements, Lee & Pearl are proud of our reputation for making patterns for doll clothes — clothes that anyone can make — that look just like the real thing.
Whether it's a perfectly-detailed, but still easy to make baseball cap, or a mesh trucker hat, or a skating dress with a skirt carefully drafted to hang just like the real ones, or a slinky wrap dress indistinguishable from a '70s original, or a unisex t-shirt that manages to be both unfitted and fitted enough to slip under jackets, or a replica U.S. Army uniform that has to be seen — and made — to be believed, or... we could go on and on.
And don't get us started on our hat patterns. Lee & Pearl designer, Elizabeth Atwater Menes, studied millinery at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Perfectly made hat patterns will always be a Lee & Pearl specialty.
In 2014, we added a Fabric & Trim Kit section to our Etsy shop, to share some of the wonderful, hard-to-find fabrics and materials we are lucky to be able to source here in the Los Angeles garment district. Check our selection regularly for new additions before they sell out — or scroll down and subscribe to our mailing list to hear about new kits as soon as they launch!
We LOVE doll craft tutorials. We love to watch them, read them and most of all, we love to make them.
We also link to our own, and other favorite tutorials from crafters around the Internet, on our Pinterest Crafts & Tutorials Board.
One of our most popular tutorial features is the FREE "Tweak the Pattern" we often feature in our monthly newsletters.
We love it when people take our patterns beyond the outfit on the cover. In fact, we often do that ourselves. And when we do, we love to put those ideas into free pattern or tutorial form for our Newsletter subscribers.
Here are a few of our recent pattern tweaks:
Use the FREE Tweak the Pattern skirt pieces to turn popular Pattern #1055: Skating Dresses for 18" Dolls into a whole range of red carpet, recital, Ice Princess and bridal gowns.
Here's a swimsuit Tweak of Pattern #1051: Ballet Basics for 18" Dolls — and here's an easy felt beanie tweak of Pattern #1008: Classic Ball Cap and Big Fat Trucker Hat for 18" Dolls.
Don't worry if you missed any of these tweaks: all newsletter content, including the FREE Tweak the Pattern downloads, are available in our Newsletter Archive.