Oliver + S Fairy Tale Dress, with Box Pleats

I have been ogling the Fairy Tale Dress sewing pattern by Oliver + S for a while now. I love its classic/retro styling, and the details like tulip sleeves, full lining, and fancy sash make it that much more special. I have been looking for a reason to make it, and what do you know, Easter is coming up soon, and my daughter needs an Easter dress! Or will, in several months… ::ahem:: Now, maybe Easter isn’t as fancy as a wedding. But, that is what is so AMAZING about this pattern. It’s really such a flexible pattern, depending on the kind of fabric you use, it is appropriate for so many different occasions!


(picture courtesy of Oliverands.com)

I’ve personally always thought that Fairy Tale would look amazing with a box pleated skirt – the design is simple enough that the box pleats wouldn’t overwhelm it, but it’s got that big bow in the back to balance out the “fancy” effect of the pleats. Box pleats are sort of like the Queen Elizabeth of pleats. They are classy, polished, and formal, yet flare out beautifully into this lovely and full feminine drape that is an absolutely stunning effect for a dress or skirt! Like this one, by Alexander McQueen… (how I love their stuff… just wow.)

Alexander McQueen Leaf Crepe Pleated Peplum Mini Dress

With that in mind, I went online and found a few examples of a box-pleated Fairy Tale Dress, including three amazing ones by Rachel Le Grand for Oliver + S (that link goes to my favorite – the Belgian-Style Dress – stunning!!). Being the box-pleat-geek that I am, three pleats across the front of the dress was NOT going to be enough. I wanted them all around the skirt, more like this one from Behind the Hedgerow. I’m a glutton for punishment, I know. So, I dove into my stash and discovered this adorable red and aqua polka dot fabric remnant that A LOVED to play with when she was a baby, as well as a coordinating aqua faux linen with marvelous drape, and got started.

Fabric edit

Once I added in the pleats (4 in the front, 2 per side in the back), there was a very narrow margin where the zipper would be installed, and a wide section of excess fabric at the side seam. But, since I wasn’t 100% sure what it would look like after zipper installation, I just moved on and declared myself ready for assembly (so exciting!! No, seriously, I was giddy, dying to see how it all worked out! – way too excited to try and re-do the pleats on the back. Yep, I know. I’m impatient. Sue me!).

Image 1

During assembly, I discovered that the front of the skirt actually had an excess of fabric of about a half-inch at each side seam (1 inch overall). Since this was a test (or at least started out that way!), I just made a note of it and tucked the excess into the seam allowance instead of trying to repair it by undoing the pleats and starting over again. At this point, I was pretty much just playing with the pattern, not necessarily committed to getting it exactly right the first time. So I just “Let it Go” as Elsa would say, and moved on to the back pieces.

Image 4

Oh, the back pieces. Rachel Le Grand’s box pleated Fairy Tale dresses gathered the back of the dress, but I wanted to see how the pleats would look in the back, so I went ahead and installed the zipper and lining. It actually turned out kinda cool after the pleats went in! There ended up being a set of pleats in the center, on either side of the zipper, a really cool coincidence!


After getting the dress bodice and skirt assembled, I again deliberated on continuing with the dress at all – my question had been answered, and I had a baseline for the official Easter dress, as well as a notion of what needed to be shifted around (I’ll get to that in a minute). But… Oh, I LOVE that cheerful red bow against the pale turquoise and the box pleats. And I had red piping sitting in my stash from Halloween 5 years ago. And how CUTE would a pale turquoise and aqua shirtwaist style dress with red piping be?!!

So, yeah. I finished it. And it was a PAIN to install the piping on the armscyes. Good heavens. I botched the first one attempting to sew it on my machine, so on the second one, this girl, who never ever hand-stitches anything if she can avoid it, hand-stitched the lining to the piping on the second armscye. It turned out lovely, too. I’m not a hand-stitch/couture sewing convert though. I promise. Really. ::shifty eyes::

Cherry Soda Thumbnail

With that being said, TA DA! Here is the finished dress, with cleverly staged, Pinterest-worthy photos and all:

Resized Cherry Soda Pop FrontCherry Soda Pop Back

Isn’t it awesome?! I’m so happy it turned out so well. You can barely tell the side seams are tucked into themselves…? Well, this is a dress for my 1-year-old daughter and she will probably wear it maybe once or twice. Or more, because I love it. Regardless, it’s for a toddler, so it really doesn’t need to be perfect, right? It was a learning experience! Now, the official Easter dress, on the other hand, will need to be done better.

SO! WHAT I LEARNED: On the official dress, I am going to alter the positioning of the pleats a little bit. On the back pieces, I’m going to move the pleats closer to the side seams. On the front, I am going to narrow the pleats enough to, perhaps, add another pleat, and shift everything enough so that the center line has a pleat ON it, instead of on either side of it.

I’d like to give credit to the Oliver + S message boards, especially Rachel Le Grand, who posted her versions of a box-pleated Fairy Tale dress, and is (hopefully!) going to do a tutorial on how to do it!

Edit, 3/23/15: Since I initially posted this, the official Oliver + S blog has done an amazing tutorial, with math and everything, and linked to my blog entry! Which is awesome, I’m so flattered and thrilled! So, I took the opportunity during my DD’s naptime to enlarge the photos and polish it up a bit, as well as adding a photo of the back of the dress to better illustrate what happened with the back pleats. Thanks again to Rachel LeGrand, Behind the Hedgerow, Oliver + S, and Shelley, the author of the O+S blog post and tutorial!


2 thoughts on “Oliver + S Fairy Tale Dress, with Box Pleats

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