To infinity, and beyond: a Buzz Lightyear dress

A girl in a Buzz Lighyear dress, with wings outstretched
A raglan sleeved Buzz Lightyear dress with rounded godets, wings and a hood.

Patterns and materials

About a year ago, I bought a Buzz Lightyear panel in a fabric destash sale. I recently started to panic that maaaaybe my daughter would stop being interested in Buzz before I got around to making her something with it.

Buzz dress on a mannequin.

The MegaMax pattern is a raglan style t-shirt pattern with lots of add on options (animal wings, superhero capes, etc) – perfect for this project. There is a Space Ranger wings option, and while I used the pattern’s pieces (actually, I cut the pieces apart), I certainly didn’t follow the pattern’s instructions.

Girl wearing a Buzz dress holding a Buzz toy.

Falling with style: making the wings

The MegaMax pattern’s Space Ranger Wings option says to applique wing pieces onto a single layer of cotton lycra. I didn’t follow this instruction for three reasons:

  1. Cotton lycra tends to curl. If I cut and stitched the ten separate pieces required for each wing, I guarantee the edges would not sit flush, and I’d see wavy lines all over the place. This would drive me insane.

  2. The pattern calls for the wing decorations on the front side of the wing only. But Buzz has wing decorations on the back and front of his wings. If I used applique on both sides, I’d have to applique so many pieces that I thought it would take far too long.

  3. I don’t have another reason, I just think lists look better in sets of three.

Instead of appliqueing pieces to each wing, I sliced the pattern into pieces, added seam allowance, cut two mirrored pairs of each piece, cut two mirrored sets of the same pieces in very light interfacing, fused the interfacing on the back of each piece, and then stitched them together. Why on earth I thought this would be quicker and simpler than applique I just don’t know.

What an idiot.

It took approximately forever. 

A jumble of wing pieces, scattered on an ironing board.
This has taken absolutely ages, and there is no way this is going to work.
Wing stripes have been sewed together, and the other pieces are laid out neatly on top.
Maaaaybe this will work? I can kind of see it.
Two sets of completed wings. They look just like Buzz Lightyear's wings.
Totally worked. Never doubted myself for a second.

I used the lightest possible interfacing that I found in my sewing cupboard. I wanted to be sure that my daughter could bend her arms with no restrictions to her movement. I probably could have found a lighter interfacing at Spotlight, but I’m currently living in a city locked down fairly tightly (thanks, COVID), so for this dress I needed to use only what I have in my sewing stash already.

The woven interfacing I used has only a very slight stretch, which I aligned with the stretch of the sleeve. I specifically chose a woven interfacing so that the small pieces wouldn’t warp or stretch when the dress is washed… and my daughter is three, so I’ll be washing out chalk and Play-doh and sand and all kinds of junk pretty well constantly. 

The result is a sleeve with enough stretch for movement, but not enough stretch that the wings will warp over time.

The back of the dress, showing the reverse wing designs.
View from the back: the wings are really flexible, and have the correct patterning on the reverse.

Making the bodice and skirt

I started by making some pretty elementary modifications by slicing the sleeves to add in green communications panels, and elongating the bottom of the t-shirt to a dress length. Then I attached the wings to the sleeves and bodice, which left me with a garment shaped like a very long tube.

Next, I wanted to add a series of rounded rocket-shaped godets into the bottom of the skirt, largely because my daughter generally refuses to wear dresses that aren’t either a) twirly, or b) all the way to the ground.

I drew a series of 2.5 cm wide rounded channels and sliced them out, ready to insert half-circles as godets. I spaced out the channels evenly (four on the front, four on the back), so that after seam allowance, the gap between the godets would be about 2.5 cm as well.

The godets were self-drafted, and involved some fairly simple maths: the diameter of the semi circle is just the perimeter of the channel.

Dress front with a channel cut out for a godet ready to be inserted.
Four rounded rocket channels at the front, and four at the back.
The line at the bottom is where I would turn up my hem.
Front of the dress after a godet has been inserted.
A half-circle rounded godet inserted into the channel.
Yep, I didn't iron before I took this photo. YOLO.

It’s the godets that give the skirt its incredible twirl. After I inserted the godets, the bottom of the skirt was simply one large circle, which I hemmed in about three seconds thanks to my coverstitch machine (man, I love that thing).

Girl in a Buzz Lightyear dress spinning.
Rocket-powered godets in action.
spin 2 w
Shhh, sometimes artistic vision looks like a poorly exposed blurry photo.

Aaaaand that’s it! I have a very happy little girl, and she has worn her Buzz Lightyear dress almost every day since I made it.

This project took a lot of hours (a lot of hours), but I think it was well worth the result.

Girl in a Buzz dress holding up a Buzz toy.
You can't see the bottom of this toy's feet... but her name was written there over a year ago.

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