Lately, I've been posting on my facebook and Instagram feeds about my vintage Barbie project. I'm sewing the entire 1959 Barbie collection for Olivia for Christmas this year! I don't know who will have more fun, myself or her. I've had a lot of questions about it so I thought I'd share some great resources, patterns and my completed outfits so far.

how to sew retro Barbie clothes
Fabric remnants and a small bit of an old tee shirt made the Barbie resort set. She just needs her hat and a little white trim

I've never sewn doll clothes before and although I've sewn clothes for myself since I was about 12, this has been a real challenge! Barbie clothes are sewn mostly flat until the last minute when you sew up the side seams, otherwise hems would be impossible! There's some really great tips on how to sew Barbie clothes from Sharon Sews. Be sure to read through the comments section for smart ideas and time saving tips.

The Doll
She's 6 years old and I hate to give a little kid a wonderful vintage treasure that could end up wrecked so I found the 90's reproduction Barbie on ebay for $10! They generally go for between $10 and $20 or a little more, depending on the condition of the box. Her box had a few dings and creases so it wasn't great for a collector but perfect for a little girl. I carefully took Barbie out of her box so I could use her for a model as I sewed the outfits. She'll go back in and get wrapped up before the holidays.  Something to note about the repro Barbie is that if you do decide to take yours out of the box, the rubber bands in her hair will likely be crumbling, so you'll need to replace those but that's easy enough! This doll comes with the swimsuit, black shoes and sunglasses.

how to sew vintage Barbie clothes
Ugly vintage curtain fabric was perfect for this outfit. The vintage fur trim came from an old, shabby collar.

The Collection
I spent several weeks reading all about vintage Barbie clothes, studying up-close photos on ebay and taking notes of what kids of fabric I would need. You can find everything you need to know about the first Barbie outfits and accessories by year issued on Doll and Fashion Doll Guide. There's some really interesting history information and beautiful photos of original Barbies and clothes. 

how to sew vintage Barbie1950s  lingerie from Va Voom Vintage
vintage embroidered fabric scraps made perfect lingerie for Barbie

 The Fabric
Since I'm sewing my collection for my little girl, I'm not worried about getting everything perfectly accurate so I've found most of my fabric at JoAnn Fabrics, Walmart or in my stash of scraps and vintage fabrics. Most fabric stores will cut a minimum of 2 inches at the cutting table so if you only need a tiny bit and don't want to pay a lot of an expensive fabric, you can still use really beautiful materials for little money. I found some great remnants too and since JoAnn marks remnants at 50% off the regular price per yard, I paid less than $2 per dress for most of these.

vintage barbie make your own retro lingerie
I had a vintage pink slip with some damage so I cut the trim off the bottom and made a baby doll for Barbie with some matching lace-trimmed panties

One of my facebook readers commented that her mother used to trade fabric scraps with other ladies in the neighborhood, which is a fantastic idea if you have some local friends or family who sew. Check thrift stores for discounted garments that can be cut up and re-purposed.  Some fabrics could not be found like the fabric for the apple print sheath dress so I made my own. I bought a remnant of black cotton and used pencil erasers as circular stamps for the apples. I already had the acrylic paint so I stamped away and dotted each circle with a black spot once it dried.

DIY vintage Barbie apple print sheath make your own fabric
Almost finished! The fabric for this dress was hand painted using pencil erasers as round stamps.

The Patterns
Some of the patterns that I'm using are from Aileen's Petite Fashions. Some of your grandmas or aunts may have some of these patterns from way back when but they are still in business and you can buy the patterns from their website. They have many of the patterns needed for the 1959 collection as well as recent years. For the vintage outfits that you can't find on their website, there are also loads of free Barbie patterns on Pinterest, Picasa and Flickr that you can change up as needed.

DIY 1959 vintage Barbie picnic outfit with jeans and gingham top
These jeans were not fun to sew. I recommend keeping a bottle of wine in the fridge.

I haven't made many accessories yet but I did find very inexpensive Barbie shoes from Doll Clothes Superstore. I checked Ebay and Amazon but most of the shoes that I found were too modern or too expensive. This site has Barbie shoes for about 75 cents per pair, which is all I want to pay for something that will most likely end up under Olivia's bed!

vintage Barbie compact Roman Holiday
Vintage Barbie Compact from the Roman Holiday set via Land Collectables

The 1959 Barbie collection had some incredible accessories including woven baskets, straw hats, a fishing pole and the most coveted- the brass Barbie compact, which has sold for up to $1,500!  One of my clever readers suggested using a tiny locket to make the compact, which I thought was genius! I'll be making my own tiny cardboard diary, knitting basket and things like that.

how to make a vintage Barbie fur trimmed hat for the 1959 Evening Splendour set
Check the recycling bin for Barbie accessories. Here, a rim from an empty bottle gets some fur and pearl trim and is snipped open on one end for a hat

Follow my vintage Barbie project on Instagram and Facebook and I'll post some more here as I get them finished!