If your sewing skills are moderate, making a fancy dress for your daughter should be simple. You can start from scratch and make the dress yourself or spruce up a plain dress that your daughter already has. Work with her on all aspects of the dress, so she is truly happy with the design. She will be much happier to wear your homemade dress if she is involved in the process.
Choose a basic pattern for a princess costume, as this is the style that is typically used for a fancy dress. It can be modified because it has various sleeve styles and a full skirt. If you aren't comfortable with your sewing skills, purchase a dress that can be easily changed. Second-hand stores and yard sales often have formal dresses for children available.
Make sure you have the proper sewing supplies. Organise your sewing supplies and separate them from your decorations. Embellishments may vary depending on your child and her tastes, but typical choices include lace, ribbon roses and ribbon, and beads. Keep fabric glue on hand.
Choose the type of material and the colour. These will make a big difference in terms of how the dress looks and feels. Pre-shrunk fabric works best. If the fabric you purchased is not pre-shrunk, shrink it yourself by soaking it in lukewarm water and wiping dry with a cloth.
Size the material. Lay the pattern out, separating the pieces and make sure you have more than enough material to cover it. Take extra precautions if you have a material with designs like stripes or polka dots. You will want to ensure that the designs line up.
Prepare to cut. Iron out the edges of the material in order to make them straight and to remove any creases.
Pin the pattern to the material. Make sure the pattern is centred on the material and pin them in place. Fold the right side in first. Use extra pins if the material is slippery.
Cut the fabric. Keep the pattern and material as flat as possible. Use sharp, long scissors to take long, even cuts instead of short, small ones. Don't pick the pattern up or lift the scissors high.
Sew the pieces together. You will have to consult the pattern instructions for this step, as every pattern will require different types of stitching in different orders.
Put the dress on your child. Turn it inside out and have her try it on to make sure it fits. If any alterations are needed, mark them with tailor's chalk and a pin while she is wearing it. Measure the proper hem length and mark with a pin. Remove the dress and stitch where marked.
Use lace. Adding lace is easy and can be used to give that "fancy" look. You can use lace as an overlay on top of the skirt, make lace sleeves or put lace edging on the hems, sleeves and colours.
Sew jewels or beads into the dress. You also can use these embellishments on top of the lace edging. If you are comfortable with your sewing skills, consider sewing each one individually onto the collar or sleeves. Make a necklace or sew the beads into the bodice of the dress.
Create a bustle or fluffy skirt by adding tulle. It is inexpensive and your colour options are virtually limitless. Poof the tulle to add an extra feminine quality or use it to enhance the neckline of the dress.
Add ribbons and roses. These little items can be either purchased at a local craft store or made by hand. Roses can often be added to the dress using fabric glue, while ribbons are typically tied or sewn into place.
Consider fabric paints. You can stamp or stencil designs onto the dress, particularly the hems and the bodice. Let the paint set with an iron or a dryer after you have let the paint dry completely.