Princess Leia's Ceremonial Dress - a homemade costume for kids

For the past few Halloweens, Haley has been working her way through all of the Disney princesses as Halloween costumes. She’s been Belle, Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty – and has dress up dresses for most of the rest in her closet whether or not she’s worn them on Halloween.

So, this year, I was pretty surprised (and a little excited) when she decided she wanted to be something else. She picked to dress up as Princess Leia from Star Wars. Now, admittedly, this isn’t that big of a departure since Leia is still a princess and Star Wars is now owned by Disney … but, still, it’s a bit more variety than we’ve seen in the past and I’ll take it!

The funny part about this, though, is that Haley’s never seen a Star Wars movie. Her entire knowledge of Star Wars comes from books. She started with board books as a baby and now she’s worked her way up to reading chapter books on her own. And yet, she’s a more knowledgeable Star Wars fan at age 7 than most adults I know

So, I guess I shouldn’t have been that surprised when Haley decided she wanted to be Princess Leia for Halloween. She was very clear from the beginning, though, that she did NOT want to be Princess Leia in a white robe with honey buns hair. No, she wanted to be Princess Leia in the fancier white dress with a braided mass of hair giving out medals to Han and Luke at the end of Star Wars: A New Hope. She even brought me her book to show me the illustration – and then I had to re-watch that scene on You Tube because I couldn’t for the life of me remember what Leia’s dress or hair really looked like for those 2 minutes of the movie.

The Medal Ceremony at the end of Star Wars: A New Hope
Princess Leia in her Ceremonial Dress from Star Wars: A New Hope
Princess Leia’s Ceremonial Dress (source)

Once we established exactly what costume Haley wanted, I started looking online thinking I’d surely be able to order a dress like this in kid sizes from Amazon, but no such luck. There are no children’s size Princess Leia ceremonial dresses to be found. So, I wound up making one for her.

The Dress

I’m really not much of a seamstress, but I found a pretty simple, versatile dress pattern that I’ve used once before (i.e., last year, when she wanted to be Sleeping Beauty and we couldn’t find an acceptably accurate dress anywhere) – and I was able to modify it to work for this costume as well. The pattern is one I downloaded from Etsy (“Fancy Dress” from Puperita). It’s really easy to follow (even for someone with little sewing experience like me) and it’s easy to modify.

Assembling the dress bodice and lining
Assembling the dress bodice & lining.

So, back to Princess Leia. I followed the dress pattern with a few modifications to make it look more like Princess Leia’s ceremonial dress:

  • I cut the “wings” out of sheer fabric, hemmed the edges, and layered them between the outer fabric & the lining along the neck seam before sewing it all together. The pattern for the wings was something I just free-handed. I started by tracing the shape of the bodice pieces along the neckline and then added some length where her arm would go to make up the “wing”. This part really doesn’t have to be all that exact.
  • For the skirt, I used the basic directions from this tutorial to make an ankle-length A-line skirt (in place of the one that came with the pattern). The only adjustment I made was to add a seam to the back so that the zipper could be sewn in. I then pieced it together with the bodice like the directions from the pattern specified.
The pattern piece I created for the "wings" of Princess Leia's ceremonial dress.
The pattern piece we made for the “wings” of Princess Leia’s dress.

The dress was a little time consuming to make (I probably have 6-8 hours in it), but it really wasn’t that difficult. The most frustrating part for me is always hand stitching around the zipper at the end. I just don’t have patience for it and it never turns out looking as good as I think it should! (Thank goodness it’s just the lining and no one really sees it!)

Since we live in the Midwest and Halloween weather can be unpredictable, I made the dress a little big on her so there’s enough room to layer it over fleece lined leggings and a heavier long sleeve shirt at least. She may wind up needing a winter coat too, but hopefully not!

The Belt

I free-handed the shape for the belt that Princess Leia wore with her ceremonial dress and cut it out of craft foam. I then stretched some shiny silver costume fabric I found at Joann’s over the foam and hot glued it in place on the back. We added a couple of pieces of Velcro, too, so Haley could adjust it however was comfortable.

For the decorative pieces on the front of the belt, I tried something new: I used my Cricut to cut craft foam in the shapes we wanted. I didn’t have a deep cut blade or a strong grip mat like they recommend, but it still worked fine. I then wrapped the pieces in the same stretchy silver fabric and hot glued them in place on the belt.

Cutting craft foam with the Cricut
Cutting craft foam with the Cricut
A homemade costume version of the belt Princess Leia wore with her ceremonial dress in Star Wars: A New Hope.
The finished belt.

The Necklace

The necklace that goes with Princess Leia’s ceremonial dress was actually one of the pieces I was more concerned about. I’d found a tutorial online for how to make it out of clay, but that just seemed like a lot of effort for one detail of a Halloween costume. After seeing how well the craft foam worked out for the belt, though, I decided to give that a try for the necklace as well – and it worked great. Again, I used my Cricut to cut out craft foam in rectangles. Wrapping them in the same shiny fabric seemed like it would be too bulky, though, so we spray painted them with metallic silver spray paint instead, let them dry, and then folded them in half, secured them with a dab of hot glue and threaded them on to a wire choker that we found at Joann’s. Done and done!

A homemade version of the necklace Princess Leia wore with her ceremonial dress in Star Wars: A New Hope

The Hairstyle

Haley’s hair was the last thing we needed to address for this costume. She has pretty long hair, but it wasn’t long or thick enough to pull off Leia’s ceremonial hairstyle. We tried to convince her to just go with the honey buns, but she wasn’t having it. So, I ordered some fake braids off Etsy (we got these) and worked them in with her own hair to re-create(ish) Leia’s style (in blonde).

The hair extensions we ordered to use for re-creating Princess Leia's hairstyle from the medal ceremony in Star Wars: A New Hope.
The braids come on pony tail holders and are super light weight – perfect for Halloween.
Our version of Princess Leia's ceremonial hair (with fake braids).
Our version of Princess Leia hair.

Although far from perfect – for a kid’s Halloween costume, I feel like we pulled off the look pretty well.

A homemade kids' version of Princess Leia's ceremonial dress from Star Wars: A New Hope.

Her class party and trick-or-treating won’t be until Halloween night, though, so we have yet to see if anyone will actually know who she is. I feel like this costume is a pretty obscure version of Princess Leia that may not be readily recognized by a lot of people – but we will see! Haley is thrilled with it and that’s what really matters – so, in that respect, we’re calling it a success!

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