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Deconstructing Wendy: Peter Pan Costume Analysis

Updated on July 18, 2013

Deconstrucing Wendy

This is a costume analysis for Wendy Darling, the eldest of the Darling children in J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. I will stick to Disney's version of Wendy, as this is the most iconic dress for the character. Please feel free to use these details and suggestions when creating your own costume for dress-up fun or cosplay.

All images used were captured from Walt Disney's Peter Pan, released in 1953. I do not own nor pretend to own the rights to these images. They merely appear here for reference and remain the property of Walt Disney pictures.

Wendy's dress is very simple. It's supposed to be. It's a nightgown. It is designed as a simple rounded neckline dress, not form-fitting, but not a large, twirling skirt either. If you look closely at the photos below, you can see that the dress does not have a waistline. The ribbon creates a sort of false empire waist. It is also a simple dress without a lining or petticoat.

That being said, a costume worn by someone out in public may need some adjustments. A ribbon-only waist will likely not stay put, so in creating your own you may wish to put in a slightly gathered waistline. You may also choose to line the fabric if it's too thin on its own, as Wendy herself I'm sure would agree it to be very unladylike to show ones undergarments.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Wendy's top. Very simple, high rounded neckline.  The sleeves are puffy, simple elastic along the bottom with no extra ruffles.Back of Wendy's dress.  Dress goes almost to the floor, with simple black flat shoes.  Back of the dress is also high.Here you can see the color contrast between Wendy's light blue dress and her more medium-blue sash.  Detail also of her hair and matching bow.You can see here that the dress has no lining or petticoat - just a simple nightgown.Another view of the back of the dress, showing the neckline in the back.
Wendy's top. Very simple, high rounded neckline.  The sleeves are puffy, simple elastic along the bottom with no extra ruffles.
Wendy's top. Very simple, high rounded neckline. The sleeves are puffy, simple elastic along the bottom with no extra ruffles.
Back of Wendy's dress.  Dress goes almost to the floor, with simple black flat shoes.  Back of the dress is also high.
Back of Wendy's dress. Dress goes almost to the floor, with simple black flat shoes. Back of the dress is also high.
Here you can see the color contrast between Wendy's light blue dress and her more medium-blue sash.  Detail also of her hair and matching bow.
Here you can see the color contrast between Wendy's light blue dress and her more medium-blue sash. Detail also of her hair and matching bow.
You can see here that the dress has no lining or petticoat - just a simple nightgown.
You can see here that the dress has no lining or petticoat - just a simple nightgown.
Another view of the back of the dress, showing the neckline in the back.
Another view of the back of the dress, showing the neckline in the back.

Patterns

These are some nice starter patterns to give you a base. Some adjustments will need to be made.

Simplicity 9497 is a child sized dress pattern (available in sizes 3-14). The skirt is much fuller than what is needed for Wendy, so adjust accordingly. The sleeves and bodice look great. Another option is New Look 6959. This skirt uses several pleats instead of gathers, and with some modifications would also be a good pattern to start with.

I found an very similar costume on a historical pattern site. The high waisted dress here: http://www.longago.com/regencychildren.html.

A great adult option is Simplicity 4055 (sizes 6-20). The pattern is designed with buttons on the back, but that's easily replaced with a zipper for a more streamlined look.

Simplicity Sewing Pattern 9497 Child/Girl Dresses, K5 (7-8-10-12-14)
Simplicity Sewing Pattern 9497 Child/Girl Dresses, K5 (7-8-10-12-14)

Adjust skirt to be more stream-lined, without the bulk and gathers on this pattern. Available in child's sizes 3-6, and 7-14.

 
Simplicity Pattern 4055 Misses Circa 1795-1825 Period Costumes Sizes 14-16-18-20
Simplicity Pattern 4055 Misses Circa 1795-1825 Period Costumes Sizes 14-16-18-20

Available in sizes 6-12, and 14-20. Ignore buttons on the back, and instead insert a zipper.

 

Constructing Wendy's Dress

child's costume

I used the historical pattern from http://www.longago.com/regencychildren.html. But it ended up having way too full of a skirt, so I reduced the fabric when cutting out the pattern so the gathers wouldn't be so bulky. I also pulled a bit from Simplicity 9497-A, comparing the pattern pieces and mixing when appropriate. I constructed out of 100% cotton, using Joann Fabrics Country Classic line, which had a naturalness to the grain that I liked for Wendy, being turn of the century as well as a nightgown. I lined the dress completely in the same fabric, since the fabric is rather thin on its own. Bought a spool of thick ribbon in a coordinating color for the waist tie and used the rest as a hair ribbon.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Front viewBack viewMy little Wendy posed next to Wendy at Disney World. Disney usually goes for the fancier and brighter fabrics, choosing to clothe Wendy in a bright blue shiny satin or polyester blend, while I tend to go for authenticity and comfort.Back view. I had a hair ribbon in the same fabric as the bow around her waist, but left it at home by accident.
Front view
Front view
Back view
Back view
My little Wendy posed next to Wendy at Disney World. Disney usually goes for the fancier and brighter fabrics, choosing to clothe Wendy in a bright blue shiny satin or polyester blend, while I tend to go for authenticity and comfort.
My little Wendy posed next to Wendy at Disney World. Disney usually goes for the fancier and brighter fabrics, choosing to clothe Wendy in a bright blue shiny satin or polyester blend, while I tend to go for authenticity and comfort.
Back view. I had a hair ribbon in the same fabric as the bow around her waist, but left it at home by accident.
Back view. I had a hair ribbon in the same fabric as the bow around her waist, but left it at home by accident.

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