Thursday, November 21, 2013

Advent Calendar Haute Couture

This year's advent calendar kicks it up a notch, past the 2011 Spectacular Walnut Advent Calendar and the 2012 Greener-Than-Thou Advent Calendar. In fact, this year there are two calendars. Inspired by Italian fashion designer Daniela Gregis and her annual advent skirts produced in collaboration each year with a different artist, this year's advent calendars are two skirts which I've upcycled, designed, and hand-stitched in a fit of pre-holiday insanity. The clients are a four-year-old and a two-year-old.

Not a Creature Was Stirring

The advent skirt "unopened" and stuffed with chocolate and toys

This calendar began with a thrift store ruffled mini-skirt, slit up one side and then overlapped with velcro tabs to produce a wrap-around skirt. It was also reduced in size to fit a 23-inch waist by accordion-pleating the extra inches at the back into a bustle. Copper colored ribbon with bells at the end were added for decoration and jingle bell sound effects when the skirt is worn. Scrap fabric was used to create a lining which was then stitched (with the stitching hidden by the ruffles) to create 25 sections. Those sections were turned into pockets by lifting a ruffle and slitting the skirt fabric just underneath the ruffle. Copper fabric paint (Liquid Pearls) was used to number the pockets on the ruffles above in random order. Hunting for the numbers is part of the game.

Pocket hidden under a ruffle; tulle stitched to top back of pocket

A swath of tulle is stitched underneath the ruffle at the top of the pocket. In its starting state, each pocket contains a foil-wrapped chocolate coin, and every fourth pocket or so also contains a little gift. Each day as the pockets are opened the tulle is pulled out of the pocket, creating the final advent couture look.

The skirt on the final day, with presents removed and tulle unfurled.

Not Even a Mouse

The advent skirt styled for a two-year-old began with another thrift store find: a green satin wrap-around dance skirt. After cutting several inches off the bottom, wrapping the skirt to fit a 17-inch waist, and adding velcro tab fasteners, 25 swathes of tulle were added. Each swath of tulle is gathered at the top and stitched to the skirt, along with a ribbon that is stitched to the top of the tulle half-way down its length.

Skirt in its starting state, with bundles of little gifts

For this skirt, the foil-wrapped chocolates and little gifts were wrapped in scraps of light green satin and numbered from 1 to 25. Each bundle was then wrapped in one of the tulle swathes as shown below, and tied with a ribbon.

Swath of tulle with ribbon secured to top

Numbered gift bundle placed on tulle

Tulle folded up and around bundle and tied with ribbon

Once again, the skirt is a work of interactive couture. As each bundle is unwrapped and the ribbon untied, the tulle and ribbons are unfurled and become part of the final look as shown below.

The skirt on the last day, with all gift bundles untied

The Gifts - Lots of Mice

You may have noticed the Night Before Christmas theme going on in the skirt titles on the waistbands: "Not a creature was stirring," and "not even a mouse." All of the little surprise gifts in the skirts were hand-stitched from felt and all have a mouse theme. Little notes with vintage holiday mouse-themed pictures are included with the gifts in the four-year-old's skirt explaining what they are. The gifts in each skirt are identical (except for color) and fall on the same day, to avoid any fights between the models as they sprint or toddle down the runway.

Wear a Mouse in Your Hair: Mouse Barrettes

Mouse barrettes

Wear a Mouse on Your Finger: Mouse Rings

Mouse rings: finger slips into belly band underneath mouse

Put a Mouse to Bed
The little mice in these beds are tiny puppets, worn on the tip of a finger or the tip of a pencil

Mice in their matchbox beds

Mouse puppet out of bed

Hang a Mouse on the Tree: Christmas Ornaments

Mice Christmas Ornaments

Be a Mouse: Mouse Masks
The recipients are encouraged to don their masks and practice curling up like mice and not stirring.

Mouse masks

On the last day, December 25, a final note tells the recipients to put on their completed advent skirts (which have magically become tutus), don their mouse masks, and put on a mouse ballet.


  1. You're cheating, this is stuff that someone CAN have! Cute mice :)

  2. Clever, whimsical, and such fun!


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