Sandra Dee Sims


(click images to to enlarge)

Other Credits

Anna Mae - photographer, Nick Firth - assistant videographer

Outline the story …

From a very hungry caterpillar to a beautiful butterfly...
As soon as I saw the theme was the natural world, the first thought that popped into my head was: 'butterflies'. The second thought that popped into my head was: 'Wouldn't it be cool if I could change from a caterpillar into a butterfly?'
Thus my quest to make a transformation dress began.
I looked at pictures of butterflies and their caterpillars for inspiration and decided to design a dress based on the monarch butterfly; its caterpillar, with its snazzy white, black and yellow stripes, was the deciding factor. The peacock butterfly and the death's head hawk moth were close contenders.
I wanted to use as much of my existing stash as possible – I even recycled old projects to make mock-ups then reused some of those for the lining – but I had to buy some things new: light weigh cottons (one white and yellow stripes and one plain orange) and 30 yards of black lace.
Originally I had the idea of painting the patterns on both the outer dress and the butterfly skirt, but during testing the paint seeped through the fabric and, in spite of fabric medium, made the material too stiff. So that idea went out the window.
As for the design, I wanted something with a 1950s silhouette; a pencil skirt and high neck for the caterpillar and a tea dress for the butterfly. Now I just had to figure out how to make it work...

Outline the construction…

Drafting the pencil skirt was the easy bit. I made several mock-ups for the caterpillar bodice which looked too bulky and didn't fall unless I jumped up and down. As I wanted to hide a full skirt underneath, the best idea was to have the bodice wrap around the front and pull tight.
I carefully lined up the stripes on my yellow/white cotton and cut my pattern pieces. To add the black stripes I used a combination of machine embroidery and appliquéd lace. I then added black frills and orange lining to the bodice. Finally, I attached magnetic claps to the shoulders and made a beaded clasp for the front.
For the butterfly dress, I adapted the bodice part of a dress pattern I had. I cut this out on black polka dot fabric and added interfacing.
Butterflies wings are roughly semicircular, so I drafted a half-circle skirt onto orange cotton as well as two layers of orange voile. I cut this in four panels, longer at the back and shaped to look more wing-like.
The cotton I kept open front and back and the voile I left split in four panels which I decorated with ribbon and appliqué lace, finishing the edges with bias tape and the bottom with polka-dot ruffles.
I stitched the pieces together at the waist and added the zip, stitched the lining in by hand, added straps and finished with bias tape and lace.
Finally I closed the seams and hemmed the dress.




  1. Avatar Christiane Christiane Edel on May 5, 2023 at 9:11 am

    So imaginative! Really lovely and cleverly constructed.

    • Avatar Sandra Sandra Dee Sims on May 9, 2023 at 10:48 pm

      Thank you so much! 🙂

  2. Avatar Steffi Wee on May 9, 2023 at 3:38 pm

    The transformation is so smooth!

    • Avatar Sandra Sandra Dee Sims on May 10, 2023 at 11:12 am

      Thanks. It worked every time until I tried to film it! 😂

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