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Tips for creating your Halloween costume

Updated on October 15, 2015

Years ago, when I was a fresh-faced college freshman at Penn State with a gorgeous head of hair, I took a costuming class in which I was taught how to sew using both a machine and by hand. Since then I have had awesome Halloween and cosplay costumes. I've already written a few hubs on the subject. Check out some of the links below!

The author as the Mad Hatter
The author as the Mad Hatter | Source

Awesome, right? Well with Halloween right around the corner, I thought it might be fun to share some of the tips I've learned over the years.

Start Early

My most useful piece of advice I can give is to start early. I'll be honest, if you're reading this two weeks before Halloween, then I can't help you. Best to think about next year instead. However if you've got a few months then you can spread the work (and the money) over a little more time and do it right. Some of the things I suggest are going to take some time. Last year I was in the fabric store a few weeks before Halloween and saw a set of parents looking at the recently released patterns for the Frozen characters. All I could think was "You don't have enough time."

Also consider this: you're not the only one buying fabric before Halloween. I had a discussion with an employee behind the cutting table at my local Joanne's Fabric. She said that the weeks leading up to Halloween is one of their busiest times and that they run out of fabric. They run out of black fabric first, followed by white and red. Perhaps you want some Tulle for a tutu? The primary colors sell out first. Hoping for a sale on patterns? Not in October.

The Frozen pattern
The Frozen pattern | Source

Now this means you have to decide what you want to be fairly early. We ususally decide who we want to be in April. Yes, that early.

Research

Once you know who you want to be, find out as much as you can about the character and the costume. Is it a character from a movie? Rent the movie and pay attention. We live in an age where information is right at your fingertips, so use it! Find pictures of your character online.

Also keep in mind that there are few new ideas. If you've thought of a costume idea, chances are someone else has thought of it too. Pinterest is a great resource as well. It's a good idea to see what others have done, and it may inspire ideas of your own. There's no shame in using someone's elses idea in this case. There's no sense in reinventing the wheel.

One you have your idea, it's time to look for patterns. I say patterns, plural, because the odds are against you finding your exact costume in one pattern. You may find pants in one pattern and shirts or dresses in another. You might have to combine pieces from more than one pattern in the same piece of clothing. For example, I had to use a dress from one pattern and sleeves from another to create a Buttercup dress from The Princess Bride.


Try looking here for patterns:

Don't forget You Tube. If you are going to try something new, like leather work or attaching a crown to your hair, there are tons of tutorials by helpful hobbyists than can give you advice.

Create a mock-up

So, fabric can get a little pricey. The nicer the fabric, the more expensive it will be. And if you screw it up, then you're out of luck. Muslin, however, is fairly cheap. So make a mock-up of the costume first in inexpensive muslin. You'll be able to see if it's going to work, and you'll give yourself a dress rehearsal for the actual construction. Make your mistakes then before working with the real material.

Look for sales

Fabric costs money. Patterns cost money. All the little things you need like buttons, zippers and other notions cost money. So keep your eye out for sales Joann Fabrics routinely have sales on patterns. Often they will have the on sale for 99 cents, or five patterns for five dollars (but like I said, they're not going to be on sale in the month of October). Keep in mind that patterns usually run around fifteen dollars, so when those sales come around, grab as many as you can! Sign up for coupons. That 40 or 50% coupon can go a long way in reducing your cost.

Hollie as the Queen of Hearts
Hollie as the Queen of Hearts

Sometimes you just have to buy things

You can't make everything. Belts, pins, hats and other items are hard to make, so why not make your life easier and look for the items online? You can find a lot of things on Amazon or on etsy.com. For example, we needed a crown for the Queen of Hearts. The one we purchased online was better than anything I could make.


Pockets Pockets Pockets!

Sew pockets in your costume. Trust me on this. Some of the patterns do not have pockets. You need places to keep your wallet and your keys. I like to include a zipper or some kind of closure, especially if you're at a theme park.

Shoes

You need to wear something on your feet and a costume is incomplete without the proper footwear. Sometimes shoes and boots are either expensive or hard to come by. If you can't find the right shoes, you might have to make them. Consider the idea of the spat, a covering for the shoe. You may have seen the boot covers that come with commercially bought costumes. I suggest the same concept, except a sturdier version. I take a pair of old sneakers and glue a velcro strip around the base. Then I make a shoe cover in the style that I need. Around the inside of the cover I sew the matching strip for the velcro. I end up with the shoes or boots I want with the benefit of being able to walk around in comfortable sneakers all night. I used this method to create rabbit feet for my White Rabbit costume.

Accessorize!

Finally, find something that can put your costume over the top. It can be a handbag, or a prop. One year as Snow White, Hollie attatched a little toy bird to her finger like in the film. It's touches like that that turn it up to eleven.


I hope these tips help. Happy Halloween!

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