Archive for the tag 'costume'


Friday’s Child: Nurse Hat

nurse One of the costumes I’ve put together for the haunted house this year is a nurse. Nurses are a standard in horror genre movies and games, and “sexy” nurse costumes aren’t hard to find year round. But we wanted something a little more authentic, with a bit more vintage feel. A lucky-find vintage nurse uniform blouse from the goodwill, a white skirt, stockings, red shoes and some hand-made accessories round out the costume.

The cap is based on research of vintage nurse caps and a bit of fiddling with some newsprint until I had a shape I liked. My model is made from some 100% cotton twill I picked up on clearance at Joann’s. It was 60″ wide fabric, and was half off the red sticker price, so I got one yard for $5, out of which I got the hat and the pleated pocket apron with only scraps left over. A pattern for the cap can be found here, and a pattern (or at least a recipe) for the apron will be posted in the next few weeks. The cap could easily be made out of white craft foam or felt for a much simpler but not as sturdy costume prop. My actor is actually pinning her hat in place, but has requested it be fixed to a headband for the future.

Last week I showed you how I started making a straight jacket out of a martial arts uniform. I finished up the project by adding sleeve-caps and straps that allow the actor to have their hands free and available while looking like they are tied into a straight jacket. The results:





Wednesday’s Child: Straight Jacket

This year, I’m the official costumer for a haunted house. I’ve been given a number of interesting costuming problems to solve. Having found some fairly elegant solutions, I’d like to post them here.

If you buy a Halloween costume at a store, the chances are pretty good that you’re spending a pretty penny (or what I consider a pretty penny, anyway… upwards of $25…) for low-quality materials and low-quality construction, and a costume that is only superficially correct anyway. For many people this is probably sufficient. But I do a lot of costuming for a kid who’s going to want to wear that thing over and over for dress-up too, and I am a stickler for detail, and for those reasons I far prefer making my own costumes. Costuming for a haunted house is a whole other order of magnitude more hardcore. These are costumes that WILL be put through a rigorous beating. Construction is a main point; even more important than aesthetics, really, because the dim light and often quick glimpses don’t require quite as much attention to detail. Not that I stint on detail if I can help it.

So, for my first major project, I was asked to provide a straight jacket. Commercially available straight jackets, even specifically-costume ones, can range between fifty and hundreds of dollars. I was sure I could make a straight jacket from scratch if need be, but I far prefer modifying existing garments when possible, and I knew I could do that here if I could just find the right garments. Tutorials exist telling you how to make a costume straight jacket out of two matching button-down shirts and a number of belts… I knew that would never last, but it confirmed my ideas on how to approach a modification. Then, I found the thing. The perfect thing. A white canvas V-neck martial arts uniform, complete with top, pants and belt, for $6 used. These things are built to withstand significant stress; the canvas is high quality and the construction is excellent. This was my future straight jacket ensemble. My luck held out; it was sized for a 6 foot tall, 200 lb person, which meant that after modifying, it would fit the vast majority of our actors, so that the costume wouldn’t limit the casting. Bonus points!

So, this straight jacket ensemble includes the following materials:

One white canvas V-neck martial arts uniform
Approximately 1/3 yard of additional white canvas
Lots of twill tape
Various D-rings, buckles or clips to taste

I cut up the front of the garment to the middle of the V-neck, then cut the collar off. The front becomes the back and the back becomes the front. I cut two small wedges of canvas and sewed them into the V left by the neckline, to bring the opening in back straight and up to the neck. Then I cut the belt into three pieces. Two of those pieces were used to finish the back openings. I opened up the first row of stitching on each piece, and cut about 1/4″ of the webbing off because I didn’t think my sewing machine would like it much. Then I stitched it closed again around the raw edges of my back opening. That left just enough belt for the collar. This time, I removed all the lines of stitching (which was actually fairly easy once I realized that it could be unraveled by a quick pull on one end of the wrong-side stitching instead of picking each stitch individually…) and took out the webbing entirely. Then I sewed it on similar to a mandarin collar. (I DID trim down the neckline on the used-to-be-back to make it comfortable but still a crew-neck.) I also had to use some bias tape to finish the ends of the belt trim, too. I’ve measured and pinned down the straps and rings for the back closure in this picture:

Straight Jacket

There isn’t that much left to do, except actually turn it into a straight jacket by lengthening the sleeves and adding the strapping and tie-downs for them, and then aging/staining, etc. I’ll finish up next week!


Thursday’s Child: Heritage School

The history of Nebraska as a prairie state, of immigrants and settlers, is a valued part of our heritage around these parts. Willa Cather and Beth Streeter Aldrich wrote brilliantly of Nebraska’s pioneering history. (I personally recommend My Antonia by Cather and A White Bird Flying by Aldrich to anyone and everyone.) The social dynamics of European immigrants as settlers of Nebraska, the interaction of the communities of isolated nationalities, and how it can still be seen in the Nebraska of today are fascinating lessons in the history of American immigration, differing from those taught by 19th century Boston and New York. And we are proud of that history; of the perseverance and courage of our forebears.

And so, in my little part of the world, we try to teach our children the lessons of prairie life. In fourth grade, we send our children to Heritage School for a day, where they participate in a one-room class taught in the style of the late 19th century, in period clothing (or close approximations thereof) and with period expectations of manners. This after a long unit at school learning the differences they can expect, learning the songs they’ll sing, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance (as it was said in the 1890′s), learning what kinds of lessons they can expect, and preparing for the spelling bee.

The foundation: A thrifted dress, possibly from a Halloween costume, but most probably from a past participant in Heritage School.

And where do I come in? The costume, of course. When I attended Heritage School, my mother made my costume, and I could do no less than to put my skills to work for my own daughter’s special day. I cheated a little; At Goodwill dollar days when the Halloween costumes were still on display I found a dress that would fit Kit, who is nearly the same size as I am. (The dress I wore to Heritage School in 4th grade Kit wore at Halloween when she was 6.) The dress is a somewhat unfortunate color of peach, and had a strange stand-up, fold-over collar and 3/4 length sleeves, with a weird yoke-look created with applied eyelet on the front of the dress. Obviously we had some things to change. I removed the eyelet on the front. I planned on removing the edging from the sleeves as well, but plans change. I managed to find a fabric that closely matched the dress and was therefore able to remove the weird collar and replace it with a rounded collar much more in keeping with the period. The matching fabric also allowed me to use contrasting fabric on other parts of the costume, which was nice.

All decked out.

I created a plain muslin petticoat, which you can’t see. The bib apron is my own design, and I’ll be re-making a slightly modernized version with a tutorial in the near future. (It’s really very easy, and I just made it up as I went. In the re-make, there are a few points I’ll change for the sake of elegance of design.) For the bonnet I used this tutorial with a few changes (namely using a contrasting fabric for the underside of the brim and no interfacing) and was very happy with the results. Kit has requested that we keep them rather than donate them to the school when she’s through, but we will be lending them out in the future. Kit is by far one of the tallest children in 4th grade, and the items of her costume are very much adult-sized. I know from personal experience that it can be a challenge to provide costumes for a child of such above-average size, and it amuses me a little to know that a teacher could just as easily borrow this particular outfit. Notes on the costume itself: Yes, it is March, but it is snowing today, so long underwear was necessary, and owing to the non-period-correct short sleeves, her long-johns show. Also, I was so busy making the costume that I forgot I needed to go hunting for less-obvious shoes. Bad mommy. She does have a shawl of wool plaid for wearing inside the chilly schoolhouse, but fortunately, they’ll be wearing their own coats for recess.


Wednesday’s Child: Zombie Pinup

zpinupLast year for Valentine’s Day, I helped my husband prepare for a very special photo shoot. The Zombie Pinups website was hosting a Zombie Valentine contest, and we wanted to take part. Zombie Pinups is run by a friend from Zombie Army Productions out of Chicago, and last year’s contest was judged by Matt Valentine; a contestant from Syfy’s Face Off. The prize was a great lot of horror-related swag. So my husband gathered together a team of makeup artists from the area, I helped prepare the set and costumes and he found a model he liked for the part, and we put together an entry. And we won! You can see a gallery of the complete shoot at my husband’s website, but be careful, as some of the images are definitely more risque than others. The giant heart-shaped floor pillow seen at left was my major contribution to the effort, and you can find instructions in another post.


Thursday’s Child: Pirates

This weekend my daughter and I are attending a costume birthday party with a pirate theme. I’ve worked a number of pirate festivals in my day, in addition to having a reasonable ren faire garb closet, so putting together a couple of pirate costumes doesn’t present that big a challenge. However, I’ve got a bee in my bonnet to go Airship Pirate instead of High Seas pirate.

Now, the golden age of Caribbean privateers and piracy up the coast of the US was in the 17th and 18th centuries. Your typical Airship pirate is aiming for somewhere mid-19th, so the look is going to be somewhat different.

By the Victorian era, gone was the tricorne from the naval uniforms of Europe, and thence out of pirate ken. However, the tricorne’s descendant, the bicorne (you might recognize this hat style from a number of famous paintings of Napoleon.), was widely in use in naval officer dress around the world until the early 20th century, and would be a good option for a Victorian-era costume. For an airship, leather aviators caps and goggles, though somewhat cliche’, are also useful.

I like the idea of steampunk and pirate costumes (or both) for women incorporating items of men’s clothing as well. A peek at historical female pirates generally shows them in very masculine wear, although that might be artistic license. But it must be said that trousers seem a more practical garment for swashbuckling than a dress. For a steampunk outfit, I think a knickerbocker-style pant tucked into tall boots would be lovely. A more feminine approach would be a pair of bloomers, although at some point the knickerbockers and bloomers will be difficult to tell apart. A pair of baggy pants made of linen could be either. Give it a fancy edging and a casing for elastic and it’s a bloomer, tuck that fancy edging into a boot top and it’s a knickerbocker. Very handy.

My own plan involves a black velvet corset, linen bloomers in a color I haven’t chosen yet, probably cinched above the knee, stockings and booties, a man’s banded-collar shirt and a fur and leather mohawk aviator cap affair if I have time to make it. With some adjustments at a later date, this could also make a good con costume.


Princess Peach

For Halloween, my daughter requested a Princess Peach costume. Now, as a gamer, I think that’s pretty darn cool. As a person who sews only moderately well, I felt a little bit threatened by the level of challenge it was bound to present. It turned out pretty OK, and Kit dubbed it “AWEsome!”. Good enough for me!

Princess Peach

We aren’t cosplayers, and I was working with some of the most uncooperative fabric known to man, so there are a few inaccuracies, shortcuts and otherwise non-perfect things about this costume, but overall I think it is recognizable, and really, pretty great if I do say so myself.