Who Are You? DIY Halloween Costumescomments (4) October 31st, 2008
When you're throwing a party for sixty people you call a caterer, at tax time, an accountant, but when it's Halloween you call a crafter. I love the phone calls I get in the weeks leading up to this DIY high holiday: "Do you have a recipe for really good blood?", " Help, I need a B52's wig!", or "Any ideas for how I can make myself into an island?" That I usually have several solutions to all of these queries is just one of the reasons that Halloween is my favorite time of year. The other reason is that I love the idea of re-inventing oneself for just one night. I get just as much of a thrill out of the amazing ingenuity that people bring towards creating their own costumes as I do crafting something wild and wonderful for friends and myself.
This year I got a call from my friend Sally. Her son six-year-old Zach had decided to be an otter (he has been studying them in first grade). "An otter?" I asked, "Hmmm, sure, we can do an otter" While I felt reasonably certain that I would be able to recognize an otter at say, a zoo in its natural habitat, when it came to conjuring up a costume I realized that I had to do some research. What exactly does an otter look like? After a search through the internet and a consultation with the expert, Zach, Sally and I came up with the idea that we could probably modify an existing bear costume (move and re-fashion the ears, add a tail etc) and create otter accessories (seaweed, seashells and a rock for breaking open those shells) to clearly communicate-- otter-- to anyone on the big night--even to those with a shaky grasp of natural history.
On Tuesday night, instead of our regularly scheduled Stitch-N-Bitch, Sally and I gathered with some friends at the Seattle studio of artist Maggie Orth where we glued, stitched and did some trouble-shooting on several Halloween costumes in the making. It was there that the otter took flight(in a manner of speaking.)
It was really very simple. First, I took the bear ears off of the hood and made smaller otter's ears sewing them back, but lower on the sides of the head. Then I took a yard and a half of faux fur and made a long, tapering tail. I stuck a disengaged wire-hanger through the tail length and stuffed all around it with polyester batting and then sewed this to the back of the costume formerly known as 'bear.' For the seaweed, I made a 'cape', I cut out long strips of green paper, shredded strips of green ribbon and folded it into long pieces of green tulle. I free-form stitched it all down and then soaked these tulle pieces (with paper and ribbon) and tossed them all into the dryer for about ten minutes. The resulting seaweed came out very cool: kind of scuptural and very much like the real thing. Sally glued some seashells into the netting and drilled a tiny hole into a huge bivalve turned pendant. Voila! An otter.
Today, I finished Zach's costume and when he tried it on he loved it (I feared he was going to suddenly decide to be a pirate instead) pronouncing it, "better than last year's" (he was Ringo Starr) I beamed with pride.
Tonight, as I rest on my Halloween laurels, I am imagining the hum of a thousand sewing machines, dripping hot glue guns, and late night dashes to Michael's. The clock is ticking towards midnight and tomorrow, who wants to just be themselves?
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