Saturday, November 13, 2010

Every Day is Halloween

Okay, maybe not every day. But my kids like to dress up, so I make Halloween costumes to last. The idea being that if I make them, I can use fabrics I can wash and that won't fall apart, unlike those crappy, store-bought messes.

This year Maeve took her own sweet time deciding what she wanted to be. Meanwhile, Gwyneth had been asking to be a ladybug since, oh, I don't know -last Halloween. But then Maeve made the announcement that she wanted to be a pirate, and Gwyn decided that she, too, needed to be a pirate. The boy had no opinion, being not quite 18 months old, but I was already thinking that he could be a tiger or lion, as he is very fond of roaring. As I don't have a good shot of him, you'll have to take my word for it that he was the cutest lion ever, though it turned out that the hood with the mane didn't fit his larger-than-average head, so he didn't wear it.

So during a trip to the fabric store with the kids Maeve chose the Simplicity 3644 pirate pattern which, like many of the Simplicity costume patterns, is a Disney-authorized pattern for clothes à la Pirates of the Caribbean's Jack Sparrow. While you might suggest that this is why Maeve chose it, I can truthfully say it's because the pattern is much more authentic-looking than any of the other patterns she looked at and she was in love with the frock coat. Plus, she's never seen the movie. However, she wanted to be an elegant lady pirate, so she chose to have a skirt, rather than pants.

Finding a pattern for Miss Gwyn was slightly more challenging. The Simplicity pattern was too big for her, since it started in size 7. Gwyn is barely a size 4 on a good day. However, I dug into my trusty collection of Ottobre magazines and came up with some patterns that would be good for pirate garb. First, the shirt. I decided on the "Ollie" shirt, #19 from the 6/2007 issue of Ottobre. It's a boy's shirt but has some nice gathers that I thought would make it more blouse-like. With the addition of pearl buttons, it became much more girly. When I was looking at the blouse pattern, the "Onni" vest, #20 in the same issue, caught my eye. It's plain but I figured that with some silver middy braid and metal buttons I could get the pirate look I wanted. Here's the result:

The shirt is made from a Kona cotton muslin in white, for durability, and the vest is a beautiful black microsuede that I had in my stash. Originally it was planned for a skirt for me but I never got around to it. I used the same microsuede for the eyepatch.

Maeve had decided on a skirt, so Gwyn felt she needed one too, as first mate. Luckily I found an Ottobre pattern that had a size range for them both - a tiered skirt, # 25 from the 2/2004 issue. Very easy to do and it enabled me to let the girls have a choice of colors. Gwyn informed me that it needed to be gray, red, black and purple, and that she also needed a green sash. Done and done. Skirt was made from polyester taffeta and the sash was made from cheap polyester satin. Add a red bandana and - presto! Pirate Gwyn!

After I got all the parts together we decided she needed something else and Jabber the parrot was stitched to the shoulder of her vest, which made trick-or-treating hilarious, since people pretended to think it was a real parrot and kept giving her extra candy "for your parrot friend".

Maeve's costume was, of course, more elaborate since she was the captain. We used the same Ottobre skirt pattern as with Gwyn, the only change being the color of red taffeta; Maeve liked the red-black iridescent color better than the regular red. The blouse is from the aforementioned Simplicity pattern, as are the vest and frock coat. When fabric shopping, she chose a beautiful red velvet for the coat. I tried to get her to use velveteen, as it is more machine-washable. She was having none of it so we went with the cheap velvet, rather than the expensive one.

***A note about the Simplicity 3644 pattern. The yardage given on the pattern envelope is only for fabrics which are 58-60" wide. If you've ever worked with velvet you know that it comes in a much narrower width. I had to estimate the amount of fabric I needed and I was still off, mostly because of the flare of the main pattern pieces of the coat. I ended up having to buy extra fabric and it was a different dye lot, so the color is slightly off on the left back panel. Plus, there are a few construction issues that I would change in order to made it slightly less of a pain in the ass. Overall, it was a fairly easy, if time-consuming pattern. The cost of this, though, is going to be high if you try it in an expensive fabric with expensive trims. There are 8 large buttons and 15 smaller buttons that are needed for this version of the coat, and that alone ran into quite a chunk. The only thing that saved me were coupons for JoAnn Fabrics that got me 50% off of the velvet. 5 yards at $10.99/yard is pretty expensive for 1 piece of a costume, but 5 yards at 5.99/yard is a bit better.

Then, of course, there was the cost of the brocade for the long vest and the many buttons that it requires. The nice thing about the coat was that it didn't require buttonholes. The vest, unfortunately, does. Like, a dozen of them. On a curved placket. Ugh. Luckily the pattern includes a piece for the placement of the buttons and buttonholes. Ideally the vest should have had some fancy metal buttons but at that point I was so hard-pressed to find that many buttons in that size that I just took what I could find and they ended up being plain red plastic.

We accessorized the costume with a sash made from the same purple taffeta as in the skirts, black and white striped tights, a pair of black boots with fold-over tops, a wooden sword and a pirate hat purchased on ebay.

On the whole, a rather ambitious project that I am glad to be done with. It was fun to do and they really liked the costumes, which is what I care most about. Besides, Maeve is getting almost too big to trick-or-treat, so in a couple of years I won't be doing a costume for her. Plus, I have several costumes just waiting for Gwyn and Tallon to wear. Like Maeve's old Cinderella and Snow White costumes for Gwyn and the Blue costume for Tallon. Maybe next year I won't have to sew so much. Maybe.