Thursday, October 4, 2012

An Adventure Down the Rabbit Hole, Pt. 1

So it's that time of year again - fall. And that means Halloween is just around the corner, so you know that I'm getting ready to start on a massive amount of costume sewing. Every year, it seems, the costumes get more and more elaborate and I suspect I missed my calling somewhere along the line. This year's sewing promises to be no exception, since the 3 have decided to go as characters from a popular book/movie. And not just any characters, oh no. They have chosen one of the most iconic children's books and characters out there. And no, I'm not talking The Hunger Games and Katniss, although I'm sure Maeve would jump at that if given the chance and she quickly spotted a pattern for it in a pattern book at JoAnn's. No, I'm talking Alice in Wonderland, and the characters of Alice, the Queen of Hearts/Red Queen, and the White Rabbit.

Now, given the ages of my children, it's clear who is dressing as Alice and the White Rabbit and it makes sense. Their costumes really won't be difficult to make, although I plan on making some changes/additions, as always. For T I'll be using the standard McCall's pattern # 6101 for the bunny suit, but I'll also be making a waistcoat (aka, a vest) with a large pocket for his pocket watch (which I am making out of wood) and we'll also have a bow tie or ascot. I'm leaning towards bow tie as that's the iconic Disney animated image; Scott seems to have a fondness for the ascot idea, since the newer Tim Burton version has the rabbit dressed in a shortened version of a frock coat, worn with a waistcoat underneath and a jabot of lace at the throat. My 3 year-old son is probably not going to tolerate a jabot of lace, though he may tolerate an ascot. He's already running around saying, "I'm late! I'm late!"

For Miss G I've also chosen a McCall's pattern, # 4948, mostly because the Simplicity one with the collar wasn't in stock at the JoAnn's I go to and I wasn't waiting for it. Naturally the dress fabric is a lovely sky-blue cotton with a white cotton muslin pinafore. I plan on adding the peter pan collar to the dress, and I'll be making real ties for the apron, rather than using the ribbon ties that the pattern instructions say to use. Add white tights, black Mary Janes and a black headband and you've got classic Alice.

The real challenge, though, is Maeve. She decided to dress as the Queen of Hearts but she wasn't really sure that she wanted to go with the animated version's costume, since she really liked the more Elizabethan look of Helena Bonham-Carter's Red Queen. (photo via:

After looking at patterns from which to base this look, I chose McCall's 5954, and then started to think about modifications that would make it look more like the photo above. First, we decided to use black for the bodice, except for the middle portion, which will be gold, with red ribbons to imitate the cording on the corset-style bodice of the movie costume. The sleeve puffs will also be black - either in taffeta or velvet, depending on whether I have enough black velvet in my stash, although taffeta will probably hold the shape better than rayon velvet. The red ribbon trim on the sleeves has some sort of black embellishment but we couldn't find any ribbon like it, so we've decided to sew black ribbon roses to the red ribbon in order to achieve a similar look. The lower half of the original's sleeve is a netting; I found a remnant of light beige-y fabric with a lace overlay that is very similar in look, and also more practical for trick-or-treating on an October evening. The cuffs look like they're made from a dotted chiffon, cut on the bias, but so far I haven't been able to find anything similar to it in the store. Looks like a trip to Hancock Fabrics might be in order. In the meantime, I've seen others' copies of this outfit which have used ruffled eyelet trim, but I think that the cotton looks a bit cheap next to the other types of fabric, even if it does give a similar look. Also, I'm going to have to add some black panels and the white shirt collar portion to the bodice. The only thing I really have to worry about is the size of the collar, but that shouldn't be too difficult to reproduce. I'm also considering a slight deviation from the movie dress by adding a large heart appliqué on the bodice, in order to inject more of the red/hearts theme.

The skirt portion will be more difficult to imitate. In the movie costume, the Red Queen has a red underskirt, with the front panel made of a red with a heart motif in black and gold, and an overskirt in a gold brocade. The pattern I chose has an overskirt that is shorter and draped - more like a polonaise, though they refer to it as a peplum, for some reason.

Dress with a polonaise, via

I could alter the pattern so that my version has a longer overskirt and then the underskirt, but there are 2 difficulties that present themselves if I do that:

1) This means more fabric, which is expensive and impractical when it comes to a Halloween costume for a 12 year-old. If this were something for a convention, like DragonCon or some other mega event where people would be judging her on a costume's authenticity, then I might. But's Halloween and she needs to be able to move. Also, she'll probably want to wear this at the next feis for Irish Dance, since they're having a costume special event. Extra fabric would get in the way, and I'll need to be able to drape the underskirt up à la polonaise just so that she can dance the reel in it.
2) A large overskirt would require hip rolls to support it, as Maeve has no exactly got large hips. I have no desire to make hip rolls for her to wear or to ask her to wear them. So I'm going with the shorter overskirt.

In order to achieve a similar look to the movie costume, we decided to use a dark gold brocade for all but the front panel of the long skirt. The front panel will be red taffeta with a flocked vine design in black. The shorter draped overskirt will probably be black, but we haven't finalized that. Also, we're giving a nod to the traditional Queen of Hearts' costume with heart appliqués on the skirt. Normally they're on the front panel but we decided to place them around the hem. While this is a departure from the Tim Burton costume, it's a way to reference the more traditional Alice that the other 2 costumes follow. Plus, it's a way of making our own statement, since there's always a risk that people won't make the connection to the newer movie and end up thinking that she's just a queen.

I'm also going to be on the lookout for lace-up granny boots at the thrift store that I can spray-paint gold, and I'll be looking for striped tights or something similar. I'm going to try to document the process of these costumes as much as possible, though I can't promise every detail will be photographed, since I frequently don't know where my camera is. I'll try, though. On with the sewing!

1 comment:

  1. Wow that is really full on! I'm so glad we don't really go in for Halloween in Australia. Thanks for your comments on my jam the other day. Love the idea of adding balsamic. Will be trying that this week.