In the spring of 2019, I was lead costumer for a local high school. They are putting on the production of Once On This Island. Though the majority of the cast is wearing Island type, Haitian clothing, there is a fancy ballroom scene near the end which requires gowns for the females and vests and bow tied for the guys. I have scoured thrift stores and local community theatres for the right sizes and looks, and sometimes I still come up short. Several students need costumes in larger sizes, which have been remarkably difficult to find. When I can’t find the right item, either be color or size, I know to just sew it from scratch.
Knowing how to copy clothing styles and create your own pattern definitely comes in handy for these types of occasions. Not only do you not have to rely on having the right pattern in the specific size, but you also save money by just creating a pattern from scratch. Here’s how I created a simple, custom vest for a cast member, completing his look to match the rest of the cast.
I take chest, waist, and hip measurements up front and document them in a notebook for reference.I did manage to thrift a white Oxford shirt that fit him, so I used that as my fit reference. The burgundy vest that I borrowed became my reference point for style and design. I lay out a series of computer paper over one half of the shirt sides, and tape them together. I’ve also used Pellon tracing cloth when I have it on hand, which is easier. I notice the cut of the vest and draw with a pencil on my paper where I want that lower “V” to fall. Then I draw how wide I want the shoulder to be, and mark how far below the arm scythe that I want the side seam to fall. I leave a little extra room at the center front so that the vest can overlap by an inch and close with buttons. I also draw it ½” larger on all sides, so that I can account for a seam allowance.
Once I have my proposed design traced onto one half of the shirt, I cut it out. I check proportions and make sure I like the overall design. I use that half template as my pattern to cut out two vest fronts out of a bottomweight material. Normally, and if I wanted this vest to look even more professional, I would also create facings on the inside of the vest. As the quicker version, I serged all the edges and turned them to the inside, and topstitched to hold them down. Most of the time, no stitching is shown on the outside of a vest, so creating a facing would be more appropriate.
After I had my front vest cut out, I flipped the white Oxford shirt to the backside, and traced half of the back. Since this piece will be cut on the centerfold, I make sure my pattern line runs directly down the center. Then I overlay my front vest pattern and mark where the shoulders and side seams will be joining into the back piece. After I complete my back piece, I cut one out of satin, on the fold.
I attached the vest fronts to the vest back at the shoulders, right sides together, then serged the arm scythe’s and al, the way around the vest edge. I ironed the serged seam towards the inside of the vest by ½”, and topstitched all the way around. I then made four fabric covered buttons with Dritz button cover kit, created buttonholes (I love how my Brother 1850 does them in one step! I never mess it up!), and that completed the vest!
I sewed a small apron and oven mitts for them to give them more dress up play opportunities. From the minute my sons donned the apron and oven mitts, they were in pretend baking heaven! They both loved that they could be “just like Mommy”, and act out the same things they saw me doing in the kitchen.
To me, these are quick and simple oven mitts, that can be made quickly, and from scraps you already have, or maybe up cycled from clothing you no longer want. Create memories and visual play with these great designs for the little one in your life!
Halloween used to be the holiday Icompletely ignored growing up, and now that I have kids and am a costume designer, it has become my favorite one, next to Christmas. I love the excitement and joy that making custom looks gives my boys and my niece and nephews. As they are getting older now, I know these years are short, and I cherish each handmade memory that I can create for them.
We came off this year already with a few Aladdin costumes, and spare costume pieces throughout the year such as a few skirts, a hoop skirt, a corset, and of course the normal pirate garb. Though some years, I’ve instructed them to grab something from their closet to wear, I prefer to take special requests and am challenged if they come up with something interesting, like Nathan’s blue jay costume from last year. My boys, along with their cousin, requested to be the Lego Ninjago characters of Lloyd and Zane. My niece chose to wear her Princess Jasmine costume, and nephew, a glowing stick man. Love.it.all!
For the ninjas they decided to skip the actual “lego yellow man” look, and just look like themselves in the lego character’s costume. So, I purchased a green tablecloth for James’ green ninja look, and gold & silver glitterbug fabric from JoAnns for Lloyd and Zane. I made their gi patterns myself, and spray painted some inexpensive ninja swords from Walmart. The looks came together pretty easily and all three in 3 days. They weren’t exactly complete looks by day 3, but the kids were all elated and enjoyed them fully just as they were. A thankful Halloween for sure!
My husband and I worked with what we already had in our closets and sent as Rey from Star Wars and a Jedi.
My sweet niece and I. We were freezing!
My kids have always done things, especially their play, outside the norm. We’d buy them the latest robotic stem gadget off Amazon, and though their interest would be peaked for a few hours, they’d quickly head back to the cardboard box and markers. Somehow, they’ve always found a way to repurpose items meant for other things. If you also have a creative child or grandchild, you must know exactly what I mean.
It came upon many occasions where I would suddenly see my boys acting as animals in their play times. James always seemed to be the cat, and Nathan the dog. They’d just play happily as themselves for hours on end, and once in awhile be biting down on the dog bone softies I had made Nathan when he was 2 years old. Out of their creative play, came a need for these role play hats. And now they are available to you as well with dog bone included!
The hats can be made from cotton, fleece, flannel or even fur. Such a quick sew, and delightful item to be used over and over for years to come. Best fit for 2-5 year olds.
Download the pattern from Etsy!
Before the very first frozen came out, I was working on designing Anna’s outfit, from the few internet pics and clips Disney released. I’d pause it, zoom into pictures, try to find every angle of their costumes….every revealed detail, and put it into my design. After all, a critical trait of a great costume is the quality of the design and look alike characteristics of the characters.
A few years after the Frozen scene was still on fire, and young little girls were looking for more, Disney released a short sequel to Frozen, called Frozen Fever. A cute short story of a surprise birthday party, and Elsa sneezing out baby snowmen. I was intrigued by the different costumes they gave them, even more elaborate than the first.
I bought new strange fabric to pull off Elsa’s new leafed bodice and glittered train. Anna’s outfit came alive, bursting with sunflowers and intricate, embroidered design.
I recreated the majority of Anna’s new look, using the same Anna complete pattern I had made, except shortening the sleeve, converting the vest to a square neckline instead of princess cut, and adding a green vest, trimmed in turquoise bias tape.
Both looks turned out to my satisfaction, and were spot on with the movie. A bit lengthy to stencil, but a pleasure to use a cutting device for Anna’s vest and skirt details. Now who is anxiously awaiting for Frozen 2 to come out in November?! That’s right! You and me! And they spared no design detail on Elsa’s new ballerina cloak! I’m excited to make it!