Before we get into my DIY Halloween costume making tips, I want to show you my latest creation.
My son had his heart set on being Lion-O from the Thundercats cartoon. This mama was a bit mortified. Could he pick anything more challenging? Lion-O wears armor. How was I ever going to make armor? Well, I followed all the tips below and the result was pretty impressive.
Here is Lion-O, aka my son:
The base of the costume is a sweat suit. I cut the legs of the sweat pants to make long shorts. I cut the sleeves off the sweatshirt to make the tunic.
The armor was made with two colors of faux leather (vinyl). I used my son as a live model for cutting out each piece. I held the vinyl up to him for each piece and used a sharpie to sketch the pattern. Each piece involved a bit of sewing to join all the pattern pieces. I used a combination of elastic and velcro to hold on the chin guards. I used elastic on the sides of the chest/back armor to make it easy for him to put on.
I was unsure how I was going to make a giant red crystal for the belt. Then my son started talking about wanting his costume to glow in the dark. I was not really into that idea, but it gave me another good one. A reflector would be perfect for the belt. We went to Home Depot and got a self-stick reflector designed for use on a mailbox. It was perfect and stuck right on the vinyl.
I used a silver and black sharpie to draw the muscles on the chest. My son wanted to do the drawing, but I convinced him it might be better for mommy to do, since the marker was permanent.
All of the materials for his costume were $22, including the sweat suit and the reflector. Besides the fact we could not buy a decent Lion-O costume, his costume is far better quality then the muscle super hero costumes sold for $30. It took me a few hours each day over the course of three days to complete the costume. I do not mind putting the effort in, because my boys are still using their Halloween costumes from last year for dress up. I am sure Lion-O will become a new staple in their dress up wardrobe.
One of my favorite additions to the costume, is my son’s candy bag. He designed it himself and I sewed it. He drew the rectangles on the back of the vinyl and gave me instructions on how to put it together. I love seeing his lines and his name inside. He also came up with the idea to line the bottom with a piece of cardboard so it would keep its shape.
I have made several costumes over the years…an owl, a spider, a skunk, a caterpillar, and now Lion-O. The only costume that I used a pattern for was the skunk. For the rest I made it up as I went along.
Here are my tips for DIY costume making:
- Use non-fraying materials. My favorites are fleece, faux fur, knits, felt, and vinyl. This will make cutting and sewing easier…no worry about finishing seams.
- Buy your materials on sale or use a coupon. I found the vinyl for Lion-O in a remnant pile for $5 per yard. The vinyls on the role were more than $15 per yard.
- Use your child or their clothes to determine how big the costume should be. You can have them model like I did for Lion-O or use their clothes as a template, like I did for the spider. I used a pair of pants and a long sleeve shirt to create a pattern for the spider suit.
- Make the costume slightly larger, so they can continue to use it for dress up after halloween.
- Use basic clothing as a base. T-Shirts, Sweatsuits, tights, turtlenecks, leggings can all be a good base. The owl costume was scrap material sewn to a onesie we already owned. The Lion-O costume is a sweat suit the armor goes over.
- Use zippers, velcro, or elastic to hold the costume together. I used a zipper to clothes the spider hoody. I sewed bias tape at the edge of the fur and then sewed the zipper onto the bias tape. I used velcro to close the back of the caterpillar costume. I used elastic to make the sections of the caterpillar. I used elastic all over the Lion-O costume.
- For young ones, consider removability. I made the skunk costume with a detachable tail. If my son got sick of wearing the tail, he did not have to take off the whole costume. The caterpillar hat was separate…allowing my son to remove the hat without taking off the whole costume. The spider had a hood that could be put down. The skunk also had a removable head piece. The Lion-O chin guards and belt are separate and can be taken off.