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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Halloween 2011: Alice Costume

Each year we go to the most amazing Halloween party thrown by some fantastic friends. The food is endless, the drinks are creative, the decorations are unbelievable, the scavenger hunt is cut-throat and the costume contest is serious business. I mean serious business. Folks (we) are already planning our attire for next year!

This year we didn't have a lot of ideas, but we did have the hats left over from the Croquet with the Red Queen set. We decided that we would go with the Alice in Wonderland theme. The picture above is the Alice costume. What follows is a sort of tutorial for making your own. Unfortunately, I was making this on a short time line so I didn't take any process pictures. Hopefully the construction pictures will suffice.

To make the skirt.... I used the least expensive blue cotton fabric I could find at the local fabric store. I originally planned on making the skirt and constructing the blouse from scratch so I bought 4.5 yards. For the skirt I cut two sections of fabric approximately 28 inches long.

With the selvages together, I measured in 8 inches on each cut end. You can see from the diagram above to measure in from the selvage on one side and from the fold on the other. Then draw a straight line from the two points. You should have a diagonal line across the fabric as you can see in figure A above. Cut through both layers of fabric along that line.

You will end up with one large trapezoid on the fold side of the cut and two smaller almost triangular trapezoids with a straight edge along the selvages. If this were a real skirt and not a slap dash costume, I would cut the selvages off.

Sew the two smaller trapezoids together along the straight (selvage) edge as indicated by the arrow in figure B.

Now sew the two trapazoids together along one of the angled sides. Keep the short ends together at the top and the longer ends at the bottom.

Repeat these steps for the other 28 inch piece of fabric. Sew the two pieces together along each side to create a big tube. Again, keep the short ends at the top and long ends at the bottom.

Press the seams open. Turn the top (short edges) under 1/4 inch and press. Turn it in an inch and press. Sew right along the turned under edge to make a casing. Be sure to leave an inch long gap in your sewing at some point along the seam.

I didn't have any elastic but I do have a bunch of hem bits from cutting up t-shirts. I threaded one of those through the casing to make a secure drawstring. The advantage of the t-shirt hem was that it could be pulled through but it was thick enough and had enough texture that it didn't untie slip around too easily so the skirt stayed in place.

Hem the skirt as much or as little as you like. I simply zigzagged the edge and never got back to turning it up or stitching it. The skirt as finished hung loosely and didn't stand out as much as a little girl Alice skirt should. I didn't want to make a petticoat and no one wants to wear tulle under a costume when you know you will be running around like a lunatic on a scavenger hunt. So I simply pleated about two inches of fabric and stitched about two inches parallel to the hem in several spots. I did it about 18 inches up on all of the 'straight' seams and about 12 inches up on all of the angle seams. (I just guessed where the straight seam should have been on the big trapezoids and put the pleat there.) It isn't rocket science. Just pleat it until you get the fullness you want.

The blouse. As I mentioned earlier, I was going to modify a pattern that I had. However, I scored big while I was out thrifting for materials for another project. I found a shirt that would fit in almost exactly the same shade as the skirt fabric... for $1! No pattern tissue to fold. No button holes to make. Yay! I did have to modify it so that it looked more like the the little girl Alice we were going for.

I started by cutting off the collar leaving the neck band behind. I did not bother tearing out the seam. I simply cut as neatly as I could above the stitching line. I used the collar piece I removed to make a pattern for the replacement.

My electronic drawing skills are not the best, but hopefully you can get the idea from the picture above. Figure A is the collar piece that was cut off. Figure B roughly shows the addition of the rounded corners on the new collar. I drew circles over the existing points and connected them with a curve. I left about 1/2 inch of the original collar on the pattern to match up with the neckband when I sewed it back on I also extended about 1/2 inch on each side for a seam allowance. Cut two pieces. Sew them together around the curved edges leaving the neck band side open. Clip. Press. Turn.

Top stitch about a quarter inch in from the edge to finish it and help it lay flat. Then just line it up with the neck band on the shirt and stitch it down. As you can see from the first collar picture I pinned the new collar inside the existing neckband exactly the way it would finish out. I then stitched once close to the edge of the cut side of the neckband. I stitched it again just above the open/cut edge of the collar seam securing those edges to the neckband. You can see that if you look closely on the inside of the collar in the picture above. You can also see one of the collar buttons from the original shirt peeking out from underneath the modified collar on the left hand side.

I did a similar thing for the sleeves. I cut the sleeve off at the seam. Again, I left the seam with the shirt and cut carefully up against it. Since they were long sleeves. I cut it off at the elbow. Open up the underarm seam. Now you have your basic pattern.

To get a puffed sleeve, I cut the 'pattern' in half down the middle as shown on the line in figure A. I then added about 3 inches between the two pieces, carefully marking each side of the split. Cut two sleeves.

Gather the sleeve between your markings. Sew the underarm seam. Fit the new sleeve right sides together with the sleeve opening on the shirt. Adjust the gathers as needed to get a full puffy looking sleeve. I concentrated most of the gathers near the top of the sleeve. Sew it down.
Repeat with the other sleeve.

Hem the bottom of each sleeve. You can make a casing as you did with the waistband of the skirt and thread elastic through it. If you remember, I didn't have any elastic handy so I simply put an inverted pleat at the end of each sleeve and stitched it down along the hem-line. You can see that in the picture above. It gave the impression of a puffy sleeve.

The apron was a simple thing to make. Unfortunately, I didn't take any measurements as I was working so you are going to have estimate on your own. I actually had a piece of muslin that had practice pleats on it so I started with that for the bottom. I rounded the bottom corner and did a simple rolled hem all the way around. I then cut two rectangles of muslin, stitched them together on three sides like a pillow case. Trimmed the corners. Turned it an pressed it. I stitched that right sides together in the center of the pleats. The side ties were strips of muslin about 8 inches wide. I folded in the long sides about 1/2 inch and pressed them. I then folded them in half and pressed again. I used the selvage edge up against the bib of the apron and folded the strap over the gathered edge of the apron skirt. I pinned it down well and then stitched from the bib to the end of the strap along the open edge. Repeat on the other side. I reinforced the junction between the bib, tie and skirt with a line of satin stitching.

The upper straps were folded and iron just like the waist ties. They were stitched along the open edge. An end of each was attached to the top of the bib on the inside. Again I used a bar of satin stitching to reinforce the connection. The neck straps just tie behind the collar but you could easily measure them and attach at the waistband crossing them in the back.

Add a blond wig, a strip of blue fabric for a head band, white socks, black shoes and you have Alice!


  1. You have quite a repertoire of talents dear heart. Love the costume...so far. Thanks for the congrats and stopping by my blog. :)

  2. Oh my... look at all those untrimmed threads and sloppy stitches. It is a good thing this was a one use costume! Heirloom sewing it is not.