October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween 2015

Do you sew your own Halloween costumes? That's a trick question. Of course you do. Many of us got into sewing through costuming. 

But a funny thing happened once I started dabbling in the dark arts (aka tailoring and couture): I am less inclined to make costumes. Halloween's energy comes from slapping together a costume quickly. One night of fun! Exhibitionism! Caricature! Clever puns! No over-thinking it.

Tailored clothes, on the other hand, are all about time-suck and attention to detail. In a good way. But it seemed counterintuitive to labor over something that would be worn at a party where the guy next to me scrawls a face on a paper plate, tapes it to his stomach, and wears a name tag saying "Hi my name is KUATO." And these days, I am constitutionally unable to just slap something together. No hand stitching? No underlining? NO MUSLIN???? Boooo.

The compromise last year was to construct one keystone I could happily labor over, and wear in different ways year after year. Like a sofa: an "investment piece" that anchors a room.

Behold, the pattern: Butterick 4929, view D. It's fully lined, with fun details: mandarin collar, long pleated tails in the back, puffed shoulders, fully lined, princess seams.

And here she is, in a soft cotton flannel with wool/cotton twill contrast. Full disclosure: I made  this last year (2014), and dragged it out again for tonight's festivities. 

Butterick 4929, out of print but only recently.

As you can see, I added some special sauce:

  • Cuffs: pointy contrast overlay and buttons.
  • Facing: contrast fabric instead of main fabric.
  • Bottom front: permanently splayed open with buttons.
  • Bound buttonholes: contrast fabric for welts.
  • Shoulder pleats: added after construction to fix a too-wide upper bodice. Kids, always make a muslin.
  • Tab in back: to cinch in the waist. Again I say: muslin. Even when you don't think you need one. Learn from my error.
All of these buttons are just topstitched. No buttonholes here, no sir!

Assuming you're not a stickler for historical accuracy, this coat could anchor a variety of characters:

  • Pirate (puffy pants, sword, parrot, tricorn hat)
  • Steampunk (skinny pants, an aviator's helmet, some kind of disassembled clock)
  • The Artful Dodger (stovepipe hat, ragged finery, bag o' pickpocketed coins)
  • A character from Assassin's Creed (wide leather belt, hidden fake weapons, 99 feathers or scrolls or other random wild-goose-chase crap the game tortures you with)
  • An Edwardian dame (long skirt, lacy blouse with jabot, Gibson Girl hair)
  • Someone from Les Miserables (pants, shirt, a loaf of bread)

See? And more.

  • Tom Petty in the video for You Got Lucky (sunglass-goggles, bowler hat, bandolier, bandana)
  • Tom Petty in the video for Don't Come Around Here No More (Mad Hatter hat, brocade vest, bow tie, sunglasses)
  • Tom Petty in the video for Walls (Circus) (t-shirt, black Converse, guitar)

The world has forgotten the imaginative genius of 1980s Tom Petty videos. Such a tragedy.

The pleated vent in the back was frustrating. Even today, I'm not sure I constructed it correctly. The instructions try valiantly to show you how, but there's only so much a little text and a 2D line drawing can convey in a limited space. My philosophy? If there aren't scorpions crawling out of it, and if it leaves you mostly covered in the places you want to be, it's fine.

I've been meaning to add a third button to the back tab, for symmetry. I don't have to look at it when I'm wearing the coat, but knowing it lurks ... nightmare fodder.

Knowing this was "just" a costume, I allowed myself to experiment with bound buttonholes. It was my second attempt ever -- remember, this was way back in 2014 -- and since then, I use a different method that doesn't require the topstitching you see here. 

Bound buttonholes? 2014's forbidden territory. Now? Pshaw, can do 'em in my sleep.

And, below, the guts. The lining is polyester. No shame there. It's a costume. Anything goes!

The hem is not uneven. It's the perspective. And this time I am not lying.

Do you enjoy dressing up for Halloween? What have you made? What are you most proud of? Do you find yourself in a steady state of costume enthusiasm, or does it ebb and flow over the years?

Happy Halloween, y'all!


  1. So what costume did you choose for this Halloween?

    1. None of the above! Ha ha. This last time, I wore the coat with a Venetian plague doctor's mask, and scared the bejeezus out of the kids who came to the door.

      The year before, though, the coat was part of a pirate costume that included a puffy shirt, a wide belt or waist cincher (depending on what you want to call it), puffy pantaloon style pants, pirate boots, a fake sword, a tricorn hat, and a mask. It was spectacular. Sadly, there are no pictures. Boo. If I have time, I might haul out the outfit and blog about it some day ... but there's a lot on the to-do list before that can happen.