Halloween How-To: Transforming Old Clothes Into New Costumes

Costuming is the Halloween DIY I have the most fun with.  My love of creating my own costumes was born of necessity combined with my natural creativity.

When I was growing up,  we were poor. Not dirt poor, more like we could not go out and buy whatever we wanted. Extras had to be budgeted in and planned for and if they weren't necessary they weren't happening. My mom worked 2 and 3 jobs to keep us afloat. But to make ends meet and dollars stretch many things were often DIY projects. 

Halloween costumes were one of those things. Which was fine by me. I hated the cheap plastic crap the stores sold. The costumes were hot, itchy, and usually fell apart before trick or treating was half way over and they never had what I wanted anyway.  

My imagination is big- especially when it comes to my things. I envision what I want my costumes to look like. So, of course, no one ever has something on the rack ready to go that even comes close to my vision.

I remember the first costume my mom made for me was a ghost. Basic white sheet and pillow case but somehow she made it look classy and thank goodness not like I was headed to a clansman meeting (yikes).

My next DIY was a witch costume. We found an old black dress, purchased a basic witch hat, and she made me a black cape with orange and yellow fringe, candy corn colors.

In middle school I made my own witch/sorceress costume from an old back dress. I cut the bottom into spiky strips and used silver fabric paint and glitter to glam and ghoul it up a bit.

In high school my mom made me the most gorgeous belly dancer/harem girl costume. Red pants, red and gold vest and gold bikini style top. I found gold sandals at Goodwill and accessories here and there. It was incredible. I still have it tucked away in my closet.

Unfortunately I do not have my mom's sewing skills and with her arthritis and two surgeries for carpal tunnel she's not sewing anything these days either. 

But I am clever and I improvise. Many of my costume creations are no sew. Some don't even require revamping. I just search resale stores, Etsy, eBay and online marketplaces for pieces that I can put together to make my "vision" a reality.

I have learned to remake old clothes into costumes with minimal sewing skills and a ton of creativity.

For the Witches Ball 2018 I reworked a skirt and an old dress into a ruffled bustle overskirt similar to my steampunk creation.

I started with a skirt I found on eBay and a dress I found at the Salvation Army.

The dress was perfect with it's asymmetrical hemline because when I turned it sideways I had a perfect ruffle bustle with a waterfall pointed shape. I cut it down the side seam, removed the zipper, cut the bust portion off the top, turned the fabric down to create a wide band and glued it with fabric glue.

I cut the red skirt down the seam, removed the zipper and glued on black hemline fabric to keep the fabric from fraying and falling apart. Then I glued black lace all along the edge.

I attached the two pieces together with buttons. I cut button holes and stitched on buttons. This was the only sewing I did on this costume. On my steampunk one I sewed everything- the lace trim, the bustle, all of it. Sewed by hand. But my hands were hurting and stiff from my Fibromyalgia and I just didn't have the time to even try sewing it all. So I used fabric glue which I had used on another skirt and it came out great. However I purchased a different brand this time and was not happy with the results.

Do not use any fabric glue other than Liquid Stitch. Everything else is crap. This garbage I used on this costume made everything hard as a rock and left white residue on everything. Dries clear, my ass. Liquid Stitch actually does dry clear. From now on I will make sure to keep Liquid Stitch on hand.

I sprayed the entire costume down with silver fabric glitter to try to hide some of the reside the glue left behind. 

This bustle/overskirt combo was worn over a black skirt I found at a local resale shop for $4. Score. I added buttons to the black skirt- two in front and one in the back, to attach the heavy overskirt. It worked beautifully.

I was a bit upset that the bustle/overskirt wasn't "perfect".

But when I put it on with all the other costume items it was absolutely stunning. I loved it.  All my effort paid off.

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