It’s October! We already showed you 20 favorite costume tutorials and today we have a costume expert to share some advice. Mary Abreu from Confessions of a Craft Addict, author of Little Girls, Big Style: Sew a Boutique Wardrobe from 4 Easy Patterns, loves costuming. (See our interview with Mary about her lovely book here.) We love her posts about costumes, including her recent series about Dragon*Con, a “pop culture convention.” Check out the costumes she made!: Part One, Part Two, Part Three. Learn more about Mary in this fun series of Q + A’s on her blog, and jump in on the discussion below. How do you plan for costumes? Is costuming a big part of your life? Do you have a stunning costume to share (add a link in the comments!)?

General Planning
Costuming is probably one of my favorite hobbies. I spend a ridiculous amount of time planning, researching and thinking about the costumes I want to make. I look for excuses to wear costumes (thank goodness I live in a major metropolitan area!) and have even roped my family into my costume habit.

While I’m working on costumes pretty much year ‘round, most people start focusing on costumes in the weeks leading up to Halloween. If you’re at the beginning of the planning process, don’t fret! You still have plenty of time to pull together the costume of your dreams.

My costume plans always start with the concept: What do I want to be? The great thing about coming up with a costume is that anything can be a costume. I’ve seen people dressed as Flo from the Geico commercials, Merlottes waitresses, zombies, superheroes… Even human versions of My Little Pony toys. (No, really: it’s a thing.)

Idea in hand, I start planning the elements. Do I have something I can repurpose for the costume? Are there elements I can buy? What will I need to make? There are tons of costume patterns available but some things I actually base off of non-costume patterns because the profile works. I have an affinity for historical costumes (Regency, Victorian/Steampunk, Edwardian), and tend to use modern commercial versions rather than reprinted historical patterns since I have a modern figure. (Truly Victorian, Laughing Moon, Sense & Sensibility and Burda are among my favorite pattern companies.)

As I’m planning the pieces, I try to make sure I address three things: Is it practical? Is it comfortable? Is it safe?

Is there a place for your keys, ID, money? Can I add pockets? Or is there an accessory that works as a purse? Can I move in it?– Sit, stand, walk, drive, navigate stairs, eat, drink? Can I get in and out of it by myself?

Someone who lives in Miami may not want to wear a Chewbacca costume outdoors ever. On the flipside, if you live in Seattle, slave Leia is probably not your best option. My big costuming event, Dragon*Con takes place in Atlanta Labor Day weekend every year. The average weekend high is 82 F but temperatures sometimes hit the mid- to upper-90s. I learned my lesson last year when I wore a Steampunk Red Riding Hood costume I made: Corduroy bustier, red stretch twill pants tucked into tall black boots and a fully lined red microsuede cloak complete with hood. (See photo above.) If I’d stuck to the indoor events, I probably would have been OK. Spending two hours outside, in direct sunlight, to watch the parade was miserable.

I can’t stress enough how important this is, especially with kids’ costumes. Costumes with a lot of synthetic fabrics, fur, etc., need ventilation to keep you from overheating. Masks, special effects contact lenses, prosthetics, helmets– anything that can obstruct vision– can present a safety hazard. If you don’t want to give them up, then make sure you have a handler who can make your safety a priority. Capes, drawstrings, cowls and the like can present a strangulation hazard. When I made my daughter’s Supergirl costume this year, I asked a costuming friend for tips on attaching the cape and went with her suggestion of sewing snaps inside the collar. I also made the cape much shorter than it’s drawn in the Tiny Titans comic to make it less likely to get caught in something.

When it comes to actually making the costume, I try to give myself enough time to construct a muslin to check the fit before I start cutting into the good fabric. There are plenty of times that I just cross my fingers and hope for the best but experience has taught me that I’m going to be a lot happier if I take that extra step.

Speaking of time… Try to give yourself enough of a buffer that your costume is finished at least a few days before you plan to wear it out so you can try it out at home. Practice walking around your house, up and down stairs, sitting– Even using the restroom. Trust me: It’s far better to find out you need a hand getting up from a sitting position before you get stuck in a bathroom stall.
As you plan and work on your costumes, remember that it’s supposed to be fun. Scale back your plans, add a few more purchased or repurposed pieces, or just set aside and substitute a costume that’s less frustrating to make. If you’re stressing out over it, you’re not going to enjoy wearing it.

Mary’s back on Thursday with more costume fun!…