Happy Halloween everyone!
Fun fact; this is our second favourite holiday of the year (because how can anything compete with Christmas, right?) so this year in honour of our beloved holiday we thought we’d take a crack at our own interpretation of the ultimate Halloween costume and bring you along for the ride!
So where to start? The most important step in any design process is the design brief – the who, what, where, why and when as it were… For our ultimate costume we’re going to take our client to be a ghoulishly glamourous lady (Morticia Addams (the Addams family), Elphaba Thropp (wicked witch of the west), Winifred Sanderson (Hocus Pocus), etc.) who is going to some kind of ‘dark magic’ party tonight – on All Hallows’ Eve - somewhere suitably creepy (we’re thinking Kirk-Alloway from Tam O’Shanter levels of spooky here).
Now, to do some research into some classic Halloween costumes from the true icons of Hollywood’s haunted history and figure out what makes them so great – I feel some mood boards coming on!
What do most ‘evil’ characters have in common? Well they usually live secluded lives having been outcast from their communities and this gives quite a lot of information about how their costumes should look right off the bat (get it?). For example, if your neighbours grabbed their torches and pitchforks and chased you off to live in a tower in the woods then you’ll probably have to make your own clothes (thank goodness all these witches, vampires, ghosts and ghouls are nifty with a needle!). Fortunately for us that means the costumes should be fairly simple in terms of construction – it’s probably not very likely that the wicked witch of the west was worrying about underskirts, petticoats or waist stays.
Of course, when you’re up to your wicked mischief you’ve not got a whole lot of time to be making fancy gowns so you’re probably just going to stick with the bare minimum, and that means what you do have is going to get quite worn very quickly. This gives an important quality to a good costume – it needs to look worn. You don’t usually see the evil queen in a perfect gown (unless of course she is the evil queen, then royalty takes precedence).
Another handy detail that comes from the idea of seclusion is that our evil characters aren’t going to have access to the fanciest fabrics, and probably can’t get their hands on the most vibrant dies. So much like traditional clan tartans, which tend to be dyed with the colours that can be found naturally around their home lands, wicked characters usually stick to natural dyes that would be available to them (and a whole lot of black).
So, to summarise where we are with our design, we’re going to want to go for reasonably simple construction, pretty basic fabrics that are a little distressed and worn in black, black, dim natural shades, and probably some more black just to be safe.
But hold on a minute!
It’s all very well making a technically accurate costume but where’s the showbiz? Where’s the pizzazz? Let’s not forget that when we see these kinds of costumes they’re usually on the big screen or on stage and they need a little bit of visual appeal. Besides, our design brief has our imaginary client going to a fancy, albeit haunted party. So, let’s think about the little details that nobody ever really notices until they look closely. Does Elphaba Thropp’s dress feature intricate bead work so that she has a sparkle in the sky while she’s trying to get her dead sister’s sparkly shoes off that pesky Dorothy? Does Winifred Sanderson have hand painted gold symbols up the front of her coat so she looks mystical and magical? (in this case, for the sake of the film probably yes, but the point still stands!) So, we’re going to want some interesting fabrications to add a bit of depth to our costume.
Research, check! Now for the fun stuff - down to the pattern room to start drafting some patterns. Now, how can you draft a pattern for a Halloween costume by any other means than by moonlight? So we thought we’d do a little midnight drafting outside with all the creepy crawlies (eek!) to get into the evil witch spirit. Can’t you just imagine Maleficent in her dark tower rolling out her pattern paper to get started on her newest outfit to go and visit baby Aurora in? No? Us neither! But like we said before we love Halloween and any excuse for some method-working – besides with the amount of spiders that live in the pattern room usually, there were probably less bugs outside anyway!
Pattern drafted, time for a fitting. Usually we stick to more traditional methods when we have fittings with our clients but seeing as this client is imaginary (and also happens to just be a mannequin) we though why not go all out and make a black toile (a ‘practice’ garment made up in a cheap fabric so the design can be checked and fitted) to keep with the festivities. So now with the toile fitted and the design approved by our creative director, it’s time to get our teeth into the actual fabric.
After all our research we decided to go with a black jersey topstitched onto silk chiffon and then shredded to look nice and distressed. Then we put the whole thing over some textured black jersey to add plenty of depth to our bodice while keeping it quite stretchy to get a nice tight fit on the mannequin/client. Pretty easy so far right? Well now for the sleeves… We decided we wanted our sleeves to look a little bit messy - not so much that they look a mess, but enough for them to look like they’ve been put in by somebody who hasn’t studied sleeves! You would not believe how difficult it is to put in a sleeve that doesn’t look perfect when you spend every other day trying to do exactly that! In the end we decided that the sleeves looked just a bit too good, so we opted to shred them a little bit to look like they’ve been caught and torn on various thorns and barbs through the years.
Top half done, now what witch is complete without a long skirt to flap in the wind as she darts about on her broom? What evil queen is content without a long skirt to flail dramatically as she storms about her castle? What ghost is satisfied without a long skirt to knock into everything she passes causing it to appear to shake by itself as she wonders around her haunted house? So of course, our costume needs a long skirt to make it perfect for our ultimate Halloween party.
Finally, just in time for our mannequin to turn her pumpkin into some creepy Cinderella-adjacent carriage to whisk her off to chase Tam O’shanter over a bridge, our ultimate costume is finished and ready for action. And although it’s unlikely our mannequin will be going anywhere tonight, you never can be sure what goes on Halloween night when all the lights are out. So maybe our costume will be slipping away in the night to some horrific house party in the middle of a dark forest…