Sunday, 17 November 2013

A Belated Halloween Post

Yes, I am perfectly aware that it is November 17th today. Better late than never, right?

After Halloween, I was so eager to finish my Ceylon dress, that a post about my Halloween costume got pushed aside and... um, forgotten about. My bad.

My Halloween costume this year was, as usual, put together the weekend before (actually, it's a little more usual for me to be putting it together the night before). I would have loved to have made a costume from scratch (one of these days I will make myself a fantastic beaded flapper gown for Halloween) but I'm always short on time. The one year I did make a Halloween costume from scratch was when I was in grade 10, and I was a parrot. My friend was a pirate, and I made myself a bright red shirt out of ruffled fabric, attached a red feather boa down my arms, and made multicoloured feathered shoulder pads and a headdress. That one I started about a month beforehand. Incidentally, our other friend was a boat, and I think she had the best costume out of the three of us. We painted a big piece of cardboard to look like a boat for her to wear, and I made her a headband with a pirate flag on it. It was pretty impressive.

Other than that, all my other Halloween costumes since I started making my own - an M&M, Pippi Longstocking (back when I had long hair to braid), a Rubik's cube - were done less than a week beforehand, and this one was no different.

I came up with the idea of Mary Poppins from my purse, believe it or not. It's sort of an inside joke - I have this bag that fits quite a bit, and I'm the kind of person to always have everything with me. If someone needs a band-aid, I have one. If someone needs a safety pin, I have one. If someone needs clear nail polish for a run in their nylons, I have some. People are also quite astonished when they see me pull a whole jacket out of this bag (which I can actually do with a light rain jacket or summer jacket. I haven't managed to fit a wool coat in there... yet). Anyways, everyone calls it my Mary Poppins bag, and that's where the idea came from. I figured that people who knew me would get it.

The costume was pretty easy. I already had my Mary Poppins bag (which I put a clipboard in to make flat on the bottom), a black blazer, the perfect shoes, a petticoat, and black tights. The hat I borrowed from my mom, and the umbrella I borrowed from a friend (the only ones I had folded up too small to be right for the part).

This white shirt I bought at a thrift store for $2 during an immensely successful day thrifting (which I will post about soon), and the skirt was $3. (Ignore the price tag on this - I bought it during a half-price sale.)

Excuse the unedited indoor picture. It was pouring rain when I took these and if I edit them all, this post won't be out for another week.
The shirt fit me reasonably well for ready-to-wear. There were no tags on it but it was in great condition and feels to me like cotton with a bit of spandex. There is actually a texture of solid stripes, although you can't really see it in this photo. The only problem was that it didn't button up all the way (although it did have a button at the collar), so I just sewed on some little snaps so that it wouldn't gape open. 

The yellow isn't a stain, it's just where I marked with chalk where the snap was supposed to go.
The skirt was huge on me. I measured the waistband, and it was forty-something inches... and my waist is 24. It was also quite long on me - I did want a longer skirt than I would usually wear, but this one covered my shoes.

Again, a horrible picture. Sorry. But this thing wouldn't quite fit on my coffee table.
If you buy things second-hand, do you ever think about the story behind them? This is an interesting skirt because it's made out of some awful polyester (I think, there's no fabric content label) double-knit that feels like plastic (I suppose because it is), but was well made. It has a covered button, lapped zipper, and hem done by hand. The label reads "Marjorie Hamilton Vancouver", and it appears to have been altered at home. There's a section added onto the waistband where there is zigzagging rather than serging to finish the edges, and when I unpicked the waistband I found that they had stabilized that section with some bright purple lining fabric, instead of the black non-fusible interfacing that had been used elsewhere.

It should have been an easy alteration, but of course I made it difficult for myself. I didn't want to re-do the hem, and since I had to take the waistband off anyways to take it in, I shortened it from the the top. I cut off the amount I wanted taken off, starting at the front. But... when I got to the back, I realized that I would lose all but one and a half inches of my zipper. Oops. It was too late to undo the damage, so I chopped of the majority of the zipper and figured that I would find another way to get it on.

I forgot to take an "after" picture of the zipper, but it ended up just over an inch long. It's cute.
Ready for my next facepalm-worthy mistake? Oh yes, there's more. I measured how much I would need to take out of each side seam, then sewed the new side seam, making a straight line of stitching all the way to the hem. I cut off the excess with my rotary cutter, and pressed the seams open. But when I went to attach it to the waistband that was the right size, there was still too much fabric! Either I miscalculated, or the fabric stretched. I blame it on the latter, but judging by how many mistakes I made while altering this it probably was some stupid math error.

Anyways, I measured and figured that I needed to take another 3 cm out of each side seam. I took it in on one side with no mistakes, but instead of taking in 3 cm on the other side, I took the same side in again. The centre seam, therefore, is not at the centre, and if I hold out the skirt, it's more flared on one side than the other. Double oops.

So, when I finally attached the waistband (not doing it properly, mind you, but it was late and I had had enough of this skirt already), I had a one and a half inch zipper and a lopsided skirt, but it was done. I can get it on over my head if I try, but I don't think I'll be wearing this one again. I'll keep it for a future refashion though, because I know that no one will buy it if I donate it back to the thrift store.

Oh, and I broke my needle with a few centimetres left to sew. I got a little too close to the zipper and for whatever reason it didn't like that. I ended up just leaving that bit unsewn, and it managed to stay together anyways.

All I needed now was a bow, but this proved to be much easier than I expected. I went to a little local fabric store and the salesperson suggested using some grosgrain ribbon  after I explained what I was looking for. I bought a metre for 75 cents, preparing for more stupid mistakes, but I was pleasantly surprised when I made it work on my first attempt.

I didn't make it so that it would go around my neck, because I tried pinning it and it didn't sit right because the collar sat too low down. I guess women's collared shirts aren't really meant to be worn with bow ties, who'd have thought? I ended up making two loops of ribbon, one big one and one small one, and slipping the big one trough the small one, and hand stitching it in place. I considered sewing on a snap to attach it to the blouse, but decided a safety pin would be much less hassle.

So that's it! A Halloween costume in a hurry! On the day of, I added a petticoat just for fun. It's not the same one that I wore when modeling this dress and this dress, because it was too short and looked really awkward. Instead, it's a longer and subtler (and softer) one that also belonged to my aunt. I also added some vintage pearl earrings although I have no idea if Mary Poppins wears them, but my ears felt strange without any.

I was pretty happy with the finished costume. Most people recognized it right away, and everyone who knew me got the joke. Oh, how I love Halloween dressing up! 

Seriously, I don't really care much for Halloween itself. But I do love an excuse to dress up.

Blouse: Thrifted
Skirt: Thrifted and altered
Blazer: H&M (probably my last fast fashion buy and makes me feel guilty every time I look at it)
Petticoat: Vintage
Shoes: Chelsea Crew
Hat: Borrowed from my mom
Earring: Vintage
Tights: Hue
Bow: Me-made 
Purse: bought at a market
Umbrella: borrowed from a friend


  1. I just found your blog through the knit for victory flickr. I love your stuff, it's great! I knit and sew too (though I'm still learning!) I'll be following you- you're awesome! :)
    Jo (

    1. Thank you! That reminds me... I should really get going on my Knit for Victory project!

  2. Love the costume, especially in the last pic. Whyis it that sometimes you make mistake after mistake on one garment... Great that you persevered!

    1. Thanks! It does always seem to be that way, doesn't it? Part of it is that it was at night that I was doing all these alterations and could have done with some sleep!

  3. Fun! Mary Poppins is such a great costume!

  4. Love the costume! Yay, so glad to find your blog. I'm 16 (almost 17) and most of the sewing bloggers are so much older, nice to find someone my age :)

  5. Great costume!