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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

T-shirt Costume Tuesday #4 - Nudist on Strike

This is one of the easiest and most clever costumes.  It's great for last minute or for people who don't like too much of a costume and can be made in a variety of ways.  I used a sign for senior dress-up day (like a picket sign), and my guy made a shirt for his first Halloween costume.  All you need is the ability to write "Nudist on Strike" somewhere and use that as your costume.  The whole point is remaining clothed.

Not everyone will get it, but those who do will appreciate it.  My high school senior AP English teacher told me it was his favorite of all the senior costumes, and it took me less than half an hour to make.  So, if you're really looking for a good last minute costume, Nudist on Strike is a great one.

Waldo, Puss-in-Boots, and Nudist on Strike

Have fun with your costumes, whether they're made from t-shirts or anything else!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

T-shirt Costume Tuesday #3 - The Powerpuff Girls

College was great.  There was always something to do and friends to do things with.  So, group costumes were a great option for Halloween.  Freshman year I did my own thing, but sophomore year, some of us decided to go retro and be The Powerpuff Girls! Mojo Jojo.  We tried to get another friend to be The Professor, but couldn't convince him.

Photobombed by Indy

A bunch of us from the dorm

The three of us thought it would be easy to find matching dresses in blue, pink, and green and started our search at American Apparel since they tend to have simple styles in many colors.  Unfortunately, most clothes were very expensive and I wasn't comfortable with how tight and/or revealing some were.  We kept it as an option, but looked elsewhere.  My mom came up with the idea of using t-shirts and offered to make the costumes for us!  She did a great job.

We got the right color shirts at Michaels and all she had to do was cut one shirt of each color into skirts (right under the armpits, just like the Sally and Hobbes costumes).  Since she can sew, she put in an elastic waistband so they would stay on better.  I definitely need to visit home for some sewing lessons.  We rolled up the sleeves of the shirts so they looked sleeveless and tucked them into the skirts.  But, we needed more or we would just be girls in different colors of the same outfit.

The finishing touches were some accessories.  We found black belts (with heart buckles, because that made sense) to create the black band in the middle of the dresses, and that pretty much made the costumes.  I'm not sure if we wore anything on our legs, but white tights, knee-highs, or socks would add to it.  Lastly, we styled our hair.  I had hair past my waist and a huge collection of bows from my childhood (dozens and dozens), so I was clearly Blossom.  Julie had blonde hair she put in pigtails to be Bubbles.  Katie decided to cut a black wig to create her Buttercup hairstyle.  We all wore eyeshadow that matched our dresses for one last finishing touch, and, voila!  We were The Powerpuff Girls!

Mojo Jojo photobomb
Another friend helped to add to the costume by dressing up as the main villain, Mojo Jojo.  He wore a navy t-shirt and navy basketball shorts.  We put a ribbon around his waist for the belt and glued a purple triangle on the front of the belt.  He put on white surgical gloves, painted his face green, and wore a purple tablecloth as a cape.  My mom made the hat, which shouldn't be too hard to recreate with some white felt.  We decorated it with silver duct tape and a purple sharpie.  It was the icing to our costume cake.

Action Shot

Me and Mojo
This will always be one of my favorite costumes, and it's so simple!  Because of the belt, the elastic waistband isn't even necessary.  It's great for a group, especially for something last-minute and everyone loved it.

Perfect likeness

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

T-shirt Costume Tuesday #2 - Calvin and Hobbes

Law school can be fun in the ways that it's an extension of college.  One similarity is parties, including Halloween parties.  Halloween may be my favorite holiday, in no small part for the costumes.  I love making my own, helping other people with theirs, and seeing what everyone else comes up with.  My first year of law school was the first time I could convince my guy to really dress up and my first opportunity for a couples costume.  We finally decided on Calvin and Hobbes.

Unfortunately the clearest picture we have

While Hobbes is usually taller in the comics, he's also sometimes shown as the stuffed animal.  That was a great solution for us because I really like wearing a costume and he wanted to be as close to normal as possible (look at how much more adventurous he's gotten in just a few years: from Calvin to Jack).  But, the most important parts of both our costumes were t-shirts and neither required any sewing.

Calvin was easy:  Black stripes drawn on a red t-shirt with fabric marker, black jeans, and black converse.  The jeans cost something like $40 at Bob's Stores, but in a world where clothes are scarce for 6'7" people, they became one of his favorite pairs and he still wears them years later.  Walmart had cheap knockoff converse, and red t-shirts are easy to find.  I always have a black fabric marker, but they can be found anywhere you buy crafts (Michaels, Joann Fabrics, Walmart, etc).  But, unless Calvin is carrying a stuffed tiger, that costume needs a Hobbes to compliment it.

Hobbes was a little more complicated:  I started with 2 orange t-shirts in my size.  I originally had the idea to make tiger stripe cutouts in an orange shirt and layer it over a black shirt, but that didn't work well for the top and I couldn't figure out how to do the skirt like that.  So, I changed my method.  I got a couple of the 8.5"x10" (?) sheets of black and white felt to decorate the orange shirts.  I kept one shirt intact for the top, but cut the other shirt straight across right under the armpits for the skirt.  I checked how they fit and marked where to put the white for the chest and tummy.  One the white was hotglued on (which held really well), I cut stripes from the black felt.  I figured they didn't have to be perfect but tried to make them look like tiger stripes.  If you don't want bare arms and legs or additional parts to cover them, you can do the same method with a long-sleeve shirt or sweatshirt and pants (leggings or sweatpants maybe).


I included more accessories to flesh out the tiger look.  The lower arm sleeves are orange felt sheets.  I wrapped them around my arms and pinned where they fit.  I used my hot glue gun to finish them and added more black felt stripes.  They slid right on since the top was slightly larger than the wrist part.  I orgered tiger-stripe tights from  Regular orange tights with stripes drawn on would work too.  I bought a black giant chenille stem pipe cleaner from Michaels for the ears and tail.  I basically made a headband with round ears with part of it and looped the rest to a belt that I wore over the skirt.  It was a cheap, easy way for those parts, but there are plenty of ears and tails already made for sale.  Finishing touches were white gloves and socks.

The Hobbes part sounds pretty complicated, but it wasn't that hard to pull off.  And it looked good and was comfortable!  This was one of my favorite costumes, partially because it was my first couples costume.  I could even use it again since it's held up so well over time.  Plus, it can just be a normal tiger costume!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

T-shirt Costume Tuesday #1 - Jack and Sally

The first costume in my T-shirt Costume Tuesday series is Jack & Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas.  Okay, the title is a little misleading.  The Sally costume really involved the t-shirt crafting, though Jack did wear a t-shirt under the suit.  We learned last year that less layers is better at a crowded party.

This is my first entry because, even though I made the dress in the week before I wore it, it was pretty time and labor intensive with some trial and error.  If anyone wants to try to replicate it, the more weeks, the better.

This was the end product:

Jack & Sally costume
Jack & Sally

But it took some time to get there.  It wasn't really expensive, but it took so much time that he had to do his own costume (though I take credit for the imperfect makeup - he actually fixed the disaster I had initially drawn on his face) including making the bat bowtie.  So proud!

This is the step-by step of how I did it:

  1. Sketch (not shown)
    I studied the dress back and front best I could and drew a simple back and front so I knew what to use as the base and where the colors and designs went.  I wouldn't go into this without a sketch, however simple.  I couldn't have made this just looking at pictures, but others might be better at that.
  2. Gather Materials
    I knew the base of the dress would be yellow.  A good part of the front top is yellow, as are a sleeve and much of the skirt.  So, I got 2 yellow shirts to make the dress.  I then got the other colors: pink, blue, and black.  Be careful and get the same size for all the shirts.  I didn't, and it took some extra work to make things fit.  Also, the black long sleeve was on clearance, so I got that, but I needed the blue and yellow to be short-sleeved because those are the sleeve colors!
    I also got pins, a black fabric pen, a pincushion, needles, and thread.  I ended up using thin crochet thread instead because it's thicker and the stitches really show, which I wanted.  Embroidery floss also works, but it was harder for me to thread and I had less of it.  All of this was a little over $20 at Michael's.  But, the fabric pen was leftover from another costume and everything but the t-shirts is still usable.

  3. Cut a skirt
    Take one of the yellow shirts and cut it just below the armpits to give the longest skirt possible.  You can shorten it later if you need to.  I didn't because I'm tall and Sally's dress really goes to her knees anyway.
    Cat optional
  4. Make yellow base dress
    Take out the bottom hem from the intact yellow shirt.  You can do this by cutting the thread between the fabric at the hem and pulling out the thread.  Line up the skirt from step 3 to the bottom of the intact yellow shirt.  I recommend pinning it in place and carefully trying it on to see how long it is.  Adjust accordingly and sew the pieces together to create a yellow dress.

  5. Replace right yellow dress sleeve
    There should be thread attaching the sleeves to the shirts.  If you cut this thread, you should be able to pull it off and remove the sleeves pretty easily.  Do this to the right sleeve of both the yellow dress you made in step 4 and the blue shirt.  Line up the blue sleeve so it's where the yellow sleeve was.  I recommend pinning before sewing the blue sleeve onto the yellow dress.  I did a basic exaggerated slip stitch by hand for all my visible sewing.  Basically, I used the black thread and made the stitches long so they would be seen instead of hidden.

  6. Remove collar
    I decided to remove the collar from the dress (cutting the thread that held it on and pulling it off easily) because Sally's dress is not right up to her neck like these t-shirts fit.  You can cut the neckline more, but I chose not to to keep it easier, not show too much skin, and not give the fabric more of a chance to rip.

  7. Start attaching other colors
    This is the tricky part.  Like the pictures show, I lined up shirts over the yellow dress and traced the shape I wanted.  Then, I fit that shape over the yellow dress, pinned it, and sewed.  The first part I did was the pink top half since it's so prominent.  I took of the pink left sleeve (since the left sleeve is yellow), cut the shape I wanted on the front and back (I kept it attached over the shoulder), then slid the yellow sleeve through the armhole.  I pinned and sewed.

    Then, I followed the same process for the rest of the colors.  The only difference was where they fit on the dress.  Some spots were harder than others, like the black one below.  I had to pin it several times and still ended up with an unwanted yellow spot.  But, because Sally's dress is really scraps of fabric sewn together, there's no reason you can't get creative if different patterns make it easier.  It seems like even the official merchandise has her in different dresses.
    Just make sure you try it on occasionally to make sure it still fits right!  Worst case scenario, you take off the piece you sewed on and redo it with the same scrap or a new one.  It doesn't need to be perfect though!

  8. Admire the almost-finished product
    Make sure it fits how you want it to.  It looks like there's a lot of puckering on mine, but it fit well enough for me to not fix that.  The fit is up to you.  The hard part is done.  Now the fun part!

  9. Draw the patterns
    Take the black fabric marker and draw the patterns where they belong, or where you want them.  Be patient though.  Fabric markers aren't as smooth as normal markers.

  10. Admire the finished dress!
    The dress is done!  Stand back and admire a job well done again.

  11. Finishing touches
    This part is more up to individual discretion.  I found light blue body paint and used it for my face.  I used blue (couldn't find a lighter blue) tights for my arms and legs.  I drew on the stitches with liquid eyeliner.  Sally is blue, but plenty of people forgo that part.

    My shoes were $10 at Goodwill and I crocheted the leg warmers.  You can use black shoes you have and find socks/leg warmers/tights with black and white stripes.  There are a lot of options for foot and leg wear.

I hope you enjoyed this t-shirt costume and find that is was simply meant to be :)

Pretty close to the original! (source:

Friday, October 3, 2014

Filme Friday: Freaks (1932)

A couple of weeks ago, I promised a new series called Filme Friday where I'll review at least one German film each month.  This is my first review, and while "Freaks" isn't actually a German film, it's a classic, perfect for this month, and there is German spoken in it.

Freaks 1932

I think I first saw the movie "Freaks" around when I started college.  I've always been a horror junkie (it just wasn't a Saturday night without seeing "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" on SNICK) and wanted to see where it all started.  Somehow, I came across what some people consider a cult film.  I decided to review it for two reasons:  First, it's October and this is considered a horror film.  Second, "American Horror Story: Freak Show" premieres October 8 and will almost definitely use "Freaks" as inspiration.

Be sure I'll have something to write about this show too (source:

The movie "Freaks" may have lost some of its shock value over time.  Not only have there been many disturbing and unbelievable things shown in horror films, but society has also changed.  We are more likely to accept and try to understand those who are different, either because they are born that way or because they choose to be.  There are still oddities, but when it comes to humans, they aren't really put on display anymore unless they choose to be.  Many people are into body modification and alter how they look with tattoos, piercings, and implants.  So, while the idea of a freak show still clearly fascinates us (see American Horror Story), the characters are less shocking than when the film came out in 1932.

The main plot involves Hans, a dwarf in circus who is engaged to Frieda, another dwarf.  While Frieda loves Hans, Hans has feelings for the beautiful trapeze artist Cleo, who is not a freak.  This love triangle causes suspicion among the freaks that Cleo does not love Hans, but is instead interested in the gifts he gives her.  Without spoiling the story, viewers are treated to an insight of the personal lives of the performers, and many truths are revealed.

Even though this film is usually labeled as a horror film, I'm not sure it should be.  It's really almost a genre of its own.  There's romance in the main plot and several of the subplots.  I was particularly intrigued by the subplot of how Violet is affected by her conjoined twin Daisy being engaged to one of the circus clowns.  I plan on watching "Chained for Life", a movie based on the real lives of Daisy and Violet.

There is also plenty of drama in this film.  How can you not expect that with at least one love triangle?  The level of drama only increases as the story continues.

The jokes aren't perfectly executed, but there are some great one-liners.  I love when Josephine Joseph, the half-man/half-woman gives Hercules a flirtatious look and Roscoe comments, "I think she likes you, but he don't."  There isn't much comedy in the movie, and it's pretty dark in general, but there are funny moments.

Lastly, the film has plenty of mystery and intrigue.  The viewer spends the entire movie waiting to see what people were so shocked by in the introduction's sideshow.  And it's impossible not to be fascinated seeing some of the freaks performing what would be simple tasks for others.  At one point, Prince Randian, the Human Torso, rolls a cigarette (not shown in the final cut), takes out a match, lights the match, and lights the cigarette, all with just his mouth.  Several others in the cast are missing limbs and it is shown how they compensate.

I guess I can see where the horror element comes in at the end.  Unlike many other horror movies, the gruesome part is done off camera (though, it seems like these parts were cut due to complaints by initial audiences), which leaves it to the imagination.  That's a method that can almost be more terrifying if done right.  It is a suspenseful moment, but it doesn't elicit the usual fear, possibly because the viewer almost feels like the victim deserves the fate.

The acting is not wonderful, but considering that some of the cast were not experienced actors, that's understandable.  I also wish the movie explored some of the other characters in more detail.  Again, some of this may have ended up on the cutting room floor.  One of the most interesting things about the movie is that it used real people, not special effects, and reclaimed the word "freaks" as something good.  The "Freaks" Wikipedia page lists the cast and has links to pages about some of them.  You can read about most of them and see that in many ways they really were the characters they were portraying.

As for the German in the movie, Hans and Freida both speak German a number of times.  The version I saw had no subtitles, but context and tone makes it pretty clear what's generally being said.  These characters were played by Harry Doll Earles (aka Kurt Fritz Schneider) and Daisy Doll Earles (aka Hilda Emma Schneider), two of four dwarf siblings born in Stolpen Germany.  These four siblings became known as The Doll Family.

(source: Wikipedia)

Harry and another sister, Grace, first performed in sideshows in Germany and were brought to the United States in 1914 where they lived with the family of Bert W. Earles, an American entrepreneur who included them in his 101 Ranch Wild West Show.  Later, Daisy and Tiny, the fourth sibling, joined their brother and sister in this act.  The Doll Family toured with Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus and acted in several movies.  Harry, Daisy, and Tiny all appeared in "Freaks" with the latter having a small role, and all 4 were munchkins in "The Wizard of Oz."  Harry was one of the Lollipop Guild members who first welcomes Dorothy.  Perhaps I'll write about them more in a later post.

Harry and Daisy as Hans and Frieda in "Freaks" (source:

Harry (right) as part of the Lollipop Guild (source: Wikipedia)

I really like the movie "Freaks."  I'm tempted to watch the 2007 remake "Freakshow", but I'm not sure how it will compare to the classic.  If you're interested, you can watch Freaks free at  I definitely recommend it to anyone who likes things that are a little strange and twisted.  And if you plan on watching season 4 of "American Horror Story," this film is a must-see.