Saturday, October 18, 2014

Ideas For Making a Fish Costume

It's the season for Costumes and although I'm a little late, I have a few articles in the can from my Helium days that now need a new home. If you still haven't settled on a costume, or if you've been too busy, you might find the following post useful, particularly if you've recently seen and been inspired by Mozart and the Whale, or if you just like fish.

I've already migrated my article on making a quick and easy Mardi Gras Costume from items you likely have on hand at home, (any of those ideas could also work for Halloween as well) and the article below on making a fish costume (the first of it's kind I did for Helium) will soon be followed by my article on creating a Nicki Minaj costume.

How to Make a Fish Costume

In making a fish costume there are as many possibilities as there are varieties of fish in the world's fresh and saltwater populations. The simplest way to make a fish costume is to draw a fish shape in the desired size on paper or cloth and attach it to supports that would make it wearable. The best materials to use will be based on how simple or elaborate the costume will be and whether it is to be used only one time or again and again, as well as if the costume will be for a child or an adult.
The Simple Method
For a quick, one-time-use costume the best material is paper. Butcher paper, brown package wrap, poster board and even newspaper are all good economical choices. Paper grocery bags are also a good option and there are books available such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art's "What Can You Do with a Paper Bag?" that can provide you additional with inspiration.
If time is a factor, an even simpler fish costume can be created by making a fish mask and wearing simple clothing such as a T-shirt and pants or dance tights and a leotard in a single coordinating color.
To make a fish costume from paper, decide first whether the fish body will be horizontal or vertical. Cut two lengths of paper long enough to accommodate the fish body. Lay both sheets on a table or on the floor stacked on top of each other so that both the front and back of the fish can be cut simultaneously. Save the scraps and set aside.
Cut an additional length of paper that can wrap around the torso of the person who will be wearing the costume. This will be used as the base for the fish body. Leave enough room so that the costume can be slipped on and off easily and then staple the base closed. Next, measure the person who will wear the costume across the shoulder from front to back in order to get the appropriate length for the shoulder straps. Cut two strips from the scraps left over after cutting out the fish body. (These scraps can also be used to cut fins if a 3D affect is desired.) The scraps can be attached immediately or as a last step in order to get the proper fit once the costume is assembled.
It can be extremely helpful to first sketch the desired fish on paper and plan the decoration for its body. Pictures of tropical fish or characters from children's books and movies such as The Rainbow Fish or Finding Nemo are great sources for inspiration.
Using tempera paints or other materials, decorate the front and back of the body with the desired fish design being careful to make them symmetrical and then staple the wrong sides together at the "nose" of the fish. Center the fish bodies over the torso base and carefully staple it in place. If the shoulder straps have not yet been attached they can be attached now.
The paper costume will be somewhat delicate so care should be taken not to tear it. For a sturdier costume, use poster board instead of paper or recycle cardboard from a large carton. For variation glitter, sequins, bits of colored tissue, colored foil gift wrap or "found" objects can be glued to the body of the fish as decoration.
Choosing to go with a More Sturdy Option
For a longer-lived costume than what the paper variety will provide, the same design principle can be applied using cloth. Using butcher paper or package wrap draw the body of the fish to create a pattern. Choose enough plain or patterned cloth fabric to be able to cut the fish body twice and have an additional piece to create the base (optional).
Lay the pattern on fabric that has been folded to allow cutting out the fish pattern through two layers of fabric at once. Pin the pattern to the fabric and cut it out. Fleece and felt are two fabrics that generally do not fray and are good choices for costumes. They are also warm, which is an advantage when celebrating a holiday such as Halloween in a cooler climate. Stitch the sides together leaving a sufficient opening at the top and bottom for the wearer to be able to comfortable get in and out of the costume.
If using fleece, slits can be made into the front to allow the arms to pass through. Take care to measure for all openings. It may be helpful to leave a slightly larger opening for the head and attach snaps or Velcro to be able to adjust the fit while wearing the costume.
Next, embellish the fish body with any desired decorative elements. Since most cloth is not stiff and will not hold a shape without reinforcement it may be best to plan the fish costume to be vertical. Choosing an iridescent or shiny fabric such as a satin for the fish could reduce the need for additional decoration.
For a more economical approach, an old pillowcase or bed sheet can be used instead of purchased fabric. Use the pillowcase as a base and cut openings for head and arms. Attach the decorated fish body to assemble.
These are two very simple and very basic methods for constructing a quick fish costume. With a little imagination a fantastic and fun costume can be created from inexpensive materials and even items already on hand.

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