Jupe du Jour

DIY Shark Costume

DIY, Sewing, ThriftingHaley SwanComment

Happy Halloween everybody! Although I (Haley) like to celebrate Halloween all October long, I usually put off making my costume until the night before and end up staying up until 3 am, up to my elbows in thread and glitter. Since I'm going to be out of town over the next week (trip pictures to follow!), however, I thought I should finish my costume ahead of time and share it with y'all in case anyone else feels inclined to be a giant shark for Halloween. No, no one? Well here goes anyway... ;)

I let Jared choose our costume theme this year (I chose last year's) and it involved either dressing like a deep sea diver, or dressing like a shark. And, because I like a challenge, I obviously chose the shark.

To start, I looked around the web for examples of other shark costumes. Most of them were just a hoodie with a fin on back and some teeth sewn around the face. I wasn't super impressed. People would know you were supposed to be a shark, but you wouldn't actually look like a shark. I did find one example on Pinterest of someone who rocked the shark costume, and that's this one:

Instead of just putting teeth around the interior of a hood, this lady actually used padding to create the right shape for the shark's head. In addition to the dorsal fin on the back, there's also a tail, and she padded the arms to make them look like pectoral fins (yes I had to look up what those were called and definitely googled "shark arms" in the process). There was only one picture, and no instructions, but this became my guide as I made my shark costume. 

Since I needed my shark to be leopard print (...), the first thing I did was buy a leopard print hoodie at the thrift store for a couple of bucks. I used it as my base. Then I went to JoAnn's and bought 1.5 yards of the closest matching leopard print I could find, and some padding / stuffing / filler.

Next I made basic patterns for the shapes of the shark's head, dorsal fin, and tail. I freehand drew them on brown paper bags, cut them out, and traced two of each of them (there are special instructions for the shark's head) onto the wrong side of the leopard fabric. Here's the dorsal fin: 

Two dorsal fin shapes cut out and pinned, right sides together, with a seam allowance.

I sewed around two sides of the fin, leaving the end open in order to add stuffing, and turned it right side out.

This is what I used to stuff each of the parts. This bag was like $3.50 at Joann's and I used about 2/3 of it total. In order to do a good job stuffing the corners / tips of the fins, it works best to push it in with a pen or knitting needle.

Once the fin was stuffed to my satisfaction I topstitched it to the upper back of my hoodie, keeping as close to the base of the fin as possible for a more secure attachment.

Next I repeated the same process with the tail fin but saved it to attach later.

The next thing I did was cut out the teeth, since I figured it would be easier to attach them before adding the stuffed shark head to the top of the hood. I had some pellon lying around from a previous project, but felt or any stiff white fabric should work well for the teeth. I thought it would be easiest to cut them in rows and then sew the whole row of teeth into the hood at once. And while yes, it was easy, it didn't end up having the effect that I wanted; the teeth stuck out at weird angles and came straight out of the mouth instead of pointing down like I wanted. So, painstaking though it may be, if you attempt a shark's mouth, I recommend sewing the teeth in individually or in groups of only a couple at a time so that you can position them as you like. If you look in the photo of the little boy's shark costume, the teeth are also quite small, which I think also would have looked better. 

My next area of focus was the head. I put on my hoodie and figured out about how wide the snout would need to be where it connected to the top of the hood and how tall I wanted it to be. Then, instead of cutting out two of the same pattern, I made one several inches longer than the other. This is because the stuffed portion would flop around on top of the hood unless it was anchored to the back of the hood with the extra fabric. 

This is what it looked like once it was stuffed and the front part was sewn to the front of the hood. (See the crazy teeth?)

Here, the extra fabric has been tucked underneath itself and tacked in place.

Now that the top half of my shark was pretty much done, I needed to focus on the bottom half. I measured around the waistband of the hoodie (see the brown part?) to determine the width and down my leg to just under my butt to figure out the length of leopard fabric to cut out to make my skirt, adding several inches to both measurements to account for seams, etc. Then I lined up the end of the fabric with the very bottom of the hoodie and sewed them right sides together, just above the brown waistband so it wouldn't show. As the fabric ends met at the back, I created a seam running in line with the dorsal fin.

Here's the skirt portion attached to the hoodie. It still needed to be much shorter, so I cut it down to where it would hit just below my butt, hemmed it, and adjusted the back seam as necessary for a tighter fit.

With the skirt portion finished, the next (and basically last!) step was to attach the tail that I made and stuffed earlier. I stood in the mirror and figured out the best place to attach it, and then did it the same way I did the dorsal fin, by top stitching as close to the base of it as possible. The dorsal fin had a nice wide base that made it sturdy to attach, but the tail didn't (if you're attempting this  you might play with the design to rectify that). So I knew it would be pretty floppy as gravity worked on it. To counteract that a little bit, I actually sewed through some of the stuffing as I attached the top of the tail, which is the part that needed the most support.

So, after all that, this is the result! It still needs eyes (probably black buttons) and some dental work done (I may re-do the teeth altogether), but I'd say this is a totally passable, better-than-your-average, Halloween shark! I'm still deciding whether to turn the arms into pectoral fins but that's pretty low priority until I get back from my trip to Utah. What do you think??

Oh! And I realized that one of the reasons the mouth looked "wrong" to me is that sharks have a flat lower lip, for lack of a better term.Their mouths, when open, are shaped sort of like a gum drop (look at the picture of the little boy's costume). So I experimented a little further and threw a fabric remnant across the neck to give it something closer to the right shape--looking better! Some nostrils (probably just drawn in sharpie) will help too, as will cutting down the teeth a bit more. 

If you've made it this far and are still wondering why my shark is leopard print, I'll give you one hint--Jared's costume:

And with that, I wish you a HAPPY HALLOWEEN! May your days be scary and fright (ful)!