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DIY costumes-fi

Published on October 25th, 2013 | by Tad Hills


2 Cents’ Worth of Halloween Costume Tips from Tad Hills

costume-monster-tad-rocketI’ve always loved to make things. And one of my favorite things to make is a Halloween costume. When my kids were younger I made theirs. I’d start thinking about the costumes in August and work out a lot of the details and process in my head prior to starting construction. Then 2 or 3 days before Halloween I would start to build. I worked like crazy and was often putting the last brush strokes on the costumes as the kids were walking out the door to go trick or treating.

Now with one week before Halloween I wanted to throw in my 2 cents’ worth of costume making tips.

Below are a some basics to, I hope, help make your costume construction a little easier and inspire ideas…

I admit that my costumes are a little over the top and explaining each step in detail would take more time than any of us has to spare. But I’ve done my best to explain a couple of how-tos. Some are hard to put into words. I hope it’s relatively clear and that the pictures help.

costume-pisa-1What I use and what you may need:

  • Lots of glue sticks
  • Cardboard
  • Paint
  • Elastic fabric band
  • Hot glue gun

If you go the furry animal/monster route you may also need…

  • Fake fur
  • Miscellaneous strips of fabric
  • 12” or so zipper
  • Mesh or mosquito netting

About the hot glue… Of course, be very careful to always keep the hot glue and hot glue gun away from skin – yours and the wearer of the costume’s. Always wait for the glue to cool before getting it anywhere near anybody/any body. I have gotten some pretty nasty burns over the years (luckily only on my own hands)  because I have rushed the process. Not smart. Also, don’t drip hot glue on anything you care about (carpet, clothing, wood flooring, etc.).

Tip 1: Head Piece

For my monster costumes the first thing I build is the head.  This can really determine the success of the costume overall. It’s important to create a comfortable hat-like base to which pieces can be added.


Cut a 2″ wide strip of cardboard long enough to wrap around the wearer’s head just above the ears. Cut the strip across the corrugation. It is very helpful to “soften” the strip by holding it at both ends and dragging it across a table edge (just as you might put a curl in a ribbon by dragging it across the blade of scissors).

This will help create a ring which fits around the head comfortably. Wrap the strip around the wearer’s head to determine the perfect size – not too tight, not too loose. Mark the size, remove it from wearer’s head and hot glue it to that size.

Then hot glue another “softened” 2″ strip to the side of the ring above the ear. Test for size across the top of the head, and determine where to attach the other end of the strip above the opposite ear. (Again don’t hot glue when the piece is on the head…hold it in place or mark it with a pencil then remove it to glue it.)

Do the same thing again but from the front of the ring to the back. Add some hot glue to the intersection on top  of the head where the strips cross.

Attach a ½” or ¾” stretchy strip to both sides of the ring. This elastic strip can be extra long because you can tie it to the perfect under-the-chin tightness later.


Now you have a base to which you can add whatever you want to. You can hot glue huge cardboard ears (that you cover with fur later, or not), a tall hat, cardboard branches, etc. If the headpiece fits well you can really build upward and outward.

I add big looping strips of cardboard onto which I add fake fur to make a giant monster head.


Note 1: Continue the fur down past the shoulders to the chest. This yoke can cover the body fur (see below) or be tucked into a shirt (if your monster wants to wear a suit)

Note 2: Since the monster heads that I’ve built are rather heavy, they are not particularly comfortable for the wearer (the massive amount of candy collected does lessen the discomfort a bit, though) and they require a back brace-like support. Try to keep your costume light.

Note 3: If you do decide to build upward you can use black mesh/mosquito screen (I use a 3″ black “softened” length of cardboard with a rectangular cutout to see through covered with the mesh) as a collar through which the wearer can see. You can attach a leash to the collar if you want to take your monster for a walk.

Tip 2: Fur Pants


Instead of sewing a fake fur body which can be time consuming and very frustrating for you and your sewing machine, glue gun it.

Lay the fake fur on the floor (fur side down)

Position a pair of the costume wearer’s pants flat on the fabric.

With chalk or a light colored pencil draw an outline of the pants (add an inch or a more around the perimeter if these pants are tight fitting).

costume-monster-benchCut along outline.

Repeat this so you now have two pieces of identical furry pant shapes.

To attach these pieces together you will need long strips of 2″-3″ fabric. Any old shirt will do. Place the 2 pants pieces next to each other on the floor fur side down.  Apply a bead of hot glue down one edge of the pants. Attach  the narrow strip of fabric. Then repeat on the other piece.

Continue this – using the narrow strip of fabric like tape – to attach all edges together. You will need to turn the fur pants inside out to finish the process.

Note: Use fur with long nap and fabric strips which roughly match the color of the fur. This will help hide the seams.

Tip 3: Fur Body

costume-fur-bodyIn the same way you outlined the pants, draw an outline around the costume wearer’s (loosely fitting) sweater.

Repeat so you again have 2 body pieces.

Cut one of these body pieces in half, up the center.

Reattach these 2 pieces using a zipper (as you did the narrow strips of fabric).

Be careful to not gunk up the zipper with hot glue.

Attach the 2 body shapes together using the narrow strips of fabric.

At this point you have a pair of fur pants and a fur zippered sweater.

You can attach these together at the waist if you’d like for a more uniform look.

Using the same method you can make mittens and shoe covers (furry spats?) if you wish.

Tip 4: Shoulder Straps

If you want to make a building type costume you will want to include shoulder straps.

Determine the perfect height for the costume on the wearer. Then attach with glue gun 2 lengths of either 2″-3″ cardboard strips or old t-shirt fabric so that the straps (shoulders) support the weight of the costume. This provides less stress on the costume and more comfort for the wearer.

Have fun and wing it! Good luck!

You can learn more about Tad Hills by following him on Twitter and Instagram, or by visiting his website, tadhills.com.

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About the Author

is a New York Times Bestselling Author of children's books. His Duck & Goose and Rocket books have been well-received by children and parents across the country. While he's not writing and illustrating books, he loves spending time with his wife, two children and their Wheaten Terrier - the real life Rocket.

One Response to 2 Cents’ Worth of Halloween Costume Tips from Tad Hills

  1. Lila says:

    I personally loved every particular section of this blog post.

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