GeekDad How-to: No-Sew Costume Tips and Tricks

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Beware the costume fail. -"Traditional-irish-halloween-mask" by Rannpháirtí anaithnid Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via
Beware the costume fail.
-“Traditional-irish-halloween-mask” by Rannpháirtí anaithnid Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via

Halloween is a huge source of dad fails. Kids wrapped in white sheets, turned into a package of Charmin are just scary (and not in the good way), okay? There’s a reason those bags say to keep them from your kids. My other favorite fail is the ripped-sheets mummy tripping over their wrappings. But what’s a dad to do? Sewing is expensive and time-consuming, even if you know how to do it. Despair not, we’ve got your back. Here’s your costume guide and toolbox. Use these no-sew tools to make your kids look great this Halloween.

Please don't do this to your child.
Please don’t do this to your child.

Let’s start with fabric. This stuff is super easy to get, easy to cut, and knowing just a little will go a long way. You might be surprised to learn that sheets are just about the worst thing you can use for costumes. This is because the fabric isn’t designed to be clothes. They fray and fall apart. Just don’t. Head to your local fabric shop and grab some fleece or felt.

Fleece is soft, warm, and flows well. Those fleece throw blankets? It’s that stuff. Tear-resistant, warm, and doesn’t require sewing around the edges. You can get a ton of colors, and fleece is great for robes, capes, and long strips for mummies.
Great for:

  • Robes
  • Cowls
  • Capes
  • Mummy wraps
Felt ears on a headband. Directions Here: http://tallystreasury.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/IMG_1984.jpg
Felt ears on a headband. Directions Here: http://tallystreasury.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/IMG_1984.jpg

Felt is wool that has been smashed together and made into sheets without weaving. Because there’s no grain, it doesn’t stretch and doesn’t fray. It’s also super affordable, and you can get small pieces of it at most craft stores.
Great for:

  • Masks
  • Spikes
  • Hats
  • Facial Hair
  • Feathers/scales
  • Ears

Next is soft foam. This can be an expensive option, but makes for great costumes. You buy it by the yard (or 1/2 yard if you only need a little), and it’s flexible. Once cut and shaped, soft foam (or upholstery foam) makes great armor or other 3D elements you can’t make with fabric.
Great for

  • Helmets
  • Soft weapons/shields
  • Armor
  • 3D elements

Let’s move on to frames. Often times, you will need to put the fabric or foam on something else to give it shape.

Headbands are a super-easy option for mounting crowns, flowers, and other stuff on your kid’s head.
Great for

  • Ears
  • Crowns
  • Halos
  • Horns/antlers
  • Tentacles

Bristol Board is one of the best materials on the planet. It’s sturdy, easy to cut, and easy to shape. Tutorials abound for anyone who wants to make curved elements that don’t bend.
Great for:

  • Signs/panels
  • Hats
  • Masks
  • Cowls
  • Frames for boxes
  • Stiff weapons and shields
  • Fake Glasses

Now, you might be wondering how you’ll get away without sewing anything. There are several tools that you can use without having to do anything crazy.

Hot glue guns are easy to use and super useful. By Catarina mota (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0
Hot glue guns are easy to use and super useful.
By Catarina mota (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0
Safety-pins Standard safety pins will do just fine, or you can order huge ones online. Sturdy fasteners, they are able to be removed and repositioned, so mistakes are forgiven with a clip!
Great for:

  • Zombie/ Frankenstein’s Monster clothes.
  • Holding capes or other removable pieces in place.
  • Attaching long strips of white and brown fleece onto clothes to make a mummy without trip risk.

Hot Glue Guns are the business. If every man’s toolbox has to have duct tape, which it does, every costumer needs hot glue. Any two things need to be attached? Slap some hot glue on it. It works. Just don’t burn your kid.
Great for:

  • Attaching felt to anything.
  • Attaching anything to a headband.
  • Assembling frames from Bristol board.

Staplers are the world’s best office supply when it comes to costume-crisis. Something came apart? Staple it. Fabric not hanging how you want? Staple it. Best part? It fits in your pocket for costume triage. Just don’t staple your kid. They cry when you do that.
Great for

  • Any situation that might call for sewing.
  • Emergency repairs.

Duct tape should be in your toolbox already. If it isn’t, you should take care of that. It’s great for just bout anything. Flexible, strong, and durable, costumes reinforced with duct tape are like bionic heroes. They’ve got the advantage every time.
Great for

  • Reinforcing and building frames with Bristol board
  • Attaching two pieces of fabric without giving up flexibility
  • Being duct tape.
queen_of_hearts_crown_3_by_sweetmusic27
Queen of Hearts crown. http://sweetmusic27.deviantart.com/art/Queen-of-Hearts-Crown-3-66520719

As far as decorating your costume goes, use your judgement. Don’t be afraid to put too many gems on a princesses crown, but try not to over-do a jedi costume. Look at a lot of pictures before you design the costume so you know what to get at the store before you go. Hit up Pinterest (no, really) for great costume tips. Plan everything out, and you’ll be fine.

Do:

  • Plan
  • Make a list
  • Paint and cut everything in advance
  • Be creative
  • Use the internet.

Don’t:

  • Use markers. They run, and don’t produce a consistent look. It will look like a toddler did it, more likely than not.
  • Use sheets for anything. They fray and tear easily, and look like sheets, no matter what you do to them.
  • Use puns. Gluing candy to a kids jeans and calling him “Smartie Pants” is funny. For about 2 minutes. Most little kids won’t get it, and the rest will roll their eyes at lazy-dad.
  • Use glitter. It will eat your house alive. You will never want to make another costume again.

Give it a shot. Your kids deserve great costumes, not torn sheets and terrible Walmart costumes. Geek it up. Let’s see what you’ve got.

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