All Dressed Up
Professional costume designer, Diana Morawski shares her tips and ideas for Halloween costumes, make-up and hair.
The rustling of dried fallen autumn leaves, the faint scent of hot caramel apple cider, the jack-o-lanterns and hanging ghouls on porches and in windows, bite-size treats at the supermarket; all these new seasonal arrivals are a reminder of what is just around the corner: Halloween!
As a child, my Octobers were spent rummaging through old clothing, fabric and make-up. My mother put together all my costumes, sometimes from existing costumes, sometimes from scratch. As I grew older, I hungered for the skills and patience to be able to create something on my own. During high school, I was able to construct simple things with my mother's sewing machine such as bags and pillows, which I gave to my friends as gifts. After high school, I made the decision to pack up and move to Chicago to study fashion design. Over the period of three years, I learned more techniques than I ever imagined existed. I took great pleasure in using my newly acquired artistic abilities to create elaborate costumes and alternative street wear. After my academic education, I moved to Las Vegas for an internship to gain hands-on experience in the costume design industry. I was fortunate enough to work backstage at various Las Vegas shows maintaining and mending costumes during and after performances. In addition to this experience, I sold my clothes under the label "Clever Olivia" to a local boutique called "The basement" as well as making some custom-to-fit garments for friends and acquaintances.
Like many artists, my process for designing begins with an inspiration. It can be a photograph, a movie, a building, a time period, colours, anything that catches my attention at the moment. Once I have this in mind, I immediately draw out a sketch or write notes about it. Once I have a rough idea on a croquis, which is a sketch of a general figure on paper, I begin to determine how it will be structurally and proceed to draw flats on paper. Flats are technical sketches. They resemble a bird's eye view of the finished garment lying flat, hence the name. Once I have decided exactly how it will be constructed, I start making a pattern for an industry standard size 8 (or from personal measurements if it's for a custom). I then sew a muslin sample of this pattern and pin it where changes are needed (whether it be for fit or style). I transfer the changes to the paper pattern. If it's for a custom, I usually do a second muslin sample, sometimes more if it's something that's principally more tailored. If it is for a ready-to-wear garment, I grade the pattern to other sizes, usually in Small, medium and large and construct them in those sizes.
Halloween is about embracing old traditions and being creative and unusual, not going to the local lingerie boutique to buy a cheap and skimpy costume from a sealed plastic bag. It's a magical holiday of masquerades, tricks and merriment. If you have enough proficiency to understand ready-made patterns and you have a sewing machine available, you may purchase a commercial pattern. These can be found at most fabric stores or online if you can't find one you like. Buy the proper yardage of whichever fabric suits your tastes and works with the pattern, along with various materials and notions such as threads, zippers, buttons, etc. If your skills exceed those of the conventional home-sewer, you can make adjustments to the pattern for a different style such as a different neckline or a hem or to change the fit for either a tailored or loose look.
If you have never used a sewing machine before, there are many alternatives to finding a proper costume. I suggest going to a 2nd hand or vintage store. These stores are most likely to have something to fit your needs, are usually very affordable and it's certain you will end up with something matchless. Many of them also have fun accessories like hats, wigs, belts, stockings and appropriate footwear for various occasions and purposes. My favourite part about making costumes is the embellishments. You can add many decorations to your costumes such as lace, glitter, beads, sequins, feathers and ribbons. Fabric glue may be used to apply glitter or other embellishments if you are not particularly skilled at hand sewing.
Some of the 2nd hand and vintage stores even have costume make-up, which is heavier, has a more vibrant selection and is great for bold styles. When using make-up, you must be very careful and test your sensitivity before covering your entire face with it. Dab it on the inside of your arm and leave it on for one hour. If you have allergies, you will react during this test. Something to consider when using face paint for Halloween is that most of these paints are zinc or acrylic-based and not easy to remove. One thing you can do to help remove this make-up from your face is to cover your face with a cold cream before you apply the paint. Be cautious and if something doesn't feel right, don't wear it. Because you will likely be wearing such make-up and your costume for several hours, it's essential to be comfortable.
Halloween is the one Holiday where you can get away with just about anything. Be enthusiastic, unique and go crazy! There are no limits here!