One of the tricks of thrifting for costumes is to thrift often, and to keep your eyes open for elements of costumes that are you aren’t working on right this minute, but which you have in the back of your mind. Two of those things, for me, were a sequined skirt or dress that I could turn into a mermaid tail, and a coat with the right cut / shape to become a pirate jacket.
In an amazing stroke of thrifting luck, I found both at the same time, along with some fantastic dresses that could be used for mermaid fabric. I knew that there was an ocean-themed costume ball coming up. I’d sort of decided not to go, but when I hit the jackpot on these costume elements, I knew that I had to put together a mermaid costume and a pirate outfit for the event.
I knew for a long time that I wanted a green or blue sequined garment to become a mermaid tail. So when I found this sequined dress, I was very excited. What I hadn’t expected, though, was to find a dress that I could just wear upside down – and that’s pretty much what I did. The dress is asymmetrical with one sleeve. By opening up the sleeve, and turning the dress upside down, the sleeve became something like a swishy tail, and the lower hem became the waist of the tail.
While the dress was meant to be tight, the bottom hem of the dress (which became the waist of the tail) was still too loose to fit snugly around my waist, so I cinched it tight with a belt. My plan had been to glue a big seashell to the front of the belt as a buckle, but instead I covered the whole belt over with an old belly-dancer belt that I had. I really didn’t need to add more to the belly dancer belt, but since I had the strings of pearls, I hung them down from the belt to make it feel more mermaid and less belly-dancer.
I looked at a lot of mermaid tails, and liked the way that some had sort of ruffled bottoms that could be flukes or maybe foam. I lucked out and found a pair of filmy nightgown/dresses that went along with the colors of the sequined tail. Literally, all did with those was cut them into large rectangles, hem the sides, gather one edge, and stitch the tiers into the bottom edge of the tail. On the inside, the edge looks rough and unfinished – and it would never stand up to a vigorous washing – but since it’s a costume, and I’ll only hand wash it a few times, it doesn’t matter.
The next step – making the top.