So here is the complete costume. I’ve got pages on the tail, the top, and the crown and make-up, if you’re interested in how the outfit came together. And I also made the costume for my date – the pirate.
At the same party, there were a few other aquatic-themed costumes that I took pictures of because I thought I might want to try them later. If/when I do put those costumes together, I’ll be sure to put the results on here.
A friend had a white and blue chunky necklace that she loaned me. All I did was attach a loop of wire to a shell, and hang it off the middle of the necklace. I could have done the same thing with a strand of pearls. And since I didn’t glue the shell on, it easily came off so that the necklace could be returned to it’s normal, usable self.
I wasn’t going to do any face make-up, but they had a make-up booth at the party and I let them put some color on me. They tried to make it scaly by using a mesh as a template, but it failed. The make –up was just green eye shadow, brushed on over a thin layer of make-up base to help it stick.
My favorite part, though, is that they used false eyelash glue to make three small dots below my eye, and then gently brushed on a little glitter. Those three dots came out so perfectly that I would definitely do them again. And they stuck so well that I needed to use make up remover several times to wash them off.
I have the tail and the bra for the mermaid costume. Now, on to the head-gear. I had a costume tiara, and used that as a model for the mermaid crown. First, I cut a length of wire from a coat hanger and bent it into a sort of semi-circle. I cut a hair comb in half, and hot glued each half of the comb to one end of the wire.
Then I twisted some strands of pearls around the wire. Using hot glue, I tacked the pearls in place about every two inches along the length of the wire. (I just poked the tip of the gun in between the pearls and glorbed a whole bunch of glue out. Nothing too elegant or exact.)
Finally, I laid out the shells that I wanted. I took the main, center shell and while wearing the crown, held the shell in place in front of a mirror. The first one I chose turned out to be WAY too big, so I was really glad that I “mocked it up,” even a little, before actually gluing it on.
I’m very pleased with the results. There were a couple of other accessories that fell into place to make the costume complete.
Once I’d made the tail, the other key half of the costume is the bra. I found a bra that was the right color – and bought a camisole that was close to the bra. Then I went to the craft store and bought a ton of sequins and green mardi gras beads and stick on gems. I also found a bunch of pearl-edged trim at the thrift shop – and solicited a bag of seashells from friends.
I tried to make the two cups of the bra symmetrical. I failed. But I think that by trying to make them alike, I ensured that each side had the same amount and distribution of texture, and color. So even though they are not perfectly matched, one side isn’t more encrusted than the other. One doesn’t have more pearls while the other side has more shells.
When I finally tried it on, I liked how it looked, but realized that I would feel uncomfortable wearing underwear (basically) as a top. I took the camisole and hemmed it up so that it fit underneath the bra. This way, I had a solid back rather than a strap, and it felt more like a cropped shirt than a brassier. Also, it (almost) kept the stitches on the inside of the bra from poking me when I wore it.
An important lesson learned: I bought a second bra (as a back up bra) that was not quite the right color, but the same fabric as the other, better bra. This ended up being my “test it out” bra. Everything that I glued onto the “real” bra got glued onto the practice bra first. This got me comfortable with how the hot glue worked with the fabric and the pearls. I was able to experiment before potentially messing up the actual costume. I also mocked EVERYTHING up first. I pinned the strands of pearls where I wanted them. Then stitched them into place. I laid out the shells on the bra before gluing them on.
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.