Most of my inspiration comes from stuff that I see while I’m out at the thrift shops. I’ll see a wonderful vintage coat that looks like it should be worn by Madeleine (from the children’s books by the same name) or a bridesmaid’s dress that could easily become a princess gown.
Or I’ll get invited to a theme party – my husband and I attend a costume Mardi gras ball each year, and a friend recently hosted a Mad Men party.
Some tips about using the web for inspiration. I never get my initial ideas by cruising the web. It’s too easy to see super-fancy costumes that would be impossible for me to put together myself, or to get so wrapped up in one specific “look” that I lose my perspective. Or, I find myself directed to sites that sell costumes, which is the complete opposite of what I’m trying to do.
So I always use the “real world” for my initial ideas – and then I turn to the web for details. Specifically, I search for images, and then pay attention to the details.
But be creative about surfing around for costume details. Often, the word that seems to identify what you’re looking for – Ninja, let’s say – will lead you to a single, narrow group of images. Think outside the box and search for images of Bruce Lee or Kung Fu, as well. They may not represent what your final costume looks like, but a single sash, or what the shoes look like, or how the head scarf is tied, can all play into the details of your finished product.
And don’t be afraid to steal other people’s ideas. When I was working on a Moulin Rouge costume, my best inspiration was a photo of a hand-made costume that I found online. Since she and I will never go to the same party together, I have no fears about how my dress looks, or doesn’t look, just like hers.