My daughter has loved manatees since she was 3 years old. Now at 7 she decided she wanted to be a manatee for Halloween this year. Of course upon my research there were zero manatee costumes for sale and no patterns to make one either. The quest was on to make her dreams come true. She had talked about for almost a year at this point and now it was time to get to work.

The materials

  • 4 yards of dark grey felt (from a roll of felt at the fabric store)
  • 2 yards of muslin (for the lining) it is durable, easy to work with fabric that also breaths easy
  • 1 baseball cap
  • 2 large black buttons
  • 2 small black buttons
  • Velcro
  • Hot glue gun/sticks
  • Grey embroidery floss
  • Stuffing (enough for 2 pillows)

Making my own pattern

I started online looking for patterns for stuffed animal manatees which there were only a handful.  I cutout one pattern and the profile looked exactly like a manatee. However, once I pinned it together, it looked like a shark/dolphin when she wore it.  After I went through the dolphin/shark look I readjusted my thinking.

I had my daughter lie on the material and I cut a large oval around her. On that piece I went above and around her head to accommodate the head piece. I stopped about mid calf point. That would be the back of the manatee. For the front of the manatee (stomach) I used the same pattern and just removed the head portion.

Once that was done, I pinned the lining to one side of the felt on the back of the manatee pattern and stuffed it with the pillow stuffing. Then I pinned the front of the manatee and sewed all three pieces together. The trickiest part was making sure the holes for the arms and legs were the right size. She had to try on the pinned costume several times to get it just right.

The back of the manatee
The back of the manatee

Putting it all together

Once that was completely sewn, I moved on the fins and tail. I drew those patterns free style and cut, pinned, stuffed and sewed. This was the easiest part of the costume. I attached them to what I now call the main body.

The hardest part was assembling the head. I had to make it rounded to come up like a hood around her face and still leave room for the “neck” part to get the costume off and on her over and over again.

My mom and I tried several different things and finally we decided on a baseball cap. I took the scraps from the cutouts and some extra stuffing. I hot glued those pieces around the bill of the hat to form the nose. I then took the head piece and put a small amount of lining and stuffing and then attached that to the top of the hat. She was still able to put the hat on as normal with all this material added to it which it would help it to stay in place.

Then I had to figure out a way to get the head piece a little more formed around her own face to and that is when I came up with using Velcro to attach the “hood/head” to the body so that she can still get the costume off and on and then it was formed when it was on her. I sewed and hot glued the Velcro on in pieces so after she put it over her head it would close like a hoodie.

My daughter in the manatee costume
My daughter in the manatee costume

The happily ever after ending

No costume is complete without accessories to finish off the look. I took sheets of felt and cut it into a seashell pattern, added some seaweed, pretty flower type pieces and some pearls. Now she had her very own trick or treat bag to compliment her costume.

She wore the costume to one city event, one school event and of course Halloween night. She was instantly recognized and almost every person passing her pointed out how adorable she was and how much they loved the costume. All the mommy friends at school were amazed that I had made it and said it was so adorable. Halloween night was a huge hit and since we live in FL and manatees are well known, loved and respected everyone was in awe of her costume.

The best part about this costume is that I can sew up the openings and put a little more stuffing in it and then she can have a giant life sized manatee pillow for her room year round. Great way to reuse and recycle.

The matching bag - a seashell
The matching bag – a seashell